In Florida, when a defendant is convicted of a sex crime, the courts will look to statutory guidelines to determine an appropriate sentence. Depending on the facts of the case, it may require the court to employ a sentencing multiplier. While doing so will typically increase a sentence, in a recent Florida sex crime case, a defendant argued that the application of the adult-on-minor multiplier required the court to reduce, rather than increase, his sentence. If you are charged with a sex crime, you could face significant penalties, and it is smart to meet with a trusted Sarasota sex crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentencing

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with two counts of lascivious or lewd battery on a person between the ages of twelve and sixteen. He was convicted of both counts and sentenced to 182 months in prison on each count, to be served consecutively. He subsequently appealed his sentence.

The Impact of the Adult-On-Minor Multiplier

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in failing to apply the adult-on-minor multiplier and that had it done so, he would have received a lesser sentence. The appellate court declined to adopt his reasoning and affirmed his sentence.

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The United States Constitution affords criminal defendants numerous rights that are staunchly upheld. For example, under the Double Jeopardy clause, people can only be tried for a crime once; if the government cannot convict a defendant of an offense the first time, it does not get another shot. This does not mean that a person cannot be charged with multiple crimes related to the same incident, though, as demonstrated in a recent child pornography case in which a Florida court denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss his indictment on double jeopardy grounds. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a child pornography offense, it is advisable to contact a Sarasota sex crime defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with soliciting for child pornography. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury found him guilty, based on the standard established by the controlling precedent in the Circuit. The court later overturned the ruling establishing the standard, and the defendant successfully moved for a judgment of acquittal. Concurrently, the government charged the defendant with attempting to produce child pornography. The second charge arose out of the same conduct as the first charge. Thus, the defendant moved to dismiss the new charge against him, arguing that he could not be tried for the same conduct twice under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution

If the same behavior violates two statutory provisions, the court conducting a double jeopardy analysis must first determine whether the legislature intended each violation to be charged as a separate offense. If the court cannot ascertain the congressional intent, it will apply the Blockburger test established by the Supreme Court.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of criminal cases. For example, many criminal trials were delayed or conducted remotely, and some prisoners were able to obtain compassionate release due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. As discussed in a recent Florida opinion issued in a theft case, though, COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a sufficient reason to grant a downward departure sentence. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to assess your options.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with felony petit theft for taking sunglasses from a store without paying. He failed to appear at a hearing, and the charges against him were amended to include a charge for failure to appear. He was arrested and spent ten months in jail. At a hearing for pretrial release, his attorney requested the lowest permitted sentence of fifty-five months in prison. The State rejected the offer, citing his extensive criminal history.

Reportedly, the trial court asked the state to confirm the lowest permissible sentence, then proposed that if the defendant pled guilty, it would issue a downward departure sentence due to COVID-19. The state objected, but the court sentenced the defendant to two years of probation. The state appealed.

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Federal law deems certain offenses as crimes of violence. If a defendant is convicted of using a firearm during a crime of violence, they may face significantly greater penalties than they would otherwise receive. If the elements of an offense do not expressly require the use of force or bodily harm, though, it may not be clear if it constitutes a crime of violence. Recently, in a ruling in which it denied the defendant’s appeal, a Florida court discussed what offenses are considered crimes of violence. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is in your best interest to consult a dedicated Florida criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant pleaded guilty and was convicted of numerous offenses, including bank robbery, attempted bank robbery, and brandishing a weapon in relation to and during crimes of violence, pursuant to federal law. He was sentenced to severe penalties for discharging a firearm, namely an additional seven years for each of the three crimes of violence for a total of an additional twenty-one years. He subsequently appealed his convictions, arguing in part that robbery and attempted robbery were not crimes of violence and that the statute defining sentences for crimes of violence was impermissibly vague. The court rejected his reasoning and denied his appeal.

Crimes of Violence Under Federal Law

Under the statute in question, an offense will be considered a crime of violence if it is a felony that includes an element of the use or threatened or attempted use of force against another person. The courts employ a categorical approach to determine if a crime is a crime of violence. In other words, they look only at the elements of the charged offense, presume that the defendant’s conviction arose of the least of the acts deemed unlawful, and then assess whether those acts meet the criteria of a crime of violence.

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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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Intent is an element of several criminal offenses. In other words, in order to achieve a conviction, the prosecution must show that the defendant possessed a certain mental state at the time the alleged acts were committed. It may be difficult for the prosecution to prove intent in cases involving the use of file sharing technology, though. A Florida court recently outlined what evidence is adequate to show that a defendant charged with distributing child pornography via a file sharing application had actual or constructive knowledge that he was committing a crime. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime against children, you should speak with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney about your options.

The Alleged offense

It is reported that an undercover agent who was investigating people suspected of distributing child pornography, communicated with the defendant’s computer via a computer at a remote location. He subsequently installed an application on the defendant’s computer, which granted them access to share files. The agent was able to obtain multiple videos containing child pornography from the defendant’s computer on two occasions.

