Generally, the law precludes Florida courts from introducing evidence of a defendant’s prior misdeeds in order to establish their guilt. They can offer such evidence to the judge or jury for other reasons, though, as long as it does not become a central feature of the case. In a recent Florida opinion, the court discussed the factors that weigh into whether evidence of prior bad behavior should be admitted at trial in a sexual battery case in which it ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal. If you are accused of committing a sex crime, it is smart to confer with a Clearwater sex crime defense attorney about your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant with sexual battery of a child under the age of 12. During the trial, the prosecution presented witnesses who testified that the defendant sexually abused them when they were between 6 and 8 years old, which was similar to his alleged sexual abuse of the victim in the subject case. The jury convicted the defendant. The defendant then filed an appeal.

Admission of Prior Bad Act Evidence

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in permitting the prosecution to introduce evidence of his prior wrongs or acts of child molestation. The court disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, the court explained that although some of the prior bad acts happened several years before the subject offense, that is merely one factor for the courts to consider when weighing whether to admit such evidence.

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The Florida Constitution generally grants criminal defendants the right to pretrial release. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, such as when the conditions of release are inadequate to protect people in the community from the risk of physical harm or when the defendant is charged with a dangerous crime. Only certain offenses fall under the umbrella of dangerous crimes, though, as discussed in a recent Florida case in which the defendant charged with soliciting first-degree murder and other crimes successfully challenged his pretrial detention. If you are faced with charges that you committed a violent crime, it is essential to ensure that your rights are protected, and it is in your best interest to speak to a Clearwater violent crime defense attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant, who was a corrections officer, with numerous offenses, including solicitation of first-degree murder and multiple narcotics crimes. The state then filed a motion for pretrial detention pursuant to Florida law while the defendant moved to set bond. The court held an evidentiary hearing, during which it found that the defendant was charged with a dangerous crime and there was a significant likelihood that he committed the crime.

It is reported that the court also determined that the defendant presented a threat to the community and that no conditions of release would protect the people in the community from the risk of harm. Thus, the court granted the state’s motion for pretrial detention. The defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court denied. He then petitioned the court for writ of habeas corpus.

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The majority of DUI arrests arise out of traffic stops. While the police are permitted to stop motorists they suspect are driving while intoxicated and ask them to submit to breathalyzer tests, there are limits to their authority. For example, as explained in a recent Florida case, if they instigate traffic stops outside of their jurisdiction, any evidence garnered during the stop may be inadmissible. If the state accused you of committing a DUI crime, it is wise to talk to a Clearwater DUI defense lawyer about your potential defenses.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that an officer stopped the defendant due to suspicion of drunk driving. During the stop, the defendant admitted to consuming alcohol, had glassy eyes, and smelled of alcohol. He submitted to field sobriety tests, after which he was arrested for DUI. He was transported to a police station in another town, where he was administered a breath test. The results of the breath test showed that his blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit.

Allegedly, the state formally charged the defendant with DUI. He filed a motion in which he asked the court to suppress the results of the breath test on the basis that the arresting officer was outside the city limits of his jurisdiction at the time he asked the defendant to submit to the breath test. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, suppressing the breath test results. The state appealed.

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The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people against unreasonable search and seizure. In other words, absent a warrant, they cannot be searched, and their property cannot be taken by the police as part of a criminal investigation. There are exceptions, though, including border searches. Recently, a Florida court examined a traveler’s constitutional right to be free from searches in a case where the defendant was charged with numerous sex crimes after his phone was taken upon his entry into Florida. If you are accused of a sex offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a  Clearwater sex crime defense lawyer about what measures you can take to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant returned to Florida after an international cruise. One week prior, the Coast Guard contacted border patrol to inform them that the defendant was the target of a human trafficking investigation. When the defendant arrived at the port, he was detained by border patrol, and his phone was seized and sent to a Homeland Security office, where data was extracted from it and it was analyzed.

Allegedly, about two months later, the police obtained a warrant to search the defendant, largely relying on the information taken from his phone. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with ten crimes, including sex trafficking, fraud, and coercion. He moved to suppress the evidence obtained from his phone, arguing that the seizure and search happened without probable cause, a warrant, or exigent circumstances.

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The Florida legislature enacted laws setting forth sentencing guidelines that the courts must consider when determining an appropriate penalty for a criminal conviction. Courts have the discretion to set forth sentences outside of the guidelines, though, if they deem it appropriate in consideration of any relevant factors. Any sentence that falls outside of the guidelines must be reasonable, however, otherwise it may demonstrate an abuse of discretion. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes a reasonable sentence in a case in which the defendant was convicted of producing child pornography and other sexual offenses involving minors. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is smart to hire a Clearwater sex crime defense lawyer to help you mount a compelling defense.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of enticing a minor to engage in sexual acts and producing child pornography. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. He appealed, arguing that the sentencing court abused its discretion in issuing the sentence. The appellate court disagreed, finding that the sentence imposed was substantively reasonable.

