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Sexual Abuse Conviction Upheld Despite the Defendant’s Claim His Pastor Broke Privilege

A man was sentenced to two life terms in prison for sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation of his stepdaughter.

Key point 3-07.02. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply, there must be a communication that is made in confidence. This generally means that there are no other persons present besides the minister and counselee who can overhear the communication, and that there is an expectation that the conversation will be kept secret.

Key point 3-08.05. In most states, a counselee can waive the clergy-penitent privilege by disclosing the privileged communication to someone other than the minister. In some states the minister also may waive the privilege.

A Florida appeals court upheld a criminal defendant’s child abuse conviction despite his argument that it was improperly based on the testimony of a pastor in violation of the clergy-penitent privilege.

Background

A young child’s stepfather (the “defendant”) sexually abused her for several years beginning at age seven. ...

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