What goes into the decision to prosecute sexual battery cases? - WFLA News Channel 8

What goes into the decision to prosecute sexual battery cases?

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A lot of evidence gathering goes on behind the scenes when prosecutors are deciding whether they'll file charges in a sexual battery case. A lot of evidence gathering goes on behind the scenes when prosecutors are deciding whether they'll file charges in a sexual battery case.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

When prosecutor Willie Meggs announced Thursday that sexual battery charges would not be filed against FSU Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston, he also said the Florida State Attorney's Office "didn't feel we had the likelihood of a conviction".

Regardless of whether the accused is a high-profile sports figure or not, prosecutors across the state hold this as a barometer when it comes to deciding if they'll file charges.

Shortly after Meggs made the announcement, WFLA.com spoke to an attorney in State Attorney Bernie McCabe's office, which prosecutes cases in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Related: No charges against FSU quarterback investigation

"It's a very high standard for us," said the attorney, who did not want to be identified. "You need to be able to prove the elements to a jury without a reasonable doubt."

A lot of evidence gathering goes on behind the scenes when prosecutors are deciding whether they'll file charges in a sexual battery case.

"We look at everything in every case," she said.

Alleged victims are given a sexual assault victim exams, also called a "SAVE Exam". This is performed with the victim's consent by a nurse who has special training in the field. The nurse looks to see if there is any physical evidence like bruises and cuts. DNA swabs are also taken.

The attorney also says alleged victims in the case must also be credible.

Prosecutors take testimony from victims and witnesses. Their responses are compared to the interviews they gave to police to see if there are any discrepancies. If their stories change or contradict each other, that can be a red flag for prosecutors.

The attorney said that decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, because the circumstances in each case can be very different.

But there is one common denominator, "Our office is aggressive in pursuing cases we believe in," she said.

To get an idea about what jurors must consider when a sexual battery case makes it to trial, read the Jury Instructions for Sexual Battery.

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