In Florida, driving is a privilege, and drivers must comply with certain laws in order to maintain that privilege. If they fail to do so, they may not only lose their right to drive but may face criminal charges as well. As demonstrated in a recent Florida case, people convicted of crimes involving vehicles may be charged with battery and, if convicted, may be sentenced to decades in prison. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is smart to talk to a Sarasota violent crime defense attorney about your options.

Case Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes involving his use of a vehicle, including aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, fleeing law enforcement, driving with a revoked license, leaving the scene of an accident, and tampering with a witness. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to thirty years in prison. He moved for postconviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Grounds for Reversing Criminal Convictions

On appeal, the defendant raised claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and a double jeopardy violation. The court applied the Strickland standard for ineffective assistance of counsel, requiring a showing of deficient performance and resulting prejudice. In the first claim, the defendant argued that his counsel was ineffective for not objecting to an amended information filed after the speedy-trial period. The court found that the defendant had waived his speedy-trial rights by requesting a continuance before the amendment, rendering the objection meritless and his counsel’s performance reasonable.

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Under federal law, people with an extensive criminal history can be deemed career offenders, which means, in part, that they may face greater penalties for subsequent crimes. Only convictions for certain crimes will qualify a person for career offender status, however. If a defendant does not object to the sufficiency of the evidence demonstrating that they are a career offender at the sentencing level, however, they may waive their right to do so, as illustrated in a recent ruling issued in a Florida drug crime case. If you are accused of a drug-related offense, it is wise to confer with a Sarasota drug crime defense attorney promptly.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with conspiring to distribute and distributing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. During the trial, the government presented evidence of the defendant’s involvement in controlled methamphetamine purchases, and the jury found him guilty on both counts. The government sought a mandatory minimum sentence based on the defendant’s prior drug-related convictions.

Reportedly, the defendant’s presentence investigation report applied a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence and classified him as a career offender based on his prior convictions. The report listed three qualifying prior offenses, and the defendant did not object to the report. At the sentencing hearing, he admitted to the convictions listed in the government’s notice of intent, and his trial counsel raised no legal objections. The court sentenced the defendant to 360 months imprisonment, stating it would have imposed the same sentence even without the mandatory minimum due to the substantial amount of methamphetamine involved. The defendant appealed.

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Typically, when people are sentenced to probation, they are required to comply with specific conditions, including, among other things, refraining from engaging in criminal behavior. If they violate the terms of their probation, it may be revoked, and they may be sentenced to imprisonment. In a recent Florida case, a court examined whether an uncharged violation constituted adequate grounds for revoking a defendant’s probation; while the court ultimately ruled that it did not, it upheld the revocation on other grounds. If you are charged with a probation violation, it is smart to talk to a Sarasota probation violation defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant appealed the trial court’s decision to revoke his probation and impose a life sentence. He argued that the trial court improperly considered an uncharged violation in its decision. The defendant also contended, and the State agreed, that the trial court’s written order did not align with its oral pronouncement. During a probation revocation hearing, the trial court requested the defendant’s prior record. The State provided an electronic copy that included the defendant’s most recent arrest, an uncharged violation. The defendant subsequently filed a motion under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(b)(2), asserting that the written order did not match the oral pronouncement, but the trial court did not rule on this motion. The defendant then appealed.

Revoking Probation Based on an Uncharged Violation

On appeal, the court noted that revoking probation based on an uncharged violation violates due process and constitutes a fundamental error. Both the defendant and the State acknowledged this error but differed regarding its import.

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The right to a speedy trial is a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system, as it ensures that defendants are not subject to unnecessary delays in the legal process. If a criminal defendant found guilty of a crime believes that their right to a speedy trial was violated, they might be able to successfully argue that their conviction should be vacated. As illustrated in a recent Florida ruling delivered in a drug crime case, however, it can be challenging to demonstrate that delays in criminal proceedings are unjust and unreasonable. If you are charged with a drug-related offense, it is smart to talk to a Sarasota drug crime criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a controlled substance. He was convicted and sentenced to 235 months in prison. He appealed on numerous grounds, including the assertion that the trial court violated his right to a speedy trial.

