Articles Posted in Evidence

In many Florida sex crime cases there is no direct evidence that a crime was committed. Instead the State relies on circumstantial evidence and victim and eyewitness testimony to establish its case against a defendant. Thus, if a witness in a sex crime case recants his or her testimony, it may necessitate a new trial. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed when the recantation of testimony is grounds for a new trial in a case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple sex crimes. If you are a Tampa resident charged with any sex crime, including sexual battery, it is vital to engage a skillful Tampa sex crime defense attorney to aid you in formulating a defense.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with several sex crimes, including indecent assault, sexual battery, and lewd and lascivious molestation. Following a trial, he was convicted on all charges. The alleged victim’s older sister, who was one of the State’s witnesses, recanted her testimony by stating in an affidavit that she advised a third sister the defendant was innocent. The third sister also signed an affidavit in which she stated that the recanting witness advised her that the defendant was innocent, but she was being pressured by detectives to testify on behalf of the State. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for post-conviction relief, based on numerous grounds including the recanted testimony. The trial court denied his motion. The defendant then appealed.

Impact of Recantation of Testimony

Under Florida law, the recantation of testimony is regarded as exceedingly unreliable. Thus, if a witness for the State recants his or her testimony, a new trial is only required if the court finds that the recantation is truthful and that the witness’s testimony will change so drastically that it would likely cause a different verdict to be rendered.
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The Florida statutes allow for a court to order a minor convicted of a crime to pay restitution for any damages caused by the crime. The State must show a significant link between the damages alleged and the restitution ordered for restitution to be proper, however.

This was explained in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court overturned a trial court order for restitution, finding the State had not produced sufficient evidence of a causal connection between the damages sought and the defendant’s conduct. If you are a juvenile living in Tampa and you are currently facing criminal charges, you should retain a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense that will provide you with a good chance of a favorable outcome under the circumstances. 

Facts of the Case 

It is reported that the defendant, a minor, was charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle. He entered into a plea agreement with the State, in which he pled to the lesser included offense of trespass of a conveyance and agreed to pay restitution. As such, the court ordered restitution with the specific amount to be determined at a later date. At a hearing to determine the restitution amount, the owner of the car testified that the car was in perfect condition prior to the theft, but had extensive damage when it was returned. The State presented an expert who testified that the estimated cost to repair the damage was $3,310.37. The defendant’s attorney argued that the State had failed to produce evidence showing that the damage alleged was caused by the defendant. The court disagreed, ordering the defendant to pay $3,310.37 in restitution. The defendant appealed.

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Criminal courts have very specific rules around what kind of evidence can and cannot be admitted at trial. This includes the kind of things that different witnesses can testify about. Your knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney can help you understand how these rules can apply in your situation.

Expert vs. Lay Witnesses

Generally, there are two kinds of witnesses that may testify at trial: lay and expert witnesses. Obviously, expert witnesses are people who have some kind of specialized knowledge or expertise in an area. For example, in an arson case a fire expert may be able to testify as to how fires spread when accelerant is used. Whereas a lay witness is supposed to testify about things that they experienced themselves, rather than things they know. So if someone witnessed the defendant running away from the scene of the crime, they may testify about that but not about anything that requires expertise. If a lay witness testifies about something that requires expertise, the attorney for the other side can object to the testimony.