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Often, people who are convicted of sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders. Thus, if a person is required to register as a sex offender and fails to do so, it can result in a reconviction of their probation. Recently, an appellate court in Florida analyzed whether the court must explicitly designate a person as a sexual offender for the person to be required to register as a sex offender in a case in which the defendant’s probation was revoked for failing to register. If you are a resident if St. Petersburg currently charged with a sex crime, it is prudent to consult a trusted St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney regarding your options for protecting your interests.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with false imprisonment, aggravated battery, and lewd or lascivious battery, in 2002. The charging information alleged that the defendant engaged in sexual activity with a person between the ages of twelve and sixteen. He pleaded guilty to the aggravated battery and false imprisonment charges, and the State agreed not to prosecute him on the lewd and lascivious battery charge. After the defendant completed his sentence, he was released on probation.

Reportedly, six years later, the defendant was charged with the failure to register as a sexual offender. In response, he filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that he had never been designated as a sexual offender, and an automatic designation without a hearing violated his rights. The court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding there was a sexual component to the underlying claims. The defendant pleaded guilty and reserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion.

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Hazing is a long-standing tradition in many college fraternities and sororities. Hazing is also unlawful, and parties that engage in hazing can be charged criminally for any harm that occurs as a result of the hazing. Further, a person may be charged criminally for hazing even if he or she did not directly participate in the unlawful activity. This was demonstrated in a recent case decided by the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, in which the court reversed a trial court’s dismissal of hazing charges against a fraternity president. If you live in St. Petersburg and are charged with hazing or any other crime alleging you caused bodily harm, it is sensible to meet with a skillful St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for striving to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was the president of a fraternity at a Florida university. As the president, he presided over all fraternity activities and agreed to all pledge activities. Additionally, he was present for a meeting in which the members of the fraternity’s executive board discussed the dangers of the underage pledges becoming intoxicated at an upcoming pledge event, and he encouraged the event to take place.

Allegedly, during the event in question, the victim consumed most of a bottle of bourbon and subsequently died of acute alcohol intoxication. His blood alcohol concentration at the time of his death was over 0.44%. The defendant was not present at the event. The State charged the defendant with one count of felony hazing and one count of misdemeanor hazing, however. During a pre-trial hearing, the court dismissed the felony hazing count, after which the State appealed.

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In some instances in which a defendant is charged with a sex crime, the defendant’s counsel is able to negotiate an agreement where the person is placed on probation in exchange for a no-contest plea. In any case, where a defendant is sentenced to probation, it is crucial for the defendant to comply with the terms of the probation. If a defendant does not comply with the terms of probation, the probation may be revoked. As demonstrated in a recent case, however, the State must produce sufficient evidence that a defendant violated the terms of his or her probation, in order to obtain a revocation. If you are a resident of St. Petersburg and you are accused of committing a sex crime, it is prudent to meet with a capable St. Petersburg sex crime attorney to discuss what evidence you may be able to offer in your defense.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Probation.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious conduct. He pleaded no contest, after which he was placed on sex offender probation. After he was released from jail, he went to the location approved by his probation officer, which was the home where he lived prior to his arrest. Upon arrival, he learned his wife had sold the home. He was then placed with a sponsor at a second residence, but disliked the location and requested to move.

It is reported that the defendant’s probation officer approved the move but advised the defendant he could not move until his new residence was inspected. The defendant moved regardless. The defendant was then charged with four counts of violating the conditions of his probation. He was convicted on all four charges, after which he appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to show that he violated two of the conditions in question.

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Under Florida law, there are rules establishing what the prosecution is permitted to assert at trial for a sex crime case. If the prosecution violates the rules to the detriment of the defendant, and the defendant is subsequently convicted, the defendant may be entitled to a new trial. The District Court of Appeals of Florida, Second District, discussed when a new trial is warranted because of improper statements, in a case where the defendant was convicted for sexual battery. If you reside in St. Petersburg and are accused of sexual battery, it is sensible to consult an experienced St. Petersburg sex crime attorney to analyze what evidence the State is permitted to use against you at trial.

Evidence Regarding the Alleged Offense and Trial

It is reported that the defendant was charged with sexual battery with a deadly weapon. During the trial, the victim testified that she saw the defendant walking on the side of the road and gave him a ride. She also stated that later in the evening, the defendant held a knife against her neck and forced her to engage in sexual intercourse. She underwent a medical examination during which a DNA swab identified the defendant’s semen. The defendant testified, however, that his sexual encounter with the victim was consensual, and he denied holding a knife to her neck.

