Under Florida law, a person does not actually have to participate in the physical act of killing another human to be charged with offenses related to the murder. In other words, a person who helps another person plan and commit a murder may be charged as a principal to first-degree murder. In a recent opinion, a Florida court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence that a person aided and abetted another individual in the commission of a homicide in a case in which a woman allegedly convinced her boyfriend to kill her husband. If you are charged with a murder offense, it is critical to meet with a trusted Clearwater criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

Facts Surrounding the Murder

It is alleged that the defendant began having an extramarital affair with her husband’s best friend. The defendant did not want to obtain a divorce because she did not want to share custody of her young daughter. Therefore, she and the friend discussed a plan where the friend would take the husband duck hunting and push him into the water while he was wearing waders so that he would drown.

It is reported that things originally went as planned, but the husband was able to swim to shore and scream for help. The friend then shot and killed the husband and buried his body in another location. The friend and the defendant later married, but their marriage fell apart, and during the course of their divorce, the friend kidnapped the defendant. After the friend’s arrest, he admitted to the murder and relayed the defendant’s part in the crime. She was charged with and convicted of principal to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, after which she appealed.

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It is not uncommon for a person facing criminal charges to have a history of prior criminal activity. In the interest of providing all criminal defendants with a fair trial, however, the State typically must refrain from introducing evidence of prior crimes at trial. There are certain exceptions when evidence of prior bad acts is admissible, though, as discussed in a recent case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for drug charges. If you are charged with distributing narcotics or any other drug-related offense, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Clearwater drug crime defense attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Trial

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple drug crimes. During the trial, the prosecution referenced the defendant’s alleged use of a fake identity to rent an apartment during its opening statement. The jury ultimately convicted the defendant as charged, after which the defendant moved for a mistrial on multiple grounds, including the fact that the trial court permitted the prosecution to mention crimes the defendant allegedly committed but for which he was not charged. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions, after which he appealed. On appeal, the trial court’s ruling was affirmed.

Evidence of Prior Bad Acts

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence regarding wrongs, bad acts, or other crimes that are introduced to demonstrate a person’s character for the purpose of proving that the person acted in accordance with that character on a particular occasion is inadmissible. Florida courts interpreting this exclusionary rule, however, have repeatedly held that evidence of criminal acts other than the charged offense may be admissible if it constitutes intrinsic evidence that is outside of the scope of the rule.

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A criminal defendant may face grave penalties if he or she is convicted of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Depending on the nature of the accusations against the defendant, however, he or she may be able to seek dismissal of the charges on the grounds that they are unconstitutional. A Florida court recently explained what a criminal defendant must demonstrate in order to have such charges dismissed in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous offenses arising out of a robbery. If you are charged with theft crimes or any other criminal offense, it is in your best interest to hire an aggressive Clearwater criminal defense attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was indicted and charged with numerous crimes, including Hobbs Act robbery in violation of federal law, and carrying a firearm which was used during the robbery, which was deemed a crime of violence. He pleaded guilty to those two charges, after which he was sentenced to fifty-seven months imprisonment for the robbery charge and one-hundred-and-eighty months imprisonment for the related firearm charge. He subsequently filed a motion, arguing that his conviction of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence was unconstitutional, as Hobbs Act robbery was not categorically defined as a crime of violence under the relevant statute. The court found that the defendant’s claims were without merit and denied his motion.

Crimes of Violence Under Florida Law

The court explained that the relevant statute stated that it was a crime for anyone to use a firearm during the commission of, or to possess a firearm in furtherance of, a crime of violence. Under the elements clause of the law, an offense is considered a crime of violence if it is a felony that has an element of the use or threatened or attempted use of force against another person or property.

