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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.

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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.

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The Florida statutes allow for a court to order a minor convicted of a crime to pay restitution for any damages caused by the crime. The State must show a significant link between the damages alleged and the restitution ordered for restitution to be proper, however.

This was explained in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court overturned a trial court order for restitution, finding the State had not produced sufficient evidence of a causal connection between the damages sought and the defendant’s conduct. If you are a juvenile living in Tampa and you are currently facing criminal charges, you should retain a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense that will provide you with a good chance of a favorable outcome under the circumstances. 

Facts of the Case 

It is reported that the defendant, a minor, was charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle. He entered into a plea agreement with the State, in which he pled to the lesser included offense of trespass of a conveyance and agreed to pay restitution. As such, the court ordered restitution with the specific amount to be determined at a later date. At a hearing to determine the restitution amount, the owner of the car testified that the car was in perfect condition prior to the theft, but had extensive damage when it was returned. The State presented an expert who testified that the estimated cost to repair the damage was $3,310.37. The defendant’s attorney argued that the State had failed to produce evidence showing that the damage alleged was caused by the defendant. The court disagreed, ordering the defendant to pay $3,310.37 in restitution. The defendant appealed.

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If a defendant is convicted of a felony charge, the court will employ a sentencing scoresheet to determine what it believes to be an appropriate sentence. If a scoresheet includes points which should not be attributed to the defendant, it can result in an inappropriately high sentence. The points assessed against a defendant will not be disturbed, however, unless it is shown the court’s award of the points constituted an abuse of discretion.

For example, a district appellate court of Florida recently rejected a defendant’s argument that his sentencing scoresheet improperly included points for victim injury, finding the evidence of record clearly indicated the victims were injured. If you live in Tampa and are facing criminal charges, it is important to retain an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who will fight diligently to help you in your pursuit of a successful outcome under the circumstances.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crimes

Reportedly, the defendant entered a bank and forced multiple tellers to go into the bank’s vault at gunpoint. He hit each of the tellers over the head and sexually assaulted one of the tellers. When he was fleeing the scene, he fired his gun at approaching officers. He was detained and charged with several counts, including attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, sexual battery, kidnapping with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm.

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It is important for all Tampa citizens to know what rights they are afforded under the law. For example, with some exceptions, the police are not permitted to search your property without a warrant or your consent. If you grant the police access to your property, however, it is possible that any evidence of a crime found during a search of the property could be used against you, even if you were not suspected of a crime prior to the search.

This was illustrated in a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in which the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm was upheld after he gave the police permission to search his garage. If you are a resident of Tampa currently charged with a weapons crime, you should meet with a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your available defenses.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Conviction

Allegedly, the incident in question began when police officers arrived at a residence with a warrant, looking for a shooting suspect. The defendant, who was not the suspect at the time, suggested they check the garage. The police saw a gun on a table and seized and disarmed it. The officer also called the serial number into the police system to determine whether it was stolen. The defendant was standing nearby, unrestrained, during the investigation, and advised the officers he had been to prison. The defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. During his trial he filed a motion to suppress evidence of the firearm, arguing that it was obtained via an illegal search and seizure. The court denied the motion and the defendant was convicted. He subsequently appealed, arguing that the trial court wrongfully denied his motion and that his prior convictions did not qualify as violent felonies.

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Florida law allows for the expungement of criminal records in certain circumstances. An expungement can provide a defendant with a better chance to start over following a criminal conviction, but they are only granted in certain circumstances, regardless of how sympathetic the defendant’s case is.

For example, in a recent case, a Florida court of appeals held that the law did not allow for a victim of human trafficking to expunge kidnapping charges from her record, despite the fact that she was forced to commit crimes while she was subject to someone else’s control. If you are a resident of Tampa with prior convictions, you should confer with an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your options going forward.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Background

It is reported that the defendant was controlled by a human trafficker for many years. During the time she was controlled by the human trafficker, she was arrested three times for crimes committed as part of the human trafficking scheme. Following an arrest in 2010, she was charged with multiple crimes, including kidnapping. She entered into a plea agreement in which she agreed to assist to cooperate with the State and testify against the human trafficker. As part of the negotiated plea, the state nolle prossed the kidnapping crime. The defendant plead guilty to sex trafficking and other crimes, for which she was sentenced. After her sentence was complete, she petitioned the court to expunge all of her criminal history records pursuant to the Human Trafficking Expunction Statue. Following a hearing, the court granted her petition with the exception of the records related to her kidnapping charge. The defendant subsequently appealed.

