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In many instances in which a criminal defendant is convicted of a crime, the court will not only sentence the person to jail time or probation but will also order him or her to pay restitution costs. A court may not order restitution without basis, however. Rather, as discussed in a recent Florida theft case, certain factors must be present for a restitution award to be valid. If you are accused of committing a theft crime, it is smart to consult a skillful Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to evaluate your rights.

The Alleged Crime and Restitution Award

It is reported that the defendant was charged with three counts of dealing in stolen property, giving a pawn shop owner false verification of ownership, and other crimes. He entered a guilty plea to all charges. Following his sentencing, he challenged an award of restitution for a stolen diamond bracelet, arguing that as he was not charged with stealing the bracelet and the item was not within the original charge of dealing in stolen property, his guilty plea did not constitute an agreement to pay for it. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the award.

Grounds for Awarding Restitution Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, if a defendant challenges a restitution award, the court must assess whether the damage or loss the defendant has been ordered to pay for is both causally related to and bears a substantial relationship to the crime. In order for a restitution award to be causally connected to a crime, it must arise out of the crime for which the defendant was actually charged. Additionally, if a defendant agrees to pay restitution as part of a plea agreement, his agreement is limited to restitution for the charged crime, as reflected by the information or the factual basis for the plea that was set forth by the State when the plea was entered.

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Typically, a person convicted of a felony under Florida law will lose the right to possess a firearm. Thus, while the possession of a firearm is usually legal for a person with no criminal past when a gun is owned or obtained by a person who has previously been convicted of serious crimes, it may constitute a criminal offense. In a recent case, a Florida court discussed what information the prosecution must give to a person charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in a case in which the defendant argued he was not properly advised of his rights prior to pleading guilty. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is prudent to speak to a trusted Sarasota gun crime defense attorney to discuss your options prior to entering a plea.

Factual History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant pled guilty to a charge of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. After sentencing, he appealed, and the appellate court affirmed his conviction. The defendant appealed again, and his conviction was ultimately vacated by the United States Supreme Court. the matter was then remanded back to an appellate court to determine whether the defendant’s indictment was jurisdictionally deficient and whether the district court committed a clear error in failing to advise the defendant that the prosecution was required to prove that the defendant knew he was a felon when he possessed the gun, prior to the entry of a plea.

Possession of Firearm by a Felon Charge

Due to the fact that the defendant pled guilty, he was required to demonstrate the existence of a jurisdictional defect for his sentence to be vacated. In evaluating whether a defect in a federal indictment is jurisdictional, the court must assess whether it charged the defendant with a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States. Although the failure to include an element may render the indictment inadequate, it does not remove jurisdiction from the federal court.

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Frequently, when a crime is committed, the police will gather any available DNA that is located at the crime scene and submit it for comparison with the profiles stored on a DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Recently, in a case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery, a Florida court analyzed whether the inclusion of a criminal defendant’s DNA in CODIS violated the defendant’s rights. If you are charged with a sexual battery offense, it is critical to retain an assertive Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to help you seek to safeguard your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the victim was sexually assaulted in her home, after which she attempted to run across the street to her niece’s house. When she was in the street, she was struck by a car and run over several times. The victim’s niece heard a car driving aggressively, which caused her to go outside and investigate. The victim, who was lying on the ground, managed to convey to her niece that she had been sexually assaulted. She was transported to the hospital where she later died.

Allegedly, when the police were investigating the crime, they obtained DNA evidence from a sponge in the victim’s bedroom. They entered the DNA into CODIS, which resulted in a match with the defendant’s DNA. He was subsequently charged with sexual battery and numerous other crimes. At trial, the defendant moved to have the DNA evidence excluded, arguing that his DNA should not have been in CODIS as his prior conviction had been reversed, and his record had been expunged. Thus, he asserted the evidence was the fruit of the poisonous tree and violated his constitutional rights and should be suppressed. The court denied his motion, and he was convicted, after which he appealed.

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In many cases in which a defendant is convicted of a crime of a sexual nature, the court will impose a sentence that includes a requirement that the defendant register as a sex offender. In some instances, though, a court has the discretion to remove a defendant’s requirement to register as a sex offender. The court can only exercise this discretion if certain factors are met, however, as shown in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court denied the defendant’s petition for the removal of the requirement to register as a sex offender. If you are charged with a crime of a sexual nature, it is in your best interest to speak to a dedicated Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to assess the circumstances surrounding your arrest and what defenses you may be able to assert to protect your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with traveling to meet a minor in violation of Florida law, and unlawful use of computer service in violation of Florida law, both of which were crimes of a sexual nature. He was adjudicated guilty and sentenced by the court. His sentence included a requirement that he register as a sex offender. As such, he filed a petition to remove the requirement. The sentencing court denied the defendant’s motion, after which he appealed.

Removal of the Requirement to Register as a Sex Offender

Under Florida law, if certain requirements are met, a court has the discretion to consider removing a requirement imposed on a defendant convicted of a sex crime. Specifically, the requirement can be waived if a defendant is convicted of sexual performance of a child, lascivious or lewd offenses that were committed in the presence of a person under the age of sixteen, and engaging in specific computer transmissions that are prohibited by law.

