Articles Posted in Evidence

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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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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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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Multiple acts of battery may be deemed a single criminal offense, or each act may be charged separately. However, regardless of how battery crimes are charged, the State must prove each element of the offense to get a conviction, which necessitates properly advising the jury on how to examine the evidence provided at trial. This was addressed in a recent Florida decision that looked at what constituted a proper jury instruction in a battery case. If you’ve been charged with battery, it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer about your options.

The Battery Allegations

According to reports, the defendant and the victim, who was his ex-girlfriend, had a verbal altercation. During the disagreement, the defendant snatched a lit cigarette from the victim’s hand, shoved her, and pushed her. With two or more battery convictions, he was charged with battery. During the trial, the defendant’s attorney objected to the verdict form since it did not differentiate between each act, and he said that a unanimous verdict was not required. The objection was overruled by the court, which determined that there was a continuous series of occurrences with no intervening actions. The defendant was found guilty and filed an appeal.

Charges in Florida Battery Cases

A trial court’s employment of a generic verdict form that does not assure a unanimous verdict is a reversible error, the court argued on appeal. A jury cannot condemn a person if a single count encompasses numerous independent offenses, even if they all violate the same statute. A jury must reach a unanimous decision on at least one of the acts described. The defendant in this case claimed that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to deliberate on three different incidents of battery although he was only charged with one.

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In Florida, it is illegal for people to possess controlled substances other than those prescribed by a doctor. Additionally, it is unlawful to sell or distribute such drugs, and people caught with a certain quantity of illicit substances may be charged with drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is a serious crime that carries substantial penalties, and it is critical for people charged with such offenses to understand their rights. If you are accused of drug trafficking, it is in your best interest to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to evaluate your options for seeking a just result.

What is Drug Trafficking?

Under Florida Statute 893.135, it is unlawful to knowingly purchase, manufacture, sell, deliver, or bring in to the state or to knowingly possess certain amounts of controlled substances and constitutes drug trafficking. The amount varies depending on the drug in question. For example, a person who is caught with more than 25 pounds of cannabis or 300 or more cannabis plants may be charged with trafficking in cannabis, which is a felony of the first degree.

Similarly, a person who possesses 28 grams or more of cocaine may be charged with trafficking in cocaine. People may also be charged with drug trafficking for possessing a certain amount of morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, opium, hydrocodone, or any salt, isomer, derivative, or salt of an isomer of such a substance, including heroin and many other drugs. In addition to state charges, people accused of drug trafficking are also frequently charged with federal offenses. Continue Reading ›

Many DUI charges arise out of traffic stops that occur because of erratic driving or other circumstances that indicate a driver may be intoxicated. While the police are permitted to stop motorists, they generally must have a reasonable belief that a person is committing a crime or is about to engage in criminal activity for a stop to be lawful. There is an exception, though, for DUI checkpoints. In other words, under Florida law, the police are permitted to stop motorists without cause to assess whether they may be impaired without violating their rights. The police must comply with specific parameters when they conduct DUI checkpoints, though, and if they do not, they may overstep their lawful rights. If you are charged with a DUI following a stop at a checkpoint, you should meet with a trusted Sarasota DUI defense attorney to assess your options.

Florida’s DUI Checkpoint Rules

Florida is one of several states where it is lawful for the police to set up DUI checkpoints. The police must abide by certain rules and regulations when setting up and conducting checkpoints, though. First, checkpoints cannot be conducted in secret. In other words, the police must notify the public of checkpoints. Specifically, they must publish the location and the date of the checkpoint prior to when it is set up. The checkpoint must also be conducted in compliance with certain guidelines, which means, in part, that officers cannot randomly or discriminately stop certain vehicles but must have clear procedures regarding who will be stopped.

Additionally, police officers are limited by a three-minute rule. In other words, they cannot detain a driver for more than three minutes in most circumstances. If a stop exceeds three minutes, the checkpoint should be suspended, and the police should only stop select vehicles until the traffic is stopped for less than three minutes. Continue Reading ›

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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