Are Interviews of Child Sexual Battery Victims Admissible at Trial in Louisiana?
Updated: Aug 23
After a child accuses someone of an inappropriate sexual touching such as sexual battery, the child is usually interviewed by an adult or by a forensic interviewer. The person who interviews the child could be a parent, a teacher, a relative, or friend.
A forensic interviewer is a trained professional who meets with the child so that the child can provide information about what happened. The forensic interviewer attempts to provide an environment that is child friendly so that the child will feel comfortable during the interview. The child may meet with more than one forensic interviewer.
After these interviews, the question becomes, are such interviews admissible in evidence at the trials of defendants who have been accused of a sex crime such as sexual battery? The answer is generally, “yes.” In Louisiana, there are several laws in the Louisiana Code of Evidence that address the admissibility of statements of victims of sexual assault.
The first law in the Louisiana Code of Evidence is Article 801(D)(1)(d), Consistent initial complaint of sexually assaultive behavior.
1) Prior statement by witness. The declarant testifies at the trial or hearing and is subject to cross-examination concerning the statement, and the statement is Consistent with the declarant's testimony and is one of initial complaint of sexually assaultive behavior.
This law states that the first statement made by a victim of sexual assault is admissible at the rape or sexual battery trial if the victim testifies at the trial and provides testimony that is consistent with the prior statement.
The second law in the Louisiana Code of Evidence is Article 801(D)(1)(e).
Prior statement by witness. The declarant testifies at the trial or hearing and is subject to cross-examination concerning the statement, and the statement is a statement made by the victim of a sexually oriented criminal offense to a healthcare provider during the course of a forensic medical examination as defined in R.S. 15:622 and the healthcare provider has documented that statement in writing during the course of the forensic medical examination.
This law allows a statement made by a victim of sexual assault to a healthcare provider such as a doctor or nurse to be admitted into evidence as long as the healthcare provider finalized the statement in a writing. Further, for the statement to be admissible, the victim must testify at trial consistently with the statement given to the healthcare provider.
The third law in the Louisiana Code of Evidence that allows a statement by a victim of sexual assault to be admissible at trial is Article 804(B)(5).
Complaint of sexually assaultive behavior. A statement made by a person under the age of twelve years and the statement is one of initial or otherwise trustworthy complaint of sexually assaultive behavior.
This law allows an initial or other trustworthy statement of sexually assaultive behavior of a victim of sexual assault to be admissible at the trial as long as the victim is unavailable to testify at trial. Under the Louisiana Code of Evidence, the victim could be unavailable for several reasons including:
1. The victim refuses to testify at the trial:
2. The victim is present at trial and testifies to a lack of memory of the sexual assault;
3. The victim is unable to be present or to testify at the hearing because of death or then existing physical or mental illness, infirmity, or other sufficient cause; or
4. The victim is absent from the hearing and could not be compelled to attend by reasonable means.
In other words, if the victim of a sexual battery is unavailable for any of the above-mentioned reasons and is under the age of 12 years, their statement could be used as evidence at the trial of the person accused of the sexual battery.
In Louisiana, sexual battery is a serious crime that carries harsh punishments. The statements of the victim of sexual battery could be critical evidence against the accused at a trial. A person accused of sexual battery needs an experienced sexual battery attorney to work through the various laws of evidence and procedure that could be used against him.
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This information has been provided for informational purposes only, is not intended, and should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may affect your legal rights.