Fla. Supreme Court Rules Against Secret Recordings by Victims

Our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert recognize the importance of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling that secret recordings — in particular, even those captured by alleged victims of a crime — are not admissible as evidence in a criminal trial.
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It’s long been a central tenet of criminal law that evidence procured in an illegitimate or illegal manner cannot be used as evidence in a criminal trial. That legal issue was made a bit murkier, however, in the criminal case against Richard R. McDade, who was sentenced to life in prison after having been found guilty by a Florida court of sexual battery against a young child.

The issue brought to light by this criminal trial, and the subsequent appeal, was whether secret recordings made by his victim, ostensibly proving his guilt, could be entered as evidence. According to the Supreme Court, these recordings should not have been admissible as evidence, and, as a result, McDade will be granted a new trial.

In the Supreme Court’s ruling, the justices made reference to the state law that basically makes the interception of any wire, oral or electronic communication illegal without the consent of the individual being recorded. This is a legal principle adopted by many states across the country. In the McDade case, it was violated because the person being recorded, McDade, had not consented to his being recorded, despite the fact that the recordings point to his guilt in the sexual battery of his stepdaughter.

Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that this legal issue highlights perhaps the most important pillar of criminal defense law; the separation of emotion and objectivity. The law must remain the law in all instances, even those in which the law seems to place a burden on the pursuit of punishing criminals.

For those convinced of McDade’s guilt, it should be noted that the Supreme Court’s ruling is not a declaration of his innocence, nor is it a guarantee that he won’t yet again be sentenced to life in prison. The Court’s ruling is merely a reflection of the fact that our state’s appeals process is effective in guaranteeing the rights of the accused — in this case, it guaranteed the right of the accused against having apparently damning albeit inadmissible evidence used against him in his criminal trial.

It might make sense to some — or many — logical individuals that an exception to the recording law should be made to allow for recordings by victims of those harming them. The Court acknowledged this possible exception in its ruling, but wisely noted that such an exception would be an issue for the State Legislature to take up; it is not one that can be made by a court. If a law is to be amended or rewritten, it must be so done by the body of elected individuals representing the interests of Floridians.

If you have any questions about this or any other criminal defense issue, please contact our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to speaking with you.

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