Attorney Photo

In Florida, if a person is charged with a sex crime the State may attempt to introduce proof that the person is guilty by introducing evidence of other crimes or similar acts. Although evidence of other crimes is admissible in some cases, the law protects criminal defendants from the introduction of misleading or prejudicial facts or allegations by strictly limiting what evidence may be introduced by the State. The District Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Florida recently discussed the grounds for admission of evidence of prior acts, in a case in which it precluded evidence of the defendant’s alleged past child molestation.  If you live in Tampa and are currently facing sex crime charges it is crucial to retain a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you seek a successful result.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation of a child who was less than twelve years old. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it intended to introduce evidence of other crimes or acts of child molestation that the defendant allegedly committed. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court entered an order prohibiting the State from admitting evidence of the defendant’s alleged prior acts of molestation. The State filed a petition for review of the order. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed.

Grounds for Admission of Prior Acts

In Florida criminal cases in which a defendant is accused of child molestation, evidence of other acts of molestation or other crimes or wrongs may be admitted and considered for any matter for which they are relevant. In denying the State’s use of prior acts evidence, the trial court noted that, under Florida law, a court weighing whether to admit evidence of prior bad acts must consider when the alleged acts occurred and the proximity in time between the prior act and current alleged acts.

Continue reading

Florida’s sentencing guidelines set forth the minimum and maximum sentences that may be imposed for specific crimes. In addition to the standard sentence, the guidelines allow for enhancements if certain elements are met. There are requirements that must be met before an enhanced sentence can be imposed, however, as explained in a case recently decided by the District Court of Appeals of the Fifth District, in which the defendant was sentenced to an enhanced penalty following assault and battery convictions. If you are charged with assault, battery, or any other violent crime it is vital to engage a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense and protecting your rights.

Facts Regarding the Charges and Conviction

The defendant was charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault. The information alleged that the defendant committed an aggravated battery in the alternative. In other words, it alleged that the defendant used a firearm or knowingly caused great bodily harm in committing the battery. Following a trial, he was convicted of both counts. Regarding the aggravated battery charge, the jury included a special verdict that stated that the defendant possessed and discharged a firearm causing great bodily harm. Similarly, the guilty verdict for the aggravated assault charge contained a special verdict stating the defendant possessed and displayed a firearm in the course of committing the crime. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for each charge, after which he moved to correct the sentences, arguing they were illegal.

Enhanced Sentences

The post-conviction relief court granted the defendant relief as to the sentence for the assault charge. Thus, the appellate court only addressed whether the sentence for the battery charge was proper. The court noted that if a person is convicted of aggravated battery in which he or she discharged a firearm and as a result of the discharge caused great bodily harm, the person will be sentenced to an enhanced minimum sentence of twenty-five years imprisonment. To pursue an enhanced mandatory sentence due to the use of a firearm, however, the State is required to set forth the grounds for the enhancement in the charging document. The State’s failure to precisely charge the elements cannot be cured by a jury’s findings.
Continue reading

Under Florida law, if a defendant is convicted of a crime, the penalty imposed will depend on several factors, including the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and the likelihood the defendant will commit another criminal offense. In some cases, the court will sentence a defendant to probation in lieu of jail time. A defendant sentenced to probation must comply with the terms and conditions of probation which are set by the court at the time of sentencing.

If a defendant violates any of the terms of probation it can result in a revocation of probation and a sentence of imprisonment. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed the State’s burden of proof in showing a defendant’s probation violation warrants revocation, in a case in which the defendant’s violation was revoked due to a willful violation.  If you are charged with a probation violation in Tampa, it is critical to speak with a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to prepare a defense.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Probation

While many people are aware of the protection afforded under the right against double jeopardy it is not always clear when double jeopardy applies and defendants are often convicted of more than one crime arising out of the same alleged act, in violation of double jeopardy. Recently, a Florida appellate court overturned a defendant’s conviction for grand theft auto, finding that it was precluded under double jeopardy due to his carjacking conviction. If you live in Tampa and are charged with grand theft or any other theft crime, it is important to protect your rights by retaining an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who will present a tenacious defense on your behalf.

The Alleged Carjacking and Grand Theft Auto

Allegedly, in August of 2015, a man went up to a woman approaching her car and pointed a gun at her, telling her if she screamed, he would shoot her. The man took the woman’s phone and purse and then used her keys to steal her car. The woman reported the car as stolen, and the police spotted the car with a license plate reader. The police pursued the car with lights and sirens activated, but the vehicle did not stop until it crashed. The defendant exited the vehicle after the crash and fled on foot. After a pursuit he was detained and arrested.

It is axiomatic that the State cannot convict a person of a DUI based on suspicion alone. In other words, if the State lacks concrete evidence that a DUI  has been committed, a defendant cannot be found guilty of DUI.

Recently, a Florida appellate court analyzed whether the identity of a DUI defendant is necessary to establish that a DUI has been committed. If you are a Tampa resident and are charged with a DUI or another crime, it is essential to retain a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Alleged Facts Regarding the Defendant’s DUI

Allegedly, a police officer observed a black SUV swerving through traffic at a speed that was twenty miles an hour over the posted speed limit. The officer observed the driver of the vehicle when it traveled past him, and noted that she was wearing a pink shirt and had long hair. The officer activated his emergency lights and sirens, and the driver increased her speed. The officer watched the vehicle run a red light and strike a valve box on the side of the road, after which he ended his pursuit.

