Articles Posted in Defenses

People accused of crimes when they are minors will typically be charged as juveniles. Juvenile criminal defendants have the same rights as adults, and the procedural rules for juvenile hearings are largely the same as those applied in criminal trials. For example, the courts will adhere to the Florida rules of evidence when determining whether to admit evidence at a juvenile delinquency hearing, as discussed in a recent Florida case. If your child was charged with a criminal offense, it is smart to talk to a Tampa juvenile crime defense lawyer about what steps you can take to help protect their interests.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the defendant, who was a juvenile, was residing at a group home when he was seen hitting another resident. Law enforcement officers responded to the scene, and the juvenile defendant was subsequently arrested. The State filed a delinquency petition against the juvenile defendant, charging him with one count of simple battery. At the final adjudicatory hearing, as the victim failed to appear, the State sought to prove the offense through alternative means, primarily relying on the surveillance footage.

Allegedly, two witnesses testified to authenticate the footage: a group home employee who retrieved the video and a police officer who viewed the footage and retrieved it from the IT personnel at the group home. The court issued a final order adjudicating the juvenile defendant delinquent for battery and placing him under the supervision of the Department of Juvenile Justice for one year. The juvenile defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting the surveillance footage into evidence during the adjudicatory hearing. 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 criminal cases, whether a defendant is found guilty typically hinges on the jury’s perception of them and the facts presented at trial. Thus, it is critical that the jury is comprised of impartial people who represent the defendant’s peers. If the prosecution uses a preemptory strike against a juror for impermissible reasons, therefore, it may violate the defendant’s constitutional rights. Recently, a Florida court discussed preemptory strikes of jurors in criminal matters in a case in which the defendant was convicted of murder and other crimes. If you are accused of murder or another violent offense, it is critical that you engage the services of a Tampa criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and accomplices robbed a pawn shop and then fled from the police. The defendant ultimately entered the victim’s home and then drove the victim’s car through the garage door. The police arrested the defendant and then found the two victims murdered within the home.

The defendant was charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of first-degree murder. During the selection of jurors, the state used one of its preemptory strikes to remove a juror who, like the defendant, was black. The defendant’s attorney stated that the state’s reason for striking the juror was not sufficiently race-neutral. The defendant was convicted as charged. He then appealed. Continue Reading ›

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 ›

Both Florida law and the United States Constitution guarantee the right to a speedy trial to criminal defendants. It may be grounds for dismissal if a court violates this right by failing to try a person for a crime in a timely way, but not all delays will be considered a violation of a person’s rights. A recent Florida decision, in which the court refused a defendant’s appeal based on an alleged breach of his right to a speedy trial, addressed the question of what delays are acceptable. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer about your options.

Charges Against the Defendant

According to reports, the defendant was arrested by a police officer in November 2019 for an accident that occurred in June 2019. In December of this year, he was booked with two DUI counts. Then, in June 2020, one of the crash victims passed away. As a result, the State changed the information a week later, reclassifying one of the DUI offenses as manslaughter.

The defendant then allegedly filed a motion to have the manslaughter charges against him dismissed, claiming that the State had violated his right to a speedy trial under the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure and that the new charges should be dismissed because they were filed after the applicable time period had passed. He further asserted that he would have been tried before the death of the victim if the COVID-19 epidemic had not occurred. His motion was refused by the court, which ruled that the quick trial regulation had been suspended due to the pandemic. The defendant then filed an appeal. Continue Reading ›

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 ›

A criminal record can inhibit a person’s ability to obtain housing and employment and often impacts relationships as well. As such, many people who have been convicted of crimes contemplate whether they may be able to have their records expunged. Expunging a record can allow people to live their lives as if they had never been convicted, but the process can be complicated, and it is smart for anyone seeking an expungement to consult an attorney. If you have a criminal conviction that you are interested in having expunged, it is prudent to speak to a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to determine your options.

Eligibility for Expungement

Florida Statutes Section 943.0585 establishes the criteria a person must meet to have an adult or juvenile criminal history record expunged by a court. Specifically, section 943.0585 provides that a person may petition a court to expunge a criminal history record if no information, indictment, or charging document was filed in the subject case, or if any of the aforementioned were filed, the charges were dismissed, nolle prosequi, or if the person was acquitted or found not guilty. The person seeking expungement must not have been found guilty or adjudicated delinquent for any felony or certain misdemeanors either.

Section 943.0585 also provides that a person must apply for a certificate of eligibility for expungement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement prior to petitioning the court. The Department will issue a certificate of eligibility if the person satisfies the criteria and submits a certified written statement from the appropriate state attorney or prosecutor confirming the criminal history record meets the statutory requirements, a certified copy of the charge, and the processing fee. A certificate is valid for 12 months after it is issued. 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 ›

Florida Court Discusses the Admission of Evidence in Criminal Matters

In many criminal cases, the State lacks direct evidence that the defendant committed a crime. Thus, in such instances, the State will rely on circumstantial evidence to build a case against the defendant. While circumstantial evidence is generally admissible, it must bear a connection to either the defendant or the charged offense, and irrelevant evidence that is improperly admitted may lead the jury to issue an unjust verdict. This was shown in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes due to a glove found in his sister’s van several days after the alleged criminal acts. If you are charged with a crime, it is important to know your rights, and you should speak with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Alleged Crime and Trial

It is reported that two men broke into the home of the victim, held her at gunpoint, and ransacked her house. The victim was then struck in the head with a gun and shot. After the perpetrators left, she went to a nearby salon and called 911. During the course of the investigation of the crime, the defendant was named as a suspect, and the victim identified the defendant as the man who shot her. He was then charged with attempted second-degree murder and numerous other offenses.

Reportedly, there was no direct evidence linking the defendant to the crime. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress evidence of a glove that was found in a van owned by his sister, which was one of the only pieces of evidence that could potentially implicate him. The court denied the motion, and the defendant was found guilty on all charges. He then appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress.

Continue Reading ›