As with all criminal defendants, a defendant who is charged with sex crimes is protected by the rule against double jeopardy, which protects defendants from multiple convictions for the same criminal act. The Supreme Court of Florida recently addressed the issue of whether convictions for the unlawful use of a communication device and use of a computer to solicit a minor were based upon the same conduct as traveling after solicitation of a minor and violated double jeopardy. If you are a St. Petersburg resident and are facing charges of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced St. Petersburg sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss available defenses to the charges you face.
Reportedly, the defendant placed an ad on a website, seeking a casual sexual encounter with a male under 25 years old. An investigator responded to the ad on the suspicion that it was an attempt to solicit a minor. The investigator informed the defendant he was a 14-year-old boy. Over the following two weeks, the “boy” and the defendant exchanged emails in which the defendant suggested that they engage in sexual activity. The defendant then asked the “boy” to meet in person. When the defendant arrived at the agreed upon location, he was arrested. Medication to treat erectile dysfunction was found in his van.
The defendant was charged with: traveling after solicitation of a minor to engage in sexual acts; solicitation of a minor; and use of a two-way communication device to facilitate the commission of a felony. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing that the charges of solicitation of a minor and unlawful use of a communication device violated double jeopardy. The court denied the motion and the case proceeded to trial. The defendant was convicted of all charges, after which he appealed.
Double Jeopardy Principles
On appeal, the court noted that only the charging document or the evidentiary record should be reviewed when determining whether multiple convictions violate double jeopardy. To determine whether multiple convictions violate double jeopardy, a court looks at whether each crime contains an element that is not contained within the other crimes. If they do not, they are the same offense, and double jeopardy prohibits separate convictions for crimes based on the same conduct.
The court held that convictions for solicitation and traveling after solicitation violate double jeopardy. Specifically, the court explained that the State relied upon the same conduct to charge for both crimes. The court noted that in some cases, where multiple acts of solicitation are alleged, the charges may be based on separate conduct and would not violate double jeopardy. In the subject case, however, the defendant was only charged with a single count of each crime. As such, the court had no way of knowing whether the jury convicted the defendant of all three crimes based on the same act. Based on the foregoing, the court vacated the defendant’s convictions of solicitation of a minor and unlawful use of a communication device.
Meet with a Trusted St. Petersburg Sex Crime Defense Attorney
If you are a St. Petersburg resident and are charged with a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted St. Petersburg sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a St. Petersburg defense attorney who will offer you an aggressive defense for the charges you face and fight to help you retain your rights. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Supreme Court Hears Double Jeopardy Argument in Attempted Sexual Battery Case, September 10, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog