The Law School Authority

Luce v. United States Case Brief

Summary of Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38 (1984)

Facts: ∆ was indicted on charges of conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.  ∆ filed a in liminemotion to prohibit the prosecutor from bringing in the prior drug conviction of ∆ in order to impeach him if he decides to testify.  ∆ did not make any commitment to testify.  The trial judge denied the motion.

Issue: May a ∆ seek appellate review of claim of improper impeachment if he has not testified during trial?

Holding: No

Rationale:  Under the balancing test applied under FRE 609(a)(1), an appellate court handicapped in any effort to rule on subtle evidentiary questions outside a factual context.  To perform this balancing, the court must know the precise nature of the ∆’s testimony, which is unknowable when, as here, the ∆ does not testify.  So in order to reserve appellate review, ∆ must testify.

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