Articles Posted in Violent Crimes

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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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.

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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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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All criminal offenders are not the same in the eyes of the law when it comes to sentencing. If a person who is convicted of a crime has certain prior convictions, he or she may be deemed a career offender and be subject to enhanced penalties. Only enumerated crimes, crimes of violence and certain drug crimes count toward career offender status, however. Whether a crime is a crime of violence is frequently debated in the Florida courts.

Recently, the District Court for the Eleventh Circuit rejected a defendant’s argument that kidnapping was not a violent crime, affirming his enhanced sentence. If you live in St. Petersburg and face criminal charges, it is important to know how any prior convictions may affect your case and possible sentence. You should consult a knowledgeable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case and any defenses to the charges you face.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Prior Convictions

It is reported that the defendant was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamines and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, to which he pled guilty. He was previously convicted of kidnapping, armed assault or battery with a weapon, and possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute. As such, the trial court designated him a career offender and sentenced him to 160 months in prison. He appealed his sentence, arguing that the trial court erred in designating him a career offender because a Florida kidnapping conviction does not qualify as a crime of violence. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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The criminal legal system treats juvenile defendants differently than adult defendants. Juveniles are generally granted more protection of their rights and are often subject to different sentencing. For example, the United States Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida that any life sentence imposed on a juvenile offender who was convicted of a non-homicide offense must provide a meaningful chance for the offender to be released before the end of the sentence.

The Supreme Court of Florida recently ruled in Franklin v. State, that the Graham holding did not prohibit a court from imposing a 1,000-year sentence with parole eligibility. If you are a juvenile charged with a crime in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to assess the potential penalties for the crime you are charged with and help you to formulate a defense.

Alleged Facts Regarding Crimes and Sentencing

Allegedly, the defendant committed several violent crimes when he was seventeen. He was charged with several crimes in three separate cases, including kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. During the trial in one of his cases, a physician who treated the victim testified the victim suffered the most severe injuries he had ever witnessed.

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In a case recently heard by the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, a defendant who was convicted of first degree murder with a firearm appealed his case. His argument rests on his contention that he should have been able to speak directly with his attorney during a ten-minute break between his direct testimony and being cross-examined by the prosecutor. The assistance of counsel is an integral part of the American justice system. In fact, this right is so fundamental that defendants who are not able to afford attorney will have one provided for them. However, defendants can still use their own skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney if they so choose.

Evidence at Trial

During the trial, the evidence showed that the defendant had called 911 from a hotel room where the victim was lying dead with gunshot wounds. Analysis from the crime lab showed that the deadly shot had come from the defendant’s firearm. Initially, the defendant claimed that the woman had shot herself. During a later part of the videotaped interview, he changed his story and said that he the victim after voices from the TV commanded him to kill her. He explained that he lied at first because he was worried about going to prison.

Laws change all the time. When the legislature is in session and passing new laws, these laws will usually have a date that they go into effect. However, sometimes a law can also apply retroactively. That means that even if the conduct occurred before the law was passed, the new law will still apply to it. One of the jobs of the court is to look at the rules around different kinds of laws and decide whether they should apply prospectively – meaning, only apply to conduct in the future from the date it was passed – or retroactively. If you have been charged with a crime, a skilled St. Petersburg defense attorney may be able to help you find new laws that could apply to your case.

Changes in the Stand Your Ground Law

A notable case revolves around the changes made to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This law has been in effect since 2005. The “Stand Your Ground” law makes it so that individuals no longer have a duty to retreat before using force in self-defense. In the past, before resorting to self-defense, an individual had a duty to leave the premises if they could do so safely. It also protects those who use force in self-defense from legal charges. Initially, the burden was on the person who used force to prove by the preponderance of the evidence that the use of force was necessary to prevent great bodily harm or imminent death. However, a new law signed by the governor of Florida on June 9, 2017 changed the burden of persuasion in “Stand Your Ground” cases. The defendant only needs to make a prima facie showing of self-defense. Then, the new law puts the burden on the State to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the self-defense was not justified.

There are very specific rules about which kinds of evidence can be presented to the jury during a criminal case. If evidence is admitted that should not be, the evidence can be suppressed. If evidence crucial to the prosecution’s case is deemed to be inadmissible, the charges may be thrown out. Evidence that is admitted, but is later found to be improper, may result in the conviction being thrown out as long as it meets certain criteria. It is important to have a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney working on your case to make sure that any improper evidence is not admitted.Chain of Custody

The chain of custody refers to the handling of evidence. In order to help authenticate evidence as being genuine, anyone who had access to or custody of the evidence should offer a sworn statement about their possession and handling of the evidence. Florida law requires that evidence be authenticated before it can be admitted. However, the threshold for this evidence is “relatively low.” All that is required is a prima facie showing that the evidence is authentic. In other words, almost any direct or circumstantial evidence can be used to show that the evidence is authentic.

Facts of the Case