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Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), if a person convicted of a crime is deemed a career criminal, he or she may face increased penalties. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Johnson v. United States, that the residual clause in the ACCA was unconstitutionally vague. As such, offenders previously sentenced to increased prison terms under the residual clause of the ACCA may be eligible for a reduced sentence. Each case must be evaluated on an individual basis, however, to determine whether the Johnson ruling will affect an enhanced sentence.

Recently, in a case appealed from the Southern District of Florida, a federal appellate court ruled that attempted murder is a violent felony and therefore grounds for increased penalties under the ACCA. If you are a resident of Tampa who has prior convictions and are currently facing criminal charges, you should meet with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your available options and defenses.

Defendant’s Prior and Current Convictions

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted in Florida for first-degree attempted murder. He was subsequently charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition. He was tried and convicted of the charges. The defendant’s presentence investigation report showed he was subject to an enhanced sentence under the ACCA for attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery, and aggravated battery. He was sentenced to 204 months in prison. Following the Johnson ruling, he filed a motion to reduce his enhanced sentence, arguing his prior convictions could no longer be considered violent felonies. His motion was dismissed. The defendant then appealed on the issue of whether his conviction for attempted first-degree murder constituted a violent felony. On appeal, the court affirmed his enhanced sentence.

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In each criminal case, the defendant must choose which plea to enter, and in some cases it is prudent for a defendant to enter a guilty plea. Even if a defendant waives his or her right to a trial by conceding guilt, however, he or she is still afforded certain rights with regard to sentencing.

A district court in Florida recently vacated a sentence in a DUI case and remanded the case for resentencing, due to an error made by the trial court in the evidence considered in sentencing the defendant. If you are a Tampa resident charged with a crime, it is important to retain an experienced attorney who can assist you in trying to prevent the state from introducing any prohibited evidence against you.

Charges and Sentencing

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with DUI manslaughter following a fatal crash and entered an open guilty plea. During the defendant’s sentencing, the sentencing scoresheet submitted listed eleven prior offenses, each of which occurred in or before 1999. The total points for the defendant’s prior record, as indicated by the scoresheet, was 9.4. The trial court sentenced the defendant to 132 months’ imprisonment, with a mandatory four year sentence, to be followed by two years of community control and two years of probation. The defendant subsequently appealed. On appeal, the defendant argued that none of the prior offenses on his sentencing scoresheet should have been listed due to the age of the offense.

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If you are a minor charged with a crime, it is essential to understand what sentence you might face prior to deciding to enter into a plea agreement. While certain crimes have mandatory sentences, in some cases it may not be clear what penalty applies to an offense under the terms of the statute.

For example, a Florida Court of appeals recently ruled that actual possession of a gun is not required for a court to impose a mandatory firearm enhancement sentence on a minor defendant who entered a plea for an armed burglary charge.  If you are a minor resident of Tampa facing criminal charges, you should consult with a Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss whether entering a plea agreement may be appropriate in your case.

Factual Background

Reportedly, a witness saw four males trying to open a car in a parking lot. She contacted the police, who responded and ultimately detained the defendant. The officers became aware that a gun had been taken from a car burglarized by one of the four males. The minor defendant advised the officer that he knew where the gun was, and proceeded to lead the officers to the gun. A second male who was detained told the officers that a third male handed him the gun and he did it in a bush. None of the men indicated who removed the gun from the car.

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A defendant charged with a crime in Florida can enter any plea provided for by the law. While a person charged should not enter a plea without thoroughly weighing the consequences, in some cases even if a plea was entered after careful consideration a defendant may wish to change his plea. Under Florida law, a defendant can file a motion to withdraw a plea at any time prior to sentencing. In a recent case ruled on by the District Court of Appeals for the Second District of Florida, if a defendant’s attorney does not honor his or her wish to withdraw a plea, it can result in a conviction being overturned.

Reportedly, the defendant entered a no contest plea to burglary and grand theft charges. The defendant was then found incompetent and his sentencing hearing was delayed for two years. He was represented by one attorney while negotiating his plea deal and a second attorney at his sentencing. At the sentencing hearing, per the defendant’s request, his attorney requested a renegotiation of his plea deal, due to the fact he did not understand the plea colloquy and proceedings.

The court declined to renegotiate. The defendant’s attorney stated he did not believe a good faith basis existed for withdrawing the plea and did not move to withdraw the plea. Additionally, the court never asked the defendant if he wanted to withdraw his plea. The trial court subsequently sentenced the defendant to fifteen years in prison followed by fifteen years of probation. The defendant then filed an appeal, arguing ineffective assistance of appellate counsel on several grounds. The appellate court found in favor of the defendant and reversed his sentencing.