In many criminal matters,  the prosecution lacks direct evidence that the defendant committed the crime in question. While prosecutors can use circumstantial evidence to demonstrate a defendant’s guilt, they must abide by any applicable rules of evidence. Recently, a Florida court examined when witness opinion testimony can be introduced in a criminal trial, in a case in which the defendant was convicted of murder and other charges. If you are accused of a violent crime, it is wise to meet with a Tampa violent crime defense attorney to assess your possible defenses.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant faced numerous charges, including second-degree murder with a firearm, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and aggravated assault with a firearm. The charges stemmed from a dispute between the defendant’s family and the victim’s family, culminating in a confrontation at a local park. Earlier animosity arose from the defendant’s sister’s past relationship with the victim. A Snapchat conversation between the defendant and the victim led to an agreement for a fistfight to settle their differences. On the night of the incident, the defendant drove to the park armed with an AR-15 rifle. A heated argument ensued, and the defendant fired multiple shots from his vehicle, resulting in the death of the victim and injuries to others present.

Allegedly, the evidence presented during the trial included testimonies from witnesses, forensic analysis, and the defendant’s own account. The court noted that the defendant claimed self-defense, asserting that he shot at the victim to prevent an imminent threat. Witnesses provided conflicting accounts, with some supporting the defendant’s version and others disputing it. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred by allowing a witness to opine on the reasonableness of the defendant’s use of deadly force. Continue Reading ›

It is not uncommon for people to be charged with DUI crimes following alcohol-induced crashes. While the police are permitted to investigate collisions without warrants, it is not always clear what constitutes a crash and, therefore, grounds for conducting an investigation.  In a recent Florida opinion, a court clarified what is considered a crash for the purposes of DUI investigations in a case in which it ultimately determined the defendant’s arrest was lawful. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Tampa DUI defense lawyer to evaluate what steps you can take to protect your interests.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that a police officer responded to a report of a traffic crash and found the defendant’s overturned pickup truck in a ditch. The defendant, standing nearby, exhibited signs of alcohol impairment. Despite no evidence of the truck colliding with another vehicle or structure, the officer initiated a DUI investigation. The defendant’s truck, which was damaged with a broken headlight, was towed, during which it was revealed it contained numerous alcohol containers. The officer subsequently arrested the defendant for DUI. Chemical testing revealed his BAC to be over .15.

Allegedly, the defendant moved to suppress the results of his chemical testing and any evidence obtained during the investigation, arguing that his overturned truck did not constitute a crash and, therefore, his arrest was invalid. The court granted his motion, and the state appealed. Continue Reading ›

It is axiomatic that under state and federal law, a person cannot be charged with or convicted for the same crime more than once, as doing so would violate their protections against double jeopardy. Merely because a person is convicted of violating a specific statute more than once does not necessarily mean that their rights have been violated, however, as illustrated in a recent Florida ruling issued in a drug crime case in which the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a drug-related crime, it is wise to contact a Tampa drug crime defense lawyer regarding what steps you can take to protect your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was convicted in 2016 of four counts related to the possession and distribution of heroin. His PSI categorized him as a career offender based on multiple previous felony convictions for controlled substance crimes, including two convictions for the sale of cocaine in violation of Florida law and one conviction for conspiracy to possess cocaine and cocaine base with intent to distribute in violation of federal law. The defendant objected to these calculations during sentencing, arguing that he was being charged for the same cocaine convictions multiple times, raising a double jeopardy claim.

It is alleged that in the district court affirmed the PSI’s calculations, and his sentence was upheld on direct appeal. In 2022 the defendant filed a Rule 36 motion, contending that his prior state and federal cocaine convictions should be scored as a single offense for the purposes of calculating his criminal history in relation to his 2016 heroin conviction. The trial court denied his motion, which led to the current appeal.

