The Florida legislature enacted statutory guidelines that the courts use when sentencing people convicted of violating state law. Sentencing courts have discretion, however, and can deliver downward departure sentences if they believe they are warranted under the circumstances. Recently, a Florida court examined when a downward departure sentence is appropriate in a burglary case in which it ultimately reversed a downward departure sentence on the grounds that it was not supported by competent evidence. If you were charged with burglary or any other theft offense, it is wise to talk to a Sarasota theft crime defense attorney about your possible defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that he was charged with grand theft and burglary of an occupied dwelling in 2019 following an incident in which he drove a co-defendant to a residence, waited while the codefendant broke a window and entered the home, and then drove the co-defendant away. They were later stopped with $15,000 worth of jewelry that had been taken from the home.

Reportedly, while the defendant was awaiting trial for the subject charges, he was convicted of other charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft. The defendant then moved for a downward departure in the subject case, arguing that the offenses were committed in an unsophisticated manner and were isolated incidents. The court granted the defendant’s motion over the State’s objection, and the State appealed.

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There are numerous measures in place at the state and federal levels that aim to protect people from unjust convictions. Among other things, people convicted of crimes have the right to file an appeal if they believe they were improperly convicted. If they fail to raise an argument on appeal, however, they cannot attempt to do so via a collateral challenge, as discussed in a recent opinion issued in a Florida case in which the defendant sought to overturn his conviction for drug trafficking and other offenses. If you are accused of committing a drug crime, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota drug crime defense attorney to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon, using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possessing 50 or more grams of methamphetamine in violation of federal law. He pleaded guilty without a plea agreement and was sentenced to 160 months in prison. He did not appeal his conviction or sentence. He then moved to vacate his conviction for using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in light of a recent ruling that invalidated the relevant statute’s residual clause pertaining to crimes of violence.

The Right to Appeal Criminal Convictions

The court denied the defendant’s request for relief on the grounds that his argument lacked merit and was procedurally defaulted. The court explained that collateral challenges could not do the work of an appeal. In other words, once a defendant has exhausted or waived the change to appeal, the courts are entitled to presume that the defendant’s conviction is fair and final. As such, claims that the defendant could avail themselves of but did not raise in a previous proceeding are procedurally defaulted and typically are barred from consideration on collateral review.

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The Florida courts take allegations of domestic violence seriously and will order injunctions for protection in matters in which they believe the petitioners present credible evidence of acts that constitute domestic violence. People that subsequently violate such injunctions may be subject to criminal penalties. The prosecution must establish each element of the crime of violating an injunction for protection in order to obtain a conviction; however, if it cannot, the defendant should be found not guilty. Recently, a Florida court vacated a defendant’s conviction for violating a protection order on the grounds the prosecution failed to establish each element of the crime. If you are charged with a domestic violence crime, you should speak to a Sarasota domestic violence defense attorney to determine what defenses you may be able to set forth.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the state charged the defendant by information with stalking and violating an injunction for protection against repeat violence. During the trial, the state presented evidence that the alleged victim had sought and obtained an injunction against stalking against the defendant. The state did not present evidence of any other injunctions.

It is alleged that the defendant then moved for acquittal on the grounds that the state failed to establish the issuance of either an injunction against repeat violence or an injunction for protection against domestic violence. The trial court denied his motion, and he was found guilty as charged. The defendant then appealed.

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Under Florida law, certain acts that are sexual in nature constitute crimes. While many sex offenses require the state to establish a specific intent, others merely demand that the state show the defendant committed the acts that constitute the crime. Recently, a Florida court clarified that the crime of sexual battery is a general intent offense in a matter in which the defendant appealed his conviction. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the state must offer to demonstrate your guilt.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant met a man at a bar, after which she agreed to go to his apartment. They then walked to a store where they encountered the defendant, who was the man’s roommate, the defendant’s brother, and another individual. Their accounts differed as to the nature of their interaction; the defendant stated the victim was flirtatious and repeatedly touched him while she denied speaking to or engaging in contact with him.

Reportedly, the victim returned to the man’s apartment and engaged in consensual intercourse with him, after which the defendant entered the bedroom and began engaging in intercourse with the victim. The victim testified that the defendant did not speak to her, and she did not know he was not the other man until after the act was complete. The defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted of sexual battery. He appealed, arguing that he believed the victim consented to the act and, therefore, he lacked the specific intent to commit the charged offense.

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The state staunchly prosecutes violent crimes, and people convicted of such offenses are often sentenced to lengthy prison terms. There are statutory limits pertaining to sentences for violent crimes, however, and if a sentence imposed by a court exceeds the statutory guidelines, it may be illegal. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes an illegal sentence in a case in which the defendant sought to correct a sentence imposed for aggravated assault. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is smart to consult a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assess your options for pursuing a good outcome.

Procedural Background

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault. A jury convicted him following a trial, and the jury explicitly found that he discharged a gun when he committed the crimes. The trial court then issued a sentence of twenty years in prison for the aggravated assault count and thirty years for the manslaughter count, which were the statutory minimums. The court relied on the jury’s findings in issuing the sentences.

It is reported that the defendant then appealed, arguing that the sentence for his aggravated assault conviction was illegal. He also filed a motion arguing that because a firearm was an essential element of both crimes, his convictions were improperly reclassified, and therefore, his sentences exceeded the statutory limit. Continue Reading ›

White collar crimes, like fraud and conspiracy, typically do not involve bodily harm but they are nonetheless staunchly prosecuted. As with any other criminal offense, the prosecution bears the burden of proving each element of a white crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and if it cannot, the defendant should be found not guilty. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict in a white collar crime case, in a matter in which the defendant appealed her conviction. If you are charged with a white collar crime it is advisable to contact a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple white collar crimes, including theft of government funds, identity theft, and wire fraud. The charges arose out of her filing false claims for relief funds that were intended to help farmers struggling with drought and fire. Following a jury trial, she was convicted as charged and sentenced to 28 months in prison. She appealed, arguing, among other things, that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the guilty verdict entered against her and, therefore, she should be granted a new trial.

