Under Federal law, it is illegal for adults to engage in sexual activity with minors. As such, if an adult participates in a romantic relationship with a person under the age of 18, they may face serious criminal charges. As demonstrated in a recent opinion delivered in a Florida case in which the court discussed the evidence sufficient to sustain sex crime convictions, people may be found guilty regardless of whether they intended to commit the crime with which they are charged. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a St. Petersburg sex crime defense lawyer regarding your case.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the victim ran away from home when she was 16 years old and began trading sex for money. She met the defendant when she was 17, and shortly thereafter, they began a romantic relationship. They traveled together, and during one of their trips, the defendant took a picture of them engaging in sexual relations. The defendant also, essentially, began acting as the victim’s pimp.

It is reported that the defendant became jealous that the victim had sexual relations with other people, and the situation became violent. The victim called the police on the defendant, who was arrested and charged with numerous crimes, including producing child pornography and sex trafficking a minor. The jury found the defendant guilty of all the charges, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

In Florida, the State will often charge a person with a crime via an information. The information must set forth details regarding the alleged offense, including the date when it was committed. If the information contains inaccurate details, the State may be granted leave to amend it, as discussed in a recent battery case. If you are faced with charges of battery or another violent crime, it is advisable to speak with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense lawyer to determine your rights.

Procedural Setting of the Case

It is alleged that the State of Florida appealed an order dismissing its information charging the defendant with battery. The original information alleged that the defendant committed a battery on February 7, 2020, in Tampa during a Super Bowl tailgating party. However, during trial, the State recognized an error in the date and sought to amend the information to reflect the correct date of the alleged offense as February 7, 2021. The defendant opposed the amendment, asserting that the defense would be prejudiced because it had prepared for trial based on the incorrect date. The trial court denied the State’s request to amend and, instead, granted the defendant’s oral motion to dismiss. A written order of dismissal was subsequently entered.

White-collar crimes, such as health care fraud, rarely cause bodily harm. That does not mean that they are not prosecuted as severely as violent crimes, however, as their convictions for fraud offenses often result in significant fines and prison sentences. As discussed in a recent Florida case, such penalties are often directly correlated to the financial losses caused by the offense. If you are charged with a fraud offense, it is prudent to talk to a St. Petersburg white-collar crime defense attorney to determine your options.

Case Fact and Procedure

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, and money laundering in violation of federal law. The charges stem from fraudulent activities associated with a Florida substance abuse treatment center and sober home owned by the defendant and another person. The government presented evidence that the defendant and the other person engaged in a scheme to defraud insurance companies by submitting false claims for urinalysis and treatment.

Pursuant to federal law, the act of garnishing a firearm to commit a crime of violence is an indictable offense. In order to convict a person of such a crime, the prosecution must establish, among other things, that the underlying crime in question constitutes a violent offense. Recently, a Florida court explained what is considered a violent felony under Florida law in a case in which it ultimately affirmed the defendant’s conviction. If you are accused of a violent crime, it is wise to confer with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney about your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including assault with a dangerous weapon in violation of the federal VICAR (violent crimes in aid of racketeering) statute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and multiple drug crimes. The government presented evidence during the trial that the defendant and his codefendants were members of a narcotics dealers’ group operating as a criminal organization from 2008 to 2014 and that they had committed an armed robbery, discharging a firearm during their escape.

Allegedly, the defendant moved for an acquittal after the conclusion of the prosecution’s case. The court denied the motion, and the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. The defendant then filed a motion to vacate his conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

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In Florida criminal matters, defendants typically only have one chance to demonstrate set forth evidence in support of their innocence or point out flaws in the prosecution’s arguments. There are exceptions, though, such as when new evidence is discovered after a conviction that would have changed the outcome of the case. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes newly discovered evidence for the purposes of vacating a criminal conviction in a case in which the jury convicted the defendant of sex crimes. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is smart to speak to a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to evaluate your possible defenses.

History of the Case

It is alleged that in 2001, a jury convicted the defendant of charges related to lewd and lascivious acts with a child. Subsequently, in 2014, the defendant filed his first postconviction motion, alleging that his trial counsel had misadvised him to reject a plea offer from the State. The postconviction court denied relief, and this decision was affirmed on appeal.

Reportedly, in 2020, the defendant filed a second postconviction motion, alleging newly discovered evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel based on an affidavit from the judge who presided over the defendant’s 2001 trial. In the affidavit, the judge claimed that he had heard a plea offer in open court that was not conveyed to the defendant. The post-conviction court granted the defendant’s motion without holding an evidentiary hearing, concluding that the defendant did not receive a fair trial. The state then appealed. Continue Reading ›

Prior convictions can have a detrimental impact on a defendant’s punishment scoresheet. As such, if there are grounds for calling a prior conviction into question, they should be asserted, as it could ultimately result in a reduced sentence. In a recent opinion delivered in a sex crime case, a Florida court discussed the procedure for evaluating whether a prior conviction should be considered valid for the purposes of sentencing. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is smart to speak to a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to assert.

