Trial court did not err by allowing the prosecution to impeach defendant with evidence of the conduct underlying his prior felony conviction because it substantially augmented the showing of dishonesty. Gutierrez was charged with attempted carjacking. The trial court denied his motion to preclude the introduction of, or to sanitize, his two prior felony convictions (a 2008 robbery and a 2011 felony evading) for impeachment. In connection with the felony evading conviction, Gutierrez was also convicted of misdemeanor auto theft and receiving a stolen vehicle. The trial court’s ruling permitted the prosecution to also ask “isn’t it true you took a vehicle . . . without the owner’s permission?” Gutierrez was convicted and appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by allowing impeachment with the facts underlying the felony evading conviction. Held: Affirmed. A prior felony conviction involving moral turpitude is admissible to impeach a witness. The Court of Appeal here considered the impact of the “Truth-in-Evidence” provision of the California Constitution (art. I, sec. 28, subd. (f)(2)) on the rule that the conduct underlying a felony conviction is inadmissible to impeach a witness. (See Evid. Code, § 787.) Based on California Supreme Court precedent, “[t]he inescapable conclusion is that now, the conduct underlying a felony conviction is admissible when it is relevant to impeach a witness, unless the trial court finds that it is more prejudicial than probative.” When the conduct underlying a felony adds nothing to the probative value of a felony and increases the prejudicial effect, or when the elements of the prior felony already show dishonesty, the trial court should ordinarily exclude evidence of the underlying conduct. In this case, however, the underlying conduct added significant probative value by showing Gutierrez’s dishonesty in taking a car without the owner’s permission.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E068135.PDF