Court Discusses the Admission of Prior Bad Acts Evidence in Florida Sex Crime Cases

In Florida, if a person is charged with a sex crime the State may attempt to introduce proof that the person is guilty by introducing evidence of other crimes or similar acts. Although evidence of other crimes is admissible in some cases, the law protects criminal defendants from the introduction of misleading or prejudicial facts or allegations by strictly limiting what evidence may be introduced by the State. The District Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Florida recently discussed the grounds for admission of evidence of prior acts, in a case in which it precluded evidence of the defendant’s alleged past child molestation.  If you live in Tampa and are currently facing sex crime charges it is crucial to retain a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you seek a successful result.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation of a child who was less than twelve years old. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it intended to introduce evidence of other crimes or acts of child molestation that the defendant allegedly committed. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court entered an order prohibiting the State from admitting evidence of the defendant’s alleged prior acts of molestation. The State filed a petition for review of the order. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed.

Grounds for Admission of Prior Acts

In Florida criminal cases in which a defendant is accused of child molestation, evidence of other acts of molestation or other crimes or wrongs may be admitted and considered for any matter for which they are relevant. In denying the State’s use of prior acts evidence, the trial court noted that, under Florida law, a court weighing whether to admit evidence of prior bad acts must consider when the alleged acts occurred and the proximity in time between the prior act and current alleged acts.

The court must also assess the frequency of the acts, the similarity between the acts, and the gender and ages of the victim. The State must prove the alleged facts surrounding the prior acts by clear and convincing evidence. Additionally, the court has to determine whether the admission of evidence of prior acts is misleading, confusing, or unnecessarily cumulative. In the subject case, the trial court found that the alleged prior acts of molestation committed by the defendant were not sufficiently similar to the crimes alleged with regards to their location, frequency, or manner to be admissible. Further, the appellate court noted that the evidence of the prior acts would mislead the jurors and would be unduly prejudicial. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Tampa Sex Crime Defense Attorney

If you are a Tampa resident charged with committing a sex crime it is essential to meet with a Skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and potential defenses to your charges. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient Tampa sex crime defense attorney who will work diligently to help you protect your rights and your reputation. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 813-228-7095 or via the form online to set up a free and confidential meeting regarding your case.