Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

The Florida courts staunchly punish sex crimes, especially when they involve minors. While the sentencing guidelines dictate what constitutes an appropriate punishment, they allow for enhanced sentences, if necessary, based on the facts of the case. In a recent Florida sex crime case, the court discussed the interpretation of the sentencing guidelines, ultimately determining that the defendant’s sentence was appropriate. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a sex crime, it is advisable to meet with a St. Petersburg sex crime defense lawyer to determine your possible defenses.

Case Setting

It is reported that the defendant arranged for the transportation of a 17-year-old girl from Texas to New Jersey to facilitate her involvement in commercial sex acts. Between February and April 2021, the defendant and the victim traveled through multiple states. During this period, the defendant instructed the victim to advertise sex work online, rented motel rooms for her, communicated with her regarding her activities, and took a portion of her earnings. A Florida Sherriff’s office rescued the victim during an undercover operation and arrested the defendant.

It is alleged that a federal grand jury indicted the defendant on four counts: knowingly transporting a minor for commercial sex acts, knowingly persuading a minor to engage in prostitution, using interstate commerce to promote prostitution, and knowingly transporting a person for the purpose of prostitution. The defendant pleaded guilty to all four counts without a plea agreement. The Presentence Investigation Report recommended a five-level repeat-offender enhancement under the Sentencing Guidelines. Continue Reading ›

In Florida, convictions for sex crimes typically result in substantial penalties. In some instances, a criminal defendant will try to seek a downward sentence by highlighting mitigating factors in their favor. The Florida courts are not required to reduce sentences due to such factors, though, as illustrated in a recent Florida case. If you are charged with sex offenses, it is wise to confer with a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to determine your options.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with numerous sex crimes involving minors, including creating, distributing, and possessing child pornography and transferring obscene materials to a minor. He entered guilty pleas to all of his charges without a plea agreement. Prior to sentencing, a presentence investigation report (PSI) was prepared describing his conduct. Specifically, it noted that he created videos of children being sexually abused, distributed them, and attempted to meet with up someone he thought was a thirteen year old child.

Reportedly, the advisory guidelines range the defendant’s charges was set at the statutory maximum of 960 months’ imprisonment, with a statutory minimum term of 180 months’ imprisonment. The defendant sought a downward variance from the guideline range to the statutory minimum, citing his difficult personal background marked by his mother’s alcoholism, mental health issues, and struggles with substance abuse. He argued that his mitigating circumstances warranted a lower sentence. Continue Reading ›

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 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 ›

Generally, the state cannot rely on a criminal defendant’s prior conviction to establish guilt for a current charge. The state can introduce evidence of previous convictions and other bad acts for other reasons, however, as long as it does not violate an evidentiary rule. Recently, a Florida court affirmed that evidence of a defendant’s prior conviction was relevant and, therefore, admissible in a matter in which it upheld the defendant’s conviction for possessing child pornography. If you are charged with possessing illegal materials of a sexual nature, it is wise to confer with a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to determine your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the government charged the defendant with possession of child pornography in violation of federal law. During his trial, the government introduced evidence of the defendant’s conviction for possessing child pornography in 1995. The defendant subsequently appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting such evidence.

Evidence Admissible in Criminal Trials

The trial court ruling was affirmed on appeal. The court explained that under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a court can exclude relevant evidence if its risk of causing unfair prejudice greatly overshadows its probative value. The court’s discretion to preclude evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence is narrowly drawn, and preclusion is an extreme remedy that should be used sparingly. Continue Reading ›

Florida, like most states, keeps track of people who have been convicted of sex crimes. As such, there are numerous criminal convictions that can require a person to register as a sex offender. Being forced to register as a sex offender can greatly impair a person’s ability to find employment, housing, and maintain relationships. Many people who are on the registry, therefore, contemplate whether it is possible to get their names permanently removed from the list. If you were convicted of a sex crime, it is advisable to speak with a knowledgeable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to explore what measures you can take to protect your rights.

Sex Offender Registry in Florida

The Florida Sex Offender Registry is a searchable public database that provides information regarding people who have been convicted of certain crimes. Specifically, it lists their names, date of birth, race, sex, hair and eye color, height, and weight. The registry also includes people’s occupations, including whether they have any professional licenses, notes, tattoos, or other identifying marks, and has a photograph of the person.

