Articles Posted in Criminal Process

People charged with violating Florida law often worry that they will inevitably be convicted. In criminal cases, though, the prosecution faces a high burden of proof, and there are frequently defenses criminal defendants can assert to establish that the prosecution’s evidence is inadequate to establish guilt. Similarly, if a person is convicted of a crime, they may have grounds for pursuing an appeal. In most cases, though, it is challenging for a person to convince the courts of their innocence without the assistance of an attorney, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling issued in a criminal case. If you are accused of engaging in criminal activity, it is smart to speak with a Tampa criminal defense attorney to gauge what defenses you may be able to assert.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant had a history of multiple post-conviction motions dating back to 1993 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, burglary with assault, and arson, receiving consecutive sentences totaling sixty years in prison. Over the years, he filed numerous post-conviction motions, with this case being just one among many. Despite previous warnings from the court about the consequences of filing further meritless pro se cases, the defendant continued to submit additional filings.

Allegedly, the defendant, representing himself, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the court. The court denied his petition and issued an order to show cause why the defendant should not be prohibited from making further self-represented filings related to a specific lower tribunal case number. Despite being given forty-five days to respond, the defendant did not file a response. Continue Reading ›

Under Florida’s constitution, criminal convictions require a unanimous verdict. This means, in part, that jurors must be in complete agreement that the prosecution has established each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is ambiguity regarding the unanimity of a verdict, a defendant may be able to argue that it should be vacated. Recently, a Florida court discussed what evidence a defendant must offer to prove a verdict was not unanimous in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for resisting an officer. If you are charged with a crime in Tampa, it is wise to speak to a Tampa criminal defense attorney to determine your potential defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was involved in an altercation at a bar, after which he spoke with police officers. He was taken to a hospital; when police arrived at the hospital, they found that the defendant had absconded. An officer found him lying on the ground down the road. The defendant and officer’s accounts of what transpired vary, but the defendant was ultimately charged with two counts of resisting an officer without violence. A jury found him guilty of both charges, and he was sentenced to one year for each count. He then appealed.

In Florida, it is a crime to leave the scene of a car crash if the collision causes an accident or death. As demonstrated in a recent case, however, the act of doing so only constitutes a single crime. In other words, a person cannot be charged more than once with an offense related to leaving the scene of an accident, as multiple charges that stem from a singular incident may be considered a double jeopardy violation. If you were charged with one or more crimes following a car accident, it is prudent to speak to an assertive Tampa criminal defense attorney to assess what arguments you may be able to set forth in your favor.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was driving his car along a Florida highway and had one passenger in his vehicle. He struck another car, resulting in the sudden death of the driver. Additionally, the impact caused the second vehicle to crash into a third vehicle that was occupied by a passenger and a driver. The two people in the third vehicle and the defendant’s passenger all suffered injuries. The defendant left the scene of the accident, however, without trying to render aid to any of the injured parties.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes arising out of the accident, including one count of leaving the scene of an accident that involved death, and three counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. A jury convicted him as charged, after which he appealed, arguing that his convictions violated double jeopardy. Continue Reading ›

When a person is convicted of a crime, the court will often not only sentence them to prison but also require them to make restitution. Criminal defendants and the state frequently disagree over what constitutes reasonable recompense, however. This was illustrated in a recent child pornography case in Florida, where the defendant challenged a $10,000 reparation award to the victim. If you’ve been charged with a child pornography crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a Florida criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

According to reports, the defendant was found guilty of possessing child pornography. He was sentenced to pay $10,000 in compensation to the victim of his crime after his conviction. He filed an appeal, claiming that the amount of compensation awarded did not accurately reflect his role in the victim’s injury, and requesting a new hearing on the restitution decision. The defendant’s request was denied by the appellate court, which upheld the lower court’s decision.

In many cases in which the police are investigating a person for a crime, they try to gather as much evidence implying the individual’s guilt as possible. The police must abide by the confines of the law, however, and cannot overstep their boundaries, or it will constitute a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. For example, people generally have the right to deny the police access to their phone and online records, and if the police ask a person to turn over their electronic devices without a warrant, it may constitute an unreasonable search and seizure. If you were investigated for a criminal offense and asked to produce your phone, it is important to know how to protect your rights, and you should speak to a trusted Tampa criminal defense lawyer about your options.

Can the Police Force You to Turn Over Your Phone and Online Records?

Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Florida, people have the right to be free from searches and seizures that are unreasonable. The courts have interpreted these provisions to mean, in part, that the police generally cannot conduct a search or take someone’s property without a warrant. In other words, they typically are not permitted to force people to hand over their phones or allow the police to search their computer records unless the police have a valid warrant.

Further, under Florida law, the police must demonstrate probable cause to obtain a warrant to conduct a search. This means that they must show that when presented with the information in the officer’s possession, a reasonable person would determine that a crime has been committed and that the individual the warrant pertains to committed the offense. Put another way, a police officer must offer factual evidence indicating he or she harbors a rational belief the defendant broke the law. Continue Reading ›

Many people who are accused of committing crimes suffer from one or more mental illnesses, and in some instances, there is a link between the illness a person suffers from and the offenses he or she allegedly committed. In such a case, a criminal defendant may be eligible to enter into the Mental Health Court Program. Not everyone is eligible for the Program, however, and those who are should seek legal counsel regarding their options and the benefits and drawbacks of entering the Mental Health Court system. If you suffer from mental illness and are charged with a crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to determine what action is most appropriate in your case.

What is Florida’s Mental Health Court?

Florida’s Mental Health Court program is an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system. Entry into the Mental Health Court program is voluntary. A criminal defendant may be referred by an attorney, but the Court has the ultimate say as to whether a defendant is accepted. Pursuant to Florida law, a defendant must meet certain criteria to enter the Program. Specifically, he or she must suffer from a persistent and severe mental illness. Typically, this means that the defendant suffers from a mood disorder, schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, or a combination of disorders that is sufficiently disabling. It can also be a mental health disorder that renders the defendant unable to care for himself or herself. There must also be a correlation between his or her diagnosis and the charged offense. Additionally, the defendant must voluntarily agree to enter into the Program and to undergo mental health treatment.

After a defendant is accepted into the Program, mental health professionals will work with the defendant to develop a Court Supervision Plan, which must be approved by the Court. Treatment and assistance is coordinated through the Program, and the defendant’s progress is closely monitored throughout the process. The defendant must regularly appear for court hearings and, if applicable, must meet the conditions of probation. The defendant must also agree to remain drug and alcohol free and refrain from engaging in criminal activity. Continue Reading ›

People who do not work in law enforcement or criminal defense rarely have an understanding of Florida’s process for prosecuting crimes. It is critical, though, for people suddenly faced with criminal charges to become familiar with the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure so that they understand their rights and what they can expect going forward. If you are accused of a crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your options and potential defenses.

Florida’s Rule of Criminal Procedure from Arrest to Case Resolution

The process of prosecuting a person begins with an arrest. The police cannot arrest a person unless they have probable cause, which means there is reasonable evidence suggesting the person committed the crime. Following the arrest, the person will be charged with either an information or an indictment. Within twenty-four hours of the arrest, the defendant must be brought before the judge for the first appearance. The judge will inform the defendant of the pending charges against him or her, advise the defendant of the right to counsel and explain the bond. If the defendant is unable to post the bail set by the judge, he or she can request a bond hearing.

The defendant will then be arraigned. During an arraignment, the judge will advise the defendant of the substance of the charges and request that the defendant enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The defendant’s attorney may file a notice of discovery, which triggers the requirement that the prosecution provide the defendant’s counsel with any evidence against the defendant and a demand for a jury trial. Continue Reading ›

Judges have a duty to be fair and impartial when presiding over criminal matters, but many judges harbor implicit or explicit biases. A judge’s prejudices may make it difficult or impossible to receive a fair trial, but fortunately, parties that suspect a judge of being biased can file a motion for disqualification. Recently, a Florida court issued a ruling describing the grounds for granting such a motion in a case in which the defendant argued the court erred in denying his motion due to the judge’s conduct during his competency hearing. If you are accused of a crime, it is important to know your rights, and it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Competency Hearing

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with committing numerous crimes. Prior to trial, a hearing was held to determine the defendant’s competency. The State argued that the defendant was competent, while the defendant’s attorney argued he was not. Three expert witnesses testified regarding the defendant’s competency. The judge asked each witness regarding the information in his report. The witness who found the defendant to be incompetent stated he based his report on information from defense counsel, and the court discredited his testimony.

It is reported that the court asked if the defendant’s attorney wanted to call the defendant to the stand. She declined, after which the court stated it might be helpful for the court. The defendant then answered questions from the court about the medications he was taking and his ability to work with counsel. The court then deemed the defendant competent to stand trial, after which the defendant filed a motion to disqualify. The court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

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