Florida Court Discusses Evidence Needed to Support a Conviction

Under Florida law, people accused of committing crimes have the right to know the elements of the charged offense and the evidence the prosecution intends to introduce against them. As such, if the prosecution fails to provide them with such information and they are subsequently convicted, they may have grounds for pursuing an appeal. As illustrated in a recent Florida case, however, they must abide by the procedural rules, and if they fail to do so, their appeal will likely be denied. If you are accused of a violent offense, it is wise to meet with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense lawyer to develop a strategy for pursuing a good outcome.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with burglary of a structure with assault or battery but was convicted of the permissive lesser included offense of burglary of an occupied structure. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that dismissal was proper due to the state’s failure to provide him with discovery. The state had provided discovery for one of his other pending cases but not for the subject matter. At a hearing, the state explained the oversight, provided the defendant with additional discovery, and the trial court conducted a Richardson hearing to address the discovery violation. The trial court found a discovery violation but ruled it was not willful or intentional, offering the defendant additional time to prepare for trial, which he refused, insisting on a speedy trial.

Reportedly, during the trial, evidence showed that the defendant forcibly entered a business chased the owner’s stepdaughter inside, resulting in her injury. The trial court found him guilty of the lesser included offense of burglary of an occupied structure and sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. The defendant filed a motion to correct sentencing error, arguing that the information was insufficient to support the conviction. The trial court denied the motion, finding the information sufficient. The defendant appealed.

Evidence Needed to Support a Conviction

The first issue the defendant raised on appeal was whether the information supported his conviction for the permissive lesser included offense. The court noted that the issue was not preserved as the defendant raised it for the first time in a motion under rule 3.800(b)(2), which typically addresses sentencing errors.

Even though other cases allowed for preserving issues related to sentencing enhancements via this type of motion, the court noted that in this case, the motion concerned the sufficiency of the information for the lesser included offense, not a sentencing enhancement, and was, therefore, improper. While the defendant argued that burglary of an occupied structure was not properly charged in the information, the court found that the defendant had ample notice of the charge and opportunity to object to the incorrect information during trial and failed to do so. Thus, the trial court did not commit a fundamental error by convicting him under the lesser included charge.

As for the discovery violation, the court found that even if one occurred, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss. The defendant had been offered additional time to prepare after receiving discovery, and he failed to demonstrate how earlier access to the materials would have affected his trial preparation. Therefore, finding no reversible error, the court affirmed the defendant’s judgment and sentence.

Talk to a Knowledgeable St. Peterburg Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are accused of a violent crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable St. Petersburg violent crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law are adept at helping people fight to protect their interests in criminal matters, and if we represent you, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us using our form online or call us at 727-897-5413 to arrange a meeting.

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