In many cases in which a person is charged with a sex offense involving a child, the State will have little if any direct evidence that a crime was committed. As such, the prosecution will often seek to admit circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt, which may include hearsay testimony. Under the Florida Rules of Evidence, hearsay is generally inadmissible, but there are exceptions, as discussed in a recent ruling in which a Florida court affirmed a defendant’s conviction for sexual battery of a minor. If you are accused of committing a sex crime against a minor, it is advisable to meet with an experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.
The Charges Against the Defendant
It is alleged that the defendant was charged with sexual battery on an individual under the age of twelve. The charge arose from the allegation that he assaulted his former girlfriend’s daughter over the course of four years when he lived with the girlfriend. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it intended to admit hearsay evidence in the form of a handwritten note in which the victim described her sexual abuse. Following a hearing, the trial court deemed the note admissible. The defendant was convicted as charged, after which he appealed, arguing, in part, that the court erred in publishing the note.
Hearsay Testimony in Florida Criminal Trials
On appeal, the court held that the admission of the victim’s note into evidence was proper under the Florida Statute Section 90.803(23), which establishes the standard for allowing hearsay statements of child sex abuse victims into evidence at criminal trials. Specifically, the Statute states that the statement must meet certain requirements with regards to reliability. First, it must come from a source that indicates trustworthiness. Second, the content, circumstances, and time of the statement must reflect that it provides adequate safeguards of reliability.