Unless the weapon used to commit a crime is recovered, it may be unclear what kind of weapon it is. In a case heard by the Florida First District Court of Appeal, a defendant argued that his conviction for a Florida robbery with a firearm should be overturned. His position was that the trial court erred in their jury instructions and thus the court committed fundamental error.
What is a Firearm?
It may seem like a straightforward question, but your experienced Clearwater violent crimes attorney can tell you it is not as simple as it sounds. In this case, there was surveillance footage that showed the defendant holding up the clerk at gunpoint. The defendant alleges that the “weapon” he was using was actually a BB gun, though the prosecution showed evidence that would tend to indicate that it was not. However, the main argument in this appeal was over jury instructions.
During closing arguments, the defense explained that a firearm is a weapon that expels a projectile through the use of an explosive. At trial, and with the consent of defense counsel, the jury was given instructions that once again explained that a firearm requires an explosive action. As they were deliberating, the jury asked the court to clarify whether a BB gun counted as a firearm or not. The prosecution noted that there was a case that specifically held that a BB gun was not a firearm. The judge decided to tell the jury that they have heard the evidence and referred them back to the jury instructions. The jury returned with a verdict that found the defendant guilty of robbery with a firearm and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison with a mandatory 10 years due to possession of a firearm.
When a defense attorney fails to object to jury instructions during the trial, Florida law only allows the verdict to be overturned if the error in the instructions is a fundamental error. Fundamental error means that the error is so fundamental to the proceedings that the guilty verdict could not have been obtained without the error. The court noted that the evidence was ambiguous as to whether the gun was a BB gun or not and it was reasonable that the jury determined that it was an actual firearm. They also noted that referring the jury back to the firearm definition was reasonable from the defenses point of view as it clearly states that firearms require an explosive element.
The court held that in this case that there was no fundamental error. In fact, they held that there was not error at all. One of the biggest lessons in this case is the importance of having a skilled Clearwater defense attorney on your side to help object at the proper time to give you the best chance of prevailing on your case.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Today!
It’s crucial that you contact a skilled Clearwater violent crimes criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you or a loved one is arrested. Contact the experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm online or call our offices at (727) 897-5413 to speak with our attorneys about your case.
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