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When the police conduct a criminal investigation, they will typically obtain a warrant to uncover information that is private or otherwise not readily accessible. If the police gather certain evidence without a warrant, however, it may violate the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures, and the evidence may be deemed inadmissible. Not all information is protected against warrantless searches, though, as demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion issued in a homicide case, in which the court ruled that information from a third-party GPS system was not private. If you are charged with murder or a related offense, it is essential to retain an assertive Tampa criminal defense attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

The Alleged Crime and Investigation

Allegedly, the victim was found murdered in a park. He had been staying at a hotel prior to his death. The defendant resided at the hotel also, along with his girlfriend. The hotel had cameras, and when the police reviewed the surveillance footage, they observed the victim leaving the hotel with the defendant and the defendant returning alone a few hours later. The police learned that the defendant often used his girlfriend’s car, which was equipped with a GPS tracker.

Apparently, while the defendant generally had permission to use the car, the girlfriend did not know he took it on the night of the murder and reported it stolen. As such, she contacted her financing company, which had installed a GPS tracker, to track the car’s location. The police obtained GPS information from the company without a warrant. The information revealed that the defendant drove to the park where the victim was found on the night of the murder.

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In some instances, a defendant convicted of a criminal offense will be sentenced to probation rather than imprisonment. Although people on probation have significantly more freedoms than those who are imprisoned, their liberties are not boundless. Specifically, they must comply with the restrictions imposed by their probation orders. If they violate the rules of probation, they may face additional penalties, but not all violations are significant enough for probation to be revoked. Recently, a Florida court addressed what constitutes a violation significant enough to lead to the revocation of probation. If you are accused of violating the terms of your probation, it is critical to meet with a seasoned Tampa criminal defense attorney to assess your possible defenses.

The Defendant’s Probation and Alleged Violation

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of several drug crimes. Following his conviction, he was sentenced to probation. One of the conditions of the defendant’s probation was that he had a curfew that dictated that he had to be home between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. One evening, the defendant’s girlfriend came home from work, after which they traveled to the store. They left the house at 11:15 pm and were stopped by a police officer at 1:40 am. The defendant’s probation was then revoked due to the violation of his curfew. The defendant appealed. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the revocation.

Material Probation Violations Under Florida Law

On appeal, the defendant argued that his violation was not substantial. The appellate court disagreed, noting that the defendant’s absence was extended and there was no emergency. The court also noted that under Florida law, an absence from home without permission is considered a willful and substantial violation of probation.

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Florida Court Discusses Categorization of Other Crimes During Sentencing

There are numerous factors that the court will weigh in determining what constitutes an appropriate sentence for a person convicted of a crime, including whether the defendant has a prior criminal record or has other criminal charges that are pending. It is critical that a defendant’s other criminal activity be properly classified; however, an improper classification may result in an unjust sentence. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which a defendant’s prior convictions were mischaracterized as additional offenses, resulting in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are accused of committing a criminal offense, it is prudent to speak to a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a just result.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of four separate offenses in 2014. He was sentenced to three years in prison followed by a year and a half of probation. At the beginning of his probationary period, the defendant committed new offenses. He was then charged with both violating his probation and with committing the new offenses. Following his sentencing hearing, he filed an appeal, arguing that his scoresheet had errors that required reversal. The appeal was granted, and during his second sentencing hearing, the 2014 crimes were deemed additional offenses, and the 2018 crimes were listed as primary offenses. The defendant then filed a second appeal.

Categorizing Other Criminal Activity for Sentencing

Under Florida law, only one crime can be classified as the primary offense. Typically, it is the most severe crime. Every other crime will be listed as an additional offense, which is the term used for crimes other than the primary offense the defendant was convicted of committing, and which are pending before the court for sentencing at the same time as the primary offense.

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Florida Court Discusses the Admission of Evidence in Criminal Matters

In many criminal cases, the State lacks direct evidence that the defendant committed a crime. Thus, in such instances, the State will rely on circumstantial evidence to build a case against the defendant. While circumstantial evidence is generally admissible, it must bear a connection to either the defendant or the charged offense, and irrelevant evidence that is improperly admitted may lead the jury to issue an unjust verdict. This was shown in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes due to a glove found in his sister’s van several days after the alleged criminal acts. If you are charged with a crime, it is important to know your rights, and you should speak with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Alleged Crime and Trial

It is reported that two men broke into the home of the victim, held her at gunpoint, and ransacked her house. The victim was then struck in the head with a gun and shot. After the perpetrators left, she went to a nearby salon and called 911. During the course of the investigation of the crime, the defendant was named as a suspect, and the victim identified the defendant as the man who shot her. He was then charged with attempted second-degree murder and numerous other offenses.

