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In Florida, if a person is charged with molestation of a minor child, the State is permitted to admit the child’s out of court statements if there is other corroborating evidence to support the statements, under the child hearsay exception. If the statements are not corroborated, however, they will be insufficient to support a conviction.  The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, recently discussed the standards for admitting child hearsay in a case in which the defendant was charged with sex crimes against a child. If you live in Sarasota and a charged with a sex crime involving a minor it is essential to engage a skilled Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State is permitted to use against you at trial.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant lived in the same house as his alleged victim, who was his eight-year-old niece. The victim reported to school administrators that the defendant touched her privates and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. She underwent a physical examination which revealed no injuries. A forensic interview was conducted of the victim, during which she stated that when she was in the defendant’s room, the defendant had placed his finger inside her privates, after which she bled. She also stated the defendant touched her outside of her clothes the day before in the living room.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of twelve. During the trial, the victim’s out of court statements were admitted under the child hearsay exception. The victim also testified at trial but stated she did not recall the incident she talked about in her forensic interview where the defendant touched her over her clothes. Additionally, the victim testified regarding another incident that was not previously reported. The defendant was convicted on both counts, after which he appealed.

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Juvenile residents of Florida may be charged with sex crimes, and although they are generally treated with more leniency than adult defendants, they may still face significant penalties if they are convicted. For example, if a juvenile defendant is convicted of a sex crime, in certain cases, he or she may be required to register as a sex offender. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, recently explained the grounds for imposing a sex offender registration requirement on a juvenile, in a case in which the defendant allegedly violated the terms of his probation following a conviction for a sex crime. If you are a minor living in Sarasota and are charged with a sex crime it is imperative to meet with a knowledgeable Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding the potential penalties you face and what defenses are available to help you avoid a conviction.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was deemed delinquent for violating the terms of his probation, following a conviction for the lascivious or lewd molestation of a victim who was less than twelve years old. During the violation of probation hearing the court imposed a sex offender registration requirement on the defendant. The defendant subsequently appealed, arguing that the court erred in imposing the requirement. Specifically, he argued that the registration requirement was based on factual findings that were not made by the original sentencing judge and were therefore improper.

Sex Offender Registration Requirement

Under the Florida statute pertaining to the registration of sex offenders, a person will be deemed a sex offender if he or she has been adjudicated delinquent for committing one of the enumerated sex crimes if he or she was fourteen years old or older at the time of the offense. One of the crimes that require a person to register as a sex offender is lascivious or lewd molestation, if the court finds the molestation involved unclothed genitalia.

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Many criminal cases are resolved prior to trial. If a criminal case proceeds to trial, however, it is vital that the jury is correctly instructed on the precise elements of the crime, as the failure to do so can result in an unjust conviction. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court reversed the defendant’s conviction for sexual battery, due to the fact that the jury was improperly instructed on the elements of the crime. If you are a Sarasota resident facing charges of a sex crime, including sexual battery on a person under twelve years old, it is crucial to engage a skilled Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to develop persuasive arguments on your behalf to help you seek a favorable result under the facts of your case.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the victim lived wither her father and her stepmother during the week, and her mother and the defendant on the weekends. On one occasion when the stepmother picked up the victim after a weekend with her mother and the defendant, the victim was acting strangely. The stepmother asked the victim if anything happened, after which the victim began to cry and reported that the defendant had touched her inappropriately.

It is alleged that the stepmother told the father, who called the police. They then took the victim to a clinic to be examined. The defendant was charged with sexual battery on a person less then twelve years old. In the amended information charging the defendant, the State alleged the defendant committed two acts of sexual battery by causing his genitals to penetrate or have union with the “butt” of the victim. The case proceeded to trial, and during the trial the victim, who was ten at the time, testified that the defendant had contact with her “butt.” She had difficulty remembering things and testified inconsistently as to the precise acts that occurred.

