Florida Court Discusses Grounds for Granting a New Trial in an Identity Theft Case

During a criminal trial, the jury or judge will typically assess whether the evidence, when assessed in conjunction with current statutory and case law, is sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt. If, after a defendant is convicted, it becomes evident that there is new evidence or an intervening change in law, the defendant may be eligible for a new trial. In a recent opinion delivered in a fraud case, a Florida court discussed what evidence is needed to demonstrate that a new trial is warranted. If you are charged with a fraud offense, it is wise to speak to a Tampa fraud defense attorney to determine your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Factual and Procedural Setting

It is reported that the defendant stood trial for six charges related to a fraud scheme involving clearing vehicle titles of liens from financial institutions and other lienholders. The scheme included false and fraudulent towing and storage liens, false claims of vehicle sales at public auctions, and the submission of fabricated documents to Florida tax collector offices.

Allegedly, after a four-day trial, the jury found the defendant guilty on four of the counts against him, one of which was aggravated identity theft. The jury instruction for this count, which both the defendant and the government proposed and to which the defendant did not object, required the government to prove that the means of identification was possessed “during and in relation to” the crime alleged in the indictment. The defendant subsequently sought a new trial on the aggravated identity theft count.

Grounds for Granting a New Trial

The court ultimately denied the defendant’s request for a new trial. The defendant was convicted under a provision of a statute that makes it a crime to knowingly transfer, possess, or use another person’s means of identification without lawful authority “during and in relation to” certain felonies, including wire fraud. The defendant argued that the jury instruction on the “during and in relation to” element was no longer valid after a recent Supreme Court decision, which clarified the scope of aggravated identity theft.

In that case, the Court overturned an aggravated identity theft conviction, stating that a defendant “uses” another person’s means of identification “in relation to” a predicate offense when the use is at the crux of what makes the conduct criminal. The Court emphasized that it must involve fraudulent or deceptive conduct specifically related to “who” is involved rather than “how” a service was performed.

The defendant asserted that his use of the forged signature on a towing and storage receipt in the wire fraud scheme was merely ancillary to the fraudulent activity. The court disagreed, ruling that the defendant’s conduct fit the classic variety of identity theft described in the case in question, as he used the victim’s identifying information fraudulently to deceive the tax collector’s office. As such, the court denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial.

Talk to an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today

White-collar crimes, like fraud, carry significant penalties, but the prosecution must meet a high burden of proof in order to obtain a conviction. If you are charged with fraud, it is wise to talk to an attorney about your possible defenses. The experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.

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