Florida Court Discusses Evidence of Prior Bad Acts in Criminal Cases

When a person is charged with a sex crime, the State will often seek to introduce evidence of other inappropriate sex acts that the individual allegedly engaged in, in an effort to prove motive or a pattern of conduct. Evidence of collateral crimes is only admissible in certain instances, however, and if such evidence is inappropriately divulged at trial, it may result in the reversal of a conviction, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is prudent to confer with an assertive Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you may be able to set forth.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the victim, who was friends with the defendant and his wife, went out drinking with the couple and then spent the night on their couch. She woke up several times during the evening to find the defendant kissing her, performing sex acts on her, and engaging in intercourse with her. Each time she told the defendant to stop and pushed him away. A few days after the incident, she contacted the police, who told her to record calls with the defendant. During the calls, he repeatedly stated that he was sorry but denied having any knowledge of the incident.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with sexual battery. At trial, the State introduced a witness who testified that on a prior occasion a few years before the incident, the defendant kissed her and groped her while she was intoxicated. The defendant was convicted as charged. He then filed an appeal, arguing in part that the trial court erred in allowing the introduction of evidence of collateral crimes.

Evidence of Collateral Crimes in Cases Involving Sex Offenses

Under Florida law, evidence of other crimes, acts, or wrongs is admissible to prove a material fact that is in dispute, such as motive, intent, opportunity, knowledge, or preparation. It is not admissible, though, solely to demonstrate that a defendant possesses bad character or the propensity to commit a crime. With regard to sexual offenses specifically, the law states that evidence of prior wrongs or crimes involving a sex offense is admissible and can be assessed for its bearing on any relevant matter.

Thus, to determine whether evidence of a prior crime or wrong of a sexual nature should be admitted in a sex crime case, the court will evaluate the similarity between the act and the charged offense, the closeness of time between the acts, and the frequency of the prior acts, to determine whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs the danger of prejudice. In the subject case, the court found that the prior act and the charged offense were too dissimilar, and too much time had passed in between the two acts, to find that the probative value of the evidence outweighed the risk of prejudice. As such, the defendant’s conviction was reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Speak with a Capable Clearwater Attorney

If you are a resident of Clearwater currently accused of committing illegal sex acts, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible regarding your rights. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a capable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney who is adept at helping people accused of criminal activity seek just results and, if you hire him, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf.  Mr. Hanlon can be contacted through the online form or at  727-897-5413 to set up a complimentary and confidential conference.

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