Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

It is well-known that a person cannot be forced to make incriminating statements and that people who are taken into police custody must be advised of their Miranda rights before they are interrogated. It is not always clear, however, when a person is considered to be in the custody of the police or when the need for Miranda warnings arises due to interrogation, as discussed in a recent Florida sex crime case in which the State appealed the trial court’s order granting a defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating statements. If you are a resident of Tampa and were recently charged with a sex crime, it is advisable to contact a dedicated Tampa sex crime defense attorney regarding your options for protecting your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous sex crimes. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to suppress statements he made to detectives during an interview and written statements after the interview that contained an apology and a suicide note. During the interview, the defendant admitted to masturbating in front of the minor victim. In his motion, the defendant alleged that while the beginning of the interview may not have constituted a custodial interrogation, the latter portion of the interview was custodial in nature and that he was not given the required Miranda warnings. Further, the defendant argued that his written statements were unreliable. The trial court ruled that the defendant was interrogated and that the interrogation became custodial, and therefore Miranda warnings should have been administered. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. The State subsequently appealed.

What Constitutes Custodial Interrogation

Under Florida law, interrogation happens when a state agent engages in actions or asks a person questions that a reasonable individual would believe are intended to elicit an incriminating response. Miranda warnings are required when an interrogation becomes custodial. In other words, they must be administered when a person who is both under interrogation and in custody is being questioned. If Miranda warnings are not administered, statements made during a custodial interrogation will be precluded at trial.

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In many cases in which a defendant is charged with a sex crime, both the State and the defendant will rely on testimony and other circumstantial evidence to support their position. The testimony that is admissible in sex crime cases is limited, however, to protect the alleged victims of such crimes. For example, Florida’s Rape Shield law prohibits a criminal defendant from introducing evidence of the victim’s sexual activity. Recently, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, discussed the parameters of the Rape Shield law, in a case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery. If you live in Tampa and are charged with a sex crime it is critical to meet with an experienced Tampa sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may introduce against you and what you can do to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the victim met the defendant, a pastor when she was in fifth grade and established a relationship with him when she was a freshman in high school. She reported that the defendant would buy her gifts and that she would occasionally spend the night at his house. On several occasions, the defendant reportedly sexually assaulted the victim. The victim stated the defendant stopped giving her gifts when she stopped attending church. She cut ties with the defendant in November 2014, after which she reported to her family what happened.

It is alleged that the victim was interviewed during a counseling session in 2013, during which she reported three incidents of sexual abuse, none of which were perpetrated by the defendant. The victim stated during the session that those were the only times she was touched inappropriately. The defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious battery and sexual battery. Prior to trial, the State moved to preclude evidence of the victim’s prior sexual relationships pursuant to Florida’s Rape Shield law. The court granted the motions, and the case proceeded to trial. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in precluding evidence of the victim’s sexual abuse history.

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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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In Florida, if a person is charged with a sex crime the State may attempt to introduce proof that the person is guilty by introducing evidence of other crimes or similar acts. Although evidence of other crimes is admissible in some cases, the law protects criminal defendants from the introduction of misleading or prejudicial facts or allegations by strictly limiting what evidence may be introduced by the State. The District Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Florida recently discussed the grounds for admission of evidence of prior acts, in a case in which it precluded evidence of the defendant’s alleged past child molestation.  If you live in Tampa and are currently facing sex crime charges it is crucial to retain a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you seek a successful result.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation of a child who was less than twelve years old. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it intended to introduce evidence of other crimes or acts of child molestation that the defendant allegedly committed. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court entered an order prohibiting the State from admitting evidence of the defendant’s alleged prior acts of molestation. The State filed a petition for review of the order. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed.

Grounds for Admission of Prior Acts

In Florida criminal cases in which a defendant is accused of child molestation, evidence of other acts of molestation or other crimes or wrongs may be admitted and considered for any matter for which they are relevant. In denying the State’s use of prior acts evidence, the trial court noted that, under Florida law, a court weighing whether to admit evidence of prior bad acts must consider when the alleged acts occurred and the proximity in time between the prior act and current alleged acts.

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