Continue reading

Cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency that is not widely used or understood. As cryptocurrency is a relatively new technological development, many states do not have laws regulating cryptocurrency transactions or case law defining whether the laws the pertain to money and money services should apply to cryptocurrency.

Recently, a Florida appellate court ruled that a defendant could be charged with money laundering and unlawfully engaging in money services business based on transactions involving cryptocurrency If you live in Tampa and are charged with a criminal offense arising out of transactions involving cryptocurrency you should speak with a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to determine how to defend against the charges you face.

The Defendant’s Bitcoin Transactions

Allegedly, an undercover detective contacted the defendant regarding the sale of Bitcoins. Bitcoins are a type of cryptocurrency with no backing by the government. The defendant and the undercover detective engaged in several transactions in which the defendant sold the detective Bitcoins in exchange for cash. The defendant was not registered under either the state or federal databases as a “money services business.”

Continue reading

In some cases, it is beneficial to enter a guilty plea to criminal charges. It is essential that prior to entering a guilty plea a defendant understands the full extent of penalties he or she may face. If a defendant pleads guilty to a crime but is not fully informed of the potential sentences for the crime, he or she may be able to withdraw the plea.

A Florida appellate court recently addressed the standard for allowing a defendant to withdraw a plea after a conviction, in a case in which the defendant was not informed of mandatory sentencing requirements prior to entering his plea. If you are Tampa resident facing criminal charges, you should meet with a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss the potential penalties for the charges you face.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Plea and Sentencing

Reportedly, the defendant was involved in a motor vehicle collision in which he rear-ended another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle was paralyzed and the defendant was charged with DUI involving serious bodily injury to another.  The trial court advised the defendant during a change of plea colloquy that his driver’s license may be suspended “for additional periods” if he pled guilty to a drug offense. The court did not mention any other revocation. The defendant plead guilty, after which the State requested that the court permanently revoke the defendant’s driver’s license. Further, the State noted that the statutory minimum revocation was for three years.

Continue reading

In Florida criminal cases that are tried in front of a jury, the jury is responsible for assessing the evidence presented and issuing a verdict based on its assessment. The jury’s verdict will generally not be disturbed unless it is clearly against the weight of the evidence. If a court finds a jury’s verdict is not supported by the evidence of record, it may order a new trial.

A District Court of Appeal of Florida recently explained the standard for review for determining whether a verdict is against the weight of the evidence, in a case in which it affirmed the trial court’s order issuing a new trial. If you live in Tampa and are charged with a crime, it is important to retain an effective Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you protect your liberties.

The Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

Allegedly, the defendant was suspected of selling controlled substances. In an attempt to build its case against the defendant, the State wiretapped an informant and sent the information to the store where the defendant worked. The video footage obtained from the informant did not contain any evidence of a drug transaction. The State charged the defendant with selling a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a childcare facility and with possession of a controlled substance with an intent to sell.

Continue reading

Criminal defendants who plead guilty or no contest to criminal charges or are convicted of crimes following a trial may be sentenced to a term of probation in lieu of incarceration. Standard terms of probation typically include the requirement that the defendant refrains from violating any laws or committing any new offenses. If the State alleges a defendant on probation committed an offense, it can result in a revocation of the probation and increased penalties.

Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed the State’s burden of proof in revocation hearings, in a case in which the court reversed a trial court’s finding that the defendant had committed a crime. If you reside in Tampa and are facing criminal charges or the potential of revocation of your probation, it is in your best interest to consult a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you in your efforts to retain your rights and protect your future.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was on probation for various crimes. During his probation, it was alleged that he committed new offenses, thereby violating his probation. Specifically, it was alleged that he used cocaine and committed the offenses of theft, dealt in stolen property, and provided false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer. A probation revocation hearing was held, after which the court found the defendant violated his probation by committing the alleged offenses and revoked his probation. The defendant appealed, arguing in part, that there was insufficient evidence he provided false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer.

Continue reading

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution provides that a defendant can only be convicted of the crimes charged in the indictment. In some cases, the court will allow a conviction despite the fact that the evidence produced is insufficient to prove the specific crime listed in the indictment. A conviction for a crime other than the crimes listed in the indictment is often based on a constructive amendment of the indictment which is impermissible and can result in a reversal of the conviction.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently explained the grounds for a reversal based on a constructive amendment in a case where the defendant was convicted of conspiracy to distribute one of the four drugs listed in the indictment. If you are charged with a crime and currently live in Tampa, it is wise to obtain the services of a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you seek the best possible legal outcome under the facts of your case.

The Defendant’s Indictment and Conviction

Reportedly, the indictment charged the defendant with conspiring to distribute a controlled substance. The indictment listed four drugs as the controlled substances the defendant allegedly conspired to distribute. Following a trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of conspiring to distribute as to only one of the drugs listed. The defendant appealed, arguing that the court constructively amended the indictment to allow the government to obtain a conviction due to evidence that the defendant conspired to distribute only one of the drugs rather than all four.

Continue reading