Florida Court Explains Statements Permissible in Closing Arguments

In Florida criminal matters, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. While the prosecution can use circumstantial and direct evidence to establish that a defendant committed a crime, it cannot rely on facts not in evidence, as explained by a Florida court in a recent case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. If you are accused of a gun offense, it is smart to speak to a Tampa weapons crime defense attorney about your options for protecting your rights.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the State charged the defendant with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. During the trial, the State presented testimony from a police officer that came in contact with the defendant during an investigation. The officer stated that the defendant told him he had a gun in his possession.

It is alleged that a second officer testified, corroborating the first officer’s report. The defendant testified and denied making the aforementioned statements or possessing a gun. During the State’s closing argument, the prosecutor told the jury the defendant was not reliable and implied that the second testifying officer was credible because he had not been convicted of a felony. Defense counsel objected, but the court overruled the objection. The jury convicted the defendant, and he appealed.

Statements Permissible in Closing Arguments

On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant’s assertion that when the prosecution stated the officer had not been convicted of a felony, it was arguing facts not in evidence. Specifically, the court stated that defense counsel’s objection was well taken as there was no evidence regarding the officer’s conviction of a felony and that the trial court should have sustained the objection.

The court sustained the defendant’s conviction, however. In doing so, it explained that while the prosecution’s statement was improper, a review of the entire record demonstrated that there was no reasonable chance that the prosecution’s single, short statement impacted the verdict at trial.

While the jury was tasked with assessing credibility and was instructed as to how to do so, they were advised that what the lawyers stated was not evidence and that they were to rely on their own recollection. As such, the court was satisfied that the jury was not swayed by the prosecution’s comment.

Confer with an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

Although most people in Florida are permitted to possess guns, people convicted of felonies are not, and if they are caught with a gun in their possession, they may be charged with a criminal offense. If you are accused of a gun crime, it is advisable to talk to an attorney regarding what defenses you may be able to assert to avoid a conviction. The experienced Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law dedicate their practice to defending people charged with crimes, and if you engage our services, we will work diligently to help you pursue a favorable outcome. 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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