Florida Court Assesses Whether Convictions for Grand Theft and Burglary Violate Double Jeopardy

It is not uncommon for a person to be charged with multiple crimes following a single criminal episode. While the government can convict a person for more than one offense after one criminal transaction, it cannot violate their protections against double jeopardy. Thus, if their convictions constitute multiple convictions for the same crime, they may be unlawful. Recently, a Florida court assessed whether a defendant’s convictions for burglary and grand theft of a motor vehicle violated double jeopardy, ultimately ruling that it did not. If you are charged with a theft crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should speak to a skilled Tampa theft charge defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant, a juvenile, was charged with burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and grand theft of a vehicle. The charges against him stemmed from a single incident. An adjudicatory hearing was held, after which the court determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the charged offenses. The defendant appealed, arguing that because burglary was a lesser included offense of grand theft of a motor vehicle, his convictions violated double jeopardy.

Assessing Whether Multiple Convictions Violate Double Jeopardy

The court disagreed with the defendant’s arguments and affirmed his convictions. The court explained that the dispositive issue in determining whether multiple convictions arising from the same criminal transaction violate double jeopardy is whether the legislature intended to authorize separate penalties for the two crimes.

If there is no clear statement setting forth the intent of the legislature to permit separate punishments for two offenses, courts will employ the same elements test to determine whether multiple convictions are permissible.  In evaluating whether a single criminal episode constitutes more than one offense, the courts will look at whether each crime requires the prosecution to prove an element that the other does not.

In other words, crimes must have the same elements in order for a conviction for both crimes to constitute a double jeopardy violation. Thus, if each crime contains an element that the other does not, double jeopardy protections will not bar convictions for both crimes. In the subject case, the court ultimately determined that grand theft of a motor vehicle and burglary crimes each contained distinct elements. Thus, the defendant’s conviction for both offenses did not violate his double jeopardy rights. As such, the court affirmed his conviction.

Meet with a Capable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

People faced with theft charges often have numerous defenses available that could help them avoid a conviction and lengthy prison sentence. If you are charged with a theft crime, it is smart to meet with a capable attorney to discuss your options for seeking a good outcome. The capable Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and help you seek the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can reach Hanlon Law via the form online or at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.

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