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Prior Bad Acts: Who Can Testify in Bill Cosby's Criminal Trial?

Bill Cosby is the elder statesman of American comedy whose life has turned into a bad drama, now including a criminal case. Next month, Cosby will return to criminal court in Pennsylvania for pretrial proceedings on three charges of felony indecent assault of Barbara Constand and faces ten years in prison if convicted.

Despite the dozens of accusations of abuse that have surfaced from women all over the country, this is Cosby's first criminal prosecution. The case was filed just two days before the 12-year statute of limitations on such claims in Pennsylvania expired, according to USA Today. It raises many interesting legal questions, all complex. Today, let's consider prior bad acts and whether Cosby's other accusers can testify against him.

It's welcome news to many criminal defendants that they can have their record expunged. While expungement might not be perfect -- most law enforcement agencies will still be able to see your arrest history and any convictions -- it means potential employers will have a harder time seeing your mistakes.

But which mistakes are eligible for expungement, and which will remain on your permanent record?

How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you're accused of a crime, you need a good criminal defense lawyer. But good doesn't come in one style, and what you need will depend on you and the specifics of your case. There are all kinds of counselors with different effective approaches to defense.

People pick attorneys based on reputation, experience, word-of-mouth, price, advertising, the feeling they get when meeting counsel, and more. Here are some general principles to consider so you know what to look for when exchanging with defense counsel and deciding about representation.

Now that the FBI has been caught bugging two California courthouses, many people are wondering about the limits of police surveillance. Recording conversations falls under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures."

So what's considered unreasonable? It's been a long time since the Constitution was written, and society and technology have changed quite a bit since then. Here are some of the limits of police search and seizure today:

We're always worried about what can end up on our permanent record, and criminal conviction once doomed college and job applicants. But that could be slowly changing. Some states are encouraging employers who hire felons, and some schools are no longer including criminal conviction questions on their applications.

Now the Obama administration is asking colleges to put off asking applicants about their criminal records until schools have made their admissions decisions. So does this mean it will be easier to get into college with a criminal conviction on your record?

New Orleans announced plans to relocate 600 inmates from its troubled city jail this week, sending them to prisons far from the city. For those inmates still awaiting trial or appealing their convictions, this means far from their legal counsel, not to mention family and support systems.

While the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to an attorney, does that mean your attorney has to be close by?

Actual Innocence and How It Differs From a Not Guilty Verdict

When a jury or judge reaches a verdict after a trial, they have two choices -- guilty or not guilty. Innocence doesn't really come up too much in the criminal justice system, which may seem strange to some.

Actual innocence is different from being found not guilty after trial. But to understand what actual innocence is, and why a new program focusing on that is important, we have to understand the prosecution process a little bit.

Ever since the advent of private property, we've had laws to keep uninvited people off that property. Trespassing statutes are some of the oldest, and most vigilantly defended, laws on the books, and they can also have their quirks. Do you have to know you're on someone else's land? Is it trespassing if there are no posted signs? Can you trespass in a store?

And if you've been charged with criminal trespassing, do you need a lawyer to defend the charge?

While a criminal case can go from crime to verdict in 30 minutes on television, in real life they often take months or years to resolve and have various stages from arrest to trial. For some states, that stage is a grand jury indictment.

So how do grand juries work, what does it mean when they return an indictment, and what happens after a grand jury indictment?

Top 5 Felony Questions

The criminal justice system generally breaks offenses into categories based on the seriousness of the crime -- drinking in public is a misdemeanor, while arson is a felony. But sometimes those distinctions are based not on the crime itself, but aggravating factors within the same crime.

So how are misdemeanors and felonies different? And how do courts distinguish between the two?