Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

Battery is a severe charge that carries weighty penalties. Additionally, if a person convicted of battery is later found guilty of another crime, their penalties may be increased. In most cases, crimes are classified according to their severity, and convictions for more egregious crimes can result in long prison sentences. A Florida court recently reviewed how previous record points are assessed for crimes that are not classified by degree in a case where the defendant claimed his prior convictions for battery and other charges were unjustly calculated. If you are charged with battery or any other crime, it is in your best interest to  consult with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a just result.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with battery, kidnapping, and other offenses. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He filed a motion in July 2020, alleging that the life sentence he received for kidnapping was excessive. In other words, he argued that his sentencing guideline scorecard was inaccurate because his previous conviction was in the early 1970s when Florida crimes were not classified by degrees. Additionally, he asserted that because the degrees of his previous convictions were not defined, they should have been classified as third-degree felonies. The court denied his petition and he appealed.

When a person is charged with a crime, the court will typically set one or more hearings that the individual must attend. Even if a person makes every effort to appear in court, mistakes sometimes happen, and a criminal defendant may fail to show up for a scheduled hearing. It is important for people who have missed court dates to understand the potential consequences of their actions and what measures they should take to mitigate the possible penalties. If you missed a scheduled criminal hearing, it is in your best interest to meet with a capable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your options.

What to Do if You’ve Missed Your Court Date

First, it is prudent for anyone who has missed a court date to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Typically, the attorney will contact the court and attempt to diminish any negative ramifications that may arise out of the failure to appear. For example, if you were released on bond prior to the hearing, the bond may be forfeited, and you may have to pay additional fees to remain out of jail. In some instances, the bond may be revoked altogether, and you may be sentenced to pre-trial detention. The judge could also issue a bench warrant, which means that the police can arrest you and detain you in jail until your next hearing date.

Perhaps the most serious consequence you might face for the failure to appear for a court hearing is in additional charges outside of the offenses the hearing you missed was scheduled to address. Specifically, Florida Statute 843.15 provides that if you willfully fail to appear before a judge, you may be charged with a crime. If the underlying offense you are charged with is a felony, you will be charged with a felony of the third degree, while if the underlying charge was a misdemeanor, you will be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree. You may also be held in contempt of court. Continue Reading ›

In Florida, the State will typically institute a criminal case by filing an information with a court. An information sets forth the charges against the defendant as well as the essential facts that support such charges. Thus, if the State is permitted to amend the information after the case is underway, it may adversely affect a criminal defendant’s substantive rights. Recently, a Florida court issued an opinion discussing when an amendment of an information is permissible in a case in which the defendant was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. If you are faced with accusations that you engaged in criminally inappropriate behavior, it is wise to talk to a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to determine what defenses you may be able to set forth.

The Charges Against the Defendant

It is reported that the defendant was charged with four counts of sexual battery and numerous other crimes via an information. During the trial, the State moved to amend the information to change the sexual battery crimes to lewd or lascivious molestation. The defendant objected, but the trial court permitted the State to make the requested changes. The jury found the defendant guilty as charged, after which the defendant appealed, arguing that the amendment violated his rights. On appeal, the appellate court found in favor of the State.

When Amendment of an Information is Permitted

Under Florida law, amending an information during trial is permitted in certain circumstances. Specifically, the State may substantively amend an information at trial, even if a defendant objects to the modification, if it will not result in prejudice to the substantial rights of the defendant. If the defendant’s rights will be violated, however, a request to amend an information should be denied. In the subject case, the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the amendment did not impair the defendant’s substantive rights.

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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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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 ›

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 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.

Anyone charged with a crime has the inalienable right to a trial in front of a jury of his or her peers. Under Florida law, a trial for a capital case requires a panel of twelve jurors, while all other crimes may be tried before six jurors.

A Florida District Court of Appeal recently analyzed whether a defendant was entitled to a panel of twelve jurors in a case in which the state waived the right to seek the death penalty, and ultimately ruled that the decision not to impose the death penalty did not change the capital nature of the crime. If you live in St. Petersburg and are charged with a criminal offense it is prudent to consult a seasoned St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and develop a plan of action to help you retain your rights.

Procedural Background

The defendant was indicted for several crimes, including first-degree murder, which is a capital offense. The State waived the right to seek the death penalty. The trial court issued an order that required the defendant to be tried before a six-person jury. The State filed a petition seeking to quash the motion. The appellate court granted the petition.

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Criminal defendants are protected from being tried or convicted more than once for the same crime by the rule against Double Jeopardy. The rule only applies in limited circumstances, however.

For example, a Florida District Court of Appeal recently ruled that dual battery convictions did not violate double jeopardy, despite the fact that the charges both arose out of the same set of facts. If you are a St. Petersburg resident charged with a crime, you should retain an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to analyze the facts of your case and assist you in developing a strong defense.

Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant was arrested following a fight in the parking lot of a restaurant. He was charged with several crimes, including burglarizing a conveyance with assault or battery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Following a trial, he was convicted of burglarizing a conveyance with assault or battery, and the jury specifically determined that he had committed both an assault and a battery during the course of the burglary. He was also convicted of the included lesser offense of battery for the aggravated battery charge. He appealed, arguing in part that the convictions for both battery offenses violated double jeopardy. On appeal, the court affirmed his convictions.

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