The Case Background

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with two counts of sexual battery on a mentally defective victim, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, and one count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. He was convicted and sentenced.  Following his sentencing, he filed a motion to correct a sentencing error in which he contested three prior convictions that contributed to his scoresheet. Among these convictions were two counts of burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, a conviction for lewd or lascivious molestation on a person under 12 years of age, and a grand theft auto conviction. The trial court failed to issue a ruling on the motion within the mandated 60-day period, though, and it was deemed denied pursuant to Florida law. The defendant appealed.

Contesting Prior Convictions in Florida Criminal Matters

On appeal, the court explained that in cases where a defendant contests the veracity of their prior convictions, the State is required to provide competent evidence corroborating these convictions. Unfortunately, in this instance, the trial court did not demand such evidence despite the defendant’s assertions that his prior convictions were improper. As such, the court determined that an evidentiary hearing was warranted to assess the contested prior convictions. The goal of the hearing is to ascertain whether the appellant’s scoresheet requires correction based on the accuracy of the prior convictions. Continue Reading ›

While a person charged with a crime does not have to offer evidence in their defense at trial, it would be prudent to introduce any information that may exonerate them. Generally, all evidence must be exchanged prior to trial, and if a party fails to introduce evidence, they waive the right to do so. There are exceptions, however, such as when exculpatory evidence is not discovered until a later date. Recently, a Florida court explained when a conviction should be set aside due to newly discovered evidence in a murder case in which it ultimately denied the defendant’s request for relief. If you are accused of murder, it is in your best interest to talk to a  St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney to evaluate your possible defenses. 

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping and sentenced to 100 years in prison and death. He filed a postconviction motion, resulting in the vacation of his death sentence and the ordering of a new penalty phase. The defendant then filed a second motion, claiming newly discovered evidence based on an alleged jailhouse confession. An evidentiary hearing was conducted, during which the defendant presented testimony from witnesses, including the individual to whom the alleged confession was made.

Allegedly, the court denied the defendant’s motion for relief, concluding that the evidence presented was insufficient to support the claim of a jailhouse confession and would likely be inadmissible under the Florida Rules of Evidence. Consequently, the defendant appealed the court’s decision. Continue Reading ›

Under Florida law, the courts have discretion with regard to sentencing people convicted of crimes. Their discretion is not boundless, however, as in some cases, they are bound by statutory limitations. If a court issues a sentence that fails to abide by a directive in a sentencing statute, the sentence may be deemed illegal, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant appealed the penalties imposed on him following a DUI conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it would benefit you to meet with a St. Petersburg DUI defense attorney to assess what measures you can take to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the State charged the defendant with a DUI offense. He subsequently agreed to plead nolo contendere to reckless driving as part of a plea deal. The trial court subsequently placed him on probation for twelve months. The defendant appealed, arguing that his sentence was illegal.

Sentencing for Misdemeanor Crimes

On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant’s argument that his sentence was illegal. In doing so, it explained that a first-time reckless driving offense is a misdemeanor, as it is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of ninety days. Further, the Florida Statutes state that a defendant placed on probation following a misdemeanor conviction should be supervised for a maximum of six months. As such, the trial court’s order of one year of probation was illegal. Continue Reading ›

The Florida courts and legislature treat juvenile offenders differently than adults who commit crimes. For example, if a juvenile offender receives a sentence of over twenty years in prison, they are entitled to judicial review. The right to judicial review was the subject of a recent Florida opinion delivered in a grand theft auto case, and the trial court’s failure to elucidate that right in the sentencing order constituted grounds for remand. If you are a minor charged with a crime, it is smart to speak to a St. Petersburg juvenile crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes arising out of the theft of a vehicle and the burglary of a dwelling. He entered an open guilty plea, after which he was convicted of the charged offenses. He received a prison sentence of 35 years, followed by 16 years of probation. He then appealed.

The Right to Judicial Review in Juvenile Cases

The defendant raised multiple grounds on appeal. The court rejected each of his arguments in turn but remanded the matter for two specific purposes. First, the court noted that the trial court must enter a written order that allows for the judicial review of the defendant’s sentence after twenty years, as required by the Florida Statutes. Although the topic of judicial review was discussed during the sentencing hearing, the court failed to provide a written order to that effect. Therefore, the court held that it was necessary for the trial court to rectify this omission by issuing a written order. Continue Reading ›

Pursuant to federal law, people convicted of certain offenses may be deemed career offenders and may face enhanced penalties if they are subsequently convicted of other offenses. One example of an offense that permits a career offender enhancement is a crime of violence. It is not always clear what falls under the umbrella of violent crime, however. In a recent case, a Florida court evaluated whether a Montana conviction for assaulting a police officer constituted a violent crime, ultimately ruling that it did. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is prudent to confer with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney who can help you formulate a compelling defense.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with an assault offense and unlawful possession of a weapon arising out of an incident that occurred when he was in a federal correctional institution. He pled guilty to the assault charge in exchange for the dismissal of the second offense. The defendant’s presentence investigation report included, in pertinent part, his Montana conviction for assaulting a police officer.

Reportedly, the sentencing court ultimately deemed the defendant a career offender under federal law, in part due to his Montana conviction being deemed a crime of violence. The defendant objected to the classification of the Montana assault as a crime of violence. The court overruled his objection and sentenced him to 96 months in prison. The defendant then appealed. Continue Reading ›

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