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When a person is charged with a sex crime, the State will often seek to introduce evidence of other inappropriate sex acts that the individual allegedly engaged in, in an effort to prove motive or a pattern of conduct. Evidence of collateral crimes is only admissible in certain instances, however, and if such evidence is inappropriately divulged at trial, it may result in the reversal of a conviction, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is prudent to confer with an assertive Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you may be able to set forth.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the victim, who was friends with the defendant and his wife, went out drinking with the couple and then spent the night on their couch. She woke up several times during the evening to find the defendant kissing her, performing sex acts on her, and engaging in intercourse with her. Each time she told the defendant to stop and pushed him away. A few days after the incident, she contacted the police, who told her to record calls with the defendant. During the calls, he repeatedly stated that he was sorry but denied having any knowledge of the incident.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with sexual battery. At trial, the State introduced a witness who testified that on a prior occasion a few years before the incident, the defendant kissed her and groped her while she was intoxicated. The defendant was convicted as charged. He then filed an appeal, arguing in part that the trial court erred in allowing the introduction of evidence of collateral crimes.

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When a person is convicted of committing a crime, the court will rely on numerous factors in determining an appropriate sentence. While the court is permitted to consider some information outside of the facts relating to the present conviction, if a court considers certain evidence, such as crimes for which the defendant was not convicted, the sentence may be improper. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant successfully argued that his sentence for two separate sex crimes involving minors should be overturned. If you are accused of committing a sex crime against a child, it is critical to meet with a knowledgeable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes involving sex acts with minors. He was found guilty of two of the charges and subsequently sentenced. The defendant then filed an appeal, arguing in part that the trial court judge improperly relied upon conduct the defendant was found not guilty of committing to determine an appropriate sentence. The appellate court found in favor of the defendant and remanded the case for a new sentence.

Factors Weighed in Determining a Sentence

Under Florida law, a judge may not rely on or consider conduct for which a defendant was acquitted when assessing what sentence to issue. In other words, it is well-established law that when the record demonstrates that the trial court relied upon previous acquittals in determining an appropriate sentence, the State bears the burden of proving that the judge’s consideration of the prior acquittals played no part in the assessment of a sentence.

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In some cases in which a person is charged with a sex crime, the person can avoid a conviction or obtain a lesser sentence if the evidence demonstrates that the alleged victim willingly participated in sexual activity with the defendant. Recently, a Florida court discussed when evidence that a victim was a willing participant can be used to justify a downward departure of a sentence in a case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes involving sex with a minor. If you are accused of having sex with a minor or any other sex crime, it is advisable to speak to a trusted Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to set forth.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant, who was 52-years-old, became involved in a sexual relationship with the victim, who was his 17-year-old niece. The defendant’s behavior became aggressive, and he began threatening to accuse the victim’s brother of a crime if she ended their relationship. The victim ultimately told her mother about her involvement with the defendant, and the defendant was arrested and charged with multiple crimes involving sex with a minor.

It is reported that the defendant pleaded no contest to the charges. During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution presented testimony regarding the defendant’s grooming of the victim and an impact statement from the victim. The trial court also stated that the case appeared to be a classic representation of grooming. The court imposed a downward departure from the minimum sentence of 264 months in prison, however, and only imposed a five-year sentence, based on a finding that the victim was a willing participant. The State appealed, arguing the court erred in granting a downward departure.

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When a defendant is convicted of a crime and sentenced to probation, the court has broad leeway in determining what probationary terms are appropriate. While the court’s discretion is broad, it is not unbounded, however, and any conditions of probation must be reasonably related to the crime for which the defendant was convicted, as discussed in a recent Florida case in which the defendant objected to the terms of his probation after being convicted for multiple drug crimes. If you were charged with a drug offense or any other crime in Clearwater, it is wise to meet with a knowledgeable Clearwater drug crime defense attorney to discuss your case and potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and convicted of multiple crimes, including possession of drug paraphernalia, cannabis, and methamphetamines. He was sentenced to imprisonment for 270 days, followed by probation. The terms of his probation required him to submit to a test for sexually transmitted diseases. The defendant appealed, in part, to challenge the test.

Conditions of Probation Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, a sentencing court has broad discretion in determining what special conditions to impose for a probation sentence, but the discretion is not without bounds. Instead, for a condition to be valid, it must be reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the defendant. In other words, it must have a relationship to the crime for which the offender was convicted, it must relate to the conduct which in and of itself is criminal, and it must forbid or require conduct that is reasonably related to future criminality.

