Golden Gate University Law Review


Robert Mertens


This Comment focuses on recent and proposed changes in California law that have occurred as a result of our "discovering" that thousands of children in this state are sexually abused each year. The majority of laws enacted will undoubtedly benefit the children who come in contact with the courts. However, a well-developed body of legislative and common law has been forged over the past century in California and should not be improvidently discarded. Many of the evidentiary issues relating to child molestation cases have been addressed by both the legislature and the courts over the years. Perhaps the true test of our criminal justice system is not the change made to adapt the system to current demands, but to what extent the system remains consistent in applying laws that have evolved over many years. The scope of this Comment is purposefully broad, intended to give the reader an overview of the varied legal problems that surround child sexual abuse cases in California. The Comment is divided into three sections. The first section defines the problem of child sexual abuse, surveys its far-reaching societal effects, and discusses how the California Legislature has responded to the problem. The second section comments on the pivotal factors that should be properly weighed when a decision is made to prosecute a suspected child molester. The third and main section discusses the evidentiary problems that permeate many aspects of child molestation cases. Numerous credibility and corroboration issues are analyzed, with emphasis on relevant recent and proposed changes in both the penal and evidentiary law.

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