Florida Court Discusses Child Hearsay Exception in Sex Crime Cases

In Florida, if a person is charged with molestation of a minor child, the State is permitted to admit the child’s out of court statements if there is other corroborating evidence to support the statements, under the child hearsay exception. If the statements are not corroborated, however, they will be insufficient to support a conviction.  The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, recently discussed the standards for admitting child hearsay in a case in which the defendant was charged with sex crimes against a child. If you live in Sarasota and a charged with a sex crime involving a minor it is essential to engage a skilled Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State is permitted to use against you at trial.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant lived in the same house as his alleged victim, who was his eight-year-old niece. The victim reported to school administrators that the defendant touched her privates and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. She underwent a physical examination which revealed no injuries. A forensic interview was conducted of the victim, during which she stated that when she was in the defendant’s room, the defendant had placed his finger inside her privates, after which she bled. She also stated the defendant touched her outside of her clothes the day before in the living room.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of twelve. During the trial, the victim’s out of court statements were admitted under the child hearsay exception. The victim also testified at trial but stated she did not recall the incident she talked about in her forensic interview where the defendant touched her over her clothes. Additionally, the victim testified regarding another incident that was not previously reported. The defendant was convicted on both counts, after which he appealed.

Sufficiency of Evidence of Molestation

On appeal, the court stated that the molestation charge was based on the victim’s out of court statement in which she reported the defendant touched her over her clothes. The court noted, however, that the victim denied knowledge of the incident at trial. Therefore, there was insufficient evidence to support the molestation conviction. Specifically, the court explained that under Florida law, in cases involving child hearsay, a prior inconsistent statement in and of itself is insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Further, the court noted that there was no corroborating evidence to support the out of court statement. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s molestation conviction. The court also vacated the defendant’s sexual battery conviction, on the grounds that it was based in part on evidence of an uncharged alleged attempted molestation.

Meet with an Experienced Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you are a resident of Sarasota charged with a sex crime involving a child it is essential to meet with a skilled Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss your case and what defenses you may be able to assert at trial. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a diligent criminal defense attorney who will advocate aggressively on your behalf to help you seek the best result possible under the facts of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted via the online form or at  941-462-1789 to schedule a conference regarding your case.

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