Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

In Florida, people convicted of sex crimes may be sentenced to lengthy terms in prison. Additionally, if they have a history of prior convictions, their sentence may be increased. As discussed in a recent Florida opinion, this is true regardless of whether the convictions were imposed by another state. If you are faced with sex crime charges, it is smart to talk to a Clearwater sex crime defense attorney promptly.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was found guilty by a jury of sexual battery, domestic battery, and harassing a witness. Following sentencing, the defendant filed a motion under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(b)(2), alleging errors in scoring several Ohio convictions on the sentencing scoresheet. The trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part, choosing not to resentence the appellant. The defendant then appealed.

Scoring Out-of-State Convictions During Sentencing

On appeal, the defendant raised concerns about the scoring of the Ohio convictions and the application of a sentencing multiplier for a sex crime committed in front of a child. The court affirmed the trial court’s ruling on the second issue without discussion. Regarding the first issue, the court considered the scoring of the Ohio aggravated robbery conviction. The defendant argued that only the elements of the out-of-state crime should be considered when determining its analogy to a Florida statute for scoring purposes. Continue Reading ›

In the context of criminal proceedings, the defendant’s guilt typically hinges on the interpretation of circumstantial rather than direct evidence. When viewed in its entirety, if the evidence in question does not demonstrate the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant should be able to avoid a conviction. In a recent Florida ruling issued in a weapons crime case, the court discussed what constitutes adequate evidence to sustain a conviction, ultimately upholding the jury’s guilty verdict. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Clearwater gun crime defense attorney about your rights.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was indicted for knowingly possessing ammunition as a felon, a federal offense. During the trial, an FBI special agent described a search of the defendant’s family residence. During the search, ammunition was discovered in various locations, including a black backpack in the defendant’s closet. The jury found him guilty, and he appealed, arguing that the evidence presented during the trial failed to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for possessing ammunition as a felon.

Evaluating the Sufficiency of Evidence in Weapons Crime Cases

On appeal, the court ruled that the evidence put forth during the trial was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for possessing ammunition as a felon. In doing so, the court explained that the test for determining whether evidence is adequate is the same regardless of whether the evidence is circumstantial or direct. While no greater weight is given to either type of evidence when the state relies on circumstantial evidence, reasonable inferences, not mere speculation, are necessary to support a conviction.

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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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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 ›

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 ›

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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When a person is charged with a crime in Florida, the State sets forth the charges in an information. An information must set forth the facts regarding the alleged crime and the statute of the offense charged. An information is not immune from human error, and in some cases, the State will set forth the wrong statute, or indicate different statutes on which the charge is based in the heading and the body of the information. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed whether an inaccurate information was grounds for reversal of a conviction for driving with a revoked license, ultimately ruling that it was not. If you are a resident of Clearwater and face charges of driving with a suspended or revoked license, it is prudent to retain a capable Clearwater criminal defense attorney to help you formulate a defense.

The Charges as Set Forth in the Information

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer for failing to wear his seat belt. When the officer asked the defendant for his driver’s license, the defendant stated that his license was suspended. The officer investigated the defendant’s identity and learned that the defendant’s license was in fact revoked due to three charges of driving while his license was suspended and charges of failing to appear. Additionally, the defendant was considered a habitual traffic offender.

Florida law provides criminal defendants with certain rights and protections, in an effort to avoid unjust convictions. One example of these protections is that a defendant must be mentally competent to proceed with a trial. If a defendant is incompetent, or his or her competence is not adequately evaluated prior to a criminal hearing, it may result in a dismissal of any conviction.

In a recent case decided by a Florida appellate court, the court discussed the burden of recognizing incompetence in criminal cases. If you are charged with a criminal offense and you live in Clearwater, you should meet with a trusted Clearwater criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and possible defenses to the charges you face.

Alleged Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Competence

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. He filed a motion to vacate his conviction alleging, in part, that his attorney was ineffective for failing to obtain a competency evaluation. Specifically, he alleged that his attorney obtained an order authorizing a mental health evaluation, but did not make sure an evaluation was completed. The defendant further alleged that he could not adequately communicate with his attorney or exercise his right to a fair trial due to his incompetence. The post-conviction court denied the defendant’s claim, after which he appealed. On appeal, the court granted his motion.

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When a defendant is convicted of a crime there are certain factors that the court can consider when determining an appropriate sentence. For example, a court is not permitted to consider a defendant’s arrest for a subsequent crime when imposing a sentence for the primary offense the defendant was convicted of committing.

A Florida appellate court recently ruled, however, that a trial court is permitted to consider facts underlying a subsequent arrest when considering whether to revoke a convicted felon’s community control.  If you live in Clearwater and are charged with a crime, it is important to retain an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to help you retain your rights.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Criminal History

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison followed by two years of community control. Four months after his release to community control the State filed an affidavit alleging the defendant violated his community control. Specifically, he failed to remain in his residence and refused to submit to a urinalysis. The State later amended the affidavit to include allegations that the defendant had recently been arrested for burglary, resisting officers without violence, and drug crimes.

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In the Florida criminal court system, a career offender designation can result in increased jail time. There are specific criteria that must be met before a defendant can be designated a career offender, and an improper designation can result in unjust penalties.

Recently, a federal court issued an opinion clarifying what convictions count toward a defendant’s career offender status under the Florida sentencing guidelines. If you are a resident of Clearwater with a prior criminal history and are currently charged with a crime, you should meet with a seasoned Clearwater criminal defense attorney to develop a plan that will provide you with a strong chance of a good outcome under the circumstances surrounding your charges. 

Defendant’s Prior Convictions

The defendant had previously been convicted of two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and one count of robbery. He was subsequently convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The court designated the defendant as a career offender under Florida’s sentencing guidelines and sentenced him to 120 months in prison. The defendant then appealed his sentence, arguing that he was improperly designated a career offender. On appeal, the court affirmed his sentence.

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