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Articles Posted in Lewd and Lascivious Offenses

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure offer numerous protections to defendants charged with sex crimes, including the right to appeal unjust convictions. While the law provides avenues for appeal, it also imposes strict deadlines that criminal defendants must comply with, to avoid waiving the right to appeal. A Florida district court of appeals recently discussed exceptions to the statutory deadlines for filing an appeal, in a case in which the defendant’s appeal of his conviction for sexual battery was denied as untimely.  If you are a Clearwater resident charged with a sex crime it is vital to retain a skillful Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to present a strong defense on your behalf to help you protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with sexual battery of an individual less than twelve years of age and lewd and lascivious molestation. The charges arose out of the defendant’s alleged digital penetration of his granddaughter while she slept in a bed with him. During the trial, the granddaughter also testified that the defendant molested her when she was approximately 7 years old when she visited him in Colorado. Additionally, another granddaughter and the defendant’s stepdaughter testified that the defendant had molested them on more than one occasion as well. The defendant was convicted on both counts and sentenced to life in prison. The second conviction was deemed to violate double jeopardy and was vacated.

Allegedly, within the two-year deadline, the defendant filed a Rule 3.850 motion for post-conviction relief arguing that his counsel was ineffective on multiple grounds, including for permitting the State to introduce collateral crime evidence. The court denied the motion with prejudice, finding that the defendant failed to prove the case was prejudiced or his counsel was ineffective. Then, one year later, the defendant filed a second motion for post-conviction relief.  The trial court denied the motion and the defendant appealed.

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Florida sexual battery cases often focus on intricate legal arguments about whether what the person who is accused of the crime allegedly did qualifies as a crime. Those debates can have significant consequences. They can mean the difference between a conviction or acquittal and determine the type of punishment that a person faces in the event of a conviction. A recent case out of Florida’s Supreme Court, for example, focused on what state lawmakers meant when they included the term “unnatural” in the lewd or lascivious battery law.A defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious battery stemming from an incident in which he allegedly had sex with a female victim between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. At trial, his lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury that he could instead be convicted of an “unnatural and lascivious act,” a lesser offense that carries a less significant punishment. The judge declined, finding that prosecutors had not alleged that the defendant engaged in “unnatural” conduct. A jury eventually convicted him of lewd or lascivious battery.

The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal later overturned the conviction, finding that the judge should have instructed the jury on the lesser offense. The appeals court said the allegation that the defendant had sex with a minor qualified as “unnatural” under the law because “such conduct is not in accordance with nature or with normal feelings or behavior and are lustful acts performed with sensual intent on the part of the defendant.”

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There are a number of procedural safeguards built into Florida laws that are designed to ensure that a person charged with a crime gets a fair trial without any preconceived notion of guilt. Those safeguards are particularly important in Florida sex crime cases, which often carry a certain stigma based on the allegations involved. Sometimes when those rules are broken, however, it may still not be enough to justify a new trial. Just look at a recent case out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.A defendant was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a person, stemming from an alleged incident involving a friend of his young daughter. The 11-year-old girl was staying at the defendant’s home one night when he allegedly entered the room in which she was sleeping and “rubbed the victim’s genital region,” according to the court. In an opening statement at trial, a state prosecutor referred to the defendant as a “boogeyman.” During trial, the prosecution also introduced evidence testimony about what the victim said happened. He was eventually convicted.

The defendant later appealed the conviction, asserting that the trial judge made a number of errors. He argued, for instance, that the judge should have granted a new trial after the prosecutor called the defendant a “boogeyman” during the opening statement. The First District noted, however, that his lawyer objected to the characterization and that the trial judge sustained that objection. Although the prosecutor’s comment was inappropriate, the appeals court said it wasn’t enough to justify a new trial. The court pointed to a 2017 decision in a different case, in which it found that a prosecutor’s reference to a defendant as a “creature that stalked the night” did not warrant a new trial.

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