Reportedly, there was no direct evidence linking the defendant to the crime. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress evidence of a glove that was found in a van owned by his sister, which was one of the only pieces of evidence that could potentially implicate him. The court denied the motion, and the defendant was found guilty on all charges. He then appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress.

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Importance of Jury Instructions in Criminal Trials

Typically, jurors possess only a vague understanding of what acts constitute a particular crime. Thus, in Florida criminal cases, the court will provide the jury with instructions regarding what factual elements the State must prove in order for the defendant to be found guilty. If a court fails to properly instruct a jury, though, the defendant may be unjustly convicted and may have grounds to seek a reversal of the conviction via an appeal. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with burglary, and the court failed to provide the jury with the standard instruction for that offense. If you are accused of burglary or any other theft crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Tampa theft crime defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that a woman who was in the process of moving took several trips through her home and out to her car during the day. On one of her trips, she noticed the defendant standing in her kitchen in front of an open drawer that previously had been closed. The defendant stated he needed help and gave a rambling speech that lasted close to an hour, after which he left. The woman called the police, and the defendant was arrested and charged with burglary.

It is alleged that at the trial of the matter, defense counsel requested that the court provide the jury with the standard instruction regarding a burglary. The trial judge declined to do so, however, due to his belief that the instruction did not make sense. The jury returned a guilty verdict, and the defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to provide the jury with the standard instruction.

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Requirements-for-Imposing-the-Death-Penalty-1-300x169

The most severe punishment a criminal defendant may face in Florida is the death penalty. Recent changes in Florida law, though, make it more difficult for a criminal defendant to be sentenced to death. In a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with murder, the court discussed the status of the current and past requirements for sentencing a defendant to the death penalty. If you are charged with murder or another violent offense, it is in your best interest to engage an aggressive Tampa violent crime defense attorney to develop a strategy for fighting to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant broke into a home in 1984, assaulted a teenage girl that was babysitting in the home, and stabbed her to death. Five days later, he murdered another victim in a substantially similar matter. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for each crime. Due to recent changes in the law, the defendant filed a motion to vacate his sentences on the grounds they were unlawful. The trial court denied the motion. The defendant then filed an appeal. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Death Penalty Sentences Under Florida Law

With regard to the sentence for the second crime, the court found that it was lawful under the sentencing scheme in effect at the time, and case law held that the intervening change in the law was not to be applied retroactively. As such, that sentence was affirmed. Regarding the second sentence, which due to appeals, was imposed much later, the court noted that the Supreme Court of Florida found the prior sentencing scheme to be unconstitutional because it allowed the judge issuing a sentence to find that an aggravating circumstance existed, which is necessary for the imposition of a death sentence, without a jury’s determination of fact.

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Probable Cause for an Involuntarily Commitment Hearing

In many instances, a person convicted of a sex crime in Florida may be involuntarily committed pursuant to the Jimmy Ryce Act (the Act). Individuals committed under the Act are subject to a yearly review of their status, though, to determine if there is evidence demonstrating that their condition has changed so that they no longer present a threat to society and can safely be released. In a recent case in which the defendant was involuntarily committed following a conviction for attempted sexual battery, a Florida court discussed what constitutes probable cause to warrant a hearing to assess whether a defendant’s condition has changed. If you are charged with an offense that is sexual in nature, it is advisable to confer with an assertive Tampa sex crime defense attorney to determine your options for seeking a favorable result under the circumstances.

Factual History

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of exposure of his sexual organs and attempted sexual battery in 1999. He was convicted and, after serving nine months of his sentence, was involuntarily committed pursuant to the Act. In 2018, during the defendant’s annual review, the defendant produced two expert reports that stated that the defendant had made significant progress in the program for sex offenders that he participated in and no longer needed to be committed. The State produced a conflicting report, however, that opined that the defendant was unable or unwilling to control his sexual preoccupations and that if he was released, he was likely to commit crimes. The court ultimately found that there was not probable cause to believe that the defendant’s condition had changed so that it was now safe for him to be among the public. As such, the court declined to set the matter for trial. The defendant appealed.

