DEFENDING CHILD SEX CRIMES IN FLORIDA
During my six years as a prosecutor in Pinellas County, Florida, I investigated, prosecuted, and tried numerous cases involving child sex crimes and related offenses. I received specialized training and practical experience in interviewing many child witnesses and witnesses of child sex crimes. That training included gathering evidence for the purpose of building a case to present to a jury. I learned from the ground up how law enforcement and the prosecution build their cases against people charged with a child sex crime. As a criminal defense attorney, I use that knowledge and experience to help defend people charged with child sex crimes.
The Process of Obtaining a Minor’s Testimony in a Child Sex Crime
The prosecution of child sex crime is often a difficult task for various reasons. Once a case is initially brought to the attention of law enforcement, just getting the testimony from the accuser can be a difficult. Often times, the accuser is either unwilling to come forward with information perhaps because the alleged suspect is a family member or if in the case of a very young minor, they may be unable to actually give credible testimony because if their age. From the prosecutor’s perspective, child witnesses must be questioned in a way that cannot later leave them open to suggestions and arguments from the defense that words were put into their mouth. The defense attorney will carefully review and scrutinize the manner or way that a child witness or accuser was questioned. This can be accomplished by reviewing transcripts, videos, reports, or statements.
Inconsistency in a Minor’s Testimony in a Child Sex Crime
Another way that a defense attorney can attack the State’s case is by showing that the accuser has made inconsistent statements. Frequently in reviewing or investigating a case, the defense attorney will learn that the accuser’s version of what happened is not consistent over time as told to different people. Once there are inconsistent statements, this makes the task of the prosecutor that much more difficult. A good defense attorney will be able to point out and/or highlight these inconsistencies to the prosecutor and/or ultimately to a jury.
Motive to Lie or Fabricate in a Child Sex Crime
If the accuser or witness has a motive to lie or has some bias against the alleged suspect; this information can be used to cast doubt on their entire testimony. For example, I have dealt with cases which involve accusers in the middle of a contested divorce or the accuser is not happy with the fact that the alleged suspect is dating their parent. Motives to lie or not give truthful testimony can often pose huge road blocks for the prosecutor and end up being used by the defense to ague that there is reasonable doubt.
Lack of Corroborative Evidence in a Child Sex Crime
Unlike what you see on television regarding DNA, child sex crimes cases frequently lack physical evidence. The reasons for a lack of physical evidence may vary. The alleged act may have occurred years ago. The alleged act itself may not lend itself to yielding physical evidence such as if the allegations involve something like fondling the buttocks of a minor. As a result, more often than not, these types of crimes are a “he said, she said.” Once the case is brought to the attention of law enforcement, and it is apparent that there is no physical evidence, in order to build a case, the prosecutor and law enforcement may attempt to obtain additional evidence to corroborate the accuser’s statements.
Law Enforcement Tools to Obtain Corroborative Evidence in a Child Sex Crime
- Search Warrant Perhaps the accuser and the alleged suspect were strangers to each other and the accuser can describe the bed spread in the alleged suspect’s bedroom. Perhaps the alleged suspect has some sort of unique markings on their body like scars or tattoos. Maybe there is some sort of other physical evidence at the home of the alleged suspect. Law enforcement may obtain a search warrant to gather this information.
- Controlled Phone Call The criminal investigation may have started with law enforcement and the alleged suspect may have no idea that he is being investigated. The accuser or a family member may call the alleged suspect in an attempt to elicit some type of admission to the crime while law enforcement is recording it. This type of evidence is particularly useful especially in the case of a crime that is alleged to have occurred many years ago or one that lacks any physical evidence. If the alleged suspect admits he did something wrong to the accuser, this is powerful evidence.
- Text Messages, Emails, Social Media Posts In this day modern day of communication technology, law enforcement may attempt to gather corroborative evidence in the form of text messages, emails, or social media posts.
- Statements from the Suspect It is not unusual for law enforcement to simply contact the alleged suspect and interview him to obtain admissions or a confession
- Photographs Sometimes photographs can yield important physical evidence. They may show injury, bruising, or simply corroboration of an accuser’s testimony or statements.
- Gathering of DNA Evidence Law enforcement will frequently attempt to gather evidence which will later be tested for DNA. Perhaps it is touch DNA, saliva, semen, or blood. This type of evidence may be very important is a child sex crime.
These types of investigative tools used by law enforcement are the exact reason why it is imperative for someone that believes they are or may be investigated for a sex crime to seek legal counsel as early as possible. One wrong move on the part of an alleged suspect can give law enforcement all the evidence they need to gain a conviction.
You Find Out You Are a Suspect in a Child Sex Crime: What Do You Do?
You should seek out legal counsel as soon as you are aware that you are being investigated. I cannot stress how important it is to seek legal counsel as early as possible in any criminal case. That means before you are arrested. The stakes can be extremely high if you are being investigated for a child sex crime
My time as a prosecutor and my experience as a defense attorney has prepared me to defend people charged in child sex crime cases. Obtaining counsel as early as possible is imperative if you are a suspect in a sex crime case. Difficulties and deficiencies in the State’s case can be used to the benefit of the person suspected or charged. Contact my office if you believe you are the suspect or you have been charged in a child sex crime case. https://www.montronelaw.com/contact-us/