Pursuant to statutory law, people are required to register as sex offenders if they have been convicted for numerous crimes that are sexual in nature, including rape, sexual battery, child molestation and prostitution, lewd and lascivious offenses, like public exposure, and possession or distribution of child pornography. Even crimes that do not seem inherently sexual, like kidnapping and false imprisonment, may require a person to register as a sex offender. In many instances, people are not aware of the requirement to register as a sex offender if they are convicted of certain crimes and will unwittingly plead guilty and subsequently have to place their name on the list. 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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In many instances in which a person is charged with a sex crime, the State’s primary evidence against the person will consist of statements and testimony from the alleged victim. Thus, whether a person is convicted of a sex crime largely depends on whether the judge or jury finds the victim’s account of what occurred to be credible. In many cases, the State may attempt to bolster a victim’s credibility by offering testimony from other witnesses that corroborate the witness’s testimony. While some testimony is admissible, however, testimony regarding prior consistent statements made by the victim to third parties is only admissible in limited circumstances, as discussed in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous sex crimes. If you are faced with charges you committed a sex crime in St. Petersburg, it is prudent to speak with a diligent St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to assess what evidence the State may be permitted to use against you.

Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous sex crimes arising out of allegations of inappropriate contact with the victim, who was his minor daughter. Prior to the arrest, the victim made statements to a school nurse and detectives regarding the alleged contact. During the trial, the victim testified regarding the contact as well, and the State introduced testimony from the detectives and nurse regarding the victim’s prior statements. The defendant was convicted after which he appealed, arguing that the testimony of the nurse and detectives regarding the victim’s prior statements constituted inadmissible hearsay. The State argued the statements were admissible as they were offered to refute the defendant’s allegations regarding the victim’s motives for accusing the defendant of the actions that formed the basis of his charges.

Admissibility of Consistent Prior Statements

Generally, testimony regarding prior consistent statements made by a witness to a third party constitutes inadmissible hearsay and cannot be used to corroborate the witness’s in-court testimony. Prior inconsistent statements are admissible in limited circumstances, however, such as when they fall under an exception to the rule against hearsay or do not actually constitute hearsay. Specifically, a prior consistent statement is not inadmissible hearsay when a declarant testifies at trial and is cross-examined regarding the statement, and the statement is made to rebut a charge of a recent fabrication, improper motive, or undue influence.

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One of the many rights afforded criminal defendants by State and Federal law is the right to a speedy trial. In other words, a defendant cannot be arrested and then detained for an unreasonable amount of time prior to being tried, and if a defendant’s right to a speedy trial is violated, the charges against the defendant may be dismissed. In a recent case in which a defendant was charged with sexual battery, a Florida appellate court discussed the factors weighed in determining when an arrest occurred to determine whether the State violated a defendant’s right to a speedy trial. If you are charged with sexual battery or a related offense in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to speak to a capable St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

It is reported that a woman was sexually assaulted while running in a park in September 2017. Immediately after the incident, the woman advised her husband that the defendant was the assailant, and the husband detained the defendant until the police arrived. Upon arrival, the police questioned the defendant, read him his Miranda warnings, and took him to the police station where he was held in a cell. Additionally, DNA samples were taken from the defendant. The defendant was ultimately released and was formally arrested and charged with sexual battery in November 2018. The defendant then moved to have the charge dismissed, arguing that he was not charged within 175 days of his arrest as required by Florida’s speedy trial law. The court agreed and dismissed the charge, after which the State appealed.

Determining When an Arrest Occurred

Under Florida’s speedy trial law, a defendant must be charged within 175 days of his or her arrest. On appeal, the court noted that a person could be taken into custody for purposes of requiring a Miranda warning, but not for purposes of triggering the speedy trial rule. Rather, for purposes of evaluating if a person was arrested prior to a formal arrest, the court must conduct a four-part test. Specifically, the court must find that the purpose of the authority was to effect an arrest, the defendant was seized, the police officer communicated an intent to effect an arrest to the defendant, and the defendant believes the officer is there to detain and arrest him.

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