Florida criminal laws include quite a considerable number of lesser offenses when it comes to being charged with a crime. Getting a charge knocked down to a lesser offense can mean the difference between years behind bars and months in jail or simple probation, in some cases. The state Supreme Court recently took up a Florida robbery case that illustrates just how nuanced the legal arguments can be in determining whether a person convicted of a crime should be sentenced for a lesser offense.
A defendant (D.D.) was convicted of two charges of robbery with a deadly weapon, which is a first-degree felony that can come with as much as 30 years behind bars, for his role in two alleged robberies in Florida. A state appeals court eventually ordered the trial judge to reduce the convictions to robbery with a weapon. The court explained that the evidence presented at trial showed only that one weapon was used in the robbery: a handgun or a BB gun that looked a lot like the real thing.
Affirming the decision on further appeal, the Florida Supreme Court first noted that D.D. had never actually been charged with robbery with a deadly weapon. Instead, the court said that he had originally been charged with robbery with a firearm. Since it was unclear whether the weapon involved was an actual handgun or a BB gun, the court held that the trial judge should have knocked the charge down to robbery with a weapon.