Evaluating Whether a Sentence is Reasonable

The courts review the reasonableness of a sentence for an abuse of discretion. If a sentence falls outside of the range suggested by the guidelines, the reviewing court can consider the degree of the deviation but must defer to the sentencing court’s determination that the sentencing factors, in their entirety, justify the degree of the variance. Continue Reading ›

If a defendant is convicted of a federal crime, the courts will consider numerous factors in determining an appropriate sentence. Among other things, the courts will assess whether the defendant brandished a firearm during the commission of the unlawful acts and whether the offenses in question constitute crimes of violence as defined by federal law. The issue of what crimes are deemed violent is often contemplated by the federal courts. Recently, the United States Supreme Court definitively ruled that an attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not fall under the definition. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is wise to talk to a Clearwater violent crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and a co-conspirator attempted to rob an individual selling drug. The individual was shot during the attempted robbery. The defendant was subsequently charged with numerous crimes, including attempted Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. His indictment also alleged that both offenses were predicate crimes of violence. The defendant entered a guilty plea to use a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.

It is reported that the prosecution agreed to dismiss the remaining charges. The defendant was ultimately convicted of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He sought habeas review, asking the Court to vacate his conviction and remand the matter for resentencing on the grounds that the predicate offenses were not, in fact crimes of violence. The appellate court granted the appeal, and the government appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

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In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act (the Act), which along with the Fair Sentencing Act, was a law designed to reduce the disparity between the penalties imposed on people convicted of crimes arising out of the possession and distribution of cocaine powder versus crack. Merely because a court possesses the power to reduce a sentence under the Act, however, does not mean that it is required to do so. This was demonstrated recently in a Florida case in which a defendant appealed the denial of his request for a sentence reduction under the Act. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is critical to understand your rights, and you should confer with a skillful Clearwater drug crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant sought a reduction of his sentence pursuant to the Act. The trial court denied his request without conducting a hearing. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court’s decision constituted an abuse of discretion. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

Federal district courts have no inherent authority to modify or reduce sentences; instead, they may only do so when it is authorized by a statute or rule. For example, the Act explicitly authorizes the district courts to modify criminal sentences in certain circumstances. Prior to the Act, Congress enacted the Fair Sentencing Act, which increased the amount of drugs that would trigger statutory penalties in an effort to reduce the disparity in sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Continue Reading ›

DUI crimes carry significant penalties compared to other violations of traffic laws, and a DUI conviction can irreparably harm a person’s driving privileges and career prospects. Some people accused of DUI offenses are eligible to enter into pretrial intervention programs, which essentially divert their cases away from the criminal justice system, allowing them to avoid convictions. If a DUI defendant’s request to enter into a pretrial intervention program is unjustly denied, they may be able to seek certiorari relief. Recently, a Florida court discussed when certiorari relief is available in a case in which it ultimately granted the defendant’s petition for such relief. If you are accused of committing a DUI offense, it is prudent to contact a knowledgeable Clearwater DUI defense lawyer to evaluate your possible defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendants were four veterans who were charged with DUI offenses. They moved to be accepted into a pretrial veteran’s treatment intervention court program (PVTIP), but their entry was denied. They sought certiorari review, and the court granted their petition and determined they were entitled to a determination by the trial court as to whether they should be admitted into the program. The trial court ultimately ruled that it did not have the authority to compel the state to spend funds to supervise the defendants in the PVTIP program but offered them admittance into the post adjudicatory program. The defendants rejected the offer and sought a writ of certiorari to quash the order denying them entry into PVTIP.
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While people often think that they would mount a vigorous defense if they were charged with a crime, in some cases, it makes sense to enter a no contest or guilty plea. Typically, it is difficult to overturn a conviction after pleading no contest, but there are exceptions. For example, as discussed in a recent ruling issued by a Florida court in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, a person cannot be found guilty of an offense they did not commit, regardless of their plea. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a dedicated Clearwater sex crime defense lawyer to discuss your options.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with failing to register as a sex predator in accordance with Florida law and failing to report that he vacated his permanent residence. He entered a no contest plea, after which he was convicted and sentenced. He subsequently appealed. The appellate court ultimately found in his favor as to the sex predator charge and reversed his conviction.

Overturning a Conviction Following a No Contest Plea

On appeal, the court noted that the error committed by the trial court was clear. Specifically, the defendant entered a plea of no contest to a crime he did not commit. The appellate court explained that the defendant was never designated as a sexual predator. Therefore, in accordance with Florida law, he had no duty to register as a sex predator.

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Under Florida law, the use of force is acceptable in certain circumstances. As such, a person charged with a crime involving the use of deadly force may be able to argue that the actions out of which the charges arose were justifiable self-defense. Self-defense is not justified if a person was committing or trying to commit a forceable felony when the act occurred, however. In a recent Florida case, a court issued an opinion discussing what forcible felonies preclude a defendant from arguing he acted in self-defense, in a case where the court ultimately affirmed the defendant’s convictions for third-degree murder and other offenses. If you are accused of a violent crime, it is smart to speak to a skilled Clearwater violent crime defense lawyer regarding your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant with numerous offenses after he shot a man who threatened his friend on social media. The man ultimately died as a result of his wounds. Following a trial, a jury convicted the defendant of third-degree murder with a weapon, grand theft of an automobile, and two counts of false imprisonment with a gun. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that the trial court gave an improper jury instruction regarding the justifiable use of force and that the homicide was self-defense. The appellate court rejected his assertions and affirmed his convictions.

Self-Defense in the Context of Forcible Felonies

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court made a fundamental error by instructing the jury regarding the justifiable use of deadly force where there was no independent forcible felony and that in doing so, the trial court prevented the jury from accepting his self-defense argument. The forcible felony instruction provided stated that deadly use of force is not permitted if the defendant was attempting to commit or committing numerous crimes, including third-degree murder.

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