Evidence Code 1108 is a California law that allows prior evidence of sex
crimes to be admitted to future cases against a defendant even when that
defendant was never convicted. The law has long been controversial among
defense attorneys and legal advocates, but, as
Think Progress recently covered, it could spell trouble for comedian Bill Cosby.
More than 50 women have come forward with claims that Cosby sexually assaulted
them and, in a released 2005 deposition, the comedian admitted to using
Quaaludes to incapacitate women and use them for sex. While all of the
allegations fall outside statute of limitations, the LAPD is pursuing
an investigation regardless.
“We don’t turn people away because things are out of statute.
You come to us, especially with a sexual allegation, we will work with
you," LAPD chief Charlie Beck told the
Los Angeles Times. "We address these things seriously, and it’s not just because
it’s Mr. Cosby."
Why Evidence Code 1108 Matters for Bill Cosby
In 1994, Congress passed a law called Rule 413 because they felt that sexual
crimes deserved special considerations when it came to presenting evidence.
Since then, several states have enacted similar statutes for state cases,
including in California, where we have Evidence Code 1108. These laws
essentially allow for questionable character evidence to be submitted
to trials concerned with unrelated alleged offenses. So, for instance,
a defendant faced with a molestation charge in 2015 can be once again
faced with testimony for a prior molestation allegation that happened
2001—even if it did not result in a conviction. Other states have
a certain limited time period when this can be done, but in California
there is no limit-- prior allegations from decades ago can still be presented
For Bill Cosby, this is a big deal. If the LAPD is willing to forgo the
statute of limitations and pursue an investigation, that means that the
testimony of the 50+ women and other involved individuals could be brought
against him under Evidence Code 1108. This could mean Cosby and his counsel
could theoretically be pressured to consider plea deals and other strategies
to avoid such an extensive pool of witnesses.
A Controversial Law
Regardless of Evidence Code 1108's effect on the Cosby case, it has
not been a popular law among many in the legal community. In the eyes
of many, Evidence Code 1108 makes it easier to convict innocent people.
"The fear is that it reduces the burden of proof. And jurors, instead
of taking their job really seriously, will go, ‘Well, this is a
bad guy. And even if the prosecutor didn’t prove it, we think he
deserves to be punished because he did something,'" said Tamara
Lave, associate professor at University of Miami School of Law.
While it is also true that an overwhelming majority of sex crimes go unreported,
experts believe that Evidence Code 1108 actually hurts legitimate cases
against first-time offenders. "Once you’re allowed to use them
[prior accusers], you might feel like one woman won’t be believed,"
says Professor Aviva Anne Orenstein of Indiana University Bloomington’s
Maurer School of Law, "You need a whole gaggle. That’s part
of the feminist argument against these rules."
If you have been accused of a sexual offense, it is critical that you have
proven counsel capable of dispelling the charges against you. At
The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our skilled team of San Diego criminal defense attorneys has built its
reputation on securing reductions and dismissals for clients who face
even the most serious of allegations. They are dedicated to staunch and
aggressive defense in these cases and exhaust every viable avenue in pursuit
of the best possible outcome.
It's your future. Your reputation. Protect them with a proven advocate
by your side. Contact us today to request a
free case evaluation.