Florida Court Discusses Double-Jeopardy in Sex Crime Cases

It is well-known that there is a constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, which is the term used for being tried or convicted more than once for the same criminal offense. This does not mean that a person cannot face multiple criminal charges for criminal conduct in a single criminal episode, however, as recently discussed by a Florida appellate court, in a case in which the defendant was convicted of both attempted lewd battery and unlawfully traveling to meet a minor. If you are a Clearwater resident faced with charges of a sex crime involving a minor or any other sex crime it is essential to retain an assertive Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to fight to protect your liberties.

Facts and Procedural Background

Allegedly, in June 2016, the defendant communicated online with an undercover police officer who was posing as a fourteen-year-old girl. During their conversations, the defendant offered to pay the girl money for sexual activity and arranged to meet the girl at her house. On the way to the agreed upon location, which the defendant believed to be the girl’s home, the defendant reportedly stopped to get cash and buy condoms. When he arrived at the home, he was arrested. He was subsequently charged with unlawful travel and attempted lewd battery.

It is reported the defendant moved to dismiss the attempted lewd battery charge, on double jeopardy grounds. The court ruled that although both crimes arose out of the same conduct, and a single criminal episode, it found that each charge required elements of proof that the other did not. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion and he pleaded no contest to the charges. He then appealed from the final judgment.

Double Jeopardy Analysis

The prohibition against double jeopardy set forth in the United States Constitution does not prevent multiple punishments for separate offenses arising out of the same criminal episode if the legislature intended to permit separate punishments. Where there is no clear legislative intent, however, the court must analyze whether each crime charged contains elements that must be proven that are not part of the other crimes charged.

In conducting such an analysis, the court looks to the elements of the crime rather than the facts. In the subject case, the court noted that there was a clear difference between the elements of each crime. Specifically, unlawful travel required, in part, proof that the child victim was less than eighteen years old. Conversely, attempted lewd battery required proof that the intended victim was at least twelve but less than sixteen years old. Thus, the court found that attempted lewd battery contained elements that unlawful travel did not. As such, the court found the crimes were two separate offenses that should be punished separately, and the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Consult a Knowledgeable Attorney Regarding Your Case

Criminal defendants have numerous rights, including the right against double jeopardy. If you are a Clearwater resident charged with one or more sex crimes it is essential to your defense to retain a knowledgeable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney who will vigorously fight on your behalf.  Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or via the form online to set up a meeting to discuss your case.


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