What Happens When a Victim Refuses to Testify in a Florida Criminal Case?
A common question many people ask when facing trial in a Florida criminal case is how the proceedings work when the alleged victim of the crime refuses to testify. The issue most commonly arises in connection with domestic violence, but it can conceivably come up in any case where someone accuses you of an offense against a person or property. To best understand the answer to the question, you should keep two fundamental concepts of criminal law:
- In a criminal case, the government is the plaintiff – not the victim. In other words, the victim is a witness, not a party whose appearance would be mandatory.
- A prosecutor must always prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you.
The basic takeaway from these two points: A prosecutor COULD go forward with the trial without courtroom testimony of the victim – but it is NOT always a good idea to proceed when a key witness refuses to testify. You should trust a Broward County criminal defense attorney to address the complicated legal issues, but a summary may explain what happens when a victim refuses to testify in a Florida criminal case.
Testimony as Part of the Criminal Court Record: There are many stages along the timeline of a criminal case in which the victim may have provided testimony on the record, such as at the preliminary hearing. Usage of this testimony at trial depends upon whether the defendant had the opportunity to cross-examine the witness at the previous proceeding. If both prosecution and defense had a chance to ask questions, the court may allow the transcript to be read into the record as if it was testimony.
Victim’s 911 Call: Under certain circumstances, Florida courts may allow the transcript of an emergency recording to be introduced as evidence of the crime. At first glance, you might expect that the 911 call to be hearsay because it is an out of court statement offered to assert certain facts. However, this scenario may fall under one of exceptions to the hearsay rule: Excited utterance.
Testimony from Non-Victim Witnesses: A prosecutor can certainly proceed with charges against you if other witnesses are able and willing to testify in court. Any individual who observed criminal activity may be a non-victim witness – but only if they SAW what happened. The hearsay rule would bar most statements if a witness merely overheard details.
Availability of Other Evidence: There are many sources of physical evidence that do not involve witness testimony. You could still face criminal charges if there is photo, video, documentation, or other proof of the essential elements of the crime.
Discuss Strategies with a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you were arrested on criminal charges, do not assume that the prosecution will drop the case simply because the victim will not testify at trial. Prosecutors often go forward based upon other evidence, so it is critical to retain an experienced attorney to fight for your rights. For additional details, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik to schedule a confidential consultation.