DUI offenses are not merely traffic violations; instead, they are crimes that can carry significant penalties. There are limitations to the penalties a court can impose for a DUI offense, though, and if a court imposes a sentence over the maximum permitted, it may be unlawful. This was demonstrated recently when a Florida court vacated a sentence for DUI manslaughter on the grounds that it did not include a mandatory probationary component. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is important to retain a St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyer who can assist you in fighting to protect your rights.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and convicted of DUI manslaughter. The trial court sentenced him to fifteen years in prison, with a four-year mandatory term. The defendant appealed, but his conviction and sentence were confirmed without an opinion. He then filed a petition, alleging his appellate counsel was ineffective in that he failed to argue that the defendant’s fifteen-year sentence for DUI manslaughter lacked the probationary component required under Florida law. In support of his argument, he referred to a recent Florida decision that held that when a defendant is convicted of a DUI offense, the total sentence cannot exceed fifteen years, which includes the appropriate probationary period. The court agreed with the defendant’s assertions and, therefore, reversed his conviction.

Florida’s DUI Sentencing Laws

To prove a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, a defendant must show that the appellate attorney’s performance was deficient and that the deficiency of that performance compromised the appellate process to such a degree as to undermine confidence in the fairness and correctness of the appellate result. Appellate counsel can be ineffective for failing to raise issues of merit based on law decided during the pendency of a direct appeal. Continue Reading ›

Although there are sentencing guidelines for violations of both state and federal law, the courts have significant leeway when determining what constitutes an appropriate sentence. The penalties they deliver must be reasonable, however, and if they are not, they may be overturned. In a recent Florida opinion issued in an identity theft case, the court discussed factors weighed in determining the reasonableness of a sentence. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is important to understand the penalties you may face if you are convicted, and you should speak to a St. Petersburg theft crime defense attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple counts of aggravated identity theft and having fifteen or more unauthorized access devices in violation of federal law. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of possessing unauthorized access devices under a plea agreement.

It is reported that the presentence report stated that during his arrest, the defendant destroyed multiple devices that contained evidence of his theft and that the funds he diverted included COVID unemployment benefits. The Government sought a sentence of 51 months due to the egregiousness of the defendant’s crimes, his destruction of evidence, and his prior criminal history, while the defendant argued that the court should impose a 45-month sentence. The court agreed with the Government and sentenced the defendant to 51 months in prison, after which he appealed, arguing that the sentence was unreasonable. Continue Reading ›

Under Florida law, people can avoid criminal prosecution for assault if they can establish that they used force in self-defense. The defense is not available to people who act as the initial aggressor, however. Further, all affirmative defenses must be asserted in a timely manner, otherwise, they may be rejected. In a recent Florida opinion issued in an aggravated battery case, the court discussed self-defense immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, ultimately determining that it did not apply. If you are accused of battery or another violent offense, it is prudent to talk to a St. Petersburg violent offense defense attorney about what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that the State charged the defendant with aggravated battery with a firearm causing substantial bodily harm. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the information on the grounds that he was immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing but denied the defendant’s motion.

Reportedly, approximately four months later and less than two weeks before his trial, the defendant filed an emergency petition for a writ of prohibition. The court stayed proceedings to allow the parties to address the defendant’s delay in filing the petition. The defendant argued that his delay was not inordinate but was reasonable. Continue Reading ›

Pursuant to state and federal law, people cannot be convicted more than once of the same offense, as it violates the prohibition against double jeopardy. While in some instances, it is clear that a conviction constitutes double jeopardy, in others, it is less obvious. For example, a Florida court recently clarified that multiple DUI convictions arising out of a single individual’s harm constitute the same criminal offense and, as such, constitute double jeopardy. If you are charged with a DUI, it is wise to meet with a St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyer to evaluate your possible defenses.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with three DUI offenses arising out of one incident: driving under the influence and causing serious bodily injury to victim one, driving under the influence and causing serious bodily injury to victim two, and driving under the influence and causing damage to the property of victim one.

It is reported that the case proceeded to trial before a jury, and the defendant was found guilty. She was sentenced to a total of nine years in prison and one year of probation. She appealed, arguing that her convictions and sentences for the crimes involving victim one violated her protections against double jeopardy. Continue Reading ›

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It is not uncommon for people to be charged with multiple crimes. While the judge or jury determining guilt in a criminal matter has the right to find a defendant committed one crime but not the other, the verdicts must be consistent. In other words, if one verdict negates the elements needed to convict the defendant of another charge, the verdicts will be deemed inconsistent and most likely will be reversed, as shown in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with felony murder and other crimes. If you are accused of committing a violent offense, it is in your best interest to talk to a St. Petersburg violent crime defense lawyer about your options for seeking a just result.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant with robbery and first-degree felony murder. The state asserted that the defendant killed the victim while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate a robbery and that he attempted to rob the victim with a firearm. Additionally, in both counts, the state alleged that the defendant had and discharged a gun, causing the victim’s death.

It is reported that following a trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of the first-degree felony murder charge and specifically found that he had and discharged a firearm during the commission of the crime, causing great bodily harm or death. The jury found the defendant not guilty of attempted robbery, however. As such, the defendant moved for arrest of judgment based on an inconsistent verdict. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

Generally, the state cannot rely on a criminal defendant’s prior conviction to establish guilt for a current charge. The state can introduce evidence of previous convictions and other bad acts for other reasons, however, as long as it does not violate an evidentiary rule. Recently, a Florida court affirmed that evidence of a defendant’s prior conviction was relevant and, therefore, admissible in a matter in which it upheld the defendant’s conviction for possessing child pornography. If you are charged with possessing illegal materials of a sexual nature, it is wise to confer with a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to determine your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the government charged the defendant with possession of child pornography in violation of federal law. During his trial, the government introduced evidence of the defendant’s conviction for possessing child pornography in 1995. The defendant subsequently appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting such evidence.

