Articles Posted in Weapons

At both the state and federal levels, sentencing guidelines set forth what constitutes an appropriate sentence for certain offenses. The courts are not bound by the guidelines, though, and can issue a sentence that is greater or lesser than that suggested. In doing so, the court must abide by certain procedural rules, and if it fails to, the defendant may have grounds for challenging the sentence. Recently, a Florida court examined whether a court violated a defendant’s rights in issuing a sentence that represented an upward variance for a gun crime, ultimately determining that it did not. If you are accused of unlawfully possessing a weapon, it is in your best interest to meet with a Tampa weapons crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He pleaded guilty, after which he was sentenced to unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon. Although his advisory guidelines range was calculated as 21 to 27 months’ imprisonment, the court sentenced him to 50 months. The defendant appealed.

Sentence Variances in Florida Criminal Cases

On appeal, the defendant argued that his sentence constituted an upward departure rather than an upward variance. The court disagreed, however, ruling that the defendant’s sentence was an upward variance based on the trial court’s stated reasons for imposing it. Specifically, the court found that the trial court did not refer to a departure provision and that the grounds the trial court gave for the sentence were based on the factors outlined in the imposition of a sentence law. Thus, the court declined to adopt the defendant’s arguments that the trial court erred in failing to comply with established procedures for imposing an upward departure. Continue Reading ›

In Florida criminal matters, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. While the prosecution can use circumstantial and direct evidence to establish that a defendant committed a crime, it cannot rely on facts not in evidence, as explained by a Florida court in a recent case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. If you are accused of a gun offense, it is smart to speak to a Tampa weapons crime defense attorney about your options for protecting your rights.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the State charged the defendant with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. During the trial, the State presented testimony from a police officer that came in contact with the defendant during an investigation. The officer stated that the defendant told him he had a gun in his possession.

It is alleged that a second officer testified, corroborating the first officer’s report. The defendant testified and denied making the aforementioned statements or possessing a gun. During the State’s closing argument, the prosecutor told the jury the defendant was not reliable and implied that the second testifying officer was credible because he had not been convicted of a felony. Defense counsel objected, but the court overruled the objection. The jury convicted the defendant, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

Generally, when imposing sentences for crimes, the courts are bound by the sentencing guidelines. They may issue sentences at the high or low end of the guidelines, however, and in some instances, they can deviate from the guidelines. The courts will consider numerous factors in determining an appropriate sentence but have the discretion to assign greater weight to some factors than others, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the court rejected the defendant’s assertion that his sentence for gun crimes was unreasonable in light of his personal characteristics. If you are charged with a weapons offense, you may face serious penalties, and it is advisable to confer with a Tampa gun crime defense attorney about your possible defenses.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant, who is a convicted felon, was arrested for possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon following a shooting at an apartment complex and a high-speed chase. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge against him pursuant to a plea agreement in which the government agreed to recommend that the court impose a sentence at the low end of the guidelines range.

Reportedly, a United States probation officer prepared a presentence investigation report in which he offered recommendations for the defendant’s sentence. He made a series of increases based on the nature of the defendant’s offense and the defendant’s extensive criminal history; based on the total offense level and criminal history, the probation officer calculated the sentencing guidelines range to be 84 to 105 months in prison. The court sentenced the defendant to 96 months in prison, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

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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It is important for all Tampa citizens to know what rights they are afforded under the law. For example, with some exceptions, the police are not permitted to search your property without a warrant or your consent. If you grant the police access to your property, however, it is possible that any evidence of a crime found during a search of the property could be used against you, even if you were not suspected of a crime prior to the search.

This was illustrated in a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in which the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm was upheld after he gave the police permission to search his garage. If you are a resident of Tampa currently charged with a weapons crime, you should meet with a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your available defenses.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Conviction

Allegedly, the incident in question began when police officers arrived at a residence with a warrant, looking for a shooting suspect. The defendant, who was not the suspect at the time, suggested they check the garage. The police saw a gun on a table and seized and disarmed it. The officer also called the serial number into the police system to determine whether it was stolen. The defendant was standing nearby, unrestrained, during the investigation, and advised the officers he had been to prison. The defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. During his trial he filed a motion to suppress evidence of the firearm, arguing that it was obtained via an illegal search and seizure. The court denied the motion and the defendant was convicted. He subsequently appealed, arguing that the trial court wrongfully denied his motion and that his prior convictions did not qualify as violent felonies.

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Courts in the United States will look very closely at allegations of prejudice during a trial. In the courtroom, prejudice does not always mean the same things that it means outside of the courtroom. Generally, prejudice involves prejudging someone based on stereotypes or preconceived notions about who they are, often based on race, gender, etc. In the courtroom context, prejudice involves the jury believing that someone is guilty based on something other than the evidence. Prosecutors, as representatives of the state, have a special interest and responsibility toward a just outcome. Thus, they may be held to a higher standard. Judges may look at the behavior of the prosecutor to analyze it for potential misconduct and/or whether it was prejudicial.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

This case was heard by the Florida Second Circuit Court of Appeal. In his initial trial, the defendant was charged with robbery with a deadly weapon. The jury found him guilty of that charge. On appeal, the defendant asserted a number of different claims. One of the claims that the defendant brought on appeal was an allegation of prosecutorial misconduct. Specifically, the defendant argued that it was error for the court to have allowed the prosecutor to suggest that the victim changed his story between the robbery and the trial due to actions by the defense counsel.

