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firearmsJust because you are charged with a crime does not mean that you will be convicted. Many times the police, District Attorney, or other people involved in your case will make a mistake. Luckily, if you have a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney on your side they can advocate for you both before and during the court process. In this case, a man was charged with “possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon.” However, the appeals court in this case later overturned this conviction and sent it back to the lower court for a new trial.

Definition of Firearm

The defendant initially tried to argue that he should not be charged with this crime because it was a firearm and thus not a “weapon.” Therefore, he argued, if it is not a weapon it cannot be a “concealed weapon.” This argument has been successful in the second circuit, but this court – the Florida First District Court of Appeal – did not agree. They noted that Florida’s statute does define weapon as including guns.

“Possession vs. Carrying”

The defendant was successful on his other argument though. He noted that in his initial trial the jury was instructed to consider whether the defendant was guilty of “possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon.” However, this crime does not exist. The actual language that the court should have used is “carrying a concealed weapon by a felon.” This case revolves around the distinction between “carrying” and “possession.” Continue reading

behind barsIn order for a defendant to be able to stand trial, they need to be competent. Competency has many definitions, but for the purposes of Florida criminal law it is specifically defined in the statute. There is also a body of case law that has developed around competency and when a competency hearing is needed. If you are charged with a crime, your skilled Florida criminal defense attorney will help to make sure the state adequately proves your competency to stand trial.

Competency Definition

Defendants need to be competent to stand trial. Generally, competency requires that a defendant be able to understand the purpose and nature of the charges and legal proceedings against them. Defendants also need to be able to assist their counsel with their defense. Generally, the defendant needs to be aware that they are facing potential jail time or other consequences and that the state is trying to prove a case against them. A defendant must also be able to understand that their attorney is there to help them defend themselves against the charges. They must also have some understanding of the expectations for behavior in court, such as not yelling at the judge. Just having mental illness is not nearly enough to be found incompetent to stand trial; the defendant needs to have no meaningful understanding of what is happening.

search warrantIn the United States, the police are not just able to search anyone at any time. The Constitution – specifically the Fourth Amendment – guarantees that individuals are free from illegal search and seizure. If you are searched illegally, there is not usually anything you can do about it in that moment. However, if evidence of illegal activity is found during the search, and that evidence is later used to convict someone of a crime, the conviction may be vacated. That is what happened in this case, heard by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal. The laws around what is an illegal seizure and illegal search are very fact specific. Therefore, if you have questions you should talk to a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney familiar with Florida laws and they can help you to figure out whether a search was permissible in your specific circumstances.

Terry Stops

A 1968 case called Terry established the test for what is legal when it comes to “stop and frisk” searches. The test has two prongs. First, for the search to be permissible the police need to have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity “afoot.” The police need to be able to articulate what makes them suspicious of the behavior; it can’t just be based on a vague feeling or hunch. They don’t need to witness actual criminal behavior, but there needs to be something that they can define as relatable to potential criminal activity.

conspiracy“Innocent until proven guilty” is one of the foundations of our criminal justice system. It is not just an expression, but a requirement that the state have enough evidence against defendants to sufficiently prove whatever is alleged. Therefore, in order to convict someone for a crime, the state must prove all of the elements of the crime. If there is not sufficient evidence of one or more elements of the crime then the charge (or conviction if it’s an appeal) should be thrown out. In a case heard by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, a defendant’s conviction for conspiracy was thrown out after the appeals court held that there was not sufficient evidence as to one of the elements of the crime. A skilled Tampa drug crimes defense attorney may be able to help you to get charges thrown out if the state does not meet their burden of proof as to all the elements of the crime.

Conspiracy in Florida

In order to prove that a conspiracy has been committed, Florida law requires the state to show that there was an agreement to commit an offense. In this instance, the state presented evidence to show that the defendant’s boyfriend met with a criminal informant to sell him cocaine. He had apparently sold small amounts of the drug to the informant in the past, but this time was planning to sell a larger amount. They planned to meet in the parking lot of a shopping center. The defendant testified that her boyfriend came to her house and asked her to drive him to the store in his car.

Legal News GavelMany states, including Florida, have special laws about assaults on emergency medical care providers. If an emergency medical care provider is battered while working in their capacity as a health care provider, then what would normally be a first degree misdemeanor becomes a third degree felony. The specifics of the statute are discussed below. If you are accused of this or any other criminal charges, it is crucial that you contact a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you develop a defense strategy.

The Statute

Section 784.07 of the Florida Statutes defines what is required for a conviction for battery on an emergency care provider. Specifically, it is defined as when one person intentionally strikes another person against their will, and the person who was hit was “engaged in the lawful performance of her duties” as an emergency medical care provider.

