Jones v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
Appellant Michael Jones was tried, convicted and sentenced for driving under the influence. He appealed on the ground that evidence of a prior DUI conviction was wrongfully admitted at trial. At the core of the dispute was the method by which the lower courts are to determine the admissibility of extrinsic act evidence under Rules 404 (b) and 403 of the new Evidence Code. The trial court admitted appellant’s prior DUI for the limited purpose of showing intent and knowledge, as permitted by Rule 404 (b), finding that all three standards for admissibility had been met. The Court of Appeals, however, determined the trial court erred because the evidence in question was not relevant and, therefore, was inadmissible. The Georgia Supreme Court held that Jones’s prior DUI conviction was relevant extrinsic act evidence as contemplated by Rule 404 (b) as to the issue of intent. Upon finding that the prior DUI conviction was relevant to show intent under Rule 404 (b), the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ judgment in “Jones I” and remanded back to the Court of Appeals with instructions to address the second prong of the three-part admissibility test by determining whether the trial court properly applied the balancing test required by Rule 403. On remand (“Jones II”), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to admit the prior DUI conviction. Since “Jones III” was decided, the Supreme Court had more opportunities to clarify what was required when conducting a Rule 403 balancing test. In light of these recent decisions, the parties agreed, as did the Supreme Court, that the Court of Appeals in Jones III did not fully consider whether the trial court properly conducted the balancing test required by Rule 403. Furthermore, upon review of the trial court’s balancing of the evidence under Rule 403, the Supreme Court held the trial court erred when it determined the probative value of appellant’s prior DUI was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Nevertheless, the error in admitting the prior DUI-less safe evidence was harmless as to appellant’s conviction and sentence for DUI-per se and so the Court of Appeals’ judgment was affirmed as right for any reason.