Florida Court Discusses Vacating Convictions on Double Jeopardy Grounds

It is not uncommon for the State to charge people with multiple crimes related to a theft scheme. While it is not unlawful to charge people with numerous offenses at one time, the protections against double jeopardy prohibit a person from being tried or convicted more than once for the same crime. As such, any conviction that violates a person’s protections against double jeopardy must be vacated, as demonstrated by a recent Florida decision issued in a theft case. If you are faced with theft charges, it is smart to confer with a St. Petersburg theft crime defense lawyer to evaluate your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the two defendants were both employed by a health services company. The first defendant served as the chief operating officer, while the second defendant was the executive director. Charges stemmed from their involvement in back-billing Medicaid for services that were never provided to patients. Both were charged with Medicaid provider fraud and grand theft. Following a joint trial, the jury convicted the first defendant of Medicaid provider fraud and grand theft with a value below $20,000, while the jury convicted the second defendant of Medicaid provider fraud and grand theft with a value above $20,000.

Allegedly, both defendants moved to vacate their grand theft convictions based on double jeopardy grounds, arguing that all elements of grand theft were encompassed within Medicaid provider fraud. The court trial court agreed and granted the defendants’ motions. The State then appealed.

Vacating Convictions on Double Jeopardy Grounds

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision to vacate the grand theft convictions. Prior to doing so, the court applied the Blockburger test to determine if each offense required proof of an element that the other did not.

Despite the State’s argument that specific intent to deprive or appropriate property was required for grand theft but not for Medicaid provider fraud, the court disagreed. It cited Florida statutes, which define “knowingly” as requiring specific intent to commit Medicaid provider fraud, including the intent to submit a false claim for payment.

As such, the court concluded that the elements of grand theft were subsumed within Medicaid provider fraud, as they both required proof of specific intent. This interpretation aligned with previous rulings where offenses were deemed to violate double jeopardy protections when all elements of the lesser offense were included in the greater offense. Consequently, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision to vacate the grand theft convictions for both defendants.

Consult an Experienced St. Peterburg Criminal Defense Attorney

Although theft crimes generally do not cause bodily harm, the courts regard them as serious offenses, and people found guilty of such acts may face significant penalties. If you are charged with a theft offense, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced 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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