Sexual assault in Florida is a serious crime. While it is important to deter and prosecute such an heinous act, it is equally important to protect those charged with sexual assault from such a punishment if they are innocent and to insure that the defendant who is charged with sexual assault has all the rights guaranteed him or her under the Constitution recognized in court. Following are several common defenses to sexual assault charges in Florida.
The most common defense to sexual assault charges in Florida is that of actual innocence. Frequently this is proven by use of an alibi, meaning that the defendant was in a different place than where the crime is alleged to have occurred. In order to make such a claim, evidence of that alibi is typically necessary to convince a jury of its truthfulness. Such evidence may take the form of witness testimony, receipts, ticket purchases, or credit card statements.
A claim of actual innocence may also come in the form of misidentification. During a moment of extreme stress, it is often possible for a victim or a witness to incorrectly identify the perpetrator of a crime and carry forward that memory to trial. In the case of misidentification, forensic evidence like DNA comparisons can be key to introducing sufficient reasonable doubt with the trier of fact that an acquittal results.
An element in sexual assault crimes in Florida is that the sexual act must have been done without the consent of the victim. A common defense to sexual assault charges is that the defendant did in fact have consent at the time of the act. However, establishing consent can be difficult, and the types of evidence allowable for proving consent are very specific.
Consent may be proven via testimony from the victim, but it can often be difficult to obtain that testimony without evoking a negative reaction from the victim and the jury. In addition, attempting to prove consent using the victim’s past sexual history is generally not allowed by Florida’s courts.
The defense may also attempt to prove consent by way of the defendant’s testimony, but this can also be risky, because it opens up the defendant to cross examination by the prosecution that may potentially be damaging.
Insanity Or Mental Incapacity
Another avenue by which defense attorneys may choose to attack a charge of sexual assault in Florida is by asserting that the defendant did not possess the mental capacity to understand the act he or she carried out was wrong.
Lack of capacity may be claimed at two points in the process – either at the time of the act or at the time of the trial. A defendant may claim to lack capacity at the time of trial without claiming it at the time of the offense and vice versa. However, claiming lack of capacity at the time of trial is vastly different than claiming it at the time of the offense. Claiming lack of capacity at the time of the offense may result in a lesser sentence or an acquittal, while claiming lack of capacity at the time of trial is likely only to delay the trial until such time as the defendant regains capacity to understand the proceedings.