The Right to a Speedy Trial in Criminal Matters

After careful analysis, the court found that the defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated and upheld his conviction. The court explained that the Speedy Trial Act establishes guidelines for expediting criminal trials while allowing for justifiable delays. The Act excludes certain periods of delay stemming from proceedings involving the defendant, including delays caused by pretrial motions from filing through disposition.

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In federal criminal trials, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution can rely on direct or circumstantial evidence to establish its case. Generally, however, it cannot introduce evidence of a defendant’s prior convictions to demonstrate they committed the offense they currently are charged with, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court granted the defendant’s motion in limine to preclude evidence of his prior convictions in a carjacking case. If you are charged with a theft offense, it is wise to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to discuss what evidence the government may be permitted to use against you.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with brandishing a firearm during a carjacking. Prior to trial, the prosecution indicated that it intended to introduce evidence of the defendant’s three prior convictions: a 2009 conviction for carrying a concealed firearm and possession of other weapons and two convictions from 2018 and 2022 for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The prosecution argued that these prior convictions were admissible in the current case to demonstrate that the defendant’s alleged brandishing of a firearm during the offense was done “knowingly and intentionally” and was not a result of a mistake or accident.

Evidence of Prior Crimes in Florida Criminal Trials

Reportedly, in response, the defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude such evidence on the grounds that it only served to portray the defendant as having a bad character. The defendant noted that in United States v. Gray, a similar case, the district court allowed the introduction of the defendant’s prior convictions for armed carjacking, armed robbery, and car burglary. However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence under a “lack-of-accident-or-mistake theory.” Continue Reading ›

In Florida, when sentencing a person convicted of a crime, the courts will generally rely on statutory guidelines. The courts have the discretion to deviate from the guidelines, however, if the party seeking an upward or downward sentence demonstrates that a departure is warranted. In a recent opinion issued in a Florida case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes following a deadly accident, the court discussed when a downward departure sentence is appropriate. If you are charged with manslaughter or any other crime following an accident, it is in your best interest to talk to a Sarasota criminal defense attorney about your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was charged with manslaughter and numerous other crimes after she was involved in a fatal car accident. A jury ultimately found her guilty of driving without a license causing serious bodily injury or death. She moved for a downward departure sentence, arguing that she was not the proximate cause of death as the other driver caused the accident. The trial court denied her motion, however, stating that it did not have the discretion to issue a downward departure sentence based on comparative liability for the injuries. Consequently, the defendant was sentenced to the minimum scoresheet of approximately 15 years in prison. She appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in concluding that it was prohibited from considering her comparative fault as a potential basis for a downward departure sentence.

Determining Whether a Downward Departure Sentence is Appropriate

The court explains that determining the appropriateness of a downward departure sentence involves a two-step process. First, the court must ascertain whether there is a valid legal ground for the departure, as set forth in a statute or case law, and supported by facts proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Second, if a valid legal ground exists, the court must determine whether the departure is the best sentencing option by evaluating the totality of the circumstances.

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Under state and federal law, it is illegal to transport a minor child for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. Traveling with a minor for other purposes may be permissible, however, depending on the circumstances. As such, the prosecution must establish that the defendant had an illicit motive to prove their guilt. In a recent ruling issued in a Florida case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for numerous sex crimes, including transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. If you are accused of a sex offense, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to assess your options for protecting your interest.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He was convicted as charged and appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

Establishing Guilt for Transporting a Minor with the Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity

On appeal, the defendant presented two arguments regarding the adequacy of the evidence against him. Firstly, he contends that the transportation did not primarily serve the purpose of engaging in sexual activity because the victim also intended to visit the United States for her brother’s honeymoon. Secondly, he argues that the victim’s trip from the Bahamas to Miami, which he financed, was an innocent return journey to the United States for her brother’s honeymoon.


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Typically, when a person faces numerous charges arising out of a single incident, they will be tried for all of the offenses in one trial. In some instances, though, a defendant may be able to successfully demonstrate that certain charges should be severed, as a trial on all charges at once would be prejudicial. In a recent ruling, a Florida court discussed what evidence a defendant must offer to show severance is warranted in a case in which the defendant was found guilty of possessing a firearm as a violent career criminal. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is advisable to speak to a Sarasota weapons crime defense attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant had an altercation with the victim, who was his girlfriend, at the victim’s house. The altercation became physical, and the defendant brandished a gun and fired multiple shots into the air. He was subsequently charged with aggravated assault, burglary with battery, assault, and possession of a firearm as a violent career criminal.

