Court Examines Florida’s Unanimous Verdict Requirement in Criminal Matters

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.

Florida’s Unanimous Verdict Requirement in Criminal Matters

On appeal, the defendant argued that his convictions could have arisen out of a non-unanimous verdict and therefore constituted a fundamental error. The defendant based his assertions on the fact that certain actions could have supported the charges in question; he argued that as each juror could have credited a different act, the verdict may not have been unanimous.

The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning and affirmed the verdict. In doing so, the court explained that Florida’s constitution requires a unanimous verdict for a criminal conviction. In other words, jurors must unanimously agree that the prosecution proved each element of a charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, if a single count includes two or more separate crimes, a jury cannot convict a defendant unless its verdict is unanimous to at least one discrete act.

In the subject case, the court noted that the State charged the defendant with two separate resisting counts. Merely because a juror could look to some other act than the one the prosecutor offered as proof of an element of the crime did not mean the verdict was not unanimous. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.

Confer with a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

The state and federal constitutions grant criminal defendants many rights, and if such rights are violated, a defendant may have grounds for arguing that a conviction should be vacated. If you are charged with a crime and have questions about your rights or the criminal process, it is prudent to confer with an attorney about your options. The skilled Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law have ample experience helping people charged with crimes protect their interests, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.