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Many people convicted of sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders as part of their sentence, and if they fail to register, they can be charged with a criminal offense. Not all defendants who are convicted of sex crimes must register as sex offenders, however, as explained in a Florida appellate case recently in which the court affirmed the dismissal of an information charging the defendant with failing to register as a sex offender, finding that it was not required under the terms of his sentence. If you were charged with a sex crime in Clearwater, it is in your best interest to speak with a seasoned Clearwater sex crime defense attorney regarding what steps you can take to protect your rights.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that in 2002, the defendant was convicted of attempted lascivious and lewd molestation, after which he was sentenced to prison term of fifteen years and fined $10,000. After the defendant’s release from prison, the State filed an information alleging that the defendant failed to report to register as a sex offender, as required under Florida law. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the information, arguing that he did not qualify as a sex offender under the law, and therefore was not required to register regardless of the fact that he had been released from prison, as his fine had not been released and discharged. The trial court agreed, dismissing the information. The State appealed the trial court ruling, and on appeal, the appellate court affirmed.

The requirement to Register as a Sex Offender

Under the applicable law, a sexual offender is a person convicted of one of many enumerated crimes, or a similar crime in another jurisdiction, who has been released from the sanction imposed for his or her conviction. Sanctions include but are not limited to incarceration and fines. In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant was convicted of one of the crimes listed in the Florida statute defining sex offenders.

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In many instances, when a defendant is charged with sexual battery, the State relies solely on circumstantial evidence in support of the allegations against the defendant. Thus, if the admissibility of any of the State’s evidence is questionable, it may be prudent for the defendant’s counsel to object to the introduction of the evidence, and the failure to do so may harm the defendant’s case. In some cases, however, a defense attorney’s strategic decision not to object to statements offered by the defendant may be a reasonable trial strategy, as discussed in a recent Florida appellate case in which the defendant argued that his conviction for sexual battery should be overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel. If you are faced with charges that you committed a sexual offense, it is prudent to consult a capable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to develop a strategy to offer you a strong chance of a successful result.

Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of sexual battery, battery, and lewd or lascivious molestation. He moved for post-conviction relief, arguing in part that his trial counsel was ineffective for making certain evidentiary decisions during the trial. The court granted the motion in part, vacating the defendant’s conviction, after which the State appealed. On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Assessing the Reasonableness of a Defense Attorney’s Trial Strategy

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution grants criminal defendants the right to effective counsel. Thus, a defendant arguing he or she suffered prejudice due to ineffective assistance of counsel must establish that his or her counsel’s performance was objectively unreasonable and therefore fell below the prevailing professional standard. In order to show that counsel’s performance was unreasonable, a defendant must set forth evidence establishing that no other competent trial counsel would use the same strategy or make the same decisions as his or her counsel. In cases in which the court deems trial counsel’s performance unreasonable, it must then assess whether the performance caused the defendant to suffer prejudice.

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Criminal defendants are granted numerous rights under state and federal law, that aim to protect them from unjust outcomes. Notably, a criminal defendant’s rights are not extinguished if he or she is found guilty of a crime. Rather, criminal defendants are protected from unfair sentences as well. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida appellate court case in which the court vacated the defendant’s fifty-year sentence for sexual battery, finding that it violated the defendant’s Eighth Amendment rights. If you are accused of committing sexual battery, it is in your best interest to meet with a skillful Clearwater sex crime attorney to discuss your rights and potential defenses.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of armed sexual battery in 2016, for offenses he committed when he was fifteen years old. He was subsequently sentenced to fifty years imprisonment. The defendant then filed a motion for post-conviction relief, arguing that the sentence violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion, after which the defendant appealed.

Evaluating Whether a Sentence is Unjust

On appeal, the defendant argued that because he was a nonhomicide juvenile offender, his sentence violated Florida law, and he was entitled to relief. Upon review, the court noted that under Florida law, the constitutional prohibition against unusual and cruel punishment comes into play when a nonhomicide juvenile offender’s sentence does not afford him or her any meaningful chance for release based on demonstrated rehabilitation and maturity. The law is based on the position that imprisonment for a juvenile is qualitatively different than a comparable term for any adult. In further defining juvenile offenders’ rights with regards to sentencing, the Florida courts ruled that any lengthy term of years sentence imposed on a juvenile offender, which means any sentence longer than twenty years, does not provide a true opportunity for early release and may be vacated.

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