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Generally, the Government cannot introduce evidence that a person previously was convicted of a crime prove a person’s character to demonstrate that they acted in accordance with that character on a specific occasion. In other words, proof a person committed a crime on a prior occasion cannot be used to establish guilt in a current criminal proceeding. Evidence of other crimes and bad acts can be introduced for other purposes, however. In a recent opinion issued in a drug crime case, a Florida court discussed the grounds for admissibility of evidence of other crimes. If you are charged with a drug offense, you should confer with a Tampa drug crime defense lawyer to discuss what evidence the Government is permitted to use against you.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple drug crimes arising out of his alleged conspiracy to possess methamphetamines. The defendant’s coconspirator pleaded guilty, while the defendant entered a not guilty plea. The Government sought to introduce the defendant’s two prior convictions for possession of controlled substances with the intent to distribute at trial. The defendant moved to preclude the evidence as proof of other crimes, wrongs, and bad acts pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).

Admissibility of Other Crime Evidence

Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) prohibits parties from using evidence of other acts, crimes, or wrongs to establish a person’s nature and to show that they acted in accord with that nature in a particular instance. Such evidence may be admissible for other purposes, though. Specifically, it can be used to show intent, motive, plan, knowledge, and identity, among other things. Continue Reading ›

In 2018, the Florida Supreme Court promulgated a schedule of lesser included offenses. Recently, the court answered the certified question of whether it erred in classifying sexual battery as a necessarily lesser include offense of capital sexual battery, ultimately determining that it did. The court set forth its conclusion in an opinion issued in a Florida case in which the defendant was convicted of both capital sexual battery and sexual battery. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is advisable to meet with a Tampa sex crime defense lawyer to assess what defenses you may be able to assert in pursuit of a favorable outcome.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with one count of lewd exhibition and three counts of sexual battery, arising out of elicit contact he had with his ex-girlfriend’s daughter when the daughter was between nine and fifteen years old. The victim testified at trial, reporting the acts occurred on over twenty different occasions, but three stood out in particular: once when she was 9, once when she was 11, and once when she was 13.

Allegedly, after the evidence was introduced at trial, the defendant requested that the court instruct the jury on the sexual battery as a necessarily lesser included offense of capital sexual battery. At that time, the schedule of lesser included offenses did, in fact, list sexual battery as a necessarily lesser included offense of sexual battery. The State objected to the instruction, arguing it was illogical. The court agreed and denied the request. The defendant was convicted, and he appealed. The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court. Continue Reading ›

The Florida courts will often sentence people convicted of federal crimes to lengthy prison terms. In some instances, though, a court will impose a more lenient penalty and sentence a person to probation. Offenders on probation must comply with the terms of their release, and if they do not, they may face significant penalties, including imprisonment. Recently, a Florida court discussed factors weighed in determining whether a sentence imposed after revocation of probation is reasonable in a case in which the defendant was sentenced to eleven months in prison. If you are accused of violating the terms of your probation, it is smart to meet with an experienced Tampa probation violation defense lawyer to evaluate your potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud and participating in a tax fraud scheme. He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to five years of probation. While on probation, he tested positive for marijuana, missed numerous drug tests and counseling sessions, and failed to report to his probation officer. Thus, the State moved for revocation of his probation.

Allegedly, during the revocation hearing, he asked for a second chance, which the court granted despite its reservations. The defendant tested positive for narcotics numerous times over the next five months. Subsequently, the district court revoked his probation and sentenced him to eleven months in prison, followed by eight years of supervised release. The defendant appealed, arguing his sentence was unreasonable. Continue Reading ›

In recognition of the fact that certain sentencing guidelines resulted in disparate sentences for similar crimes, the United States legislature passed a set of laws that rendered people convicted of drug crimes involving crack cocaine eligible for reduced sentences. As discussed in a recent Florida ruling, though, mere eligibility is insufficient to demonstrate that such relief should be granted. If you were convicted of a drug offense, you might be eligible for a sentence reduction pursuant to recent changes in the law, and it is advisable to speak to a trusted Tampa drug crime defense lawyer about your options.

The Defendant’s Conviction

It is reported that in 2005, a jury convicted the defendant of numerous offenses, including possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute. Due to his prior history of drug crimes and the quantity of crack cocaine in his possession, he was subject to a mandatory life sentence. The district court ultimately imposed a sentence of life plus fifteen years imprisonment, followed by ten years of supervised release. After Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 and the First Step Act in 2018, the defendant moved to reduce his sentence. The trial court granted his motion in part, reducing his sentence to 420 months in prison followed by eight years of supervised release. The defendant appealed, arguing the court abused its discretion in not reducing his sentence further.

State and federal law generally preclude people convicted of felonies from owning weapons. As such, if a law enforcement agent finds a firearm in the possession of a convicted felon, it could lead to criminal charges. A person must be aware that he or she is a felon to be convicted of violating the federal law barring possession of a firearm by a felon.

Merely because an indictment for unlawful possession of a firearm fails to include the knowledge element of the offense does not mean the defendant was automatically prejudiced, though. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case, in which the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. If you are charged with a gun crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Tampa weapons crime defense lawyer to discuss your case.

The Defendant’s Indictment and Conviction

Allegedly, a police officer approached a group of people on a street corner when he saw one of the men point a gun at the crowd. A chase ensued, and the police eventually apprehended and arrested three men, including the defendant. The defendant was indicted for numerous offenses, including being a felon in possession of a gun. After he was indicted, the Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that a defendant must know he belongs to a class of people barred from owning firearms to be convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun.