Allegedly, during closing arguments, the prosecution stated that the defendant engaged in spaghetti throwing, in that he was throwing out defenses to see what would stick, used smoke and mirror tactics, and likened the defense arguments to an abusive relationship.  The jury convicted the defendant of sexual battery, which was a lesser-included offense. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for a new trial due to improper statements made by the prosecution in its closing.

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Advances in technology over the past several decades have vastly changed the manner in which criminal cases are prosecuted and defended. For example, in many criminal cases, the prosecution will seek to introduce DNA evidence to establish the defendant’s guilt. Defendants can introduce DNA evidence as well, but only under certain circumstances. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, recently discussed the parameters for a defendant’s right to post-conviction DNA testing in a case in which the defendant appealed his convictions for multiple sex crimes. If you live in St. Petersburg and are charged with one or more sex crimes, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence you may be able to set forth in your defense.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with sexual battery on a victim under twelve years old and lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under eighteen years old. The alleged victim was the defendant’s stepdaughter. At trial, the victim testified that when she was ten years old, the defendant came into her room at night and touched her genitals with his hand and genitals. She also testified that the defendant hit her on the leg with a belt and that she still had a mark from when he hit her. Lastly, the victim testified that the defendant threatened to beat her if she reported his behavior to anyone.

Reportedly, the defendant was found guilty of both charges and was sentenced to life in prison for the sexual battery charge and fifty-five years imprisonment for the lewd and lascivious molestation charge. He filed multiple post-conviction motions, all of which were denied. He then filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. The court denied his motion, and he appealed.

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In many instances in which a person is charged with a sex crime, the person will choose to enter into a plea agreement rather than proceed to trial. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the defendant will either enter a guilty plea or plea of no contest to the charged offenses in exchange for a lesser sentence. In a recent case arising out of the District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, the court discussed whether the State’s involuntary commitment for sex offender treatment of a defendant who was convicted of sexual battery violated the plea agreement. If you are faced with charges of sexual battery it is critical to retain a proficient St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to help you determine the best manner to proceed in your case.

Procedural Background of the Case

Reportedly, in 2002, the defendant was charged with sexual battery. He entered into a plea agreement by which he was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by five years of sex offender probation. Following his release from prison in 2009, he was transferred to a Civil Commitment Center under the direction of the Department of Children and Families. The defendant then admitted to violating his probation in 2013 and was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment. The defendant appealed, arguing that his civil commitment was an enhancement to his sentence and therefore violated both his plea agreement and double jeopardy. Additionally, he argued that as he remained confined his probation never began and the State, therefore, had no right to revoke his probation.

Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders

On appeal, the court affirmed the revocation of the defendant’s probation. The court stated that under Florida law, involuntary commitment of a person convicted of a sex crime is a civil commitment and not a punishment. Therefore, a plea agreement for imprisonment followed by probation is not violated if the defendant is committed to a sex offender facility following his or her imprisonment. The court explained that the Florida Supreme Court explicitly rejected the argument that a civil commitment was an additional term of probation. Continue Reading ›

It is well known that criminal defendants have the right to remain silent and cannot be forced to testify against themselves but the nuances of the protections against self-incrimination are not understood by most people. In a recent case in which the defendant was charged with armed carjacking, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit analyzed whether questioning the defendant about a crime months after he invoked his right to remain silent violated his Miranda rights. If you face car-jacking charges or are charged with any other violent crime it is imperative to engage a skilled St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that in August 2016, the victim drove to a bank with his wife and son, and left his wife and son in the car while he went into the bank. While the victim was in the bank, the defendant allegedly opened the driver’s side door of the car, pointed a gun at the victim’s wife, and ordered her to get out of the car without her son. The wife attempted to unbuckle the child’s seatbelt, and the defendant became angry and screamed at her to leave without the child. The wife was able to extract her son as the defendant put the car into reverse and began backing away.

