While people often think that they would mount a vigorous defense if they were charged with a crime, in some cases, it makes sense to enter a no contest or guilty plea. Typically, it is difficult to overturn a conviction after pleading no contest, but there are exceptions. For example, as discussed in a recent ruling issued by a Florida court in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for failing to register as a sex offender, a person cannot be found guilty of an offense they did not commit, regardless of their plea. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a dedicated Clearwater sex crime defense lawyer to discuss your options.
The History of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was charged with failing to register as a sex predator in accordance with Florida law and failing to report that he vacated his permanent residence. He entered a no contest plea, after which he was convicted and sentenced. He subsequently appealed. The appellate court ultimately found in his favor as to the sex predator charge and reversed his conviction.
Overturning a Conviction Following a No Contest Plea
On appeal, the court noted that the error committed by the trial court was clear. Specifically, the defendant entered a plea of no contest to a crime he did not commit. The appellate court explained that the defendant was never designated as a sexual predator. Therefore, in accordance with Florida law, he had no duty to register as a sex predator.
The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that before a trial judge accepts a no contest or guilty plea, it must determine that a factual basis for the plea exists and that the defendant entered the plea voluntarily. In the subject case, the trial court failed to question the State regarding the factual basis of the claim. Rather, it merely asked the defendant’s attorney if she stipulated to the factual basis for each charge.
The defendant argued that his counsel was ineffective because she failed to object to the incorrect charge, and this caused a fundamental error. The appellate court agreed, noting that when the record clearly demonstrates that a defendant has entered a no contest or guilty plea to a crime that they did not commit, a fundamental error occurs. As such, the appellate court reversed the defendant’s conviction as to the sex predator charge.
Discuss Your Charges with a Skillful Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney
People accused of sex crimes face significant penalties if they are convicted, including, in many cases, a requirement that they register as sex offenders. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is smart to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. The skillful Clearwater criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can contact Hanlon Law via the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a meeting.