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It is well established that the State must establish each element of an alleged crime in order to obtain a conviction. Thus, in many cases in which a defendant is convicted despite the lack of sufficient evidence, the defendant will file a motion for acquittal following his or her conviction. In a recent case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous sex crimes including sexual performance by a child, the court discussed the standards for granting an acquittal and the evidence needed to prove the crime of sexual performance by a child. If you are charged with a sex crime against a child, it is important to retain an assertive Sarasota sex crime attorney to assist you in fighting to protect your rights.

Factual Background

It is reported that following an incident in a dressing room at a thrift store, the police conducted an investigation regarding the defendant’s alleged videotaping of children. The police ultimately uncovered numerous photographs and videos of the defendant’s sister-in-law and her minor daughter, in which both the sister-in-law and daughter were nude. The police also found photographs in which the defendant’s penis was touching the minor daughter’s face and other photographs that depicted the defendant touching the child when she was asleep. The defendant was charged with approximately twenty sex crimes, including seven counts of sexual performance by a child. During the trial, the defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal. The motion was denied, and he was convicted on all charges, after which he appealed the denial of his motion.

Grounds for Granting a Motion for Acquittal

Under Florida law, a defendant filing a motion for judgment of acquittal may either argue that the State failed to present legally sufficient evidence that the defendant committed each element of the charged offense or in cases where the evidence is wholly circumstantial, that the State’s evidence is not inconsistent with any reasonable theory of innocence. To preserve either ground for seeking a judgment of acquittal, the defendant must identify the elements of the crime for which he or she alleges the State’s evidence is lacking, or in cases involving circumstantial evidence must outline the theory of his or her defense and explain why it is not inconsistent with the evidence presented.

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In any criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proving each element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the court will instruct the jury as to the elements of the crime a defendant is accused of committing, so that the jury may assess whether the evidence produced is sufficient to meet the State’s burden. If the jury is improperly instructed regarding the elements of the charged offense, however, it may result in an improper conviction. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida appellate court case in which the defendant’s conviction for sexual battery was reversed due to an improper jury instruction. If you are charged with committing sexual battery or any other sex crime, it is important to meet with a skillful Sarasota sex crime attorney to assess your options for seeking a favorable result.

Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous sex offenses, including attempted sexual battery, by attempting to penetrate the victim’s genitals with his genitals. He was convicted on all counts, after which he appealed on several grounds. The court deemed the majority of the defendant’s arguments meritless but addressed the issue of whether the trial court committed a fundamental error by issuing an improper jury instruction.

Fundamental Errors Due to Incorrect Jury Instructions

In most cases, a defendant must object to a jury instruction prior to when the jury retires for deliberation to preserve the right to appeal based on an improper jury instruction. In the subject case, the defendant did not make any objection to the instructions. As such, the court was required to determine whether the improper instruction given to the jury constituted a fundamental error. In other words, whether the error affected the validity of the trial as a whole, to the extent that the jury would not have reached a guilty verdict without the assistance of the error.

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It is not uncommon in criminal cases for the affidavit for an arrest warrant to contain facts and allegations the State is ultimately unable to prove at trial. If the defendant is ultimately convicted of the crimes with which he or she is charged if the information in the affidavit differs from the evidence presented at trial, the court cannot consider the information in the affidavit in determining an appropriate sentence. If the judge does consider unsubstantiated allegations in sentencing a defendant, it may be considered a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights and is grounds for vacating the sentence. This was shown in a recent Florida appellate court case in which the defendant was convicted of various sex crimes.  If you are charged with a sex crime in Sarasota, it is prudent to speak with a capable Sarasota sex crime attorney to assess your available defenses.

Procedural Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with lewd and lascivious battery of a child and with using a child in a sexual performance. A jury trial was held, during which the State introduced evidence that the defendant was involved in a sexual encounter with the victim, who was underage, and that he made a video recording of the encounter. The jury convicted the defendant of both charges.

It is alleged that during the sentencing hearing, the judge stated she was sentencing the defendant based on the circumstances surrounding the offense. The judge then proceeded to recite facts that were in the affidavit in support of the defendant’s arrest, which were different than the evidence produced at trial. The defendant’s attorney called the judge’s attention to the fact that there was no evidence of record to support the circumstances the judge relied upon in crafting her sentence. The judge agreed but issued the sentence of fifteen years imprisonment followed by fifteen years of sex offender probation regardless. The defendant appealed.

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When a person is charged with a crime in Florida, the State is generally precluded from introducing collateral evidence of other crimes. In other words, the State cannot produce evidence of uncharged crimes that the defendant allegedly committed as evidence of the defendant’s guilt. There are certain situations in which collateral crime evidence is admissible, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida appellate court case, in which the defendant was charged with kidnapping. If you are a resident of Sarasota charged with kidnapping or another violent crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a knowledgeable Sarasota violent crime defense attorney to discuss the evidence that the State may be permitted to introduce against you at trial.

Evidence Produced at the Defendant’s Trial

The defendant was charged with eight crimes, including sexual battery, unlawful imprisonment, rape, and kidnapping. The case proceeded to trial, during which the State introduced evidence of crimes with which the defendant was not charged but that the State alleged he committed. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing the trial court erred in permitting the State to introduce collateral crime evidence.

Collateral Crime Evidence in Florida Criminal Matters

On appeal, the defendant argued that the State introduced evidence of the defendant’s alleged collateral crimes to impugn his character and that allowing such evidence denied him of the right to a fair trial. Specifically, during the trial, the defendant’s alleged victim, who was his former girlfriend, testified that the defendant tortured her for hours. The defendant argued that such testimony was improper because it introduced evidence of acts that were not part of the crimes with which the defendant was charged.

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In many cases, a defendant who is convicted of a crime will be sentenced to probation. If a defendant violates the terms of the probation, however, the court may revoke the probation and sentence to the defendant to a term of imprisonment. Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed a defendant’s rights in probation revocation hearings in a case in which the defendant’s probation was revoked due to an alleged sexual assault. If you live in Sarasota and are faced with charges of sexual assault or any other crime, it is prudent to meet with a dedicated  Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your case.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with aggravated child abuse. He entered into a plea agreement with the State and was sentenced to probation for 36 months. Subsequently, the State alleged that the defendant violated his probation by committing two acts of sexual assault. The violation report listed the offenses as the sexual battery on a victim under twelve by a person eighteen years or older. A trial was held regarding the alleged charges.

Allegedly, at the end of the trial, prior to the jury’s decision, an evidentiary hearing was held on the alleged probation violation. The court revoked the defendant’s probation without allowing the defendant to speak and sentenced the defendant to five years of imprisonment. The defendant was subsequently found not guilty of sexual assault crimes. The jury submitted a note to the judge stated that they believed the defendant committed an illegal act, but the evidence was insufficient to prove the crime charged.

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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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