Posted On: December 7, 2012 by Shorstein & Lasnetski

Public Records/Hearsay Not Sufficient to Establish Identity of Victim in Criminal Case

In criminal cases in Florida, hearsay evidence is defined as evidence of an out of court statement offered in court to establish the truth of what was stated. The general rule is that such hearsay evidence is not admissible in court. However, there are many exceptions to this general rule, and many lawyers confuse the hearsay rules by assuming that all out of court statements are hearsay. Even when hearsay statements are admissible, they are often admissible for certain purposes and cannot be used to establish key facts in a criminal case on their own.

As an example, in a felony battery case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with hitting the victim who did not testify at trial. The state presented a witnesses who said he saw the defendant hit the victim. The police officer also saw the defendant hitting a woman but was only able to identify her by the Florida driver's license she showed him at the scene of the battery. As a result, the only identification of the victim was the hearsay statement of the police officer as to the information on the woman's driver's license. The statement of a person as to the identity of another not know to him/her is hearsay as it is based on a "statement" from an identification card.

Because the state could not prove the identity of the victim without this hearsay testimony, the battery conviction was reversed. In a battery case or any crime against a person, the identity of the victim is an essential element of the case and must be proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt. If the state cannot prove this element with admissible evidence, the case should be dismissed.