Under Florida Statute 90.803(23) Florida courts may allow a witness other than the child testify as to what type of sexual abuse a child may have told them occurred under certain circumstances. In other words, an alleged sex crime child victim sixteen years of age or less does not have to testify at an accused’s trial as to the specific allegations of abuse. Florida statutes allow that the alleged testimony of the child alleging sexual abuse may be admitted through the testimony of witnesses who claim to have heard the child make statements about being sexually abused. The trial court must hold a hearing to determine if the statement was made under “reliable” circumstances. If the court finds that the child’s out of court statement is reliable the witness may testify if the child testifies or is unavailable. “Unavailable” is defined as a finding by the trial court that the child’s participation in the trial or proceedings would result in substantial likelihood of sever emotional or mental harm. An accused must be notified no later than ten days before trial that the statement that qualifies will be offered at trial. So an accused can learn that his ex-wife who is battling him over child custody may testify as to what the couple’s three year old child allegedly told her. Is that fair?
In Ohio v. Clark, 13-1352 (June 18, 2015), the United State Supreme Court held that the trial court’s admission of out of court statements of a three year old child to his teacher wherein the teacher testified as to what the three year old told the teacher, was not a violation of the accused Sixth Amendment Right to Confrontation or Crawford v. United States. The Supreme Court stated “L. P.’s age, three, further confirms that the statements in question were not testimonial because statements by very young children will rarely, if ever, implicate the Confrontation Clause.” (If you’d like to read the Ohio v. Clark opinion please clink on the link above).