While most people involved in car accidents stop to assess the damage, speak to anyone else involved, and give a statement to the police, some people panic and leave the place where the accident occurred without stopping. When they come to their senses, they often wonder if they can be charged with a crime for leaving the accident scene. If you were involved in a collision and then left, you should speak to a knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to determine your options.

Florida Statutes Regarding Leaving the Scene of an Accident

In Florida, the law imposes different duties on parties who are involved in accidents that cause property damage and those that cause bodily harm. Specifically, if drivers are involved in collisions that only cause damage to vehicles or other property, they must immediately stop at the scene of the crash or as close as possible and must remain there until they have given a report or other information to the police. If they fail to do so, they may be charged with an offense that is a misdemeanor of the second degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to sixty days and a fine of up to $500.

When a collision involves bodily harm, the requirements differ. In other words, drivers of cars involved in accidents that cause an injury to or death of another person must provide their names, addresses, and registration numbers of the vehicles they are operating, and if requested, their licenses to anyone injured in the crash or to the person attending a vehicle damaged in the crash. Continue Reading ›

In many instances in which a person is accused of committing a crime, he or she will face additional charges due to acts that allegedly occurred during the commission of the crime. For example, it is not uncommon for a person charged with robbery to face kidnapping charges as well. The State must prove specific elements to demonstrate that a kidnapping facilitated the commission of a crime, and the failure to do so should result in a dismissal. The confinement necessary to support a conviction for a kidnapping that allegedly aided a defendant in committing another felony was the topic of a recent Florida opinion, in a case in which the defendant’s conviction was ultimately overturned. If you are accused of kidnapping, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Clearwater criminal defense lawyer about your rights.

The Alleged Crime

Allegedly, the defendant took part in the robbery of an auto parts store. He was charged with multiple offenses, including robbery and kidnapping the store manager and employees by imprisoning them against their will with the intent to commit or aid the underlying robbery. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he violated the applicable kidnapping statute. The court ultimately agreed with the defendant regarding one of his kidnapping convictions and remanded the matter for the entry of conviction for the lesser included offense of false imprisonment.

The Faison Test

Many years ago, the Florida courts expressed a concern that the terms of the State kidnapping statute would result in any criminal act that naturally involved the confinement of another person, like robbery, also being charged as a kidnapping. Thus, the Florida Supreme Court developed a three-part test, known as the Faison test, for evaluating whether confinement that happens during the commission of a different felony is adequate to constitute a separate kidnapping offense. Continue Reading ›

In order to obtain a conviction in a criminal case, the State must present evidence sufficient to establish that the defendant committed each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the State’s case is severely lacking in competent evidence, a defendant may be able to obtain an acquittal, and if an acquittal is unjustly denied, it may constitute grounds for a reversal of a guilty verdict. In a recent Florida ruling, a court explained the grounds for granting an appeal in a case in which a defendant who was charged with numerous theft crimes filed a motion for judgment of acquittal that was denied. If you are charged with theft crimes, you may be able to avoid a conviction, and you should talk to a seasoned Clearwater criminal defense attorney about your options.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with burglary, robbery, and other offenses. During the trial, the State presented evidence that the defendant occasionally worked for the victim, who was found bound and beaten in his home. The State also showed footage of the defendant driving the victim’s forklift around town, and the victim’s son testified that his father did not let anyone borrow the forklift. Finally, a photograph taken by the defendant showed that he was on the victim’s property on the day the crimes occurred. At the close of the State’s case, the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal. His motion was denied, and he was convicted as charged, after which he appealed.

Reviewing a Denial of Acquittal Under Florida Law

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because the State failed to present sufficient evidence that he committed the charged offenses. The court explained that appellate courts review a trial court’s denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal de novo to determine whether the evidence is adequate to sustain a conviction. Further, the court explained that Florida courts recently modified their standard for reviewing evidence. Continue Reading ›

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A person charged with a crime has the right to a fair and impartial trial. This means, among other things, that if a judge demonstrates bias or evidence suggests that the judge is otherwise unable to rule in an objective manner, the defendant can file a motion for recusal. In a recent Florida ruling, a court discussed the grounds for granting a motion for disqualification in a matter in which the defendants were charged with DUI offenses. If you are accused of driving while intoxicated, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that defendants were each charged with DUI crimes, and their cases proceeded before a county judge. Due to the fact that the judge had ex parte communications with the State Attorney’s office regarding another matter in which a defendant was charged with DUI, they each filed motions for disqualification. Their motions were denied, after which they filed writs of prohibition, which were denied as well. They then sought certiorari review of the order denying their petitions.

Grounds for Granting a Motion for Disqualification

The appellate court explained that its review was limited to determining whether the trial court granted the defendants procedural due process and applied the appropriate law. In other words, whether it adhered to the essential requirements of law. As such, a district court should only grant certiorari relief when the lower court failed to uphold a clearly established tenet of law, resulting in a miscarriage of justice. Continue Reading ›

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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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