Evidence Establishing Guilt in White Collar Crime Cases

Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, if the defendant so moves, a court may vacate any guilty verdict and grant a new trial if it is required in the interest of justice. In doing so, the court must evaluate the evidence and weigh the credibility of the witnesses. The Rules do not grant the courts leeway to reevaluate evidence and set aside verdicts simply because they believe some other result would be more appropriate, however.

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It is not uncommon for the State to file multiple criminal charges against a person following a single incident. While this is permissible, a person cannot be tried or convicted more than once for the same crime, as doing so would violate double jeopardy. In many instances, double jeopardy also bars a person from being convicted for an offense and a lesser offense, even though they are two different crimes. This was illustrated in a recent Florida case in which the court vacated a defendant’s conviction for attempted home invasion robbery due to his conviction for burglary with assault. If you are accused of a violent offense, it is in your best interest to talk to a Sarasota violent crime defense attorney to evaluate your options for seeking a good outcome.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes following a home invasion that resulted in the death of two people and the shootings of four other individuals. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was found guilty of fourteen separate offenses, including burglary with assault and attempted home invasion robbery. Prior to sentencing, the defendant filed an appeal. Among other arguments he set forth, the defendant claimed that his convictions for burglary with assault and attempted home invasion robbery violated double jeopardy. The court agreed with the defendant’s assertions and vacated his conviction for the robbery offense.

Protections Against Double Jeopardy

The court explained that double jeopardy claims set forth pure questions of law; as such, they are reviewed de novo. Pursuant to Florida law, separate convictions for distinct offenses arising out of a single act are only permissible if each crime contains at least one element that the other does not.

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While ignorance of the law is not a defense, criminal statutes generally aim to punish intentional wrongdoing. Thus, in many instances, the prosecution must prove that the defendant purposely committed the unlawful act. Some statutes are vague, though, leaving room for interpretation as to what evidence is needed to obtain a conviction. Until recently, it was not clear whether a defendant could be convicted for violating the Controlled Substances Act (the Act) if they were unaware that their actions were unauthorized. The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling clarifying what evidence is needed to convict a doctor of disbursing controlled substances in an unauthorized matter in violation of the Act. If you are charged with a drug crime or any other federal offense, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assess your options.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the government charged the defendant and several other pain management doctors with operating a medical practice as a racketeering enterprise in violation of the Act and other federal laws. The prosecution offered evidence at trial that the defendant prescribed opioids in a manner that did not comply with the applicable standard of care and that he acted for financial gain rather than to help his patients. A jury convicted the defendant and he appealed.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling, and the defendant sought certiorari review.

Evidence Needed to Convict for Violations of the Controlled Substance Act

The sole issue on appeal was whether a physician that prescribes controlled substances outside of the scope of what is typically in their practice can be convicted of unlawful distribution of controlled substances in violation of the Act, if they harbored a reasonable belief that they were acting within the scope of their practice. Continue Reading ›

In order to convict someone of a DUI, the State generally must prove the person was driving while intoxicated, which it usually does through the introduction of evidence of the individual’s blood alcohol concentration. Thus, if the police improperly obtained a blood test and the results of the test are deemed inadmissible, the State may be unable to prove culpability. Recently, a Florida court discussed when the results of chemical testing should be suppressed in a case in which the defendant was charged with DUI manslaughter. If you are charged with a DUI crime, you could face significant penalties, and it is smart to meet with a trusted Sarasota DUI defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was involved in a collision that resulted in the death of another person. The police officer investigating the accident believed that the defendant was intoxicated and asked him if he would submit to a blood test. The defendant declined, after which the officer obtained a search warrant that allowed him to obtain two blood samples an hour apart. After securing the warrant, the officer obtained two vials of blood from the defendant via a single draw and did not collect a second sample. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of the test, arguing the police failed to comply with the warrant. The trial court granted the motion, and the State appealed.

Grounds for Suppressing Evidence Obtained Via a Search Warrant

The trial court relied on established Florida law stating that the purpose of requiring specificity in the description in a warrant of the things to be seized is to prevent general searches. The duty of an officer to explicitly describe the objects that will be taken under the warrant bars general searches and avoids an officer from confiscating one thing when another thing is described in the warrant. In other words, the requirement that a warrant must be particular limits the discretion of the officer that is conducting a search pursuant to the warrant by preventing an exploratory search under a general warrant.

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In Florida, when a defendant is convicted of a sex crime, the courts will look to statutory guidelines to determine an appropriate sentence. Depending on the facts of the case, it may require the court to employ a sentencing multiplier. While doing so will typically increase a sentence, in a recent Florida sex crime case, a defendant argued that the application of the adult-on-minor multiplier required the court to reduce, rather than increase, his sentence. If you are charged with a sex crime, you could face significant penalties, and it is smart to meet with a trusted Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentencing

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with two counts of lascivious or lewd battery on a person between the ages of twelve and sixteen. He was convicted of both counts and sentenced to 182 months in prison on each count, to be served consecutively. He subsequently appealed his sentence.

The Impact of the Adult-On-Minor Multiplier

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in failing to apply the adult-on-minor multiplier and that had it done so, he would have received a lesser sentence. The appellate court declined to adopt his reasoning and affirmed his sentence.

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