Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

Florida sexual assault and battery cases often come down to one person’s word against another’s, especially in cases involving a victim and an alleged perpetrator who know each other. In a recent case, the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal took on just one of those cases, including some unique questions about the victim’s previous claims of sexual battery.

The defendant was charged with armed sexual battery against his ex-wife, with whom he had previously been married for 20 years. The victim said she had just returned to her apartment from dropping her children at school when the defendant showed up. He allegedly told the woman that he had a knife in his backpack, said “now you’re going to get it,” and warned her not to make a commotion. The woman didn’t scream or fight the defendant when he then had sex with her inside the home, according to the court. She did run to a neighbor’s house when the defendant moved to get his cell phone. She called the police, who arrested him.Some of the details of the couple’s stormy relationship became clear at trial. They were married for 22 years when they separated in 2008. In a deposition, the victim said the defendant had previously tried to rape her in 2001. She also testified at length about being sexually abused by her employer years earlier, according to the court. But the judge blocked the defendant’s lawyer’s attempts to later ask the victim about those allegations at trial. DNA evidence showed his DNA, and a nurse who examined the victim said her injuries were consistent with her version of the events. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the court said the previous allegations of rape against the defendant and the victim’s claims that she was raped by her employer weren’t relevant to the case. Although the trial judge wrongly found that the allegations were banned from being considered in court under the state’s rape shield law, the court said there was nevertheless no reason for the victim to be cross examined on her deposition testimony.

Plea deals can be a very effective way to resolve a criminal case and limit the potential consequences of a conviction for a sex crime or other crime. That said, it’s important for a person considering a plea to fully understand what he or she is agreeing to do, the rights he or she is giving up, and the benefit (if any) he or she is getting in return. As a recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida shows, you usually can’t take the agreement back once you sign it.A defendant was arrested and charged with production of child pornography after police found that he was allegedly exchanging pornographic material with another person via email. The cops found the emails after arresting another man on similar charges in Tennessee. FBI agents and police officers obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home in Jacksonville, where they seized a laptop computer and thumb drive. They later found some 650 child pornography images on the computer and thumb drive.

When law enforcement officers talked to the defendant at his work, he admitted to controlling the email account that the cops had found was sending and receiving child pornography, according to the court. He told the cops that he had used his iPhone to capture some of the images while babysitting a nine-year-old child.

Continue Reading

Florida sex crimes are often prosecuted in state courts as violations of state law. It is important to understand, however, that federal criminal laws also prohibit a wide range of sex crimes. Those laws often come into play when one person crosses a state border as part of the crime, as a recent case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit shows.A defendant was charged with enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity, a federal crime, stemming from his involvement with a 17-year-old girl. The defendant, who was 36 years old at the time, drove from Georgia to Florida to meet the girl after communicating with her online. He took the girl to a hotel and allegedly engaged in sexual activity with her. He also took 17 photos of the girl engaging in sexual activity and posing nude, according to the court. He tried to delete those photos when he was arrested, but officers later recovered the pictures during a forensic examination of his cell phone. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

The defendant later appealed the conviction to the Eleventh Circuit. The federal law under which he was convicted makes it a crime to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity “for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” He argued that meant it only covered situations in which a person entices the minor to commit a crime. Since the victim in this case did not commit a crime by having consensual sex with him, he argued that he did not violate the federal law.

Continue Reading

Plea deals are an important potential tool for anyone charged with a crime in Florida. They allow you to resolve the charges and move on with your life, often with a reduced punishment. It’s important to understand, however, that in most cases you can’t take back a plea deal once you’ve been convicted. One important exception to that rule is in cases in which new evidence tends to show that you didn’t commit the crime with which you were charged. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently explained how courts look at newly discovered evidence in Florida lewd and lascivious molestation cases.A defendant was charged with two counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act in 1997, stemming from allegations that he molested his stepdaughters. The girls were six and seven years old at the time. The defendant eventually reached a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded no contest to the charges in exchange for 10 years of probation with the opportunity for early termination after five years. He went back to court in 2015 and asked a judge to withdraw his conviction based on new evidence. He presented statements from the two victims, who said they lied to police about the incidents. Although the women also later testified at a hearing that they had lied to police during an interview, a trial judge denied the defendant’s request. The judge said he “ha[d] not demonstrated a manifest injustice based on actual innocence.”

But the Third District reversed the decision on appeal. The court said the trial judge used the wrong standard to consider the defendant’s request. It pointed to the Florida Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Long v. State. The high court in that case laid out a two-pronged test for considering a request to scrap a conviction based on new evidence.

Continue Reading

Anyone suspected of or charged with a sex crime in Florida should have an attorney by his or her side when talking to the police. As a recent case out of the state’s First District Court of Appeal shows, police interview statements can be later used against you in court.A defendant was arrested and charged with sexual battery on a person physically helpless to resist. The charge stemmed from an incident in which the defendant and a friend allegedly had sex with a female acquaintance at a party. The defendant denied having sex with the woman in an interview with a police officer. The officer explained that DNA tests would be performed to determine if he was telling the truth. The defendant, in response, told the officer that his DNA was likely on the sheets in the bed where the battery allegedly took place, and it could also be on the victim because she had been in the bed. He maintained, however, that he didn’t have sex with the woman. The officer responded as follows:

“Okay. So that’s what you’re gonna stick with. Because I’m going to find out probably if you did. I mean, I’m going to find—if you did, I’m going to find out. I don’t want to—I don’t want you to [mislead] me. One chance to tell me the truth. And that’s where we’re at. Final words.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading