Florida Court Discusses the Use of Hearsay Evidence in Criminal Matters

In some criminal matters, the State has little or no direct evidence. Instead, the State’s case against the defendant will be dependent on circumstantial evidence. While circumstantial evidence is frequently accepted, hearsay evidence is not. As a result, a conviction based on hearsay evidence may be subject to reversal, as indicated by a recent Florida judgement in a case where the defendant was convicted of multiple counts of possessing child pornography. If you are suspected of possessing child pornography or any other offense, you should consult with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney to determine your legal options.

The Trial of the Defendant

It is alleged that the defendant was detained and charged with 300 counts of having child pornography. A search warrant was used to gather evidence from his personal computer, which led to his arrest. Hash values are used to detect pornographic photographs of children that are stored in a national database, according to the digital forensic technician who analyzed his device at his trial. Three hundred pornographic images of minors were discovered on the defendant’s computer using this technology.

The digital forensic technician allegedly stated that he was able to identify the majority of the photographs as child pornography without using the hash values assigned to them, but that he couldn’t tell if the person depicted in one image was a child. Nonetheless, the State charged the defendant based on his opinion that a hash value applied to the photograph identified it as child pornography. After being found guilty on all three hundred counts, the defendant filed an appeal, claiming that his conviction was founded on a hearsay testimony that the photograph in question was pornographic.

Hearsay Evidence in Criminal Cases

The court sided with the defendant on appeal. The court stated that it was an unknown person working in law enforcement who submitted the image to the national database, not the digital forensic technician, who assessed that the image represented child pornography. In other words, the digital forensic technician was simply informing the jury about what the unnamed individual had told the database.

The court stated that there was no exception to the hearsay rule that would allow the court to accept this comment made outside of court. The state’s argument that the statement was acceptable since it originated from a reliable source and was exceedingly accurate was rejected by the court. In summary, the court held that a hearsay assertion that an image with a specific hash value is child pornography is inadmissible simply because forensic technicians who identify photos for law enforcement rely on it. As a result, the defendant’s conviction was overturned based on the photo in question.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

A conviction for possessing child pornography can have lifelong ramifications, therefore anyone accused of a sex crime involving minors should consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law are adept at helping people charged with crimes fight for a just outcome, and if you hire us, we will zealously pursue the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. You can contact us through our online form or by calling as at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.



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