Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

A person accused of committing a sex crime has the right to a fair trial which includes the right to be represented by an attorney. A defendant who is charged with a sex crime is afforded the right to an attorney even if he or she does not have sufficient funds to hire an attorney, in which case one will be appointed. Even though a defendant may not choose an appointed attorney, the attorney still has an obligation to provide a thorough defense, and attorneys that have conflicts of interest must recuse themselves from representing the defendants they have been appointed to represent. A Florida appellate court recently discussed what constitutes a conflict of interest in a sex crime case.   If you live in Clearwater and are accused of committing a sex crime you should meet with a trusted Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to discuss the facts of your case and your available defenses.

The Charges Against the Defendant

Allegedly, the defendant approached his victim while she was walking in her neighborhood, held a knife to her neck, and raped her. The victim went to the hospital where medical professionals examined her and gathered evidence that matched the defendant. The defendant was charged with sexual battery with a deadly weapon. He was found guilty following a jury trial, after which he appealed.

What Constitutes an Actual Conflict of Interest

In his appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to representation of counsel without conflict. Specifically, he argued that because it was discovered during the trial that his attorney was employed by the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel (OCCCRC), and another attorney employed by OCCCRC was representing the victim in another matter. Upon learning this information, the judge placed the defendant under oath and asked whether he wished to waive any possible conflict, to which the defendant replied yes. The judge commented that no actual conflict had arisen but found that the defendant had knowingly and freely waived any potential conflict.
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A statute of limitations in criminal cases generally refers to the time limits for prosecutors to charge a person with a criminal offense. These limits often come up in child sex crimes and other cases in Florida. As the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, prosecutors generally can’t charge someone with a crime after the limitations period has expired.A defendant was charged with three sex crimes stemming from an incident involving his former girlfriend’s young daughters. The girls had been abandoned by their mother, according to the court, and were living with their grandmother at the time. The defendant still saw the children from time to time. The incident occurred while the two girls and their brother were helping him clean his apartment and staying overnight. First, he allegedly asked the 12-year-old daughter to massage his penis. The girl complied, despite saying that she didn’t want to do it, according to the court. He then led the girl into the bathroom and had sex with her. Later during the night, he allegedly rubbed the 10-year-old daughter’s breasts and vagina while she was sleeping.

The defendant was convicted following trial for sexual battery on a child, lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages of 12 and 16, and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12. He was designated a sexual predator and sentenced to 75 years in prison.

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The rule against hearsay generally bans one person from testifying in court about what another person said outside court, if it’s being used to prove a fact. In other words, an alleged rape victim’s friend generally can’t testify in court that the victim told the friend that the person charged with the crime raped the victim. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, however, including one for statements made out of court by a minor describing a sex crime. As Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently explained, however, a judge has to perform a specific factual analysis before allowing hearsay evidence into the record.A defendant was charged with unlawful sexual activity, stemming from an incident in which he allegedly had sexual contact with a girl under the age of 18. At trial, the victim’s mother testified that her family was visiting Florida on vacation when the crime occurred. They were visiting with extended family at the time, and at least nine people were in the house. After the victim asked her mother three separate times to leave the home, she eventually told her mother that the defendant had touched the victim on her breasts and vagina while she was sleeping in her grandmother’s bed upstairs. When the mother asked the victim what she meant, the victim said “I don’t think I’m a virgin anymore,” according to the mother.

The victim told a police officer in a recorded interview that the defendant entered the bedroom, lay down next to her, and started fondling her breasts. She said he eventually had sex with her.

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Double jeopardy is an important protection for anyone charged with a sex or other crime in Florida. The double jeopardy rule basically says that a person cannot be charged twice for the same crime. What do we mean by the same crime? A recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals sheds some light on how courts approach the issue.The defendant was charged with various crimes stemming from an incident in which prosecutors said he got a 14-year-old girl in his car against her will, drove her to a secluded area, and raped the girl. He dropped the girl at her school after the attack, according to the court, and she immediately reported the rape. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of sexual battery with a deadly weapon, lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, and kidnapping, among other offenses. He later appealed the lewd or lascivious battery and sexual battery convictions, arguing that they violated the double jeopardy protection.

“When considering a double jeopardy claim alleging multiple convictions for the same offense, we first consider whether the convictions arose from the same criminal transaction or episode,” the court explained. “If we conclude that the convictions arose from the same criminal episode, we must then determine if the convictions were predicated on distinct acts.” Finally, the court said it would look at the laws describing each crime to see if one crime requires an element of proof that the other does not.

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Florida’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained that police confessions can be used in court to prosecute sex crimes and other offenses, even if the person who made the confession was intoxicated at the time.Mr. Arvelo was arrested and charged with attempted sexual battery and kidnapping with the intent to commit sexual battery, stemming from a 2006 incident in a Maitland parking garage. He allegedly attacked a woman as she was getting out of her car, and then he dragged the woman to Arvelo’s car. Arvelo was unable to start that car, however. When he got out to look at the engine, Arvelo’s victim locked the doors and started honking the horn. Arvelo fled after two of the victim’s coworkers noticed the commotion and called the police, according to the court.

Arvelo confessed after being apprehended and taken into custody by Maitland police. The 21-year-old was interrogated for three years. Arvelo argued on appeal that he was coerced into making the confession and that officers made false promises of leniency during the interrogation. He also said that the officers took advantage of the fact that Arvelo was drunk and sleep-deprived. He told the cops at the beginning of the interview that he’d drunk a bottle of whiskey earlier that morning and had not slept since.

