Recording Exception Created for Victims of Sexual Assault in Florida Courts
The Florida legislature has passed a considerable number of laws recently focusing on the promotion of public safety, especially the safety of minors. The Florida House passed a bill on March 18, 2015, which provides an exception to the law requiring consent from both parties before the parties may be recorded. States nationwide are split as to whether recordings require just one party to consent to the recording or require that all parties involved in the recording must provide consent.
Florida’s Current Standard on Non-Consensual Recordings
Florida’s current standard, which is at the center of this debate, requires mutual consent from all parties that they can be recorded or wiretapped. This standard has led to quite a few problems, more specifically in a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year where a secret recording made by a victim of sexual assault of her assaulter was not admitted into evidence; the life imprisonment charge of her assaulter was thus revoked and a new trial was ordered without the recordings.
The Florida Supreme Court Case at Issue
In this case, the victim was a teenage girl whose sexual assaulter, her step father, repeatedly assaulted her over several years. The girl hid her MP3 player underneath her shirt and recorded not only her stepfather admitting to sexual assaulting her but also recorded his sexual assault on her. Because of the current standard in place requiring that all parties must consent to any recording made, the evidence was not admitted, and without further physical evidence of the sexual assaults, the stepfather was released from his life sentence and permitted a new trial without the use of the recordings.
The Passage of House Bill 7001: Exception to Non-Consensual Recordings
The Florida Supreme Court ruling led to significant uproar and led to the current passage of House Bill 7001, permitting the exception. The bill states that though the law requires that mutual consent be established for any type of recording or wiretapping, in the situation where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the hidden recording will record a statement where the party has communicated their intent to commit, the party is committing, or the communication states that the party has committed an unlawful sexual act or unlawful act of violence or force against another, then an exception is permitted.
Purpose for Creating Exception to the Standard
The main purpose for creating this type of exception is to ensure that the rules of evidence do not protect guilty parties from being punished for crimes of sexual violence. Many of the victims of sexual violence tend to be vulnerable parties, such as minors or the elderly, who are unable to advocate for themselves, in the same way that adults who experience crimes of sexual violence might be able to take the steps to collect other physical evidence of violence.
Protection of Vulnerable Populations and Evidence Issues in Sexual Assault Cases
Generally, sexual violence and assaults are very private crimes, and not the type that are easily reported. The investigation of a sexual assault can lead to physically invasive evidence collection, and most of the time, there is very little physical evidence that a sexually violent crime occurred. With a lack of evidence for such a private crime, there is usually just a contention between he-said, she-said, which can lead to very little justice for the victim. By permitting the recording of a sexual assaulter who has committed the act of sexual assault, more vulnerable victims may be able to bring their sexual assaulter to justice. Providing this exception creates further protections for society’s most vulnerable victims, and this significant public interest is one courts will be more willing to protect than the privacy concerns of sexual assaulters.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
The rules of evidence were drafted and put into place to create checks and balances on evidence that may be admissible or inadmissible in criminal proceedings. The purpose of these evidence rules is to ensure that evidence brought against a defendant is not exceedingly prejudicial and/or not even material to the criminal proceeding at hand. An experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik understands where the line is drawn and can best advocate on your behalf during a criminal proceeding. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik for a free and confidential consultation.