Florida Court Discusses Violent Crimes as Defined by Federal Law

Pursuant to federal law, people convicted of certain offenses may be deemed career offenders and may face enhanced penalties if they are subsequently convicted of other offenses. One example of an offense that permits a career offender enhancement is a crime of violence. It is not always clear what falls under the umbrella of violent crime, however. In a recent case, a Florida court evaluated whether a Montana conviction for assaulting a police officer constituted a violent crime, ultimately ruling that it did. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is prudent to confer with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney who can help you formulate a compelling defense.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with an assault offense and unlawful possession of a weapon arising out of an incident that occurred when he was in a federal correctional institution. He pled guilty to the assault charge in exchange for the dismissal of the second offense. The defendant’s presentence investigation report included, in pertinent part, his Montana conviction for assaulting a police officer.

Reportedly, the sentencing court ultimately deemed the defendant a career offender under federal law, in part due to his Montana conviction being deemed a crime of violence. The defendant objected to the classification of the Montana assault as a crime of violence. The court overruled his objection and sentenced him to 96 months in prison. The defendant then appealed.

Violent Crimes as Defined by Federal Law

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision. Under Federal law, a crime of violence is any offense that has an element of the use or attempted or threatened use of physical force or is one of the enumerated crimes, including aggravated assault.

To evaluate whether a crime is a crime of violence, the courts employ a categorical approach, meaning that instead of focusing on the facts that lead to the conviction, they consider whether the underlying offense includes an element of the use or threatened or attempted use of physical force against another person. The court further explained that physical force is akin to violent force; in other words, force that has the potential to cause injury or pain.

In the subject case, the Montana statute defining assault of a police officer provided that a person commits the offense by causing bodily injury to a peace officer or creating a reasonable fear of such injury. Thus, the court found it to be a crime of violence and affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

Violent crimes not only carry significant penalties, but they can also result in sentence enhancement for subsequent convictions. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to discuss your possible defenses. The experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law are well-versed in what it takes to achieve favorable outcomes in criminal matters, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact us at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a meeting.

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