Court Discusses What Constitutes an Attorney’s Actual Conflict of Interest in a Florida Criminal Case

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.

On appeal, however, the defendant argued that there was an actual conflict of interest which he did not knowingly waive. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument. Specifically, the court found that multiple representations, in and of itself, does not violate the Sixth Amendment and absent an object the court can presume there is no conflict of interest. If there is no objection, the defendant must show an actual conflict, which means a conflict that detrimentally affects the attorney’s performance.  Here, the court found that the defendant failed to meet this burden. Specifically, he did not offer any evidence that the OCCCRC’s representation of the victim adversely affected his own representation. Thus, the court found that no actual conflict existed and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Retain a Seasoned Clearwater Sex Crime Defense Attorney

If you live in Clearwater and are charged with a sex crime it is important to retain a seasoned Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a Clearwater criminal defense attorney with ample experience defending individuals accused of sex crimes in the Florida courts. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a conference.


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