Brief Fact Summary. Copelin was arrested after he sold drugs to an undercover police officer. He was charged with unlawful distribution and possession with intent to distribute, and was subsequently convicted of the distribution charge, but was acquitted of the possession charge.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Evidence of prior bad acts is allowable for impeachment purposes.
Issue. Whether Federal Rules of Evidence (“F.R.E”) Rule 404(b) permits testimony of prior bad acts when the evidence is being used to impeach, rather than for the purpose of the character of the witness?
Whether it was error for the trial court not to give a limiting instruction if one was not requested at trial by Copelin’s counsel?
Held. Copelin testified that he had only seen drugs on television. Therefore, evidence of positive drug tests was proper because the evidence was used to show that Copelin’s testimony was false.
However, it was plain error for the Judge not to give an immediate cautioning instruction informing the jury as to the limited nature of the drug test evidence.
A per se approach to plain-error review is flawed.View Full Point of Law