Florida Court Discusses Evidence at Juvenile Delinquency Hearings

People accused of crimes when they are minors will typically be charged as juveniles. Juvenile criminal defendants have the same rights as adults, and the procedural rules for juvenile hearings are largely the same as those applied in criminal trials. For example, the courts will adhere to the Florida rules of evidence when determining whether to admit evidence at a juvenile delinquency hearing, as discussed in a recent Florida case. If your child was charged with a criminal offense, it is smart to talk to a Tampa juvenile crime defense lawyer about what steps you can take to help protect their interests.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the defendant, who was a juvenile, was residing at a group home when he was seen hitting another resident. Law enforcement officers responded to the scene, and the juvenile defendant was subsequently arrested. The State filed a delinquency petition against the juvenile defendant, charging him with one count of simple battery. At the final adjudicatory hearing, as the victim failed to appear, the State sought to prove the offense through alternative means, primarily relying on the surveillance footage.

Allegedly, two witnesses testified to authenticate the footage: a group home employee who retrieved the video and a police officer who viewed the footage and retrieved it from the IT personnel at the group home. The court issued a final order adjudicating the juvenile defendant delinquent for battery and placing him under the supervision of the Department of Juvenile Justice for one year. The juvenile defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting the surveillance footage into evidence during the adjudicatory hearing.

Admission of Video Evidence at Juvenile Delinquency Hearings

On appeal, the court rejected the juvenile defendant’s arguments and upheld his adjudication of delinquency for battery. In doing so, the court noted that under the Florida Evidence Code, authentication of evidence is a prerequisite for its admissibility, requiring evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.

Further, the court emphasized that the factfinder is authorized to determine the authenticity of the evidence ultimately. The court also noted that the silent witness theory allows for the admission of evidence based on the reliability of the production process.

In this case, the court found that the foundational requirements for admitting the surveillance footage were met. The witnesses provided testimony establishing the date and time of the captured image, the absence of image manipulation, and the identification of participants depicted in the footage. Based on these factors, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the video into evidence. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child is charged with a crime, it is important to understand the criminal process and what repercussions they may face if they are adjudicated delinquent, and you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable Tampa juvenile crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can advise you of your child’s potential defenses and help you to seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.