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In some instances in which a defendant is charged with a sex crime, the State’s evidence is compelling, and it is prudent for the defendant to enter a plea of nolo contendere to avoid receiving the maximum penalties permitted. Even if a defendant does not defend against criminal charges, however, any sentence issued must nonetheless be within the statutory limitations, and if they are not, may be vacated as illegal sentences, as discussed in a recent Florida case. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is advisable to contact an experienced Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your options and potential penalties.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with attempted sexual battery and attempted lascivious or lewd molestation, both of which were allegedly committed against a person less than twelve years old. The defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere, after which the court imposed concurrent sentences of twenty years imprisonment, followed by probation for life. The defendant appealed, arguing that the sentences were illegal because they exceeded the maximum penalties set forth by law for second-degree felonies. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed the denial.

Grounds for Vacating a Sentence in Florida

Under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may correct an illegal sentence if the defendant affirmatively alleges that the court records, on their face, establish an entitlement to the relief requested. In the subject case, the court noted that sexual battery on a person under twelve years old is a first-degree felony that is punishable by up to thirty years in prison. Thus, the court found that the sentence of twenty years imprisonment followed by lifelong probation exceeded the statutory maximum and, as such, was illegal.

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Criminal defendants have a right to be represented by competent counsel, which means they have the right to an attorney who will explain the merits of any defenses, the strength of the prosecution’s case, and the potential penalties they face if convicted. If a defendant chooses to disregard the information or advice provided by counsel, however, he or she is not afforded another opportunity to re-argue the case via an appeal. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida sex-crime case in which the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling limiting evidence admissible at a post-conviction evidentiary hearing. If you are accused of committing a sex crime, it is in your best interest to consult a seasoned Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of numerous sex crimes, including using a computer to solicit a parent to consent to sexual conduct of a child, traveling to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, and attempted lascivious and lewd battery. Following his conviction, he appealed, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective in that he made unreasonable promises about the likelihood of success at trial and caused the defendant to reject a favorable plea deal. He further argued that if he accepted the plea deal, he would not have had to register as a sex offender.

Reportedly, however, during the evidentiary hearing on the issue, the court limited the defendant’s questioning to statements and advice provided by trial counsel, refusing to allow the defendant to admit evidence regarding the defendant’s mental health, potential defenses, and trial strategy. The defendant appealed, arguing he was denied a fair and full evidentiary hearing. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s conviction and ruled that the conduct of the post-conviction court was proper during the evidentiary hearing.

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Many people convicted of sex crimes are fortunate enough to avoid jail time and are instead sentenced to probation. If a person sentenced to probation does not comply with the terms of his or her probation, the person’s probation may be revoked, and he or she may have to serve a prison sentence. The State must present cogent evidence that the acts of a person on probation constituted a violation in order to obtain a revocation, however, and if it cannot, a revocation may be unjust. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court reversed the revocation of a defendant’s probation, upon finding that the defendant’s possession of pornography did not constitute a violation of his probationary terms. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your available defenses.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with possession of child pornography. He pled guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence of sex offender probation for ten years. The defendant received a letter memorializing the terms of his probation, which were later orally pronounced at his sentencing hearing. The probationary terms included the requirement that the defendant could not view, own, access, or possess any pornographic materials that were relevant to his pattern of deviant behavior.

Allegedly, in March 2019, the State filed an affidavit stating that the defendant violated the terms of his probation after it was revealed that the defendant had a pornographic magazine. During the defendant’s probation violation hearing, the defendant argued that the magazine did not violate the terms of his probation, because it depicted adults and was not relevant to the deviant behavior associated with the offense of owning child pornography. The court disagreed, and the defendant was sentenced to prison, after which he appealed.

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Criminal matters typically involve an evaluation of what strategy is most likely to result in a successful outcome, whether it is asserting an affirmative defense, seeking a deal on a lesser charge, or some other plan. In some instances, if a criminal defendant chooses one plan of action, it may preclude him or her from asserting other defenses. For example, the issue of whether a defendant that argues the statute of limitations bars criminal charges is entitled to a jury instruction of a lesser included offense on the same charges was recently addressed by a Florida appellate court, in a case in which the defendant was charged with sexual battery.  If you are faced with charges of sexual battery or any other sex crime, it is critical to meet with an experienced Sarasota sex crime attorney to discuss what plan of action is most appropriate in your case.

Procedural History of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with armed sexual battery. Before the trial, he moved to have the charge dismissed, arguing that it was not filed within the statute of limitations. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and the case proceeded to trial. Following the prosecution’s case in chief, the defendant waived his right to argue the statute of limitations so that the jury could be instructed on the lesser included offense of sexual battery. The State argued that the defendant could not waive the right, and the court agreed, declining to instruct the jury regarding the sexual battery. The defendant was convicted of armed sexual battery, after which he appealed, arguing the court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense.

Right to a Jury Instruction Regarding a Lesser Included Offense

On appeal, the court stated that under Florida law, a criminal defendant cannot have a charge dismissed pursuant to the statute of limitations and then latter waive the statute of limitations argument as to lesser included offenses arising out of the dismissed charge. In other words, if the defendant gets charges dismissed based on the statute of limitations, he or she cannot then waive the statute of limitations as to other crimes arising out of the same criminal transaction.

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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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