Probable Cause to Warrant a Hearing on a Defendant’s Changed Condition

A person that is committed against his or her will under the Act has the right to an annual review. Specifically, the Act provides for a limited hearing to evaluate whether there is probable cause to believe that the person’s condition has changed to such a degree that the person no longer poses a threat to society and will not engage in acts of sexual violence if he or she is discharged.

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Prostitution is illegal in Florida and many other states, as is the solicitation of a prostitute. Thus, the police will often investigate a massage parlor for suspicion of prostitution crimes based on information gleaned from the internet. It can be difficult for the police to obtain evidence sufficient to press charges or obtain a conviction, however. As such, they may seek to install surveillance cameras. In a recent Florida case involving numerous prostitution charges, the court assessed whether footage from hidden surveillance cameras should be suppressed. If you are charged with prostitution or any other sex crime, it is critical to retain a skillful Tampa sex crime defense attorney to help you seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that police officers suspected that illegal sex acts were occurring at three separate massage parlors in Florida. As such, each police department independently obtained a warrant to install hidden cameras to record activity in the areas where the massages occurred, which is where it was suspected the illicit activity took place. The footage revealed that workers in the parlors and men visiting the parlors were engaged in prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. As such, numerous charges were filed. The defendants then filed motions to suppress the surveillance footage. The trial courts granted the motions, and the State appealed. The cases were then consolidated for appeal.

Grounds for Suppressing Surveillance Footage

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court rulings, finding that the surveillance constituted an unreasonable search and seizure. Specifically, the appellate court affirmed that the warrants lacked adequate minimalization procedures. The appellate court explained that an order permitting video surveillance should not be issued unless there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, the order particularly describes the place to be searched, and the order is sufficiently precise so that it minimizes the recording of activities that are not related to the crimes being investigated.

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In many instances in which a defendant is charged with a sex crime, the court will instruct the jury not only as to the elements of the charged offense but also as to the elements of a lesser included offense. Thus, it is not uncommon for a jury to find that while the defendant is guilty, it is of a lesser charge rather than the offense the defendant is accused of committing. A criminal defendant does not have an automatic right to a jury instruction regarding a lesser included offense, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with multiple sex crimes. If you are accused of committing a sex crime in Tampa, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Tampa sex crime defense attorney to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome in consideration of the facts of your case.

Facts and History of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition, and three counts of sexual battery, two of which were allegedly committed against a victim that was less than twelve years old, which constituted capital battery. During the trial, the victim testified that the first incident of abuse occurred when she was nine years old, and the second act of abuse occurred when she was eleven. The defendant requested that the court instruct the jury that sexual battery was a lesser included offense of capital sexual battery. The court denied the request, stating that it was illogical based on the fact that it was undisputed that the victim was under twelve when the abuse occurred. The defendant was found guilty of all charges, after which he appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury regarding a lesser included offense.

When Jury Instructions Regarding Lesser Included Offenses Are Appropriate

Under Florida law, a trial court is obligated to provide the jury with a requested instruction on a necessarily lesser included offense, but only if the judge determines that the offense is a necessarily lesser included offense. While sexual battery is included in the schedule of lesser included offenses, a court may nonetheless contest the legal correctness of instructing a jury on the elements of sexual battery.

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In some instances in which a criminal defendant suffering from a mental health condition is convicted of a sex crime, rather than sentencing the defendant to incarceration, the court will involuntarily commit the defendant. A defendant that is involuntarily committed is entitled to a yearly mental health evaluation, though, and if the court finds that a defendant should be released, the involuntary commitment will end. The grounds for ending an involuntary commitment were recently discussed in a Florida case in which an appellate court overturned the lower court ruling. If you suffer from a mental health condition and are charged with a sex crime, it is wise to consult a dedicated Tampa sex crime defense attorney to discuss whether you may be able to avoid a conviction.

Facts and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous counts of sexual battery and rape. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted and deemed a sexually violent predator. It was determined that the defendant was suffering from a mental health condition as well. Thus, he was involuntarily committed under the Florida Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act (the Act). The defendant appealed his involuntary commitment, which was affirmed by the appellate court. Pursuant to the Act, the defendant underwent an annual review of his mental health in 2019.

Allegedly, at a limited probable cause hearing, the defendant’s expert testified that it was safe to release the defendant and that he was not likely to commit acts of sexual violence. At a subsequent non-jury trial, the State’s witness testified that she examined the defendant on numerous occasions and that his mental condition had changed, and he no longer posed a risk of sexual violence. The court nonetheless continued the defendant’s commitment, finding that his condition had not changed. Thus, the defendant appealed.

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