Florida Appeals Court Says Trial Court Abused Discretion in Sexual Abuse Case

behind barsIn a case heard by the Florida First District Court of Appeal, a man challenged his conviction for capital sexual battery and lewd molestation. He argued that the convictions should be thrown out because the trial court improperly prevented evidence from being admitted. All convictions must be supported by evidence. However, there are strict rules about what can and cannot be admitted into evidence in a criminal trial. If the evidence that supported the conviction is thrown out, the conviction may also be overturned if there is not enough remaining evidence to sustain it. That’s why it’s common for Florida sex crimes defense attorneys to challenge the evidence admitted into court as they did here.

Abuse of Discretion Standard

The appeals court hears cases after they have already been decided by the trial court. In deciding whether or not to allow the decision of the trial court to stand, the appeals courts use different standards depending on the issue. For example, some elements are looked at “de novo,” which means the appeals court does not have to give any deference to the findings of the lower court and can instead make their own decision as if they are looking at it for the first time.

In this case, the appeals court used an abuse of discretion standard to determine whether the evidence should have been admitted or not. In other words, they need to allow the decision of the lower court to stand unless they find that the decision was not permissible under the law.

Facts and Analysis

Florida law states that all relevant evidence is admissible unless it is specifically prohibited under statutory or case law. Thus, the first step is to look at the evidence and what the law says about what is and is not admissible.

This case stems from the alleged child sexual abuse by the defendant. In her pre-trial statement, one of the alleged victims stated that she was abused at the same time as another child while they were in each other’s presence. At trial she testified that both of them were there when the abuse occurred, but the defendant was not allowed to bring up the fact that the other child denied being abused by the defendant. The defendant argued here that it was misleading to the jury to not let him present this evidence.

The appeals court here agreed with the defendant. They held that the law specifically permits evidence that attacks the credibility of a witness. Therefore, the trial court abused their discretion by not allowing this evidence to be heard. Thus, the original conviction was reversed and the case was remanded (sent back to the trial court) for a new trial that complies with the law as laid out in this decision.

Contact an Experienced Clearwater Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

If you are convicted of a sex crime, you could face lifelong consequences, including life in prison. That’s why you need to contact a knowledgeable Clearwater sex crimes attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. Call the experienced Clearwater sex crime defense attorneys at Hanlon law firm at (727) 897-5413 or contacted us online using the form on the website. Contact us today for your free consultation!

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