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Name: People v. Tackett
Case #: C044770
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/31/2006
Subsequent History: Rev. granted in light of Cunningham: S148687

Appellant was charged with vehicular manslaughter following a drunk driving accident in which two people were killed. The trial centered on whether the truck was being driven by appellant or by his friend, Cotham. On appeal, appellant contended that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that Cotham had twice before driven recklessly while under the influence of alcohol. One incident took place a year before, and the other almost two years after the fatal crash. Appellant contended that because Cotham was a victim of the crime, evidence of his conduct on the other two occasions was admissible under Evidence code section 1103, subdivision (a), to show that Cotham, not appellant, was the driver of the truck in the fatal collision. The appellate court rejected the argument. Character evidence is not admissible to support a claim of third party culpability, and it would be an unwarranted expansion of the statute to adopt appellant’s interpretation of section 1103, subdivision (a)(1). The acts were also not admissible pursuant to Evidence Code section 1101, subdivision (b). Cotham’s acts of driving were not sufficiently distinctive or unique to be admissible to show the identity of the driver, nor did they show a common plan to drive under the influence.