Florida House Passes New Bill Allowing Assault Victims to Record Their Attackers

Under well-established rules of evidence, introducing a recording – particularly an unconsented audio recording – of information alleged to be relevant to the case requires proper authentication and preparation for inevitable hearsay objections.

Reason being, there is a strong possibility for fraud, exaggeration, enhancement and various other digital problems associated with a recording, which could unfairly prejudice a defendant standing trial for an alleged assault.

However, new legislation introduced into the Florida House in March of 2015, seeks to put an end to these anti-prejudice protections and would do away with any consent requirements necessary to properly introduce such evidence against a defendant.

While the facts prompting the proposed changes are assuredly indicative of necessary reconsiderations in this area, a blanket revocation of consent requirements for the introduction of recorded evidence could wreak major havoc on an untold number of wrongfully-implicated assault defendants, as well as introduce a strong potential for altered or fraudulent evidence.

If you are engaged in a criminal matter and would like to speak to a reputable Sarasota criminal defense attorney about the current status of these laws, be sure to contact Fowler Law Group right away.

Underpinnings of House Bill 7001

In March of 2015, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the life sentence conviction of a Lee County man accused of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter. In that case, the child was hiding an MP3 player under her shirt in order to record conversations and statements made by the defendant, which she then turned over to police.

The recordings were used at trial to secure a life sentence for aggravated sexual battery and the man initiated several appeals – eventually reaching Florida’s highest court.

In its opinion, the court held that current rules of evidence do not generally allow for the admission of recorded audio to prove the truth of an element of the crime in question. The court further held that until the legislature did something to change the current rules of evidence, it would have no choice but to vacate the man’s sentence – as the recording was the keystone of the state’s conviction.

Changes Proposed By the New Law

The language of HB 7001 is sweeping, and allows for prosecution to introduce audio recordings obtained without the consent of the defendant if the accuser believes he or she is about to be assaulted, is being assaulted or is the victim of a completed assault.

The law applies to the recordation of oral, electronic or wire (telephonic) communication, and is admissible in proceedings involving any unlawful act of physical force or violence against a person. Presumably, this evidence is admissible against any defendant facing an assault charge of any kind, and the proposed legislation does not offer any exceptions or limitations of any kind.

Contact the Fowler Law Group Today

If you are currently facing an assault charge and are in need of competent and thorough representation against the state’s charges, please contact Florida’s Fowler Law Group today. You can reach our Sarasota office at (941) 900-3100.

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