As representatives of the State, prosecutors have special responsibilities that the defense does not have. Prosecutors are supposed to be on the side of justice, so they should look at the evidence with that goal in mind. If they find evidence that would tend to show that the defendant is innocent, they have a responsibility to share that evidence. Specifically, a Supreme Court case called Brady requires that the prosecution must turn over any evidence to the defense that meets certain criteria. If they do not do this, a conviction may be reversed. There are a number of different ways that a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney may be able to get your conviction overturned. Of course, individual results will depend on the facts of your case.Legal News Gavel

Brady Violations

There are certain requirements that need to be met in order for a court to find that a Brady violation has occurred. The burden is on the defendant to show that a Brady violation has taken place. The first thing the defense needs to prove is that the evidence either impeached the testimony of a prosecution witness or was exculpatory. They also need to prove that the State either willfully or inadvertently withheld that evidence from the defense. Finally, the defendant needs to show that the evidence was material and that their lack of access to the evidence hurt their case.

The U.S. Constitution protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If evidence was gained by the police through illegal means, that evidence can be suppressed. Suppression means that the evidence cannot be presented in court. If evidence that should have been suppressed is presented, and there is a conviction, that conviction can be overturned. There are many possible ways that a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney can try to get evidence against you suppressed.Legal News Gavel

Warrants and Searches

When a search warrant is issued, it will have a description of the specific places that are allowed to be searched. In this case, the warrant permitted the police to search three motel rooms, any people who were believed to be involved in the crime, the curtilage, and any vehicles located in the curtilage. The SWAT team came in to perform the search. During the search, they saw the defendant leave one of the hotel rooms and walk to his car, which was parked a few feet away in the parking lot of the motel. He got into his car, and as he tried to leave, he was stopped by law enforcement, blocking him in. Then he got out of his car and lay on the ground. The officer searched his car and found drugs.

Legal News GavelFlorida cops and courts treat drug and other related crimes very seriously. A conviction can come with significant consequences, including long stretches behind bars and significant money penalties. Many drug cases also often involve the confiscation of money and other property seized by police officers during an investigation. As a recent case out of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals makes clear, it can be tough to get that money back. State law creates only a small window of time to file a request to return seized property.

The defendant was charged with drug trafficking and money laundering following a 2006 police surveillance operation. Officers observed him pacing back and forth and talking on his cell phone for about 15 minutes before the defendant placed a black duffle bag in his car and drove off. They said he drove erratically to another location, where another man removed a black rolling suitcase from the defendant’s car. An undercover officer approached the two men and the defendant eventually consented to having the car searched, according to the court. The cops found “a significant amount” of cocaine and $738,000 in cash in the duffle bag inside the car.

The defendant was convicted two years later and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Law enforcement officers also seized the money from the duffle bag. A state court denied Defendant’s request to force the return of the money. The court cited a Florida statute that provides that any property lawfully seized by a law enforcement agency becomes the property of that agency 60 days after the closure of court proceedings related to the property. The court said the defendant filed his request outside of that 60-day window.

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Legal News GavelPolice officers must have reasonable suspicion to believe that you’re committing a crime in order to stop your car on the road. They need to have probable cause—a higher bar—to actually search the car. These are two important protections for anyone suspected of or charged with a Florida crime. But, as the state’s Third District Court of Appeal recently pointed out, there are many ways in which the cops can legally stop your car and search it.

Defendant was charged with possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver a controlled substance after a police officer found Xanax pills in Defendant’s car. The officer, who was in an unmarked car investigating unrelated crimes in the area, said he originally pulled Defendant over because he noticed part of Defendant’s license plate was obscured. A metal frame was blocking “MyFlorida.com” from the top portion of the license plate and “Sunshine State” from the bottom portion. The officer said he searched the car because he smelled marijuana inside.

A trial judge agreed with Defendant that the search was illegal. As a result, the judge granted Defendant’s request to suppress all of the evidence gained during the stop, including the Xanax pills. The Third District reversed that decision on appeal, however, finding that state law gave the officer the right to pull Defendant’s car over.

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The rule against hearsay essentially bans a person from testifying in court about what another person said outside of court if the testimony is meant to prove that the out-of-court statement is true. As Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently pointed out in a murder case, however, there are a number of exceptions to this rule. That includes certain statements made by a person shortly before he or she dies.

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Defendant was charged with first degree murder and an assortment of related criminal offenses, stemming from the killing of a Florida man during what prosecutors described as a drug deal gone wrong. Defendant was visiting Miami from New York when he and a friend bought $5 worth of marijuana from M., according to the court. M. then arranged for Defendant to buy $1,500 in cocaine and marijuana from V., the court said. Defendant allegedly coaxed M. to his hotel room, where he and his associate claimed to be police officers, threatened M. with a gun, beat him, and forced M. to set up a meeting with V..

V. eventually met with Defendant and got in the back of his car. Defendant’s associate showed V. a police ID card. V. tried to get out of the car when he realized Defendant didn’t have money for the drugs he said he wanted to buy. A struggle ensued, during which Defendant allegedly shot V. three times as V. was getting out of the car. Defendant and his associate drove off with M. still in the back of the car. A police officer who arrived on the scene asked V. who shot him. V. told the officer that it was “a black man with dreads.” He died shortly after making the statement.

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