Defendant in Florida Carjacking Case Fails on Double Jeopardy Appeal

Restrictions against double jeopardy, the prosecution of a person twice for the same offense, are a foundational protection for criminal defendants. In fact, the protection is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. Often, it’s easy to identify when a subsequent prosecution would constitute double jeopardy. For instance, if a defendant is found not guilty of a crime by a jury, another prosecutor is not permitted to try the defendant again for the same crime with a different jury.However, a recent Florida theft decision considered whether the prosecution of both carjacking and burglary of a conveyance is effectively trying a defendant for the same crime twice.

Florida Statute section 775.021(4) provided the rules of construction that served as the basis for the court’s double jeopardy analysis. Criminals are generally tried and convicted for all of the crimes that occurred in a criminal transaction or episode; however, an exception to this rule is if separate offenses require proof of the same elements of, or are subsumed by, another offense.

At trial, the defendant was convicted of sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, burglary of a conveyance, and carjacking. He appealed the convictions of both burglary of a conveyance and carjacking, arguing that carjacking required proof of the same elements as burglary of a conveyance, and the result was double jeopardy. He urged the court to adopt the dissenting position in the Florida court of appeals case, Green v. State, 828 So. 2d 462 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2002, which previously considered the issue.

The dissent in Green identified several instances in which Florida courts have determined that a conviction of two different offenses would constitute double jeopardy, such as (i) trafficking possession and simple possession, and (ii) home invasion robbery and burglary of a dwelling with an assault or battery. Similarly, the dissent reasoned that burglary of a conveyance was subsumed by the crime of carjacking. That is, it would be impossible to commit the carjacking without committing the burglary of a conveyance.

The majority in Green rejected this position because the crimes neither share the same elements nor is the burglary of a conveyance subsumed within carjacking. The act of breaking into a vehicle (the burglary of a conveyance charge) is a separate evil, often involving damage to components of that vehicle. In addition, the majority argued that it was possible to commit a carjacking without committing burglary. Burglary is committed the moment the defendant enters the vehicle with the requisite intent. However, the defendant actually would need to start the vehicle and drive away with it in order to commit the separate crime of auto theft for the carjacking.

The Florida appeals court sided with the majority view in Green and upheld the defendant’s convictions of both burglary of a conveyance and carjacking.

Having a qualified, results-oriented criminal lawyer beside you as you fight charges of grand theft can make all of the difference. At Hanlon Law, we can put our many years of experience and our hard-earned knowledge of the Florida court system to work in defending your case. Call us at 727-897-5413 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with a St. Petersburg or Clearwater grand theft attorney.