Articles Posted in Violent Crime

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people from incriminating themselves. In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court interpreted the Fifth Amendment to require that a criminal suspect be verbally advised of their right to remain silent and to be represented by an attorney prior to being questioned by the police. If a criminal defendant chooses to waive their Miranda rights, however, any information that they provide law enforcement agents can be used against them. Recently, a Florida court discussed what evidence is needed to demonstrate a voluntary and knowing waiver of Miranda rights in a matter in which the defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder and other crimes. If you are accused of a violent offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a Tampa violent offense defense lawyer to discuss your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant walked into a home in which an eighteen-year-old and five other children were sleeping. One of the children recognized the defendant from a social media website. The defendant fired a gun multiple times, striking the eighteen-year-old and two of the children; the eighteen-year-old died from his wounds. The police arrested the defendant and transported him to a homicide office.

It is reported that the defendant advised the police that he could read and write English and was not under the influence of drugs. He was then given a form listing his constitutional rights and verbally advised of his right not to make statements or answer questions and of his right to an attorney. He stated he understood his rights and answered the detective’s questions. The defendant was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and four other crimes. He moved to suppress the statements he made during the initial investigation, arguing he did not validly waive his Miranda rights. The trial court denied his motion, and a jury convicted him as charged. He then appealed. Continue Reading ›

Florida courts generally use sentencing guidelines when determining what constitutes an appropriate penalty for a criminal conviction. The courts have discretion with regard to sentencing in some instances, however. For example, if they deem a defendant a violent career criminal, they can impose sentencing enhancement. They can only do so in cases in which the defendant meets the criteria to qualify as a violent criminal, however. In a recent Florida ruling, a court discussed whether the crime of battery on a person over the age of 65 is a qualifying offense, ultimately ruling that it is not. If you are charged with battery or any other violent crime, it is smart to talk to a Tampa violent crime defense lawyer about your potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, which was a felony. During sentencing, the judge determined that the defendant met the criteria to be sentenced as a violent career criminal due to his prior convictions for aggravated assault and battery of a person over the age of 65. Pertinent to the subject case, the sentencing judge found that the crime of battery of a person over the age of 65 constituted a qualifying offense because it was a felony battery. He then sentenced the defendant to fifteen years in prison. The defendant appealed

Violent Career Criminal Sentencing Enhancements

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in deeming him a violent career criminal because the offense of battery on a person over the age of 65 was not a forcible felony for purposes of violent career criminal sentencing. The state did not disagree with the defendant’s argument. Instead, it acknowledged a prior ruling issued by the Florida Supreme Court in which battery crimes that did not necessarily involve violence or physical force could not be considered forceable felonies. Continue Reading ›

Battery is a violent crime, and in some instances, the court will consider a person charged with felony battery to be a risk to society and will deny them bail. If a person that remains in jail throughout the pendency of their trial is ultimately convicted, they may be granted a credit towards their sentence on account of the time they already served. Not all time spent in jail counts towards a sentence, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling issued in a case in which the defendant appealed his sentence for a felony battery conviction. If you were charged with felony battery, it is smart to consult a skilled Florida violent crime defense lawyer to discuss your options.

Procedural History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of felony battery and misdemeanor assault. Following his conviction, he was sentenced to serve time in prison, and the trial court granted him credit for the time he spent in jail before he was sentenced. He moved to correct his sentence, and the court denied his motion. He filed three similar motions, which were also denied. He subsequently appealed his judgment and sentences.

Credit for Time Served

On appeal, the sole issue was whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s fourth motion to correct a sentencing error. The court explained that when the defendant was sentenced in 2018, he was granted credit for time served prior to his sentencing hearing. From the time he was sentenced until he was transported to prison; however, he spent an additional forty days in jail. Continue Reading ›

If a defendant is convicted of a crime, the court will typically weigh a variety of factors in determining an appropriate sentence. While there are many things that a court is permitted to evaluate in making an assessment, if a court is influenced by inappropriate information in developing a sentence, it may lead to an unjust result. In a recent Florida ruling in a case in which the defendant was convicted of arson, a court discussed the evaluation of the reasonableness of a sentence under the prevailing law. If you are accused of arson or another crime of violence, it is advisable to speak to a seasoned Tampa violent crime defense lawyer about your options.

The Defendant’s Sentence

It is reported that the defendant was charged with arson after he took part in the burning of a car that was used in a drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of another person. He was initially charged with multiple crimes related to a racketeering conspiracy and was later charged with murder. He ultimately pleaded guilty to the arson charge, which carries a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of twenty years. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison, after which he appealed, arguing that his sentence was unreasonable and the court relied on inappropriate information in determining his sentence.

