Florida Court Discusses Establishing Double Jeopardy Violations 

Under the Florida and United States Constitution, people cannot be convicted more than once for the same crime. As such, if a defendant is found guilty of committing numerous offenses that all stem from the same incident and require the same proof, it may violate their double jeopardy rights, as demonstrated in a recent Florida battery case. If you are charged with a violent offense, including battery, it is wise to meet with a Sarasota violent crime defense lawyer to assess your rights.

Factual and Procedural Setting

It is reported that the defendant, while incarcerated in a county jail, punched another inmate, fracturing his jaw. As a result, he faced two charges: detainee battery and felony battery. Following a trial, the jury found him guilty of detainee battery but acquitted him of felony battery based on causing great bodily harm, instead finding him guilty of the lesser offense of simple battery.

Allegedly, the State subsequently presented evidence of the defendant’s prior convictions, leading the jury to convict him of felony battery based on a previous conviction. The trial court sentenced him to the maximum of five years in prison for each count, to run consecutively. The defendant then appealed his convictions, arguing that the sentences for both convictions constituted double jeopardy.

Establishing Double Jeopardy Violations 

On appeal, the court reviewed the case de novo, as double jeopardy claims founded on undisputed facts are purely legal questions. Despite the defendant not raising the double jeopardy issue at trial, the court considered it due to its status as a fundamental error. Both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions protect against double jeopardy, and it is the Legislature’s role to define crimes and set punishments.

The court noted that the Legislature intended to convict and sentence for each criminal offense committed in one criminal episode, with exceptions for offenses requiring identical proof, offenses as degrees of the same crime, and lesser offenses subsumed by greater offenses.

Here, the defendant’s convictions arose from a single criminal episode, as he delivered one punch to one victim. The court determined that both detainee battery and felony battery based on a prior conviction were degree variants of simple battery, as both statutes are located in the same chapter, share similar elements, and criminalize similar conduct. Therefore, the dual punishments imposed violated double jeopardy protections.

Consequently, the appellate court affirmed the detainee battery conviction but vacated the felony battery conviction based on the prior conviction and remanded the case for resentencing on the detainee battery count.

Consult a Skilled Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney

People accused of violent crimes frequently feel they are fighting an uphill battle, but the prosecution bears the burden of proof in criminal cases. If they cannot meet that burden, the defendant should be found not guilty. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is advisable to consult an attorney to discuss your case. The skilled Sarasota violent crime defense attorneys at Hanlon Law can assist you in seeking the best possible outcome based on the particulars of your case. Contact Hanlon Law via our online form or by calling  941.462.1789 to arrange a meeting.

 

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