Court Discusses Admissibility of Victim Hearsay Evidence in Florida Sex Crime Cases

Typically, hearsay statements are prohibited from being introduced at a criminal trial by either the State of the defendant. There are some exceptions to the general rule, however, such as when the hearsay is testimony of a child victim in a sex crime case. A Florida appellate court recently reviewed the standards for the admission of child victim hearsay, in a case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery and molestation. If you are charged with sexual battery or any other sex crime it is vital to meet with an assertive St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be able to use against you at trial.

Factual and Procedural Background

Allegedly, the nine-year-old victim told adults at her school that she had sex with the defendant, who was her step-father. She also reported that the defendant raped her that morning. She was subsequently referred to a child protection team, who conducted a recorded forensic interview. During the interview the victim repeated that she had sex with the defendant and that he raped her and explained that he penetrated her. A sexual assault examination was conducted, and the test results revealed the defendant’s DNA was on the child’s anal area. The defendant was charged with one count of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation.

It is reported that prior to the trial, the victim recanted. Specifically, she testified during a deposition that she did not know what rape meant and that the defendant did not touch her private part with his private part. She also stated that she loved the defendant more than her own father and would do anything to protect her family, including kill. Prior to trial, the State moved to introduce the hearsay statements the victim made at school. The court denied the motion, finding that the statements were unreliable. The State sought certiorari review of the court’s order.

Admissibility of Child Victim Hearsay

To grant certiorari relief the court must find that the order in question departs from the fundamental requirements of the law, resulting in a material injury for the rest of the case, that cannot be corrected on appeal. In the subject case, the court found that the order would cause the State to suffer a material injury that it could not correct on appeal. Specifically, the court noted that the order substantially impaired the State’s ability to prosecute the defendant, and the harm was permanent because the State could not appeal if the defendant was acquitted. Regarding whether the order departed from the fundamental requirements of the law, the court noted that hearsay statements were trustworthy, as required to be admissible. Thus, the court found that the trial court erred in granting the order to exclude the statements and quashed the order.

Meet with a Skilled St. Petersburg Sex Crime Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you live in St. Petersburg and are facing charges of sexual battery or another sex crime it is critical to meet with a skilled St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss your case and what defenses you may be able to argue to protect your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an aggressive St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney who can develop compelling defenses on your behalf to help you pursue a successful outcome. You can reach Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or via the online form to set up a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.