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Florida police officers and investigators go to great lengths to investigate sex crimes and other criminal offenses. A recent case out of the Fourth District Court of Appeals shows some of the limits on the things that they can do to help secure a conviction.The defendant was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual battery on a person less than 12 years old and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. The charges came after a member of his family accused him of sexual abuse, according to the court. He declined to speak with police and requested a lawyer after being informed of his rights. He was placed in a jail cell while waiting for a bond hearing. A police informant who worked with cops in setting up and reporting prison drug transactions was also in the cell.

The informant told his handler shortly after the defendant was placed in the cell that he said he was facing sex crime charges and wanted to hire a hitman to kill the family member who accused him of abuse and the primary witness against him. The handler, who was not aware of the charges against the defendant, asked the informant to get more information on his intended targets. Following conversations with the informant and the handler, the police officer investigating the sex crime charges asked the informant not to seek additional information related to the charges. The cops did, however, ask the informant to present himself as “somewhat of a pedophile” to gain the defendant’s trust. They devised a scheme for the informant to offer to get the defendant in touch with a hitman.

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Sexual battery and other sex crimes are serious offenses that often come with significant penalties and jail time. Those penalties go up when the victim of the crime is a minor. As Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, sexual battery on a minor encompasses a wide range of forceful behavior. Although the facts of this case may be tough for some readers to hear, the decision is an important one that offers some insight into what prosecutors, judges, and juries mean when they say “sexual battery.”The defendant was living in Broward County with his daughter and her boyfriend when the boyfriend’s twin nine-year-old nieces came to visit the home. At some point while her mother was taking a nap, one of the girls went into the defendant’s bed with him. The girl later testified that he pulled her pants down, pulled his own pants down, and rolled over toward her. The girl tried unsuccessfully to get away. Her sister then came into the room and also tried to help the girl get away.

“Although at trial the victim stated that [the defendant]’s penis ‘touched’ her ‘butt,’ he victim told others shortly after the incident occurred that [he] had put his penis ‘in her butt,’” according to the court. A medical examination following the incident did not show any signs of injury but did uncover semen near the girl’s anus and vagina. DNA testing showed it was the defendant’s semen. He was charged with sexual battery on a minor and convicted of the crime following a jury trial.

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Intent is a central part of many criminal cases in Florida, including those related to sex crimes. The trouble is that it can be tough to get inside a person’s head and determine what exactly he or she was thinking at a particular time. That is why cases such as these often revolve around communications evidence–emails, text messages, phone calls, and the like–to establish intent. A recent case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit involving alleged sex crimes in Central Florida is a good example of how judges view that evidence.D.W. was arrested and charged with two counts of attempting to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity back in 2015. Both of the charges stemmed from encounters with an undercover FBI agent who D.W. believed was offering to arrange for him to have sex with the man’s (fictional) daughter. D.W. responded to a Craigslist ad posted by a father and daughter seeking a sexual encounter north of Orlando. The undercover officer (going by the initials B.B.) responded to D.W.’s email and claimed that he was a 50-year-old man who was willing to arrange sex with his 12-year-old daughter. D.W. agreed to pay $40 for oral sex and asked to meet immediately, but B.B. told him that they had a prior engagement.

Three months later, D.W. responded to a similar post seeking to arrange sex with a 12-year-old girl. He was arrested after agreeing to pay for oral sex with the girl and arriving at a suggested meeting place. In total, D.W. sent 88 messages to the undercover officer in relation to the two internet posts. He was convicted on both counts and sentenced to roughly 18 years in prison.

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Florida child pornogrphy laws can be a complicated maze, especially for someone who has never been charged with a crime before. One thing that anyone facing criminal charges in Florida – and elsewhere – should know is that the burden is at all times on prosecutors to prove that you committed the crime with which you are charged. In child pornography possession cases, for example, the authorities have to prove that the person charged actually possessed the illicit material. A recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decision involving a Central Florida man is an example of how “possession” works in the internet age. The short answer is that if you have access to electronic files, you are likely to be considered in constructive possession of them.The defendant was living in Texas when the court said he received an email containing some 20 photos of child pornography. He moved to Tampa in 2012 to work on a shrimp boat and, soon thereafter, forwarded an email containing child pornography to another acquaintance. He was later arrested and charged with possessing and transporting child pornography. He was convicted on both counts after a trial in a federal court in Florida. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The defendant later appealed the conviction, arguing that he should have been tried and charged in Texas, rather than Florida. He claimed the possession charge, for example, was based entirely on the email that he received while living in the Lone Star State. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed. Regardless of where he was living when he received the original email, the court said the jury could have found that he possessed other child pornography after that time, while living in Florida. He was living in Tampa when he sent at least one illicit photo, meaning that he was in possession of it in Florida at the time.

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The cruise ship industry is a major source of revenue in Florida, and in fact, Florida law seeks to protect cruise-goers by extending subject matter jurisdiction to criminal acts that occur on cruise ships that leave Florida ports. However, the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami recently heard a Florida sexual assault case between two cruise boat crew members in a recent proceeding.

As mentioned earlier, the defendant was a crew member aboard a cruise ship and attempted to commit sexual battery against another crew member while the ship was in international waters. The defendant is a citizen of Grenada, and the victim is a citizen of Nicaragua. The cruise ship departed from Miami and returned to Miami, and almost all of the paying passengers boarded and disembarked in Miami. Following the attempted sexual battery, the defendant was taken into custody and confined to the brig of the ship until it returned to Miami, at which point Miami-Dade law enforcement took the defendant into custody. The defendant was then charged with battery, attempted sexual battery, and false imprisonment.

The defendant argued that the State did not have subject matter jurisdiction to prosecute him. The trial court denied the motion, and then the defendant pled guilty to attempted sexual battery and appealed to the Third District Court of Appeals.

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