Florida Court Discusses a Defendant’s Right to Confront His Accuser in a Sex Crime Case

If you are charged with a sex crime it does not mean that you no longer have any rights. Rather, under both Florida law and the United States Constitution, defendants accused of committing a sex crime have several rights, including the right to confront their accuser. If the court refuses to uphold the rights of a criminal defendant, it can result in a reversal of a conviction. This was illustrated in a recent case arising out of the Florida Court of Appeals, in which the court reversed a defendant’s conviction due to the fact the trial court denied the defendant the right to question his accuser. If you live in Sarasota and are charged with a sex crime it is essential to hire an assertive Sarasota sex crime defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf and help you to defend your rights.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crime and Underlying Trial

Reportedly, in 2016, the defendant babysat his alleged five-year-old victim, after which the victim told her mother that she saw the defendant naked and they played a game in which they took off their clothes. The victim gave four different accounts of what happened when she was questioned regarding the incident on subsequent occasions. The defendant was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, and a trial was held.

Allegedly, as there was no physical evidence of any harm, the defendant’s attorney sought to question the victim’s credibility by advising the jury of the different accounts she provided as to what happened. The trial court ruled, however, that it would not allow the defendant’s attorney to cross-examine the victim, due to her age. Rather, the court ruled it would merely show the jury any portions of the victim’s deposition that contradicted her testimony at trial. Thus, the defendant was unable to confront the victim regarding the inconsistencies in her accounts of what happened. The defendant was subsequently convicted, after which he appealed.

The Right to Confront an Accuser

On appeal, the court held that the defendant had an absolute right to confront his accuser, and reversed his conviction. Under Florida law, a defendant has wide latitude to cross-examine the State’s witnesses, as it is the main method by which a witness’s credibility can be assessed. While the trial court can impose limits on cross-examination, they must be reasonable and meant to prevent harassment or confusion. Here, the court found that the victim’s credibility was one of the main issues in the case. As the defendant was not permitted to challenge her credibility via cross-examination, it left him unable to fully defend against the charges he faced. Thus, the court found that the trial court erred in refusing to allow the defendant to cross-examine his alleged victim and that the error was not harmless. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Sarasota Sex Crime Defense Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you are a resident of Sarasota facing charges of committing a sex crime, it is critical to speak with a knowledgeable Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding the facts of your case and your available defenses. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Sarasota sex crimes defense attorney who will vigorously pursue a favorable result under the facts of your case.  Mr. Hanlon can be reached at 941-462-1789, or through the form online to set up a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.

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