Allegedly, the defendant moved to sever the gun possession charge from the other offenses, arguing that severance was necessary for a fair trial. The court denied his motion but bifurcated the hearing; during the first phase, the jury found that the defendant possessed a firearm, and during the second, it found that he qualified as a violent career criminal. The defendant was sentenced to life in prison, and he appealed.

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The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution offers people protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Broadly speaking, this means that law enforcement officials must have a warrant to conduct a search. Fourth Amendment protections are critical to safeguarding individual privacy and preventing government abuse of power. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, such as when an officer has reasonable suspicion that a person is committing a crime. Recently, a Florida court addressed what constitutes adequate suspicion of a crime to conduct a warrantless search in a case in which a juvenile appealed his firearms offense convictions. If you are a juvenile charged with a criminal offense, it is in your best interest to talk to a  Sarasota juvenile crime defense attorney about your rights.

The Stop and Arrest

It is reported that a police officer stopped the defendant because he was riding a bicycle at night without lights on. The defendant had a jacket over his left shoulder, and the officer believed that his nervousness and shakiness gave him the impression that there was possibly a weapon in his waistband.

Allegedly, the officer asked to conduct a pat down, and the defendant declined. The officer ultimately found a firearm in the defendant’s groin area. The defendant was charged with multiple firearm defenses. Prior to his hearing, he moved to suppress any evidence found during the stop on the grounds that the officer lacked the necessary suspicion to conduct a weapons pat down. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and the defendant was adjudicated delinquent. He appealed.

Reasonable Suspicion to Conduct a Weapons Pat Down

In reviewing the denial of the motion to suppress, the court determined whether competent and substantial evidence supported the trial court’s factual findings and reviewed the trial court’s application of the law to the facts. Ultimately, the court found that the issuance of a citation for failing to have a bicycle light would not ordinarily validate a weapons frisk. As such, the officer must have some information indicating that the detainee poses a threat to the officer’s safety or to the safety of others.

In other words, for a weapons pat-down search to be valid, the officer must identify objective facts indicating that the person detained is armed and dangerous. The court noted that while the combination of the defendant’s nervousness and the officer’s observation of a bulge in the defendant’s clothing could justify a weapons pat-down, the arresting officer’s testimony did not support a reasonable suspicion of danger in the subject case.

Specifically, the officer did not observe a weapon or see a bulge in the defendant’s pants. Additionally, the arresting officer had no idea whether the firearm had been in the defendant’s groin area the whole time. Thus, the court concluded that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, as the arresting officer lacked the necessary suspicion to conduct a weapons pat down, and reversed the trial court order.

Confer with a Skilled Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney

A juvenile conviction for a weapons offense can negatively impact a person’s life long after the sentence imposed is complete. If you are a minor charged with a gun crime or any other offense, it is wise to confer with an attorney about your potential defenses as soon as possible. The skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law have ample experience helping minors protect their rights in juvenile proceedings, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law through the online form or by calling 941-462-1789 to set up a conference.

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Laws pertaining to the medical and recreational use of marijuana continue to change in Florida and throughout the country. As such, many acts that were once criminal are now legal. A prior conviction for a marijuana-related offense can still adversely impact a defendant’s presentence investigation report, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence for possessing a handgun as a felon. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is important to speak to a Sarasota gun crime defense attorney about your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that police officers arrested the defendant for aggravated assault with a weapon. When they searched the defendant at the time of the arrest they found a loaded gun in his pocket; it was later revealed that the gun had been stolen two years prior. The defendant had numerous prior felony convictions, including convictions for the possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

It is alleged, therefore, that the defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a handgun. He entered a guilty plea without a plea agreement. The probation office drafted a presentence investigation report which used a base offense level of 20 due to the defendant’s prior felony controlled substance offense. The defendant objected, arguing that he should not have been assigned a base offense level of 20 because marijuana was not a controlled substance under the sentencing guidelines. The court overruled his objection and sentenced him to 63 months’ imprisonment. He appealed.

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