Florida Court Discusses Evidence in a Post-Conviction Hearing for Sex Crimes

Criminal defendants have a right to be represented by competent counsel, which means they have the right to an attorney who will explain the merits of any defenses, the strength of the prosecution’s case, and the potential penalties they face if convicted. If a defendant chooses to disregard the information or advice provided by counsel, however, he or she is not afforded another opportunity to re-argue the case via an appeal. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida sex-crime case in which the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling limiting evidence admissible at a post-conviction evidentiary hearing. If you are accused of committing a sex crime, it is in your best interest to consult a seasoned Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of numerous sex crimes, including using a computer to solicit a parent to consent to sexual conduct of a child, traveling to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, and attempted lascivious and lewd battery. Following his conviction, he appealed, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective in that he made unreasonable promises about the likelihood of success at trial and caused the defendant to reject a favorable plea deal. He further argued that if he accepted the plea deal, he would not have had to register as a sex offender.

Reportedly, however, during the evidentiary hearing on the issue, the court limited the defendant’s questioning to statements and advice provided by trial counsel, refusing to allow the defendant to admit evidence regarding the defendant’s mental health, potential defenses, and trial strategy. The defendant appealed, arguing he was denied a fair and full evidentiary hearing. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s conviction and ruled that the conduct of the post-conviction court was proper during the evidentiary hearing.

Evidence Admissible at a Post-Conviction Evidentiary Hearing

Under Florida law, a trial court has discretion as to what evidence will be admitted, within the constraints of the rules of evidence and the principles of stare decisis. If a court excludes evidence that it deems irrelevant, it does not deprive a criminal defendant of a fair and full hearing. Rather, courts have wide latitude to regulate hearings in the manner they believe is required to achieve an orderly and dignified administration of justice. Thus, a trial court’s decision to exclude evidence will be reviewed for an abuse of discretion.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that there was no merit to the argument that the defendant was not afforded a fair and full hearing because his mother’s testimony regarding his mental health issues was deemed irrelevant. Further, the court noted that the defendant failed to demonstrate any prejudice because the defendant testified regarding his meetings with trial counsel and his reasons for rejecting a plea agreement, which was sufficient to sustain his conviction.

Meet with a Capable Criminal Defense Attorney

If you live in Sarasota and are charged with committing on offense of a sexual nature, it is advisable to meet with a capable attorney to discuss your available defenses. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a capable Sarasota sex crime defense attorney who can advise you of your alternatives for seeking the best outcome available under the facts of your case.  You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 941-462-1789 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.

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