Collateral act evidence, or Williams rule evidence, is some of the most damaging evidence a prosecutor can present in a criminal case. Usually, a criminal trial asks a very specific question: did this defendant commit this particular crime. If the evidence doesn’t tend to answer that question, it is not admissible. In other words, the defendant’s other bad acts won’t be heard by the jury.
However, in some cases, those prior bad acts are admissible. This type of evidence most commonly comes up in cases of sexual abuse and child molestation. As you can imagine, such accusations are tough to defend against. But the difficulty increases dramatically when the prosecutor has evidence that this isn’t the defendant’s first rodeo. It is nearly impossible to explain why two people who don’t know each other or have any connection to each other would both be saying the same person molested them.
Often, the battle that must be won in these situation occurs before trial. The defense attorney should file an objection to this evidence. Some grounds for objecting include the state’s inability to prove the prior act actually occurred, the prior act is so dissimilar to the current charge that it is not relevant, and finally, the collateral act evidence is so prejudicial that it can’t be admitted.
Unfortunately, these arguments are usually overruled the first time they are made. But, it is still important to make them so that if you lose your trial, the issue can be raised in an appeal. When the trial judge makes a mistake and lets in evidence that shouldn’t be let in, it often results in a new trial.
If you have been charged with a sexual offense in Florida and the state says you’ve done it before, you need an experienced Sex Crime Defense Lawyer to help you.