Allegedly, the state charged the defendant with using an electronic device to transmit child pornography. During the trial, he argued that he should be acquitted, on the basis that the prosecution had failed to prove that he had deliberately disseminated pornography. He was convicted and sentenced to eleven months in prison and three years on probation. He filed an appeal, claiming the trial court erred in refusing his petition for acquittal.

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The state and federal constitutions prohibit Double Jeopardy, which essentially means that a person cannot be tried or convicted for the same offense more than once. As such, if a defendant is convicted for numerous offenses that require proof of the same elements, it may violate Double Jeopardy. In a recent opinion, a Florida court discussed the proof required to demonstrate a Double Jeopardy violation in a case in which the defendant appealed his convictions for robbery and aggravated assault. If you are charged with robbery, it is smart to contact a skilled Sarasota robbery defense lawyer to discuss your potential defenses.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant broke into a home and robbed a drug dealer at gunpoint. He was arrested at the scene of the crime and charged with robbery and aggravated assault with a weapon. A jury convicted him of both offenses, after which he appealed, arguing in part that his attorney was ineffective for failing to argue that his convictions violated Double Jeopardy.

Proving a Conviction Violates Double Jeopardy

The court explained that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Florida and United States Constitutions provides that no one shall twice be put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offense. The Double Jeopardy clause prohibits, among other things, multiple punishments for the same crime. Continue Reading ›

Kidnapping is one of the most serious crimes a person can be accused of committing, and a conviction for kidnapping often results in a lengthy jail sentence. Not all confinements during the commission of a criminal offense constitute grounds for a kidnapping conviction, though. Rather, as explained in a recent Florida opinion, the courts must conduct a three-part test to determine if the State has met its burden of proof with regard to a defendant’s guilt in a kidnapping case. If you are charged with kidnapping or any other violent offense, it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable Sarasota violent crime defense lawyer regarding what evidence the State must produce to establish your guilt.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and two other individuals entered an auto parts store shortly before it closed. One of the men placed a gun to the store manager’s head and demanded that he and two other employees and two customers get on the ground, which they did. The man then grabbed the manager and forced him to open the safe in the back of the store. The defendant and the other man stayed with the employees and customers in the store. One of the gunmen struck an employee who refused to abide by his command and dragged him to the middle of the store. The men then made the other employee and the customers crawl to a back room where they were robbed.

Allegedly, the State charged the defendant with four counts of kidnapping in the facilitation of a felony. He was convicted, after which he appealed. On appeal, the court upheld three of his convictions but reversed one on the grounds the evidence produced by the State was insufficient to sustain the conviction under the three-part test for kidnapping during the commission of a felony as established under Florida law. Continue Reading ›

When people suffer personal tragedies, their friends and families will often set up fundraisers to help them deal with the financial ramifications of their losses. What starts as a kind-hearted gesture may lead to criminal charges, though, if the funds collected are not properly disbursed. While numerous charges could potentially arise out of the mishandling of charitable donations, a person cannot be convicted multiple times for the same offense. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court agreed with the defendant’s assertion that her convictions for fraud and organized scheme to defraud violated her right against double jeopardy.  If you are charged with a fraud offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

The Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant and her husband were struggling financially. Her husband was a firefighter, and after two other firefighters were killed and a third firefighter’s daughter died, the defendant organized a benefit to raise money for the three families. It is estimated that between tickets sold at the door and prior to the benefit, the defendant gathered in excess of $28,000 dollars.

Reportedly,  cash donations were made during the benefit as well. The bulk of the money was never given to the families, however. Eventually, the police investigated the incident and charged the defendant with multiple crimes, including grand theft and an organized scheme to defraud. A jury convicted her, after which she appealed.

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Drug crimes can result in serious penalties, and typically lengthier sentences are imposed for offenses involving certain classes of drugs. In recent years, though, flaws in the federal sentencing schemes were noted, and numerous laws were passed to address sentencing discrepancies, and people sentenced under prior laws may be eligible for reduced sentences. In a recent opinion, a Florida court discussed eligibility for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act in a case in which the trial court denied the defendant’s request for a reduction. If you are charged with a drug offense, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2005, the defendant was charged with and found guilty of numerous drug crimes, including conspiracy to possess 50 grams or more of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, in violation of federal law. Due to the amount of crack in his possession and his prior criminal history, he was sentenced to life in prison for the conspiracy charge. His total sentence was life in prison plus fifteen years, followed by ten years of supervised release. In 2019, the defendant sought a reduction of his sentence under the First Step Act. His sentence was reduced but he nonetheless appealed, arguing it should have been further reduced per the terms of the Act.

Reductions of Penalties Under the First Step Act

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which changed the statutory penalties for drug offenses involving crack cocaine, including the one for which the defendant was convicted. The amendments were not applied retroactively, though, until 2018, when Congress enacted the First Step Act. Specifically, the First Step Act provides that the Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive and granted courts the authority to reduce the sentences of eligible crack offenders if they deemed it appropriate. Continue Reading ›

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