Depositions of the Child Victim 

When you represent someone charged with a crime of violence against a child, it is important to understand how to effectively navigate the special rules that apply in these cases. It is also important to seek relief from the court when the prosecution attempts to limit the discovery process in a way that works to the disadvantage of the person accused.

We understand the special rules that the court has put in place to limit the number of interviews with a child of abuse or sexual abuse when a criminal charge is pending. When a crime of violence is alleged, it is important to know how these cases are prosecuted and the best ways to defend against the charges. 

If you are charged with a crime involving abuse against a child including child abuse or sexual child abuse then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County, FL. Call (561) 557-8686 today to discuss your case with our experienced attorneys for abuse and sexual offenses in Palm Beach County

Administrative Order for Interviews of Young Children

The courts for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County have established an administrative order regarding the rules for interviewing young victims of child and sexual abuse. This order was signed by the Chief Judge in the courthouse chamber in West Palm Beach on July 2, 2013. 

Section 914.16, Florida Statues (2012), authorizes the chief judge to establish limits on the number of interviews that a minor victim must submit to for law enforcement or discovery purposes. 

Pursuant to the authority conferred by Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215, the court created an order that applies to the investigation and prosecution of all cases of abuse under Sections 794.011, 800.04, or 827.03 when the victim is under thirteen years of age or a victim of a violation of Sections 794.011, 800.02, 800.03, or 825.102 who is a person with mental retardation as de?ned in Section 393.0630(42), at the time the interviews are sought. 

Definition of Interviews of Child Victims of Abuse or Sexual Abuse

For purposes of this order, the term “interview” is de?ned as any procedure in which the child victim is required to provide a factual recitation of the circumstances surrounding the allegation of abuse. The term “interview” does not include the following:

  • Information obtained for the purpose of medical or psychological diagnosis for treatment.
  • An initial contact with the victim by law enforcement and/or Florida Department of Children and Families to assess the validity of the complaint or the need to take protective measures on behalf of the victim.
  • Contacts with DCF legal, victim services (sexual assault/domestic violence) counselors, guardians ad litem, or assistant state attorneys seeking to carry out responsibilities as designated by the statute.  
  • Actual court testimony of victim. 
  • Re—contact with the victim for the purpose of expanding/clarifying a previous statement prior to the filing of formal charges.

Types of Interviews with the Child Victim of Abuse or Sexual Abuse

In accord with the foregoing and the need to act in the best interest of child victims of abuse, the administrative order provides that no child victim of abuse shall be subject to more than four interviews in the course of the investigation and prosecution of an incident of abuse except upon order of the court. 

The first interview shall be conducted within a reasonable time for the validation of the complaint. The interview when feasible shall be held at a Child ProtectionTeam Facility in Palm Beach County. When applicable, this interview will be attended by law enforcement, a representative from DCF, Victim Services (sexual assault/domestic violence), the State Attorney’s Of?ce, and the Child ProtectionTeam.

When applicable, DCF shall, prior to scheduling a forensic interview,contact the law enforcement agency of jurisdiction and coordinate a mutually agreeable date and time for both law enforcement and DCF to attend the forensic interview. All attending agencies shall meet prior to the interview and make reasonable efforts to coordinate and produce all necessary information in the course of that interview. To minimize the traumatic effects to the child, all interviews shall be conducted by no more than two persons. This interview shall be recorded whenever possible to ensure that other parties have the opportunity to hear the child’s statement.

The second interview by law enforcement, with the State Attorneys approval,may occur prior to the ?ling of formal charges and may include DCF, VictimServices (sexual assault/ domestic violence) or the Child Protection Team.

The third interview will be conducted under the rules governing depositions. The deposition shall be conducted in a setting and manner intended to minimize the traumatic effects of the interview on the victim. Defense counsel shall notice all parties including the guardian ad litem consistent with Crim. Proc. Rule 3.220(h). If necessary, law enforcement may meet with the victim for the purpose of expanding or clarifying any facts necessary. Additional interviews shall be allowed only by order of the court upon motion for good cause shown.

Additional interviews shall be limited in scope to assure minimal impact on the victim. 

This article was last updated on Friday, October 14, 2016.

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