Court Analyzes Admissibility of Prior Statements in Sex Crime Cases in Florida

In many instances in which a person is charged with a sex crime, the State’s primary evidence against the person will consist of statements and testimony from the alleged victim. Thus, whether a person is convicted of a sex crime largely depends on whether the judge or jury finds the victim’s account of what occurred to be credible. In many cases, the State may attempt to bolster a victim’s credibility by offering testimony from other witnesses that corroborate the witness’s testimony. While some testimony is admissible, however, testimony regarding prior consistent statements made by the victim to third parties is only admissible in limited circumstances, as discussed in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous sex crimes. If you are faced with charges you committed a sex crime in St. Petersburg, it is prudent to speak with a diligent St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to assess what evidence the State may be permitted to use against you.

Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous sex crimes arising out of allegations of inappropriate contact with the victim, who was his minor daughter. Prior to the arrest, the victim made statements to a school nurse and detectives regarding the alleged contact. During the trial, the victim testified regarding the contact as well, and the State introduced testimony from the detectives and nurse regarding the victim’s prior statements. The defendant was convicted after which he appealed, arguing that the testimony of the nurse and detectives regarding the victim’s prior statements constituted inadmissible hearsay. The State argued the statements were admissible as they were offered to refute the defendant’s allegations regarding the victim’s motives for accusing the defendant of the actions that formed the basis of his charges.

Admissibility of Consistent Prior Statements

Generally, testimony regarding prior consistent statements made by a witness to a third party constitutes inadmissible hearsay and cannot be used to corroborate the witness’s in-court testimony. Prior inconsistent statements are admissible in limited circumstances, however, such as when they fall under an exception to the rule against hearsay or do not actually constitute hearsay. Specifically, a prior consistent statement is not inadmissible hearsay when a declarant testifies at trial and is cross-examined regarding the statement, and the statement is made to rebut a charge of a recent fabrication, improper motive, or undue influence.

In the subject case, the State argued that the statements offered did not constitute hearsay. The court noted that while the first requirement was met, in that the victim was present at trial and was cross-examined by the defense, the second requirement was not, as a prior consistent statement can only be used to rebut a charge of improper motivation or recent fabrication if the statement was made before the reason for the alleged falsification arose.  In the subject case, the defendant alleged that the victim’s motives for fabricating the allegations against him arose before the statements made to the nurse and detectives. Thus, they were not admissible as exclusions from the definition of hearsay. As such, the appellate court ruled that the trial court erred in admitting the statements. The court found that the error was harmless, however, as there was a reasonable probability that the defendant would have been convicted absent the statements.

Confer with a Seasoned St. Petersburg Attorney

If you live in St. Petersburg and are accused of a sex crime, it is advisable to confer with an attorney regarding your options for protecting your interests. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney, and he will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you seek a successful result in consideration of the facts of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be reached at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a meeting.

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