Tallahassee, FL (WFLA) – A new Florida law could help keep child abusers off the streets. Victims are now allowed to capture secret audio recordings of their attackers, and that powerful evidence can now be used in court. Starting July 1st, House Bill 7001 is now law. It allows sexual abuse victims under the age of 18 to secretly record audio of their attackers. They can capture the act itself, or even an admission of guilt.
Sgt. Kevin Pingel with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said, “It’s gonna be good evidence because… it’s going to be [the abuser’s] own word that we can use.” Assistant State Attorney Andrea McHugh is dedicated to getting justice for young sexual abuse victims. But the work is not easy.McHugh said, “Its hard to prove these cases, there’s only one witness and it’s a child.”
In one recent case, a child had a secret audio recording that proved her attacker’s guilt. But the law didn’t allow her to use it in court, and the abuser was able to get a plea deal. “It was heartbreaking for that victim because she knew this happened,” said McHugh. “I think it was very disheartening to her that the truth couldn’t be shown to the jury.”
Starting July 1st, that all changes. McHugh said, “What makes the best evidence in a bank robbery? The surveillance video, so why should we put our children in a position where these crimes happen in secret and they have no mechanism to record it in any way?” This new law may give other sexual abuse victims more confidence to come forward.
Pingel said, “Sometimes the abuser tells them not to say anything or threatens them. Sometimes the kids are embarrassed or scared.”This law gives them the power to not only collect evidence, but to use it to prosecute.The new law is helpful, but whether there’s audio recordings or not, it is important for children to speak up if they’re being abused. It’s vital that they tell a teacher or a police officer. These crimes are pure evil and they must be stopped.