Articles Posted in Gun Crimes

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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Typically, it is unlawful for people previously convicted of felonies to possess weapons. As such, while owning a gun is legal for most people, convicted felons who are caught with guns can be charged with crimes. Depending on the nature of the person’s prior offenses, a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm can result in several years of imprisonment. This was illustrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed a defendant’s sentence to fifteen years in prison for possession of a firearm after prior convictions for serious drug offenses. If you are faced with weapons charges, it is prudent to speak with a knowledgeable Sarasota gun crime defense attorney to discuss your case.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He had three prior convictions under Florida law for the delivery or sale of cocaine. The court determined these offenses to be serious drug crimes under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), which mandated an increased minimum sentence of fifteen years in prison. The defendant was ultimately sentenced to 195 months in prison, after which he appealed.

Serious Drug Offenses Under the Armed Career Criminal Act

On appeal, the defendant argued that the sentencing court erred in determining that his prior three convictions for selling cocaine constituted serious drug crimes. Specifically, he argued that to determine whether a state crime is considered a serious drug offense, a court should identify the elements of the generic federal offense and then assess whether the state crime meets those elements.

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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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