In Florida, not all statements are admissible into evidence. The presence of admissibility rules is not a clear win or loss for the typical criminal defendant — both the prosecution and the criminal defendant must navigate the complexities of the rules of evidence and take steps to ensure that evidence favorable to their case is admitted, and take steps to ensure that evidence unfavorable to their case is deemed inadmissible. To a degree, the evidence “game” could be considered the critical phase in determining each side’s eventual success at trial.
Hearsay statements are generally inadmissible in Florida criminal cases, though there are a number of different exceptions. What are hearsay statements? According to section 90.801 of the Florida Statutes, a hearsay statement is an oral or written assertion made out-of-court that is offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement itself. For example, if a person shouts out “Tim is the perpetrator,” during a crime, then such a statement would likely constitute hearsay if it were being brought into evidence to show that Tim is in fact the perpetrator.
So, what hearsay statements are actually admissible into criminal evidence? The Florida rules of evidence provide ample guidance. Consider the following (this list is non-exhaustive).
Spontaneous statements made during the perception of the event at-issue (or immediately afterwards) may be allowed, unless there is specific reason to believe that the statements are not trustworthy.
When an event is startling or exciting in some way, then a statement made during the experience of such excitement — such as an exclamation of fear — may be allowed into evidence, as there is no legitimate reason to question the truthfulness of such an utterance. For example, the prosecution may attempt to bring in evidence that the victim shouted for help to indicate that the victim felt fear and was threatened by the defendant. If the court deems the statement to fall under the “excited utterances” exception, it may be admitted into evidence.
Records, reports, and statements that belong to the public record fall within a broad hearsay exception. For example, if there was a statement made by the defendant in the public record, then such statement may be brought into evidence (assuming that it has some sort of probative value and is not unreasonably prejudicial).
As a criminal defendant in Florida, it’s critical that you do not admit to any fault. Florida rules of evidence allow statements to be introduced into evidence where the defendant admits to (or even apologizes for) the commission of the crime at-issue. For example, suppose that you are a defendant in an assault and battery case. At the time of the incident, you told the victim that you’re sorry for attacking them. Such a statement would likely be allowed into evidence.
Statements for Medical Treatment
Statements made by any part for the purpose of medical treatment and diagnosis can be brought in, but what evidence is allowed may be limited. For example, if the victim is attacked, their statements indicating that they were attacked may be allowed into evidence, but their statements indicating that they were attacked by the defendant may be inadmissible.
If you’ve been charged with or if you believe that you may be charged with a crime, call 941-404-8919 as soon as possible to speak with experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at the Fowler Law Group today. We look forward to speaking with you.
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