Florida Appeals Court Allows Jail Phone Call Evidence to Stand

There are specific laws regarding what evidence prosecutors are allowed to use to prove their case in court. As will be discussed in more detail below, the state can present relevant evidence as long as its probative value is not outweighed by the prejudicial effects on the defendant.

In this case, a man was charged with conspiracy to commit the felony of tampering with a victim. Originally, the defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation. While he was in jail on those charges he called his former girlfriend (and co-defendant). The phone call was recorded. At the beginning of all calls from the jail there is a recording stating that calls are recorded and subject to monitoring.

In this recording, the defendant is heard asking his former girlfriend to talk to the victim and her mother. He also is heard saying that she should tell the police that the phone was stolen and he did not have it at the relevant time, even though he mentioned that the ex-girlfriend was currently in possession of the phone. The original 17 minute phone call was redacted down to seven minutes for the jury to hear. There was no mention of the underlying Florida sex crime charges in the recording that they heard.

In this appeal heard by the First District Court of Appeal in Florida, the defendant argued that the phone call was irrelevant to the crime he was alleged to have committed. The appeals court disagreed. They noted that the defendant’s identity was in question since the phone call came from another person’s account. Thus, they found the admission of that part of the phone call proper because it was necessary to establish the defendant’s identity.

Florida Rules of Evidence

The court in this case discussed when it is proper for evidence to be excluded from presentation. The relevant Florida law is called “Rule 403.” Rule 403 states that “relevant evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice…” Essentially, this is a balancing test where the court looks at both the potential probative value of the evidence and the risk of prejudice to the defendant.

Once kind of evidence that prosecutors may attempt to include in their case is evidence of “other bad acts.” This is evidence of other crimes or misbehaviors that will help to put the entire case in perspective. The defendant argued that the prejudice to him outweighed the probative value of the evidence. However, the court disagreed. They noted that suppression of evidence under Florida rule 403 is meant to be used sparingly. Thus, the balance should be in favor of admissibility.

In this case, since the phone call did not disclose the nature of the underlying Florida sex crime that the defendant was accused of, the court decided that it was much more probative than prejudicial. Especially in the context of the balance weighing toward admissibility. Thus, the conviction was affirmed.

Contact an Experienced Clearwater Sex Crime Defense Attorney Today!

Florida law has many statutes that protect the rights of defendants accused of sex crimes, since the mere accusation can be prejudicial at times. However, in order to take advantage of those protections you need a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side. The experienced Clearwater sex crimes defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm can help represent you and protect you from undue prejudice during your trial. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our attorneys about your case.

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