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In criminal matters, the prosecution bears the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the charged offense. Generally, the prosecution is permitted to introduce any relevant evidence in support of its position. Certain evidence, like prior convictions or bad acts, is typically deemed inadmissible, however, subject to certain exceptions. Recently, a Florida court discussed the instances in which the Government is allowed to introduce evidence of prior crimes and bad acts, in an opinion issued in a case in which the defendant moved to preclude evidence of his prior conviction for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is smart to speak to a trusted Clearwater violent crime defense lawyer to discuss what evidence the Government may use against you.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with an unspecified criminal offense. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to preclude the Government from introducing evidence that he was previously convicted of brandishing a firearm during the commission of a crime. Specifically, the defendant argued that it was an extrinsic act that only served to impermissibly demonstrate a propensity to commit crimes of violence or brandish firearms, and any probative value was greatly outweighed by the risk of prejudice.

Allegedly, in response, the Government argued that the evidence was intrinsic, and therefore the prohibition of prior crimes did not apply, but that even if it was extrinsic, the prejudicial effect did not outweigh its probative value. After considering the pleadings, the court ultimately denied the defendant’s motion. Continue Reading ›

While people often think of traffic offenses as minor infractions, they can often result in significant penalties. Additionally, the sentencing guidelines for traffic violations carry the same weight as other crimes, and if a court fails to provide them their due regard, it may result in the reversal of a sentence. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion issued in a traffic case in which the State appealed the sentence imposed on the defendant as illegal. If you are charged with a traffic offense, it is critical to retain an assertive Clearwater traffic violation defense lawyer to help you protect your rights.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the police stopped the defendant for running a stop sign. During the stop, the officer learned that the defendant’s license was suspended. As such, the defendant was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license. The traffic citation and probable cause affidavit indicated that the defendant had three prior convictions for driving with a suspended license.

Reportedly, however, the information only listed on a prior conviction for driving with a suspended license. The defendant entered a no-contest plea in exchange for a sentence of payment of court cost and an adjudication. The State objected, arguing that the statute defining the offense required a mandatory ten-day jail sentence for third and subsequent convictions. The court denied the State’s objections, adjudicated the defendant guilty, and required him to pay court costs. The State then appealed, arguing the sentence was illegal. Continue Reading ›

People convicted of drug crimes often face substantial penalties. For example, they may be sentenced to both imprisonment and supervised release. In some cases, an offender may be eligible for early termination of supervised release, however. In a recent Florida ruling, the court discussed what factors the courts consider in determining whether an early termination of supervised release is appropriate. If you are accused of a drug crime, you should meet with a seasoned Clearwater drug crime defense lawyer about your options for seeking a favorable result.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamines with the intent to distribute and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The trial court sentenced him to one hundred and twenty months of imprisonment for the drug offense and six months imprisonment for the firearm offense. The sentences were to be served consecutively. The court also sentenced him to five years of supervised release following his imprisonment.

Allegedly, he began his term of supervised release in July 2019. After he completed the first year of his release, he filed a motion requesting that the court terminate the remainder of his sentence. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

The United States Constitution grants people numerous rights, including the right to a speedy trial. As such, if the State violates the Constitutional rights of a criminal defendant, it may result in a dismissal of the charges against him or her. The evidence needed to prove charges should be dismissed due to a speedy trial violation was the topic of a recent Florida opinion in a case in which the defendant was charged with fraud and identity theft. If you are accused of fraud or any other crime, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense lawyer regarding your rights.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that in January 2017, a grand jury indicted the defendant on three counts of fraud and identity theft in violation of federal law. The conduct out of which the indictment arose occurred from July 2015 through June 2016. The court issued an arrest warrant in January 2017, and one month later, the warrant was transferred to fugitive status.

Reportedly, the defendant was arrested in February 2021 in her clothing store, and she was arraigned shortly thereafter. In March 2021, she filed a motion for dismissal of her indictment on the grounds that her Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated. After reviewing the facts of the case, the court granted the motion. Continue Reading ›

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People in Florida are generally aware that taking another individual’s property without permission is illegal, but they often lack an understanding of the precise acts an individual may be charged with for stealing or otherwise depriving a person of property. For example, many people think of burglary as involving theft, when in actuality, there is a substantial difference between theft and burglary in Florida. If you being investigated for or accused of committing a crime, it is smart to meet with a capable Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to evaluate your potential defenses.

What’s the Difference Between Theft and Burglary in Florida? 

Pursuant to Florida law, burglary is the act of entering a building with the intent to commit a criminal act inside, unless the property is open to the public or the defendant was invited or is licensed to enter. Notwithstanding entrants that are invited or licensed, it also constitutes burglary to secretly remain in a building or stay after permission to remain has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit a crime, or to stay to commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony. While burglary may involve theft, stealing property is not a statutory element of the offense.

A person that knowingly uses or obtains, or attempts to use or obtain someone else’s property with the intent to deprive the person of his or her property rights or benefits, or appropriate the property for his or her own use, commits theft. Such acts constitute theft regardless of whether the offender intends to temporarily or permanently take the property. Continue Reading ›

Many people are aware that, in Florida, crimes are classified as misdemeanors and felonies. Few people truly understand the ramifications of being charged with or convicted of felony offenses, however. Fortunately, Florida law explicitly explains what constitutes a felony and the potential punishments that may be imposed on people convicted of such offenses. If you are charged with a felony, it is critical to speak to a skillful Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to evaluate your options and potential defenses.

What is a Felony in Florida?

While all criminal charges deserve attention, felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. In Florida, felonies are classified as life or capital felonies and felonies of the first, second, and third-degree.

Capital felonies are the most serious offenses and are punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. First-degree murder is likely the crime that is most commonly charged as a capital felony. The second most serious offenses are life felonies, which are punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and life imprisonment. Continue Reading ›

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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