An Eclectic Approach to Impeachment by Prior Convictions

Almost every state permits persons convicted of a crime to testify in either their own or another person’s behalf. Nonetheless, these states allow evidence of a person’s prior criminal conviction to be used to impeach his credibility. The use of this method of impeachment in criminal trials has been the subject of substantial adverse criticism; yet, the practice remains widespread. This article first will discuss the problems that arise from the use of prior conviction evidence for impeachment purposes in criminal trials and then will examine several proposals that would restrict the use of such evidence. Finally, the article will propose an alternative rule to regulate the use of prior conviction evidence.