Q: I filed a motion to substitute counsel and the following day the Commonwealth filed a notice of defendant’s crimen falsi convictions. I don’t know what that means and I just put a motion in to get a new attorney because my attorney misled and lied to me the whole time and I put all that in my motion. I’m confused too what this means. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Crimen Falsi is a Latin word for crimes of falsity, or crimes indicating dishonesty. Apparently, the Commonwealth is positioning itself for a trial with you. They are giving you advanced notice that they will introduce portions of your criminal history which constitute “crimen falsi”, if you choose to testify. These types of crimes are theft, burglary, fraud, receiving stolen property, bad checks, etc. By taking the stand you are putting your credibility at issue. Under the rules of evidence, the Commonwealth has the right to impeach your credibility with past convictions of crimes which demonstrate your past dishonesty, and therefore lack of credibility. When you receive the Notice of Crimen Falsi, you will have the right under the rules to file an objection to it in its entirety or any portion of it. For example, if one of the crimes is a retail theft for a pack of gum 20 years ago when you were 18 years old, you can object to that particular past conviction being stale. You need to research the rules of evidence on this. You should have a lawyer and not try to litigate this yourself because you may end up in jail. Would you perform minor surgery on yourself?