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The First District Court of Appeals recently made a landmark decision that greatly effects the juvenile criminal justice system in Florida.  In K.J.F. v. State, Case No. 1D10-1539 (decided September 30, 2010) the Court held that, unlike adults, juveniles who are found to have committed certain sexual offenses only have to register as sex offenders (a life-long designation) if the Court adjudicates them delinquent and determines them to be a threat to society.  This appeal was litigated by one of my associates, Cory Simmons.

This decision is important because it underlines the need for rehabilitation in Florida’s juvenile justice system.  By allowing circuit court judges to distinguish between dangerous offenders that should be placed in a public registry and offenders that may be rehabilitated with the proper treatment, the Court has ensured that children who are at low-risk to re-offend are not labeled as sex offenders and exiled from society at a young age.

I applaud the First District Court of Appeals for this decision.  It underlines the need for psychological treatment to address potentially serious problems in our society.  After all, the goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, not punishment.

If you or a loved one are facing involvement in the juvenile justice system, don’t face it alone.  Visit my website at http://www.shafercriminallaw.com or call me at (904)350-9333 for a free consultation.

~Robert Shafer

It’s an uncomfortable topic, right? No one really wants to talk about sex crimes. Sure, we’ll watch TV shows that portray vigilant sex crimes detectives solving crimes, or documentaries on serial rapists who are finally brought to justice. In my experience, those melodramas are an instance of art veering away from real life… typically in the name of TV ratings.

Most of the time, sex crimes are based on simple accusations. Forensic science has made significant advancements in technology over the past 30 years. However, unlike burglaries or violent crimes, DNA evidence is rarely a feature in these cases. Unlike drug cases, eyewitness statements are even rarer. Unlike DUIs, to have any sort of video or audio recording is practically unheard of.

So what’s left? Well, that’s what makes these types of crimes so uncomfortable to discuss, both for the victims and the accused. All that’s left is an accusation. In my experience, most sex crimes boil down to a single person pointing the finger at another. That’s why most people are uncomfortable talking about the subject – because it forces them to either believe the accuser or believe the accuser is lying.

Accusations of sexual assault are more common than you might think. Often times daycare workers, familial custodians, or school employees find themselves facing accusations without any proven wrongdoing. What is their recourse in such a situation? Sadly, the mere allegation alone is enough to lose a career, a reputation, and even freedom. The law allows for crimes to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt based on accusations alone – without any forensic evidence or independent testimony.

In an age where popular crime dramas depict advanced scientific techniques that have been practiced for years, one would think that police and prosecutors would have a bit more of an interest in pursuing the forensic side of their cases. Unfortunately, most police arrest on accusations alone. Many prosecutors take cases to trial hoping that the credibility of the alleged victim alone will be enough to convince a jury to convict, regardless of what DNA evidence might be out there. Often times, they’re right.

The prosecution of sexual crimes needs to change. With the plethora of resources at the government’s disposal, why should there be a single trial without forensic evidence? Why do prosecutors and police continue to take the easy route and just rely on testimony when they should be presenting evidence? Because juries continue to convict.

If jurors will hold law enforcement accountable to the standards dictated by today’s technology, we would see a change. Law enforcement would be forced to use the resources at their disposal. More importantly, the truth would stand a greater chance of coming to light at a trial. Is this not the goal of the criminal justice system?

If you are accused of a sex crime, don’t face it alone. You need an experienced attorney at your side. Visit my website at www.shafercriminallaw.com or call me at (904)350-9333 for a free consultation.

Regards,

Robert Shafer