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It is not uncommon for the prosecution to rely on circumstantial evidence to attempt to establish a defendant’s guilt in Florida sex crime cases. While both circumstantial evidence is admissible, the prosecution is generally precluded from introducing evidence of the defendant’s prior bad acts to demonstrate their guilt for their current charges. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, that will allow the courts to introduce evidence of child molestation and evidence of other crimes in sex crime cases, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion. If you are charged with a sex-related offense, it is prudent to meet with a Tampa sex crime defense lawyer about what defenses you may be able to set forth.

Procedural and Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with child pornography offenses. The defendant’s criminal history includes prior convictions, notably in 1998 for Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fourth Degree in Michigan, a misdemeanor involving unlawful sexual contact, and Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Michigan in 2000. Furthermore, in 2003, the defendant was indicted for and later convicted of possessing child pornography. Prior to his trial, he filed a Motion in Limine to preclude the introduction of evidence regarding his prior convictions, including his child pornography conviction, which the Government opposed.

Admissibility of Evidence Regarding Prior Crimes

The court ultimately denied the defendant’s motion. Prior to doing so, it considered whether the evidence of the defendant’s 2004 conviction for possession of child pornography was admissible. The Government argued that this evidence could be introduced under Federal Rule of Evidence 414 (permitting evidence of child molestation) and Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) (allowing evidence of other crimes or acts for specific purposes). Rule 414 defines “child molestation” to include any acts prohibited by 18 U.S.C. Chapter 110, which includes possession and distribution of child pornography. Continue Reading ›

In Florida sex crime cases, the defendant’s guilt or innocence often hinges on how the jury perceives circumstantial evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. For example, a defendant may testify that they engaged in prior consensual activity with the victim in support of the argument that the acts in question were consensual. If a defendant is prohibited from testifying regarding such activity, then it may inhibit their ability to present a defense, as discussed in a recent Florida case.  If you are charged with a sex offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a Tampa sex crime defense attorney to discuss what arguments you may be able to assert in your defense.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with sexual battery and trespass. The charges stemmed from an incident where the defendant allegedly entered the victim’s residence during the night, sexually assaulted her, and then left. The victim initially believed it was her boyfriend but later realized it was not. DNA evidence linked the defendant to the crime.

Allegedly, at trial, the defendant attempted to assert the defense that the sexual encounter was consensual. He claimed that he had previously engaged in consensual sexual activity with the victim on two occasions in exchange for drugs. However, the trial court prohibited him from testifying about these prior encounters. The jury convicted the defendant, and he was sentenced to ten years in prison. He appealed, arguing the trial court erred in barring him from testifying regarding prior consensual sexual activity with the alleged victim. Continue Reading ›

In Florida, people charged with crimes have numerous rights. For example, they have the right to be tried for their alleged crimes within a reasonable time; if they are not, they may be able to assert that the State violated their right to a speedy trial, and, therefore, the charges against them should be dismissed. In a recent Florida opinion issued in a case in which the defendant was charged with identity theft, the court discussed what a defendant making a speedy trial argument must prove to prevail. If you are accused of a theft crime, it is wise to speak with a Tampa theft crime defense attorney about your rights as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with identity theft and wire fraud. During his trial, the government alleged that the defendant, who was an attorney, obtained litigation advances from financing companies in the names of his clients without their knowledge and used the fraudulently obtained funds to pay his law firm’s expenses. The jury convicted the defendant of the charged offenses. He subsequently appealed on several grounds, including a violation of the Speedy Trial Act, insufficient evidence to support his convictions and an error in the jury instruction regarding deliberate ignorance.

The Speedy Trial Act

The Speedy Trial Act mandates that a defendant’s trial should start within seventy days from the indictment’s filing or the defendant’s initial appearance, whichever is later.

Regarding the Speedy Trial Act, the defendant contended on appeal that the time between filing a motion and the conclusion of the related hearing should not be excluded from the speedy trial calculation. However, the court noted that such time is, in fact, excludable under the Act. In the defendant’s case, the district court deferred ruling on their motion until a pretrial conference, and this time was properly excluded from the speedy trial calculation, thereby dismissing the defendant’s Speedy Trial Act violation claim.

