Can a Past Charge of Domestic Violence Be Used as Evidence in a New Charge?


When it comes to the realm of the law, it is your fundamental right to have a trial without any preconceived biased about your spread onto the jury. This is why in most legal cases, your prior bad acts can’t be used as evidence in order to convict on your current bad act. While there are ways that your criminal history can make it into the court room, your past wrongdoings can’t be used as evidence in order to not allow any predisposition to be created by the jury.

Imagine if the prosecution could use a career criminal’s history as evidence in their case. There would be no way that someone could break themselves out of the criminal cycle because every jury would only see all the crimes they have committed prior and almost always come to the conclusion that they must be guilty. It is your right to be innocent until proven guilty while on trial. Just because you robbed a bank once doesn’t mean you were responsible of robbing a particular bank you just happened to be outside of on the day it was getting robbed. The same even goes for crimes like drunk driving where having prior convictions means an enhanced sentence, but the past conviction can’t be used as evidence of the present DWI accusation.


There is, however, one exception to this rule in Minnesota, and that is the crime of domestic violence. Like many other states, prior domestic violence incidents can in fact be used as evidence if you are accused of domestic violence in the present.

For example, if you once choked out a date, even before Minnesota’s felony strangulation law went into effect, if you are currently charged with choking out a girl or boyfriend, that past incident can – and very likely will – be used as evidence by the prosecution. Even if it happened a long time ago, it can be used to establish a pattern of domestic abuse, especially because the assaults were so similar in nature.

While this establishes a pattern of behavior, the judge will also need to evaluate as to if it is fair to allow it in as evidence. In this respect, it opens your case up to a valid reason to appeal if convicted, arguing that it was unfair to present your past domestic violence as evidence. If the judge allowed in this prior bad act, but it was only an arrest and not a conviction, your lawyer also may be able to argue that because there was no conviction for the crime, it does not apply to the case at hand. In truth, domestic violence crimes without a conviction should be considered false since they never received a solid guilty or not guilty verdict. Even if the judge lets in what is considered “inflammatory” evidence from a prior bad act,  it can be re-examined later by an appellate judge who will decide if the prior bad act as evidence will continue to be included in the case or not. So even if this evidence causes a conviction, it is not the end for your case.


Have you been arrested on a domestic violence charge in Minnesota? Domestic violence is a growing epidemic across the United States, and as such, is taken very seriously by law enforcement. If you find yourself under arrest and facing charges, contact us today to see what the Speas Law Firm can do for you. We are dedicated to helping Minnesota citizens who find themselves in a tough spot and need someone they can trust by their side as an advocate.