Allegedly, in September 2016, the defendant was arrested for an unrelated burglary. He was questioned about the burglary and about a “recent carjacking” after which the defendant invoked his right to remain silent and the questioning ceased. It is disputed whether the “recent carjacking” was the August 2016 carjacking or another crime. In December 2016, the defendant was read his Miranda rights, which he waived, and was questioned regarding the August 2016 carjacking. In June 2017 he was charged with carjacking and brandishing a weapon in furtherance of a crime of violence. He pleaded not guilty. Prior to the trial, he filed a motion to suppress his December 2016 statements. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

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Typically, hearsay statements are prohibited from being introduced at a criminal trial by either the State of the defendant. There are some exceptions to the general rule, however, such as when the hearsay is testimony of a child victim in a sex crime case. A Florida appellate court recently reviewed the standards for the admission of child victim hearsay, in a case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery and molestation. If you are charged with sexual battery or any other sex crime it is vital to meet with an assertive St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be able to use against you at trial.

Factual and Procedural Background

Allegedly, the nine-year-old victim told adults at her school that she had sex with the defendant, who was her step-father. She also reported that the defendant raped her that morning. She was subsequently referred to a child protection team, who conducted a recorded forensic interview. During the interview the victim repeated that she had sex with the defendant and that he raped her and explained that he penetrated her. A sexual assault examination was conducted, and the test results revealed the defendant’s DNA was on the child’s anal area. The defendant was charged with one count of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation.

It is reported that prior to the trial, the victim recanted. Specifically, she testified during a deposition that she did not know what rape meant and that the defendant did not touch her private part with his private part. She also stated that she loved the defendant more than her own father and would do anything to protect her family, including kill. Prior to trial, the State moved to introduce the hearsay statements the victim made at school. The court denied the motion, finding that the statements were unreliable. The State sought certiorari review of the court’s order.

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Double jeopardy is a term many people have heard but most people do not fully understand. In sum, double jeopardy means that you cannot be convicted more than once for the same crime. While double jeopardy is straightforward in theory, it can be complicated in Florida criminal cases involving solicitation of a minor for unlawful sexual activity. Recently, the District Court of Appeals of Florida, Third District, explained the nuances of double jeopardy in a solicitation case and ultimately vacated the defendant’s solicitation conviction. If you are charged with solicitation of a minor for unlawful activity or any other sex crime you should speak with an experienced St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that during an undercover investigation, agents who worked for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) placed an ad on a classified site that said a mother was trying to find men to engage in sexual activity with her thirteen-year-old daughter, and provided the mother’s purported email address and the mother and daughter’s names. The defendant sent an email to the address listed in the ad, and over the next two days engaged in sexually explicit emails with a DHS agent posing as the mother. The emails specifically stated that the defendant was responding to the ad that offered sex with a minor.

Reportedly, the defendant made plans to meet the agent and her “daughter” at the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. When the defendant arrived, he was arrested. He was subsequently charged with using a computer to solicit the parent of a child to consent to the child’s participation in sexual activity and traveling to meet a child for unlawful sexual activity that was facilitated by the child’s parent following solicitation. The defendant was convicted on both counts, after which he appealed, arguing that the dual convictions violated double jeopardy.

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In some Florida criminal cases, the defendant may choose to plead guilty for various reasons. Prior to permitting a defendant to enter a guilty plea, however, the court must determine if the defendant is competent to proceed. When the court fails to validly confirm a defendant’s competence the defendant may be permitted to withdraw his or her plea and it may result in a reversal of a conviction. This was illustrated in a recent Florida Appellate court case in which the defendant entered a guilty plea for an attempted second-degree murder charge without a competency hearing. If you are charged with a violent crime in St. Petersburg it is essential to retain a knowledgeable St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

Facts Regarding the Hearing and Plea

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with attempted second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Prior to the entry of the defendant’s plea, his attorney moved for an order to appoint mental health experts to determine if the defendant was competent to proceed to trial. The defendant was examined by two mental health experts; one found the defendant to be competent, while the other found the defendant to be incompetent. The court questioned the defendant, who indicated he had mental health issues in the past. The court did not, however, review the reports of the mental health experts. The defendant subsequently pleaded nolo contendre to the charges and was sentenced. Following his sentencing, the defendant appealed, arguing the trial court erred in failing to conduct a competency hearing or enter a competency order.

Right to a Competency Hearing

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure require a trial court to enter a written order indicating a defendant is competent to proceed. Additionally, the court must make an independent determination as to whether the defendant is competent, and cannot rely on a stipulation from the parties as to the defendant’s competency. As the trial court in the subject case did not make any independent determination as to the defendant’s competency or enter an order deeming the defendant competent, the appellate court relinquished jurisdiction to the trial court to conduct a competency hearing. The court noted that the defendant was required to be present during the hearing.
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