Florida Court Discusses Grounds for Continuing Criminal Trials

While criminal defendants are not required to set forth a defense, many do, and it generally takes a substantial amount of time to gather the facts and evidence needed to refute the State’s claims. Thus, if a defendant is denied the right to have sufficient time to prepare a defense, it can greatly impact his or her rights. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which a defendant’s information was amended to include a burglary with assault and battery charge right before trial, but his request to continue the trial was denied.  If you are accused of assault and battery or other crime of violence, it is advisable to speak to a trusted St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to determine your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that the defendant and a friend visited the home of another woman in August 2016. The friend, who was homeless, sometimes stayed at the woman’s home with her children. The defendant and the woman left the home but returned later that evening. The defendant then reportedly engaged in illegal acts and was driven out of the home by the friend. He was subsequently charged with numerous offenses.

Reportedly, one week prior to trial, the State filed an amended information, setting forth a burglary with assault or battery charge against the defendant. The State also identified three additional witnesses two days later. The defendant filed a motion to continue the trial to afford him additional time to prepare his defense. The court denied the motion, and the defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Denial of a Motion for Continuance

Under Florida law, criminal defendants are entitled to a sufficient amount of time to prepare for trial. Thus, when a court denies a defendant’s motion for a continuance, the decision will be reversed if the defendant can establish a demonstrable abuse of discretion. The common element in cases in which an appellate court finds the trial court committed an error in denying a motion to continue is the denial of the defendant’s reasonable opportunity to prepare possible defenses and investigate the State’s claim.

Thus, in determining whether a trial court abused its discretion in denying a motion for continuance, a court will weigh whether it resulted in injustice, whether the moving party could have foreseen the underlying impetus for the motion or is engaging in dilatory tactics, and whether injustice will occur to the party opposing the motion if the motion is granted. Here, the court found that while the State had the right to amend the information, it was amended within a week of the trial and arose out of different facts than the prior charges. Thus, the court found that the denial of the motion was likely to result in an unjust outcome. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction for burglary with assault and battery and remanded for further proceedings.

Meet with a Seasoned St. Petersburg Attorney

If you are a resident of St. Petersburg currently faced with charges that you committed an assault and battery, it is critical to retain an attorney who will aggressively defend your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned battery defense attorney who is well-versed in what it takes to obtain successful results in criminal matters, and if he represents you, he will work tirelessly to help you pursue just results. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or via the form online to set up a consultation.

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