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In any criminal case, the State bears the burden of proving that the defendant committed each element of the crime. In many cases, the State does not have direct evidence and relies on circumstantial evidence to prove its case. In limited circumstances, the State is permitted to introduce evidence  that the defendant committed a collateral crime to show that the defendant is guilty of the crime he or she allegedly committed. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed when collateral crime evidence is admissible, in a case in which the State sought to admit collateral crime evidence of the defendant’s propensity to commit sexual battery. If you live in Sarasota and are charged with sexual battery or any other crime, it is essential to retain a proficient Sarasota sex crime attorney to discuss your case and the evidence that the State may be permitted to introduce against you.

Facts of the Case

It was reported that the victim alleged that the defendant penetrated her digitally without her consent while she was sleeping after a night of drinking.  Shortly after the alleged incident, the defendant left messages on the victim’s phone in which he apologized for being aggressive, getting carried away, and going over the line. The defendant was charged with sexual battery. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it would introduce evidence at trial that the defendant had previously digitally penetrated a woman who had passed out after a night of drinking.

The defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude the collateral crime evidence. Following a hearing, the court found that the collateral crime evidence was admissible to show the defendant’s propensity to commit the crime alleged. The collateral crime evidence was introduced at trial, and the defendant was found guilty. The defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in permitting collateral evidence for the purpose of showing propensity. Continue reading

If you are charged with a violent crime there are a variety of defenses you can set forth to try to avoid a conviction, including self-defense and mistake. A Florida appellate court recently held, however, that evidence of medical malpractice is not a valid defense to a second-degree murder charge, in a case in which the victim died from a gunshot wound. If you are charged with a violent crime in Sarasota it is critical to engage a knowledgeable Sarasota violent crime defense attorney to determine what defenses to set forth to give you a strong chance of a favorable result.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crime and Medical Treatment

Allegedly, the defendant was walking down the street when the victim approached him in a car and rolled down the window. The defendant argued with the victim, and then allegedly punched and shot the victim. The victim drove to a nearby gas station where he collapsed. The victim was transported to a hospital where he ultimately died from his injuries. The defendant was charged with second-degree murder. At the trial, the defendant sought to cross-examine the medical examiner regarding possible intervening causes of the victim’s death, including medical malpractice, but the court prohibited the line of questioning. The jury found the defendant guilty, after which the defendant appealed.

Florida Standard for Admitting Evidence in Criminal Trials

On appeal, the defendant argued the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to question the medical examiner regarding medical malpractice. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, stating that under Florida law, a defendant cannot escape a penalty for an act that causes a victim’s death by arguing the death could have been prevented by certain medical treatment. Rather, if the wound inflicted by the defendant is life-threatening, evidence of improper medical treatment or the harm caused by such treatment will not help the defendant avoid a conviction. In other words, when a defendant fatally wounds a victim, regardless of whether the medical care rendered to treat the wound is malpractice or merely constitutes sub-optimal medical care, the care will not constitute a superseding or intervening cause of the victim’s death.
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If you are charged with a sex crime it does not mean that you no longer have any rights. Rather, under both Florida law and the United States Constitution, defendants accused of committing a sex crime have several rights, including the right to confront their accuser. If the court refuses to uphold the rights of a criminal defendant, it can result in a reversal of a conviction. This was illustrated in a recent case arising out of the Florida Court of Appeals, in which the court reversed a defendant’s conviction due to the fact the trial court denied the defendant the right to question his accuser. If you live in Sarasota and are charged with a sex crime it is essential to hire an assertive Sarasota sex crime defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf and help you to defend your rights.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crime and Underlying Trial

Reportedly, in 2016, the defendant babysat his alleged five-year-old victim, after which the victim told her mother that she saw the defendant naked and they played a game in which they took off their clothes. The victim gave four different accounts of what happened when she was questioned regarding the incident on subsequent occasions. The defendant was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, and a trial was held.

