Florida Court Assesses an Attorney’s Strategy in a Sex Crime Case

In many instances, when a defendant is charged with sexual battery, the State relies solely on circumstantial evidence in support of the allegations against the defendant. Thus, if the admissibility of any of the State’s evidence is questionable, it may be prudent for the defendant’s counsel to object to the introduction of the evidence, and the failure to do so may harm the defendant’s case. In some cases, however, a defense attorney’s strategic decision not to object to statements offered by the defendant may be a reasonable trial strategy, as discussed in a recent Florida appellate case in which the defendant argued that his conviction for sexual battery should be overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel. If you are faced with charges that you committed a sexual offense, it is prudent to consult a capable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to develop a strategy to offer you a strong chance of a successful result.

Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of sexual battery, battery, and lewd or lascivious molestation. He moved for post-conviction relief, arguing in part that his trial counsel was ineffective for making certain evidentiary decisions during the trial. The court granted the motion in part, vacating the defendant’s conviction, after which the State appealed. On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Assessing the Reasonableness of a Defense Attorney’s Trial Strategy

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution grants criminal defendants the right to effective counsel. Thus, a defendant arguing he or she suffered prejudice due to ineffective assistance of counsel must establish that his or her counsel’s performance was objectively unreasonable and therefore fell below the prevailing professional standard. In order to show that counsel’s performance was unreasonable, a defendant must set forth evidence establishing that no other competent trial counsel would use the same strategy or make the same decisions as his or her counsel. In cases in which the court deems trial counsel’s performance unreasonable, it must then assess whether the performance caused the defendant to suffer prejudice.

In the subject case, the defendant first objected to his attorney’s failure to object to evidence that suggested the defendant drugged his victim prior to assaulting her. The court found that even if the attorney’s failure to object was unreasonable, it did not result in prejudice to the defendant, as the jury clearly rejected the evidence regardless, as shown by the fact that they failed to convict the defendant of the count to which the evidence applied. Further, the court rejected the assertion that the attorney was ineffective for failing to set forth evidence attacking the credibility of the victim, due to inconsistencies in her statement. The court noted that the attorney explained that the victim testified that she did not want to remember the abuse, not that she could not remember, and pressing the issue would make her seem traumatized and make her allegations more believable. Thus, the court found that the attorney merely exercised his professional judgment in declining to press the issue.

Confer with a Capable Criminal Defense Attorney

If you live in Clearwater and are accused of sexual battery or another sex crime, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to set forth. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a capable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney who will analyze the facts of your case and work with you to develop compelling arguments to help you strive to protect your rights. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted through the form online or at 727-897-5413 to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

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