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Evidence of Uncharged Crimes: Exceptions to the Molineux Rule
by Gary Muldoon
Muldoon & Getz 
Rochester, New York 
www.muldoongetz.com

The general rule is that at trial, the prosecution cannot introduce evidence of "uncharged crimes." This, the Molineux rule (People v Molineux, 168 NY2d 264 (1901)), recognized five exceptions: motive, intent, modus operandi, identify, and common scheme or plan.

The prosecution must establish that the probative value outweighs the potential for prejudice. People v Alvino, 71 NY2d 233 (1987).

Additional exceptions

Decisions since Molineux have noted other situations where uncharged-crimes evidence may be admissible:

• when the prosecution is required to establish the defendant’s guilty knowledge, and the prior crime is probative;
• to prove that the defendant, who contends otherwise, was acting in concert with another;
• as necessary background information on the nature of a relationship;
• to complete a narrative; or to sort out ambiguous but material facts. See People v Wilkinson, 71 AD3d 249 (2d Dept 2010).

Applicable to defenses

Caselaw holds that in some situations, if a particular defense asserted, the prosecution may introduce evidence of uncharged crimes. These may include:

• entrapment, People v Harrison, 208 AD2d 648 (2d Dept 1994).
• duress, People v Maxwell, 299 AD2d 370 (2d Dept 2002).
• intoxication, People v Wellcome, 70 AD3d 983 (2d Dept 2010).
• agency defense to drug sale, People v Hood, 288 AD2d 923 (4th Dept 2001); People v Soto, 194 AD2d 371 (1st Dept 1993).
• frame-up, People v Fay, 85 AD2d 512 (1st Dept 1981).
• mistake, People v Alvino, 71 NY2d 233 (1987).
• insanity, People v Santarelli, 49 NY2d 241
• battered woman syndrome, People v Bradley, 2012 WL 5845017 (2012)
• extreme emotional disturbance, People v Cass, 18 NY3d 553 (2012)

© 2012 by Gary Muldoon