Supreme Court Rules That Worthless Check Convictions May Be Used to Impeach Credibility

October 1, 2012

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that misdemeanor convictions for passing worthless checks may be used to impeach credibility because the offense of passing worthless checks involves dishonesty.

Wanda F. Russell was indicted on four counts of theft over $1,000 but less than $10,000. The State provided notice that it intended to impeach Russell with her prior misdemeanor convictions for passing worthless checks if she testified at trial. The trial court found that Russell’s convictions were admissible to impeach her credibility. Russell elected not to testify, and the jury convicted Russell of three of the four counts of theft. Russell appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court.

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Janice M. Holder, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the offense of passing a worthless check involves an element of dishonesty and that Russell’s prior convictions for passing worthless checks were admissible to impeach her credibility if she testified.

To read the State of Tennessee v. Wanda F. Russell opinion, visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/russellwopn.pdf.