Evidence Admissible in Criminal Trials

The trial court ruling was affirmed on appeal. The court explained that under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a court can exclude relevant evidence if its risk of causing unfair prejudice greatly overshadows its probative value. The court’s discretion to preclude evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence is narrowly drawn, and preclusion is an extreme remedy that should be used sparingly. Continue Reading ›

Most Florida citizens have the right to own firearms, but for convicted felons, carrying a gun can lead to felony charges. Further, if their prior offenses were violent crimes, they may face lengthy prison sentences if they are convicted. In a recent Florida case, the court analyzed whether resisting an officer, and other offenses constituted violent predicate crimes, ultimately concluding that they did. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is important to talk to a St. Petersburg gun crime defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with possession of ammunition and a firearm as a felon. He entered a guilty plea. He was then sentenced to fifteen years in prison under the Armed Career Criminal Act (the Act). He appealed, arguing that his prior convictions for battery, robbery, and resisting an officer were not considered violent felonies under the Act. He further asserted that the enhanced mandatory minimum sentence imposed under the Act violated his protections against double jeopardy.

Violent Offenses Under Florida Law

The court rejected the defendant’s reasoning and affirmed his sentence. The court explained that it reviewed whether a crime categorically qualifies as a violent felony under the Act de novo, while double jeopardy claims were reviewed for clear error. Under the Act, a minimum of a fifteen-year term of imprisonment must be imposed for anyone convicted of certain federal gun crimes if they have three prior violent felony convictions. Violent felonies include crimes that have the use or attempted or threatened use of physical force as an element. Continue Reading ›

If a person is convicted of a sex crime, their rights may be impacted long after any penalties imposed for the crime are served. For example, sex offenders are often prohibited from entering certain areas where children are present and, in some cases, may be barred from having contact with children altogether. In a recent case decided by the District Court of Appeals of Florida, Fourth District, the court analyzed a court’s jurisdiction to modify the terms of restrictions of probation imposed on a person convicted of a sex crime. If you are a resident of St. Petersburg faced with charges of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted St. Petersburg sex crime attorney regarding your rights.

Facts Regarding the Underlying Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with over thirty counts of controlling, possessing, or intentionally viewing photographs depicting sexual conduct involving a child. The defendant pleaded guilty to three of the counts, and the State agreed not to prosecute the remaining counts. The defendant was then sentenced to a term of imprisonment for eighteen months, to be followed by ten years of supervised sex offender probation. One of the conditions of the defendant’s probation was that he was barred from having any unsupervised contact with a child under the age of eighteen.

Allegedly, in 2018, over a year after the probationary sentence was imposed, the defendant filed a motion asking the court to clarify the condition regarding unsupervised contact with a child. Essentially, the defendant’s motion asked the court to remove the condition as a term of his probation so that he could reside with his wife and two minor children following his release from prison. The court held a hearing, after which it granted the defendant’s motion. The State appealed.

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The United States Constitution protects criminal defendants from unjust outcomes. For example, the Fifth Amendment prohibits a person from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime. In spite of the protections offered by the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, it is not uncommon for a criminal defendant to be convicted for multiple variants of the same offense. In such instances, one of the convictions should be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion issued in a DUI case. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a St. Petersburg DUI defense attorney about your rights.

The Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that, in 2014, the defendant drove his truck through a red light and collided with a man driving a scooter. The man suffered critical bodily harm in the crash. The defendant left the scene of the accident but was later found by the police at his apartment. When the police spoke with the defendant, they noticed he demonstrated signs that he was impaired by alcohol.

It is reported that a breath test indicated that the defendant’s BAC exceeded the legal limit, and a urine test was positive for cocaine. The defendant was charged with numerous DUI offenses. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was found guilty as charged. He subsequently appealed his convictions for DUI causing damage to a person and DUI causing serious bodily injury on the grounds they violated double jeopardy. Continue Reading ›

Generally, people who are considered career criminals face greater penalties than those with no criminal history. As such, if a person who has multiple prior convictions is found guilty of another offense, they may be subject to sentencing enhancements. While generally, crimes are discrete acts, a person can be charged with numerous offenses for one criminal enterprise. Crimes committed from a single criminal episode do not trigger the Armed Career Criminal Act (the Act) for sentencing purposes, though, as recently explained by the United States Supreme Court in a case in which the defendant had ten prior robbery convictions stemming from a single incident. If you are charged with robbery or any other violent crime, it is prudent to meet with a St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney to assess your options.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant broke into a storage facility in 1997 and stole from ten separate units. He was subsequently charged with and convicted of ten counts of burglary. In 2014, a police officer entered the defendant’s home and observed the defendant with a rifle in his possession. He was then charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of federal law. The defendant was found guilty and determined to be an armed career criminal under the Act, due to his ten prior robbery convictions. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, after which he appealed. The appellate court affirmed his sentence, and he filed a writ of certiorari.

Criminal Convictions in the Context of the Career Criminal Act

The issue the Supreme Court addressed was whether crimes that are committed sequentially as part of a single event occur on different occasions for purposes of imposing a sentence enhancement under the Act. The Court ruled that they did not, and reversed the lower court ruling. Continue Reading ›

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