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In Florida, most DUI arrests arise out of traffic stops. The police generally must have reasonable suspicion that a motorist is committing a crime or violating a traffic law in order to lawfully stop them, however, and if they do not, any evidence obtained during the stop arguably should be deemed inadmissible. In a recent Florida DUI case, the court discussed the grounds for granting and sustaining a motion to suppress evidence gathered during a traffic stop. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is advisable to talk to a Tampa DUI defense attorney about what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that an officer, equipped with over 17 years of experience as a DUI enforcement officer, observed the defendant’s vehicle driving 83 miles per hour in a zone with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour. The officer initiated a traffic stop after the defendant abruptly came to a halt in a turn lane rather than gradually slowing down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol emanating from it and noticed a half-filled cup of liquid on the floorboard behind the passenger seat. The officer also observed that the defendant had bloodshot and watery eyes and slurred speech.

Florida law permits the courts to not only sentence people convicted of crimes to imprisonment but also to order them to pay restitution to their victims. Recently, a Florida court discussed the basis for imposing a restitution order in a battery case in which it affirmed the trial court’s sentence. If you are accused of battery, it is in your best interest to meet with a Tampa violent crime defense attorney to determine what arguments you may be able to assert in your defense.

Factual and Procedural Overview

It is reported that the defendant faced charges of high-speed or wanton fleeing, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on law enforcement officers, and resisting officers without violence. His charges stemmed from a single incident in which he was involved in a car chase and reportedly rammed his truck into sheriff’s deputy vehicles. During the trial, conflicting evidence arose regarding whether the defendant’s vehicle hit the deputies’ cars or vice versa. The jury found him guilty of attempted aggravated battery and acquitted him of the principal offense of aggravated battery.

Allegedly, following the defendant’s conviction, the trial court sentenced him to prison and ordered restitution of $8,018.85 for the property damage inflicted on the sheriff’s vehicles. Although the defendant did not object to the restitution order during sentencing, he later contested it in a motion, asserting that he was acquitted of the charge forming the basis of the restitution. The court denied his motion, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

For decades, certain people convicted of certain drug offenses were unjustly punished more harshly than those found guilty of similar crimes. In an effort to rectify such inequities, the United States government enacted the First Step Act, which among other things, reduces the sentencing disparity between similar drug crimes. The Act applies retroactively, meaning many people convicted of covered drug offenses are eligible to have their sentences reduced. In a recent Florida opinion, the court discussed the Act and what constitutes a qualifying offense for purposes of sentence reduction. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is smart to meet with a Tampa drug crime defense attorney to examine your potential defenses as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant moved for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act. The court denied his motion, and he appealed. He then filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied as well. He filed a second appeal; in response, the government moved for summary affirmance.

Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

The court ultimately granted the government’s motion. It noted that summary disposition is appropriate in cases where one party’s position is clearly correct as a matter of law. The court generally reviews de novo whether the district court had the authority to modify a defendant’s sentence under the First Step Act, but the denial of a motion for reconsideration is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Continue Reading ›

During a criminal trial, the jury or judge will typically assess whether the evidence, when assessed in conjunction with current statutory and case law, is sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt. If, after a defendant is convicted, it becomes evident that there is new evidence or an intervening change in law, the defendant may be eligible for a new trial. In a recent opinion delivered in a fraud case, a Florida court discussed what evidence is needed to demonstrate that a new trial is warranted. If you are charged with a fraud offense, it is wise to speak to a Tampa fraud defense attorney to determine your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Factual and Procedural Setting

It is reported that the defendant stood trial for six charges related to a fraud scheme involving clearing vehicle titles of liens from financial institutions and other lienholders. The scheme included false and fraudulent towing and storage liens, false claims of vehicle sales at public auctions, and the submission of fabricated documents to Florida tax collector offices.

Allegedly, after a four-day trial, the jury found the defendant guilty on four of the counts against him, one of which was aggravated identity theft. The jury instruction for this count, which both the defendant and the government proposed and to which the defendant did not object, required the government to prove that the means of identification was possessed “during and in relation to” the crime alleged in the indictment. The defendant subsequently sought a new trial on the aggravated identity theft count. Continue Reading ›

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