Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

The United States Constitution includes numerous provisions that protect criminal defendants. Among other things, it dictates that they must be mentally competent before they can be tried for a criminal offense. Thus, if a criminal matter proceeds to trial despite concerns regarding a defendant’s mental competence, it may constitute a violation of their constitutional rights. Recently a Florida court explained what evidence a defendant must produce to show that a trial court harbored a bona fide doubt about their competence in a case in which the defendant appealed his sentence following his conviction for producing child pornography.  If you are charged with a sex offense, it is smart to meet with a dedicated Tampa sex crime defense lawyer to evaluate your possible defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with two counts of producing child pornography. The case proceeded to trial, and he was convicted. The court subsequently sentenced him to 720 months in prison. The defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion by denying his motion to undergo a competency evaluation and hearing.

Establishing a Bona Fide Doubt About a Defendant’s Mental Competence

The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning and denied his appeal. In doing so, it explained that it reviewed a district court’s failure to order a competency hearing under the abuse of discretion standard. Continue Reading ›

State and federal governments have the authority to issue punishments for criminal offenses. They cannot do so in a manner that is deemed unusual or cruel, however. As such, if a criminal defendant believes a sentence violates their Eighth Amendment rights against unusual and cruel punishment, they may be able to successfully argue that it should be vacated. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes an unjust sentence in an opinion issued in a sex crime case. If you were charged with a sex offense, it is smart to meet with a dedicated Tampa sex crime defense lawyer to assess your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with three counts of possessing and producing child pornography. He pleaded guilty to two of the charges in exchange for dismissal of the third. The defendant’s plea agreement advised he faced a sentence of between 15 and 30 years imprisonment in total, followed by a term of supervised release from five years to life.

Allegedly, the defendant requested a sentence of 240 months imprisonment based on his history of PTSD, his childhood sexual abuse, and his service as a police officer and in the military. The court sentenced him to a total of 480 months imprisonment,  however, followed by supervised release for the remainder of his life. He appealed, arguing that his sentence constituted a unusual and cruel punishment in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Continue Reading ›

Under Florida law, there are many crimes that can be committed in multiple ways. In such instances, the prosecution only has to prove that the defendant engaged in the behavior set forth in one method to obtain a conviction. This was demonstrated in a recent ruling issued by a Florida court, in which it affirmed the defendant’s conviction for lewd and lascivious battery. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a sex crime, it is smart to hire a skilled Tampa sex crime defense attorney to help you formulate compelling arguments.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with three counts of sexual battery on an individual under twelve years old. The grounds for the charges were acts that occurred in 2002, involving the defendant’s then nine year old daughter. Following a trial, the jury convicted the defendant of lewd and lascivious battery, a lesser included offense. He appealed on numerous grounds, including the arguments that he could not be convicted of an uncharged offense and that the prosecution failed to establish the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, rendering his conviction improper. The appellate court rejected his arguments and affirmed his conviction.

Elements of Lewd and Lascivious Battery

The appellate court explained that lewd and lascivious battery is a permissive lesser included offense of the crime of sexual battery. Jury instructions regarding permissive lesser included offenses are appropriate and permissible if the allegations of the greater offense contain each of the elements of the lesser offense, and the evidence offered at trial would support a verdict on the lesser offense. Continue Reading ›

When a person is convicted of a crime, the court will often not only sentence them to prison but also require them to make restitution. Criminal defendants and the state frequently disagree over what constitutes reasonable recompense, however. This was illustrated in a recent child pornography case in Florida, where the defendant challenged a $10,000 reparation award to the victim. If you’ve been charged with a child pornography crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a Florida criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

According to reports, the defendant was found guilty of possessing child pornography. He was sentenced to pay $10,000 in compensation to the victim of his crime after his conviction. He filed an appeal, claiming that the amount of compensation awarded did not accurately reflect his role in the victim’s injury, and requesting a new hearing on the restitution decision. The defendant’s request was denied by the appellate court, which upheld the lower court’s decision.

In some criminal matters, the State has little or no direct evidence. Instead, the State’s case against the defendant will be dependent on circumstantial evidence. While circumstantial evidence is frequently accepted, hearsay evidence is not. As a result, a conviction based on hearsay evidence may be subject to reversal, as indicated by a recent Florida judgement in a case where the defendant was convicted of multiple counts of possessing child pornography. If you are suspected of possessing child pornography or any other offense, you should consult with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney to determine your legal options.

The Trial of the Defendant

It is alleged that the defendant was detained and charged with 300 counts of having child pornography. A search warrant was used to gather evidence from his personal computer, which led to his arrest. Hash values are used to detect pornographic photographs of children that are stored in a national database, according to the digital forensic technician who analyzed his device at his trial. Three hundred pornographic images of minors were discovered on the defendant’s computer using this technology.

The digital forensic technician allegedly stated that he was able to identify the majority of the photographs as child pornography without using the hash values assigned to them, but that he couldn’t tell if the person depicted in one image was a child. Nonetheless, the State charged the defendant based on his opinion that a hash value applied to the photograph identified it as child pornography. After being found guilty on all three hundred counts, the defendant filed an appeal, claiming that his conviction was founded on a hearsay testimony that the photograph in question was pornographic. 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 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 ›

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 ›

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 ›

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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