Florida Court Discusses Collateral Crime Evidence in Sexual Offense Cases

In any criminal case, the State bears the burden of proving that the defendant committed each element of the crime. In many cases, the State does not have direct evidence and relies on circumstantial evidence to prove its case. In limited circumstances, the State is permitted to introduce evidence  that the defendant committed a collateral crime to show that the defendant is guilty of the crime he or she allegedly committed. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed when collateral crime evidence is admissible, in a case in which the State sought to admit collateral crime evidence of the defendant’s propensity to commit sexual battery. If you live in Sarasota and are charged with sexual battery or any other crime, it is essential to retain a proficient Sarasota sex crime attorney to discuss your case and the evidence that the State may be permitted to introduce against you.

Facts of the Case

It was reported that the victim alleged that the defendant penetrated her digitally without her consent while she was sleeping after a night of drinking.  Shortly after the alleged incident, the defendant left messages on the victim’s phone in which he apologized for being aggressive, getting carried away, and going over the line. The defendant was charged with sexual battery. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it would introduce evidence at trial that the defendant had previously digitally penetrated a woman who had passed out after a night of drinking.

The defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude the collateral crime evidence. Following a hearing, the court found that the collateral crime evidence was admissible to show the defendant’s propensity to commit the crime alleged. The collateral crime evidence was introduced at trial, and the defendant was found guilty. The defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in permitting collateral evidence for the purpose of showing propensity.

Collateral Evidence Showing Propensity

Generally, collateral evidence is admissible when it is relevant to prove a material fact at issue but is inadmissible to prove bad character or propensity. There is an exception, however, for cases involving a sexual offense, in which case evidence of other sexual offenses that the defendant committed may be introduced for its bearing on any issue to which it is relevant. When the state seeks to admit collateral crime evidence in a sexual offense case, the court must first consider the similarity of the crime with which the defendant is charged to the collateral crime to assess the probative and prejudicial value of the evidence.

If the court finds the evidence to be relevant, it can be admitted to show the defendant’s propensity for committing the crime alleged. In the case at issue, the appellate court found that the trial court properly ruled that collateral crime evidence was admissible to show the defendant’s propensity for committing the crime.

Consult a Trusted Sex Crime Defense Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you are a Sarasota resident facing charges of sexual battery or any other sex crime, it is crucial to consult a sex crime defense attorney to develop persuasive arguments to refute the State’s evidence. Attorney William Hanlon at Hanlon Law is a seasoned Sarasota sex crime attorney who can provide you with an aggressive defense to help you retain your rights. Mr. Hanlon can be reached at 941-462-1789 or through the form online to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.

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