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.
The court explained that while the charged offenses were different, the lesser lewd or lascivious molestation charges would have necessarily been proven if the greater sexual battery charges were proven. In other words, the court found that because the information charged the defendant with greater crimes in a manner that included the lesser crimes, there was no prejudice in allowing the information to be amended. Specifically, the amended information charged the defendant with engaging in sexual acts so that the defendant was on notice of the nature of the incidents. As such, the trial court ruling was affirmed.
Meet with a Trusted St. Petersburg Attorney
Understanding the elements of a charged offense and what evidence the State must produce to obtain a conviction is critical to mounting a strong defense. If you are charged with a lewd and lascivious crime or any other offense of a sexual nature, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted St. Petersburg attorney who can fight to help you seek the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Hanlon by calling 727-897-5413 or using the form online to set up a conference.