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Pertinent Trait

A pertinent trait will somehow be involved or related to the charged crime. The term pertinent could be synonymous with the term relevant. The trait of honesty might be permissible if the defendant is charged with theft; but it would likely not be pertinent/relevant if the defendant was charged with murder. Likewise, the trait of peacefulness might be pertinent for murder but not for theft. When a defendant takes the stand in his own trial, he has the right to offer pertinent character traits, but he does not have an automatic right to offer his character for truthfulness – unless truthfulness is pertinent to the charged crime. He has a right to offer his character for truthfulness if his character for truthfulness is attacked under SCRE 608(a)(2) – he may rehabilitate himself under SCRE 608(a)(1). The rationale behind limiting the defendant’s right to bolster his own reputation with character for truthfulness is that it is minimally probative: “For instance, an accused may have an excellent reputation in the community for truthfulness, but may nonetheless commit assault. … Moreover, evidence of an accused's reputation in the community for truthfulness may distract the jury from the issues in question and may be time-consuming and confusing.” · State v. Mizell, 332 S.C. 273 (Ct. App. 1998)


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