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 ›

Sex crimes are serious offenses that often carry weighty penalties. Additionally, many convictions not only result in fines and prison time but may also require a person to register as a sex offender. Being on the sex offender registry can greatly impair many aspects of a person’s life, and it is critical for anyone charged with a crime of a sexual nature to understand the consequences that come with a conviction or guilty plea. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is critical to speak to a knowledgeable Sarasota criminal defense attorney as soon as possible regarding your rights.

What is the Florida Sex Offender Registry?

Under Florida law, people convicted of certain crimes are required to report to their local sheriff’s office and provide identifying information, such as their name, birth date, social security number, race, sex, hair and eye color, tattoos, and other notable marks, and height and weight.

They also have to provide personal information such as their address, place of employment and occupation, contact information, and vehicle information. This information is used, in part, to create a profile for the individual on the public sex offender registry website, which anyone can access to look for offenders by name or to search certain areas to see if offenders live or work there. 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 ›

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically modified many aspects of daily living, including how courts handle the process of handling criminal hearings and trials. Criminal defendants have many rights under the state and federal constitutions, but some of them have been altered or impinged by COVID-19 orders, and it is critical for people charged with criminal offenses to understand how their cases will proceed during the pandemic. If you are accused of a crime, you should meet with a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Florida Court Process During COVID-19

Throughout the pandemic, many Florida courts have been operating under modifications based on local public health information in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For example, some courts have temporarily halted non-jury and in-person jury trials, while others have limited the number of trials they are allowing to proceed.

Criminal defendants have numerous rights, though, including the right to a speedy trial. Specifically, under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191, a criminal trial must begin within ninety days of a person’s arrest if the crime charged is a misdemeanor. If the underlying offense is a felony, the trial must commence within one hundred and seventy-five days of the defendant’s arrest. In some cases, a defendant may be able to file a demand for a speedy trial, in which case the trial must commence within fifty days.

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In many criminal matters, the State must rely on circumstantial evidence to obtain a conviction, such as eyewitness testimony. Similarly, criminal defendants often ask witnesses to testify to substantiate their defenses. Thus, the inability to present a witness can be greatly prejudicial to a defendant and may result in an unjust conviction. A defendant who wishes to delay a trial or verdict to permit an additional witness to testify must meet a high burden of proof; however, and such requests are not often granted. Recently, a Florida court discussed what a defendant seeking a continuance to present an additional witness must prove for the request to be granted in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous violent crimes. If you are charged with violent offenses, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Sarasota violent crime defense attorney regarding your rights.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple violent crimes, including first-degree murder and armed robbery. During his trial, he filed a motion for a continuance so that he could present an additional witness. The court denied his motion, and he was convicted as charged. He subsequently appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a continuance. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling and the jury’s verdict.

Motions for Continuances to Present Additional Witnesses

After reviewing the evidence of record, the court noted that the defendant preserved the issue for appeal but found that his appeal lacked merit. The court explained that a denial of a motion for a continuance is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. In the subject case, the defendant’s attorney requested the continuance after both sides had presented their cases and closing arguments were about to begin. He asserted that a possible witness had just been disclosed but admitted he had not spoken to or met with the witness. Continue Reading ›

In many cases in which a person is charged with a sex offense involving a child, the State will have little if any direct evidence that a crime was committed. As such, the prosecution will often seek to admit circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt, which may include hearsay testimony. Under the Florida Rules of Evidence, hearsay is generally inadmissible, but there are exceptions, as discussed in a recent ruling in which a Florida court affirmed a defendant’s conviction for sexual battery of a minor. If you are accused of committing a sex crime against a minor, it is advisable to meet with an experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

The Charges Against the Defendant

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with sexual battery on an individual under the age of twelve. The charge arose from the allegation that he assaulted his former girlfriend’s daughter over the course of four years when he lived with the girlfriend. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice that it intended to admit hearsay evidence in the form of a handwritten note in which the victim described her sexual abuse. Following a hearing, the trial court deemed the note admissible. The defendant was convicted as charged, after which he appealed, arguing, in part, that the court erred in publishing the note.

Hearsay Testimony in Florida Criminal Trials

On appeal, the court held that the admission of the victim’s note into evidence was proper under the Florida Statute Section 90.803(23), which establishes the standard for allowing hearsay statements of child sex abuse victims into evidence at criminal trials. Specifically, the Statute states that the statement must meet certain requirements with regards to reliability. First, it must come from a source that indicates trustworthiness. Second, the content, circumstances, and time of the statement must reflect that it provides adequate safeguards of reliability.

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The criminal justice system treats and prosecutes juvenile offenders differently than adults. Typically, a court that handles a juvenile matter retains jurisdiction over the case until the child reaches a certain age, but the duration of the jurisdiction varies depending on the offense for which the minor was convicted. A court’s continuing jurisdiction over juvenile matters was the topic of a recent ruling set forth by a Florida court in a case in which a juvenile defendant allegedly violated the terms of his probation. If you are a minor charged with a criminal offense, it is in your best interest to confer with a trusted Sarasota criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

The Defendant’s Convictions

Allegedly, the defendant was convicted of three different crimes when he was a juvenile. He was sentenced to probation for each crime. The 2015 conviction was for lascivious and lewd conduct by a person under 18, and the 2016 and 2018 convictions were for battery crimes. In 2020, he appeared before the court for a violation of probation hearing on all three cases. The alleged violation was his failure to complete sex-offender counseling for his 2015 conviction. The defendant argued that the court no longer had jurisdiction over the 2016 and 2017 matters and asked the court to dismiss those cases. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, after which he appealed.

Continuing Jurisdiction Over a Juvenile Case

Under Florida law, a juvenile court’s jurisdiction is limited to that indicated by statute. Specifically, the court has original jurisdiction over matters where the child violates the law. Jurisdiction attaches to both the case and the child, and the court may control the child and the case pursuant to the statute. Although there are exceptions, a court will retain jurisdiction over a matter until a child turns 19. One of the exceptions involves juvenile sexual offenders who have been ordered to attend community-based treatment or who have been placed in a treatment facility, in which case jurisdiction will extend until the minor turns 21.

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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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In many instances in which a criminal defendant is convicted of a crime, the court will not only sentence the person to jail time or probation but will also order him or her to pay restitution costs. A court may not order restitution without basis, however. Rather, as discussed in a recent Florida theft case, certain factors must be present for a restitution award to be valid. If you are accused of committing a theft crime, it is smart to consult a skillful Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to evaluate your rights.

The Alleged Crime and Restitution Award

It is reported that the defendant was charged with three counts of dealing in stolen property, giving a pawn shop owner false verification of ownership, and other crimes. He entered a guilty plea to all charges. Following his sentencing, he challenged an award of restitution for a stolen diamond bracelet, arguing that as he was not charged with stealing the bracelet and the item was not within the original charge of dealing in stolen property, his guilty plea did not constitute an agreement to pay for it. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the award.

Grounds for Awarding Restitution Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, if a defendant challenges a restitution award, the court must assess whether the damage or loss the defendant has been ordered to pay for is both causally related to and bears a substantial relationship to the crime. In order for a restitution award to be causally connected to a crime, it must arise out of the crime for which the defendant was actually charged. Additionally, if a defendant agrees to pay restitution as part of a plea agreement, his agreement is limited to restitution for the charged crime, as reflected by the information or the factual basis for the plea that was set forth by the State when the plea was entered.

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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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