Florida Court Examines Admissibility of Evidence Regarding Prior Crimes

It is not uncommon for the prosecution to rely on circumstantial evidence to attempt to establish a defendant’s guilt in Florida sex crime cases. While both circumstantial evidence is admissible, the prosecution is generally precluded from introducing evidence of the defendant’s prior bad acts to demonstrate their guilt for their current charges. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, that will allow the courts to introduce evidence of child molestation and evidence of other crimes in sex crime cases, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion. If you are charged with a sex-related offense, it is prudent to meet with a Tampa sex crime defense lawyer about what defenses you may be able to set forth.

Procedural and Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with child pornography offenses. The defendant’s criminal history includes prior convictions, notably in 1998 for Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fourth Degree in Michigan, a misdemeanor involving unlawful sexual contact, and Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Michigan in 2000. Furthermore, in 2003, the defendant was indicted for and later convicted of possessing child pornography. Prior to his trial, he filed a Motion in Limine to preclude the introduction of evidence regarding his prior convictions, including his child pornography conviction, which the Government opposed.

Admissibility of Evidence Regarding Prior Crimes

The court ultimately denied the defendant’s motion. Prior to doing so, it considered whether the evidence of the defendant’s 2004 conviction for possession of child pornography was admissible. The Government argued that this evidence could be introduced under Federal Rule of Evidence 414 (permitting evidence of child molestation) and Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) (allowing evidence of other crimes or acts for specific purposes). Rule 414 defines “child molestation” to include any acts prohibited by 18 U.S.C. Chapter 110, which includes possession and distribution of child pornography.

While the defendant argued for the exclusion of this evidence under Rule 403, which allows for the exclusion of evidence if its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, the Court held that this evidence was highly probative, particularly for establishing intent, knowledge, and absence of mistake, and therefore should not be excluded.

Further, the Court found that Rule 403 is not intended to bar highly probative evidence unfavorable to the defendant, As such, it ruled that the defendant’s prior conviction for possession of child pornography was deemed admissible under Rule 414 and Rule 404(b). Consequently, the Court denied the defendant’s motion in limine.

Confer with an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

In order to prove a defendant committed a sex crime, the prosecution must establish each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt; if it cannot, the defendant should be deemed not guilty. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney about your rights. The experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon possess the skills and resources needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and if we represent you, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a consultation.

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