A recent case of alleged exposure on a beach in North Florida is a good example of how Florida sex crime cases often come down to one person’s word against another’s. It also shows just how serious judges and juries take these cases and the criminal punishments that come with them.
The defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition after he allegedly exposed himself to a girl on a beach in the Florida panhandle. The victim testified at trial that she was running along the beach when she heard the defendant call to her from a nearby condo apartment. When she turned her head, the victim said she saw the defendant staring at her and fondling himself with his pants down. The victim called the police and ran down the beach. She told her sister and mother about the incident and pointed the defendant out to them when he later drove by in a truck. The victim also identified the defendant to police officers when they arrived on the scene.
At trial, the defendant claimed that the incident was all part of a joke gone awry. He said a friend—an adult woman—had taken off her top and flashed him, so he responded by removing his pants. The defendant said he wasn’t aware that any children were in the area and he denied touching himself. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, followed by 10 years of sex offender probation.
The defendant later appealed the decision, arguing that the judge shouldn’t have allowed the jury to hear evidence that he drove past the victim and her family two or three times shortly after the incident. Because the defendant admitted that he was on the condo balcony with his pants down, he argued that there was no need to identify him as the alleged perpetrator. The defendant claimed that any value in that evidence was outweighed by the potential unfair prejudice against him that he said came with alerting the jury that he had driven by.
The First District rejected that argument.
“The problem with this argument is that until he testified in his own defense, his identity was in question,” the court said. “The State had to prove that he was the one on the balcony,” it added. Thus the testimony from the victim’s sister and the police officer who arrived on the scene “was relevant as to whether [Defendant] was the perpetrator,” the court explained.
As a result, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.