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  • Brian Foley

Woodlands Criminal Defense Attorney - Texas Rules of Evidence Series RULE 608 (Character for Truth)

Rule 608 tells you what to do to prove that someone is a liar. In general you can call other witnesses to talk about the person's reputation for being a liar. Or you can call a witness to say that in that witness's opinion the person is a liar. If you want to call someone to say the original witness is telling the truth then you have to wait until the other party calls them a liar. Otherwise I would call this "improper bolstering."


What if you know they are a liar because you can prove a specific instance of conduct where they were a total jerk and untruthful? Well you can't get into that unless it is a criminal conviction (for moral turpitude crime like theft, or assault against a woman, or any felony) within the last ten years. (There's one exception to this but it almost never comes up)(Check out Rule 609 for the exception).


The 5th Circuit found in United States v. Dotson that officers could not testify that the defendant and his witnesses were liars when they didn't really know them other than investigating them for a prior criminal investigation. 799 F.2d 189, 190 (5th Cir. 1986).


You may not call an expert witness to say that a person is or is not lying. Shutz v. State, 957 S.W.2d 52 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). Similarly you cannot give an opinion that another witness testimony is untruthful. Miller v. State, 757 S.W.2d 880 (Tex. App. -- Dallas 1988, pet. ref'd).


You cannot offer extrinsic evidence when impeaching on a collateral matter. In United States v. Reed, 700 F.2d 638, 643 (11th Cir. 1983) a defendant's conviction was reversed because the prosecutor asked about a marijuana joint and then when the defendant said he didn't have one the prosecutor offered extrinsic evidence that he was lying. The main charge was not possession of marijuana and so the matter was deemed collateral and extrinsic impeachment evidence was not allowed.


Drug use also may not be used to attack character under rule 608. Lagrone v. State, 942 S.W.2d 602, 612-613 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997).


Defendant's may not offer impeachment evidence of a stepdaughter's reportedly false accusation of sexual molestation to show her general lack of credibility. However if there were similar elements in the way that the stories were told then a court may be inclined to allow this type of questioning as it would no longer be a collateral matter. Tinlin v. State, 983 S.W.2d 65, 69 (Tex. App. -- Fort Worth 1998, pet. ref'd).


But if you have a friend of theirs since high school who knows they ain't no good and nothing but a liar. Call them to the stand and let their reputation in the community and opinion be heard!

Rule 608. A Witness’s Character for Truthfulness or Untruthfulness


(a) Reputation or Opinion Evidence. A witness’s credibility may be attacked or supported by testimony about the witness’s reputation for having a character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, or by testimony in the form of an opinion about that character. But evidence of truthful character is admissible only after the witness’s character for truthfulness has been attacked.


(b) Specific Instances of Conduct. Except for a criminal conviction under Rule 609, a party may not inquire into or offer extrinsic evidence to prove specific instances of the witness’s conduct in order to attack or support the witness’s character for truthfulness.


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