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The United States Constitution affords people many rights. In particular, it grants numerous protections to criminal defendants, including the Eighth Amendment bar against cruel and unusual punishments. Thus, if a court sentences a person convicted of a crime to an extraordinarily harsh penalty, it may violate the person’s Constitutional rights. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in a case in which the defendant argued the sentence imposed for his conviction for receiving child pornography was unjust. If you are charged with a  sex crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a Tampa sex crime defense lawyer about your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with one count of receiving child pornography. He entered a guilty plea, after which he was sentenced to 151 months in prison. He then appealed, arguing that his sentence was excessive and violated his Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, he argued it was disproportionate to the crime, excessive, an unduly harsh for a first-time offender who had no contact with the children involved in the crime.

What Constitutes a Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of punishments that are unusual and cruel contains a proportionality provision that only applies to non-capital sentences. The court noted that the Eighth Amendment does not require stringent proportionality between an offense and a sentence. Instead, it merely forbids extreme sentences that are grossly disproportionate to the offense in question. Continue Reading ›

While owning a gun, in and of itself, is not a crime for most people, when a person found guilty of committing a drug offense, has a gun, it can result in increased penalties. In other words, a sentencing court may impose a firearm enhancement in some instances. Recently, a Florida court discussed what the prosecution must prove to justify such an enhancement in a case in which the defendant argued his sentence for drug trafficking was improper. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a capable Tampa criminal defense lawyer about your potential defenses.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was indicted by a grand jury with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. He entered a guilty plea. The Presentencing Investigation Report (PSI) indicated that following the defendant’s arrest for the charged offenses, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent obtained a warrant to search his residence and found a pistol near his bed.

It is reported that the probation office applied an enhancement for the defendant’s possession of a dangerous weapon in determining his offense level and recommended a sentence of 60 to 71 months’ imprisonment. Before sentencing, both the defendant and the prosecution objected to the firearm enhancement. The court overruled the objections and sentenced the defendant to 62 months in prison, after which he appealed. Continue Reading ›

It is not uncommon for people to be charged with multiple criminal counts or offenses at one time. While they may be sentenced for each conviction, the courts must comply with sentencing statutes, and if a court orders a sentence that falls outside of the parameters established by law, it may be illegal. This was shown in a recent Florida ruling in which the court reversed the defendant’s sentences for molestation offenses on the grounds they were unlawful. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is smart to meet with a seasoned Tampa criminal defense lawyer to discuss your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Sentencing

It is reported that the defendant was charged with two counts of attempted sexual battery and three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under the age of twelve. He entered a no-contest plea to each charge, and the court accepted his plea. During the sentencing phase, he requested that the court impose the statutory minimum sentence for the molestation counts, which was twenty-five years in prison followed by lifelong probation. The State requested life imprisonment.

Allegedly, the defendant was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to life in prison with a twenty-five-year mandatory minimum on each molestation count and thirty years in prison on each attempted sexual battery count. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that his sentences for the molestation counts were not authorized under the relevant statute. Continue Reading ›

In many cases in which the police are investigating a person for a crime, they try to gather as much evidence implying the individual’s guilt as possible. The police must abide by the confines of the law, however, and cannot overstep their boundaries, or it will constitute a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. For example, people generally have the right to deny the police access to their phone and online records, and if the police ask a person to turn over their electronic devices without a warrant, it may constitute an unreasonable search and seizure. If you were investigated for a criminal offense and asked to produce your phone, it is important to know how to protect your rights, and you should speak to a trusted Tampa criminal defense lawyer about your options.

Can the Police Force You to Turn Over Your Phone and Online Records?

Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Florida, people have the right to be free from searches and seizures that are unreasonable. The courts have interpreted these provisions to mean, in part, that the police generally cannot conduct a search or take someone’s property without a warrant. In other words, they typically are not permitted to force people to hand over their phones or allow the police to search their computer records unless the police have a valid warrant.

Further, under Florida law, the police must demonstrate probable cause to obtain a warrant to conduct a search. This means that they must show that when presented with the information in the officer’s possession, a reasonable person would determine that a crime has been committed and that the individual the warrant pertains to committed the offense. Put another way, a police officer must offer factual evidence indicating he or she harbors a rational belief the defendant broke the law. Continue Reading ›

Most people recognize that sexual harassment in the workplace is not only inappropriate but may also constitute grounds for a civil lawsuit. Many people do not know, however, if acts that are considered sexual harassment veer into criminal territory as well. If you are accused of sexual harassment or any offense of a sexual nature, it is in your best interest to seek advice from a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney regarding your rights and what you can anticipate if you are charged with a crime.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Generally, sexual harassment is the term used to define the act of engaging in uninvited sexual conduct in a work environment. For example, an employer or supervisor may request sexual favors from an employee in order to obtain or keep a job or benefits. In other instances, inappropriate sexual comments or behavior may create a hostile work environment that changes the condition of other people’s employment. Numerous acts may be regarded as sexual harassment, including lewd comments and gestures, unwanted touching, and sharing of pornographic images.

Is Sexual Harassment a Crime in Florida?

Depending on the nature of the offender’s behavior, acts that are regarded as sexual harassment may also provide grounds for criminal charges. For example, if sexual harassment involves a physical assault, it may constitute sexual battery, which is the penetration of an individual’s anus, vagina, or sex organ with an object or the actor’s sex organ, without the individual’s consent. Notably, the law states that consent does not include submission that is coerced, and a person’s failure to physically resist the actor does not constitute consent. Similarly, indecent exposure, or the act of exposing one’s sex organs, is often both sexual harassment and a criminal offense. Continue Reading ›

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