Criminal Defense: Confrontation Clause of Sixth Amendment Under Florida Law

The Sixth Amendment right of confrontation provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” U.S. Const. amend. VI. The United States Supreme Court has held that a hearsay statement offered against the defendant violates this constitutional right if (1) the statement is testimonial, (2) the declarant is unavailable, and (3) the defendant lacked a prior opportunity for cross-examination. Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 68, 124 S. Ct. 1354, 158 L. Ed. 2d 177 (2004). In setting out what is constitutionally required, the Court receded from its prior decision in Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 100 S. Ct. 2531, 65 L. Ed. 2d 597 (1980), which held that hearsay statements should be excluded absent a “showing of particularized guarantees of trustworthiness” and were admissible under the Sixth Amendment if they carried “adequate ‘indicia of reliability.'” Id. at 66. The Crawford Court held that for testimonial statements, “the only indicium of reliability sufficient to satisfy constitutional demands is the one the Constitution actually prescribes: confrontation.” 541 U.S. at 69. In a subsequent opinion, the Court observed that “[i]t is the testimonial character of the statement that separates it from other hearsay that, while subject to traditional limitations upon hearsay evidence, is not subject to the Confrontation Clause.” Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813, 821, 126 S. Ct. 2266, 165 L. Ed. 2d 224 (2006). Corona v. State, 64 So. 3d 1232, 1239 (Fla. 2011).

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