Just because you are charged with a crime does not mean that you will be convicted. Many times the police, District Attorney, or other people involved in your case will make a mistake. Luckily, if you have a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney on your side they can advocate for you both before and during the court process. In this case, a man was charged with “possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon.” However, the appeals court in this case later overturned this conviction and sent it back to the lower court for a new trial.

Definition of Firearm

The defendant initially tried to argue that he should not be charged with this crime because it was a firearm and thus not a “weapon.” Therefore, he argued, if it is not a weapon it cannot be a “concealed weapon.” This argument has been successful in the second circuit, but this court – the Florida First District Court of Appeal – did not agree. They noted that Florida’s statute does define weapon as including guns.

“Possession vs. Carrying”

The defendant was successful on his other argument though. He noted that in his initial trial the jury was instructed to consider whether the defendant was guilty of “possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon.” However, this crime does not exist. The actual language that the court should have used is “carrying a concealed weapon by a felon.” This case revolves around the distinction between “carrying” and “possession.” Continue Reading ›

In the United States, the police are not just able to search anyone at any time. The Constitution – specifically the Fourth Amendment – guarantees that individuals are free from illegal search and seizure. If you are searched illegally, there is not usually anything you can do about it in that moment. However, if evidence of illegal activity is found during the search, and that evidence is later used to convict someone of a crime, the conviction may be vacated. That is what happened in this case, heard by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal. The laws around what is an illegal seizure and illegal search are very fact specific. Therefore, if you have questions you should talk to a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney familiar with Florida laws and they can help you to figure out whether a search was permissible in your specific circumstances.

Terry Stops

A 1968 case called Terry established the test for what is legal when it comes to “stop and frisk” searches. The test has two prongs. First, for the search to be permissible the police need to have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity “afoot.” The police need to be able to articulate what makes them suspicious of the behavior; it can’t just be based on a vague feeling or hunch. They don’t need to witness actual criminal behavior, but there needs to be something that they can define as relatable to potential criminal activity.

Search and seizure issues often come up in Florida drug crime cases. Generally, police are required to get a warrant from a judge in order to search a person’s home, car, or even cell phone records. In many cases, however, courts have said the warrant requirement may not be feasible. That’s why police can sometimes search cars without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that there’s evidence of a crime inside. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently explained how the car search exception works in a Bay County drug case.A defendant was charged with three drug crimes in 2013. He was released from prison while awaiting trial on those charges when he failed to show up at a pretrial conference. A court in Bay County issued a warrant for his arrest. The court issued a second arrest warrant in 2014, when he failed to show for a hearing in a separate criminal mischief case. U.S. Marshals eventually used cell phone data to track him to a Dollar General store – thanks to another warrant, this time allowing cops to search his phone info – where they found and arrested him. The officers also found the key to a Ford Taurus and a gun in a plastic bag on his person. They located the car – which the officers said smelled heavily of marijuana – and found a variety of drugs, five more guns, and $6,700 in cash. The defendant was charged with possession with intent to distribute various drugs and possession of firearms.

At trial, his lawyers asked a federal judge to exclude the firearms and drug evidence gained from the Ford Taurus from the case against him. The judge rejected that request, finding that the officers had probable cause to search the car based on the smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. The defendant was eventually convicted on all of the charges and sentenced to nearly nine years in prison.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Eleventh Circuit said the trial judge didn’t err in allowing the drug and gun evidence to be introduced at trial. The court explained that police officers generally are required to have a warrant from a judge in order to conduct a search. There are a number of exceptions to this general rule, however, including for vehicles. Officers can search a car, the court said, if the vehicle is readily mobile, and the cops have probable cause.

Florida law is often strict when it comes to doling out punishments for crimes, even when the person charged is a juvenile. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has established some limits on harsh sentencing for people under the age of 18, states still have a lot of leeway to put juveniles behind bars for long stretches of time. Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently explained that judges have the power to impose mandatory minimum sentences on juvenile offenders.Mr. Young was 17 years old when he was charged with armed robbery, a Florida gun crime that’s punishable by up to life in prison. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years behind bars, the mandatory minimum punishment under state law. Young later appealed the sentence, arguing that it violated the U.S. Constitution. Young’s attorneys told the court that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars the state from imposing mandatory minimum sentences. That’s because those sentences don’t allow judges to consider individual circumstances or to take into account that juveniles may have more capacity for reform, they said.

The Fifth District disagreed. “The court clearly allowed for the consideration of Young’s age in fashioning its sentence, as evidenced by Young receiving the lowest permissible sentence for his crime,” the court said. “Although we acknowledge that the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence required here does limit, to some extent, the discretion of a trial court in sentencing a juvenile offender, we do not view this modest limitation as a constitutional infirmity.”

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