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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Under Florida law, it is illegal to engage in sexual activity with someone without their consent, and such behavior can result in sexual battery charges. Notably, affirmative refusals are not required to demonstrate a lack of consent; instead, it can be established by showing a person lacked the capacity to consent at the time the acts occurred due to intoxication. Recently, a Florida appellate court explained what evidence is needed to establish that a person’s inebriation prevented them from consenting to sexual contact, in a ruling in which it denied the defendant’s motion for a rehearing in a sexual battery case. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a dedicated Florida sex crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that the victim and her friend consumed alcohol at the victim’s apartment before traveling to a bar. They consumed several more drinks at the bar, and then the victim became lightheaded. She subsequently fell off a barstool and struck her head, after which she was asked to leave.

Allegedly, the defendant, who drove for a ride-sharing company, picked up the victim and her friend and transported them back to the victim’s apartment. The victim had difficulty getting out of the vehicle and then laid on the sidewalk. The defendant helped the victim and the friend into the victim’s apartment. Once they were inside, the defendant engaged in sexual contact with the victim. The victim was reportedly unconscious and did not recall what happened but contacted the police the following day.

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In many cases, a person is charged with a DUI offense in Florida because they were pulled over while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a person is suspected of causing a collision while inebriated but the police have no proof that the individual drove the car involved in the crash, a warrant may be issued to acquire evidence such as blood samples. A Florida court recently released a ruling in a DUI case, reversing an order suppressing evidence gathered through several search warrants and explaining the probable cause the State must show to get a warrant. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s a good idea to talk to a seasoned Florida defense lawyer about your alternatives.

The Accident and the Investigation That Followed

According to reports, at around 2:30 a.m., a deadly collision occurred at an intersection in Orange County. One vehicle’s passenger and driver both perished as a result of their injuries. The defendant, who was in the driver’s seat at the time of the accident, was the owner of the second car involved in the collision. He had seat belt burns over his chest, and the defendant’s passenger said that he was inebriated and had consumed too much alcohol to drive.

Allegedly, the defendant was taken to the hospital, where he refused to give a blood sample. A warrant was acquired by the officer investigating the accident, allowing him to seize a sample of the defendant’s blood. A second warrant was issued a few days later to allow the office to seize evidence from the defendant’s vehicle, and a third warrant was issued a month later to seize a DNA sample from the defendant to see if it matched DNA from the automobile. The defendant filed a petition to suppress the evidence collected through the warrants, claiming that the police did not have probable cause to obtain them. The application was granted by the trial court, and the State appealed.

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In Florida, people can be charged with assault and other violent crimes, even if they simply intend to damage property. Regardless of the nature of the crime a defendant is accused of committing, though, the State must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, and if it fails to do so, the defendant should not be found guilty. Recently, in a matter where the defendant was accused of committing multiple offenses after he hit a mail truck, a Florida court issued an order clarifying the evidence the state must produce to show guilt for assault and criminal mischief. If you’ve been charged with assault or another violent offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a reputable Florida criminal defense lawyer about your options.

The Alleged Crime

Allegedly, the victim was in the driver’s seat of a mail truck when the defendant hit the truck with a large board. At the moment of the initial strike, the victim was sorting mail and heard a loud bang. When he looked up, he saw the defendant strike the truck with the plank a second time. When the victim began to drive the vehicle away, the defendant struck the truck with the plank once more. The victim dialed 911 once he was at a safe distance. The defendant was eventually apprehended and charged with criminal mischief in the first degree, aggravated assault, and other charges. He sought a dismissal of the assault and criminal mischief charges, but his motion was denied, and he was found guilty. He then filed an appeal.

Evidence Needed to Convict a Defendant Charged With Assault

The defendant’s conviction for assault was upheld on appeal. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s contention that the State did not offer evidence sufficient to prove that he committed an act that was significantly likely to put the victim in fear of imminent harm. Instead, the court determined that the evidence, when assessed in a light most favorable to the state, was adequate to show that the defendant knew the victim was in the truck when he hit it. Specifically, he struck the truck three times at the driver’s side door, the third strike coming after the truck had gone forward. Continue Reading ›

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 ›

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