Witness Testimony – Right to Confront Witness

S.D. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 52636 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

Dependency proceedings are civil in nature. The constitutional right to confront witnesses does not apply.

Father appealed termination of his parental rights based on his alleged lack of consent to a witness testifying via Skype, the lack of a notary to administer the oath prior to the witness’ Skpye testimony and alleged violation of his right to confront a witness. The Third DCA affirmed.

Father’s adult daughter testified via Skype at trial. Father originally consented to his daughter testifying by telephone or Skype but revoked his consent three days prior to trial. The trial court heard argument on the revocation of consent and determined Father failed to show good cause to revoke consent so close to trial, that he waived his right to object to her Skype testimony and that testimony via Skype protected his right to confrontation.

The Third DCA agreed with the trial court that Father waived his right to object to his daughter’s telephonic testimony.  The right to confront witnesses is not implicated in a civil dependency proceeding.  Moreover, the testimony via Skype gave Father the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. As to the issue of the notary, the Department corrected this by reopening the case to swear in the witness.

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