Objections to Inadmissible Evidence in Drug Crime Trials Must be Specific

On September 21, 2022 the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed felony convictions for possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and drug tax stamps in State v. Hansel.

The ruling provides a great reminder to drug crime attorneys on the proper way to object to evidence, especially “prior bad acts” testimony.

In this case, the arresting officer volunteered the defendant had numerous outstanding warrants including one for assault. 

Defense counsel simply interjected, “Your Honor,” without making a specific objection.  It was enough to prevent any further prior bad acts from entering the record, but the toothpaste was obviously now out of the tube.

Not only was there no connection at all between assault and drug trafficking to make the testimony relevant, the fact that there were warrants shows a propensity for criminal activity.  That is an incredibly damaging slip by the officer that essentially goes unchallenged.

Without an objection, or further record or request to strike the testimony, there was no ruling by the trial court on this evidence whatsoever.

No ruling means there was nothing to review on appeal.  Convictions affirmed.

What’s the takeaway?

To start, drug crime lawyers must do the heavy lifting prior to trial.  Discover everything possible and move to exclude it all.  We regularly file motions to exclude any mention of unfavorable evidence including uncharged criminal conduct or pending criminal charges.  

And then you have to object. 

Object, object, object.  It’s that simple.

We know how to address the unexpected to protect our client from unfavorable inferences.