Evidence of Other “Bad Acts” in Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking Prosecutions

In proving a case of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, stalking, or human trafficking, it is often crucial to introduce evidence that the defendant has committed some other crime or bad act—usually before or after the charged crime. Such evidence is often viewed with caution by trial and appellate courts, because of the perceived risk that juries will convict the defendant based upon evidence that they committed some crime other than the one charged or that the defendant is a bad person and therefore probably guilty of the charged crime. Prosecutors should file pretrial motions in limine any time they anticipate introducing evidence of a defendant’s crimes or other bad acts, regardless of whether such a motion is required by law. It is important to identify, and to argue, any potentially applicable grounds for admission. This article describes the theories under which evidence of other bad acts might be admissible, depending on the law of the jurisdiction, gives examples, and offers further resources to help prosecutors overcome specific objections.