Evaluating the Reasonableness of a Sentence

A court assessing the substantive reasonableness of a sentence must weigh the totality of the circumstances, including whether there was any deviation from the sentencing guidelines. A court may deem a sentence substantively unreasonable if it was based on impermissible factors, if the sentencing court failed to weigh appropriate factors, or if it was selected arbitrarily. The appellate court in the subject case noted, however, that a matter will only be remanded for re-sentencing in cases in which the court is left with a firm and clear conviction that the sentencing court committed a definite error in judgment in evaluating the relevant factors, which resulted in a sentence that lies outside of the scope of reasonable sentences as dictated by the facts of the case. Continue Reading ›


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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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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In the United States, criminal defendants do have the right to defend themselves. However, a United State Supreme Court case called Faretta clarified that a defendant’s waiver of counsel is only valid as long as it is knowingly and intelligently made. Essentially, a defendant needs to be competent enough to understand the ramifications of their actions. While defendants do have the right to represent themselves, it is generally a bad idea. That’s why defendants should always contact a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as they are arrested.

General Competency

Whether a defendant is represented by counsel or representing themselves, they need to be competent in order to stand trial. This is different than an insanity defense. Competency refers to the defendant’s mental state at trial. They need to be competent enough to understand the nature of the proceedings against them and meaningfully assist in their own defense.

In a case heard by the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, the defendant represented himself at trial after dismissing two different attorneys. Before the trial began, the defendant was determined to be incompetent to stand trial. However, after a period of hospitalization without medication, he was deemed competent enough to stand trial. At several points throughout the trial the court did a Faretta inquiry and each time the defendant was found competent to stand trial and represent himself.

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In order to stand trial, the defendant must be competent. The bar for competency is pretty low in a criminal proceeding, however. The defendant needs to be able to have enough rational understanding to be able to aid their lawyer in their own defense, and they must have a rational or factual understanding of the proceedings against him. Keep in mind that this is different from using an “insanity defense.” Competency has to do with the defendant’s mental state at trial, while an insanity defense relates to the defendant’s mental state during the commission of the crime. The law can be complicated, but your experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney can help you understand how the law applies in your case.

Stipulation to Competency

In a case recently heard by the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, the court addressed when it’s allowable for the defendant’s attorney to stipulate to the defendant’s competency. In the case at issue, the defendant was originally charged with second degree murder and two counts of dealing in stolen property. The trial court appointed an expert to determine the defendant’s competency to stand trial. At the hearing, the judge stated that they had the competency report in the file and it said the defendant was competent. The defense attorney then offered to stipulate to competency. A stipulation means that they agreed to the determination. Thus, the court found the defendant competent.

Most of the time, when a defendant pleads guilty, they are unable to later take back their plea and decide to go to trial. However, there are some circumstances when Florida law will allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea that they have already given and allow the defendant to have a trial. One of those circumstances is when new evidence is discovered. However, in order to get a new trial on the basis of new evidence, the case must meet specific requirements. Your skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney can tell you whether your case meets these circumstances.

Trial Due to Newly Discovered Evidence

Typically, defendants will plead guilty only when they believe that they do not have much of a chance of being found not guilty when the case goes to trial. In other words, defendants make these decisions based in large part on the evidence that the state has against them. So when new exculpatory evidence arises, some defendants may want to take back their guilty plea and go to trial. Florida has developed case law that explains in what circumstances the court will allow defendants to do this.

In order for a defendant to be able to stand trial, they need to be competent. Competency has many definitions, but for the purposes of Florida criminal law it is specifically defined in the statute. There is also a body of case law that has developed around competency and when a competency hearing is needed. If you are charged with a crime, your skilled Florida criminal defense attorney will help to make sure the state adequately proves your competency to stand trial.

Competency Definition

Defendants need to be competent to stand trial. Generally, competency requires that a defendant be able to understand the purpose and nature of the charges and legal proceedings against them. Defendants also need to be able to assist their counsel with their defense. Generally, the defendant needs to be aware that they are facing potential jail time or other consequences and that the state is trying to prove a case against them. A defendant must also be able to understand that their attorney is there to help them defend themselves against the charges. They must also have some understanding of the expectations for behavior in court, such as not yelling at the judge. Just having mental illness is not nearly enough to be found incompetent to stand trial; the defendant needs to have no meaningful understanding of what is happening.

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