Allegedly, as there was no physical evidence of any harm, the defendant’s attorney sought to question the victim’s credibility by advising the jury of the different accounts she provided as to what happened. The trial court ruled, however, that it would not allow the defendant’s attorney to cross-examine the victim, due to her age. Rather, the court ruled it would merely show the jury any portions of the victim’s deposition that contradicted her testimony at trial. Thus, the defendant was unable to confront the victim regarding the inconsistencies in her accounts of what happened. The defendant was subsequently convicted, after which he appealed.
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In Florida, the law affords a person suspected of a crime certain rights and protections. For example, the State is prohibited from introducing evidence of bad acts that are not related to the offense charged against a criminal defendant at trial, unless an exception to the rule applies. Recently, a Florida appellate court upheld a conviction where the defendant  was convicted of solicitation to commit murder, finding that the trial court did not err in permitting evidence of bad acts under the evidentiary principle of “opening the door.” If you are charged with solicitation to commit murder or any other violent crime in Sarasota, it is important to retain the services of a skilled Sarasota criminal defense attorney who will work vigorously to preclude any evidence that should not be admitted against you.

The Defendant’s Alleged Criminal Acts

Allegedly, the defendant’s boyfriend approached the police and advised them that the defendant intended to kill her husband. The boyfriend agreed to be an informant for the police. Subsequently, the police recorded conversations between the defendant and her boyfriend and between the defendant and an undercover police officer, who the defendant believed was a hit man. The undercover officer agreed to kill the defendant’s husband. The police then faked a crime scene and informed the defendant that her husband was murdered. The defendant was ultimately charged with solicitation to commit first degree murder. Due to various issues, the defendant ultimately underwent three trials.

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a criminal defendant who is convicted of a crime from cruel and unusual punishment. The Constitution does not define cruel and unusual punishment, however, so the courts have been tasked with interpreting whether a sentence is barred by the Eighth Amendment. In cases involving juvenile homicide offenders, the Florida courts have held that a sentence that does not provide a meaningful chance for release are improper under the Eighth Amendment.

Recently, a Florida appellate court scrutinized whether a sentence of life in prison with judicial review after 25 years was cruel and unusual punishment, ultimately ruling that it was not. If you are charged with a violent crime in Sarasota, it is essential to retain a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985, for a crime he committed when he was a juvenile. He was first sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after twenty-five years. In 2016, he moved for post-conviction relief in the form of resentencing, arguing that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. Following a hearing, he was resentenced to life in prison with judicial review after twenty-five years. The defendant subsequently appealed the new sentence. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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One of the tenets of Florida criminal law is that a defendant must be competent to stand trial. If a defendant’s competency is in question, a hearing must be held to determine whether the defendant is fit to stand trial for criminal charges.

When a court fails to adequately assess whether a defendant is competent prior to trying the defendant, it can result in a reversal of a conviction, as shown in a recent Florida appellate court case. If you live in Sarasota and are facing criminal charges, it is prudent to consult a seasoned Sarasota criminal defense attorney to formulate a defense.

The Defendant’s Prior Charges and Competency Determinations

It is reported that the defendant was charged with aggravated battery in 1987 and aggravated assault in 1988. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in both cases, after which he was committed to the Department of Children and Families and placed in a State hospital. He was released in 1995 but violated the terms of his release and was returned to the hospital. He subsequently assaulted members of the hospital staff and was placed in a Florida commitment center. In 2015, he attacked an employee of the commitment center. He was then charged with and convicted of battery.  The defendant appealed his conviction on the grounds that the court never conducted a competency hearing or advised the jury that he had previously been deemed incompetent.

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In some cases, rather than sentence a person convicted of a crime to imprisonment, a court will impose probation. A probation sentence typically includes conditions that the defendant must abide by. If a defendant fails to comply with the terms of his or her probation, probation may be revoked and a stricter sentence may be imposed.

As set forth in a case recently decided by a Florida appellate court, however, not all probation violations are grounds for revocation. If you live in Sarasota and are facing criminal charges, it is prudent to consult a seasoned Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

Terms of the Defendant’s Probation

The defendant was convicted of welfare fraud and sentenced to probation. There were several conditions to her probation, including the conditions that she “will pay” court costs and that she “may perform” community service in lieu of paying court costs. The defendant did not pay the court costs or perform community service. Consequently, the State moved for a revocation of probation. During the revocation proceeding, the court did not assess whether the defendant had the ability to pay the court costs, but found that the defendant had the ability to perform community service. Thus, the court revoked her probation. The defendant then appealed the revocation of her probation.

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