Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

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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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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