Florida Prosecutors Can’t Retry Botched Drug Deal Case

Florida law generally bans prosecutors from charging a person with a new crime after he or she has already been tried on related offenses. The state’s First District Court of Appeal recently explained how that ban works in a case involving a botched drug deal.

Defendant was charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery with a firearm, and the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony following a drug deal gone wrong. He admitted to going to a house to buy marijuana and shooting one of the men inside, but Defendant said he was acting in self-defense. He said two men tried to rob him when he got to the house. The person who was shot, however, claimed that Defendant tried to steal the marijuana without paying for it and fired the weapon at the men when they chased after him.

Prosecutors eventually decided not to charge Defendant with use of a firearm during a felony. After the case went to trial, a jury found him not guilty on the armed robbery charge and deadlocked on the aggravated battery charge. Prosecutors decided to retry Defendant on the aggravated robbery charge. They also tacked on a new charge of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. Defendant asked a judge to dismiss the charge, arguing that it was part of the same criminal episode as the armed robbery charge for which he was previously found not guilty. The trial court rejected that request.

Defendant was found guilty on the use of a firearm during a felony charge, but the jury again deadlocked on the armed robbery charge. He was sentenced to supervised release.

Overturning the conviction on appeal, the First District said Defendant couldn’t be charged with the use of a firearm during a felony. It explained that Florida law generally bans prosecutors after a trial from later charging a person on related crimes, unless the prosecutors were originally unable to get sufficient evidence to support the new charge the first time around.

“The rule is intended to protect defendants from successive prosecutions based upon essentially the same conduct,” the court said. “Offenses are related for purposes of the rule if they are triable in the same court and are based on the same act or transaction or on two or more connected acts or transactions.”

In this case, the court said use of a firearm during a felony charge was “inextricably intertwined” with the other alleged crimes, which “occurred during a single ten-minute criminal episode.” As a result, it reversed Defendant’s conviction on that charge.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater criminal defense attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of crimes. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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