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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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If you are convicted of a felony in Florida, in addition to other penalties and fines, you are prohibited from owning a gun. Therefore, if you are found to be in possession of a gun following your conviction, you will face criminal charges. Unless the police actually find the gun in your possession the State may be forced to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the charges against you. In cases where the State solely relies on circumstantial evidence, a defendant may be able to avoid a conviction by offering a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. A Florida appellate court recently discussed what constitutes a reasonable hypothesis of innocence in a case in which the defendant’s acquittal for the crime of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon was reversed. If you are a convicted felon living in St. Petersburg and you were recently charged with unlawful possession of a firearm it is vital to retain a trusted St. Petersburg gun crime defense attorney who can develop compelling arguments in your defense.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, the police conducted a traffic stop on a speeding car. When the car stopped, the driver exited the car and began running towards an apartment complex. The officer started to chase the driver and heard something metallic hit the pavement. The officer was unable to describe the man other than to give his height and race. The officer then noticed that the object the man dropped was a gun. The officer remained at the scene because he did not want to leave the gun and car unattended. A short time later, a woman who was later identified as the defendant’s girlfriend came out of the apartment complex and advised the police that the car was hers. The defendant was subsequently charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

It is reported that DNA testing was conducted on the gun and the magazine inside of the gun. During the trial, the State called two DNA experts as witnesses. The experts testified that the defendant’s DNA was found on the magazine. The experts also offered testimony as to how DNA can be transferred without a person touching an object. Specifically, DNA can be transferred when a person shakes hands with another person who then touches the object, sneezing, or the object coming into contact with the person’s clothes. After the State rested, the defendant moved for an acquittal based on two reasonable hypotheses of his innocence: that his DNA may have been on the gun due to a secondary transfer, or that he touched the magazine on a different date. The court ultimately granted the motion, after which the State appealed.

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If you are charged with a crime, the State is required to produce competent evidence of each element of the crime to support a conviction. In cases where the State fails to produce any evidence that a crime was committed, it is grounds for an acquittal. In a recent case, a Florida appellate court ruled that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion for judgement on acquittal for a manslaughter charge, finding the State failed to produce evidence of any of the elements of the crime. If you are a St. Petersburg resident charged with manslaughter or any other violent crime, it is wise to speak with a capable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney regarding the facts of your case and what evidence the State may introduce against you.

Factual Scenario Regarding the Alleged Crimes

Reportedly, the victim was found bleeding behind a bus station, and later died from his injuries. A woman who interacted with the victim on the night of his death responded to a police inquiry for information. She stated that she was at the bus station looking for drugs, when she was introduced to the victim by a drug dealer. The victim purchased drugs for the woman, based upon an agreement that she would have sex with the victim. The victim allegedly grabbed the woman, which she reported to the drug dealer and the defendant.

While a criminal defendant can be convicted of multiple crimes arising out of a single criminal act in some cases, the law provides protection from multiple convictions where the crimes have the same essential elements. For example, a defendant cannot be convicted of felony murder absent evidence of an act that could have caused death and is not an essential element of the underlying felony.

A Florida appellate court recently stated that an attempted felony murder charge was not precluded by an attempted armed robbery charge, because firing a gun is not an essential element of armed robbery. If you live in St. Petersburg and are charged with armed robbery or felony murder, it is important to retain a proficient St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who will fight diligently on your behalf in the hopes of preserving your rights.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crimes

Allegedly, the victim was negotiating with a woman regarding the purchase of a couch she found on a website for people reselling property. The victim advised the woman that she and her daughter would come by to pick up the couch. When the victim and her daughter arrived at the woman’s apartment, they were robbed by two men, one of whom was the defendant. The defendant put a gun against the victim’s head and pulled the trigger, but the gun malfunctioned and did not fire. The defendant attempted to fire the gun a second time but was unsuccessful, after which the men fled.

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In Florida sex crime cases, the defendant is permitted to enter whatever plea he or she chooses. In some cases, a defendant may choose to plead guilty, in exchange for a reduced sentence or penalty. While a defendant is free to enter any plea he or she chooses at the outset of a sex crime case, changing a plea at later stages of the case can be very difficult.

In a recent Florida appellate case, the court ruled that a defendant who pleaded guilty to sex crimes did not meet the burden of proof required to show he should be permitted to change his plea following sentencing. If you are charged with a sex crime in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to meet with a capable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and available defenses.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Alleged Crime

Reportedly, the defendant engaged in sexual activity with his 13-year-old stepdaughter. He was charged with sexual battery by a person in familial authority and lewd or lascivious molestation. He pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for concurrent terms of time served to be followed by sex offender probation. Following his sentencing, however, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea, due to the fact that he was not advised that he would be subject to electronic monitoring as part of his probation. The trial court denied his motion, after which the defendant appealed.

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In prosecuting a defendant for an alleged sex crime, the State is only permitted to use evidence that was lawfully obtained. As such, any evidence that was obtained during an unlawful search should be suppressed. While there are exceptions to this exclusionary rule, such as the inevitable discovery doctrine, they only apply in limited circumstances.

A Florida appellate court recently discussed the standard for allowing evidence to be introduced via the inevitable discovery doctrine, in a case in which evidence of child pornography was found during an unlawful search. If you are charged with a sex crime in St. Petersburg, it is prudent to meet with a capable St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss your case and available defenses.

Facts Regarding the Police Investigation

Reportedly, the police were conducting a child pornography investigation based on information that an individual was sharing child pornography via the Ares network from a specific IP address. The police got a search warrant to obtain the IP address information, which showed that the IP address was associated with a business which allowed users to connect to a wireless network. The police visited the business on several occasions. During one visit, the defendant was the only patron and logged on using a name similar to the name used to share child pornography.

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Florida sets forth sentencing guidelines that provide minimum sentences that must be imposed and allows for enhanced sentences if certain elements are met. The State bears the burden of proving that an enhanced sentence is appropriate, and an enhanced sentence imposed without justification may be vacated.

For example, a Florida District Court of Appeal recently vacated a life sentence that was imposed following a conviction for aggravated battery with a firearm, on the grounds that the State failed to provide sufficient evidence that a sentencing enhancement was proper. If you are a St. Petersburg resident and are facing criminal charges, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to assist you in fighting to retain your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence  

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and aggravated battery with a firearm. The jury found that the defendant had actual possession of a firearm and discharged the firearm, inflicting great bodily harm on his victims under both counts. The court subsequently sentenced the defendant to two concurrent life sentences under section 775.087(2), often referred to as the 10-20-Life statute, due to the fact that he was a prison releasee reoffender. The defendant filed a motion to correct the life sentence imposed on him as to the battery count, on the grounds that the sentence was illegal. The trial court denied his motion, after which the defendant appealed.

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