Florida Court Explains Exceptions to Rule Against Hearsay in Sex Crime Cases

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.

In addition to the requirements set forth in the Statute, a court can consider other factors, like whether the statement was spontaneous or was elicited in response to a line of questioning, whether it was made as soon as possible after the alleged incident, and whether it contained a childlike description or words or terminology the child was unlikely to understand. The court may also weigh whether the statement is vague and the possibility of undue influence on the child to make the statement.

In the subject case, the trial court deemed the note spontaneous and found that there was no motive to fabricate the statement or undue influence on the victim. Thus, it was deemed properly admitted, and the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

A conviction for a sex crime can irreparably harm a person’s rights and reputation, and anyone accused of an offense of a sexual nature should meet with an attorney promptly. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a knowledgeable Sarasota attorney proficient at defending people charged with sexual battery and other crimes, and if you hire him, he will fight diligently to help you pursue the best outcome available in your case. You can contact Mr. Hanlon through the form online or at 941-462-1789 or to set up a meeting.

Contact Information