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In many criminal cases, the State will lack direct evidence that a defendant committed a crime and will rely on circumstantial evidence to demonstrate the defendant’s guilt. While circumstantial evidence is generally permissible, hearsay evidence is typically not. As such, if a conviction is based on hearsay evidence, it may constitute grounds for reversal, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous counts of possession of child pornography. If you are accused of possessing child pornography or any other crime, it is advisable to speak to a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney to assess your rights.

The Defendant’s Trial

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with three hundred counts of possessing child pornography. His arrest arose out of evidence obtained from his home computer via a search warrant. At his trial, the digital forensic technician that examined his device explained that hash values are used to identify pornographic images of children that are contained in a national database. Using this technology, three hundred pornographic images of children were identified on the defendant’s computer.

Allegedly, the digital forensic technician testified that he was able to identify most of the images as child pornography without reference to the hash values assigned to them but noted that in one image, he could not tell if the individual depicted was a child. Nonetheless, the State relied on his conclusion that a hash value assigned to the image designated it as child pornography in charging the defendant. The defendant was convicted on all three hundred counts, after which he appealed, arguing that his conviction was based on a hearsay statement that the image in question constituted pornography. Continue reading ›

Battery is a unique crime in that multiple acts may be considered a single criminal offense, or each act may be charged separately. Regardless of how battery crimes are charged, however, the State must prove each element of the offense to obtain a conviction, which requires that the jury be properly advised as to how to evaluate the evidence presented at trial. This was discussed in a recent Florida ruling in which the court evaluated what constitutes a proper jury instruction in a battery case. If you are charged with a battery crime, it is smart to talk to a trusted Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss your potential rights.

The Alleged Acts of Battery

It is reported that the defendant got in a verbal altercation with the victim, who was his ex-girlfriend. The fight became physical, and the defendant flicked a lit cigarette at the victim, shoved her, and pushed her throughout the course of the argument. He was charged with battery with two or more battery convictions. During the trial, the defendant’s counsel objected to the verdict form because it did not distinguish between each act and he stated that it did not require a unanimous verdict. The court overruled the objection, finding that there was a continuous chain of events with no intervening actions. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Verdict Charges in Florida Battery Cases

On appeal, the court explained that a trial court’s use of a general verdict form that does not ensure a unanimous verdict is a reversible error. Where a single count embraces multiple separate offenses, even if they all violate the same statute, a jury cannot convict a defendant unless its verdict is unanimous as to a minimum of one of the acts specified. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing the jury to deliberate on three separate acts of battery when he was only charged with one offense.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted seemingly every aspect of society, including those who are currently incarcerated. In some cases, the pandemic serves as grounds for granting incarcerated individuals compassionate release. The courts do not readily grant compassionate release requests, however, and there are certain measures a party must take before a request is even considered. In a recent Florida opinion in a case in which the defendant was serving a sentence for a child pornography conviction, the court explained the grounds for granting compassionate release. If you need assistance with a criminal matter, it is in your best interest to speak to a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. He was sentenced to 180 months in prison in 2010. In May of 2020, he sought compassionate release, but his request was denied due to his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. He then filed a second request, based on the fact that he suffered a COVID-19 infection and had asthma and probable lung damage. The court denied his motion, finding that once again, he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

Requests for Compassionate Release

The court explained that a court’s authority to modify a prison sentence is significantly limited by statute. Specifically, 18 U.S.C. 3582(c) enumerates the reasons a district court can modify or reduce a prison term once it has been imposed. The court explained that the only portion of the statute that applied in the subject case was the provision that allows a court to reduce a sentence when there is a compelling and extraordinary reason to do so. Continue reading ›

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures of personal property. However, by establishing probable cause of your crime, search warrants give law enforcement permission to legally overstep these boundaries. Understanding the execution of search warrants can prove to be vital to your defense because evidence obtained during an invalid search is typically inadmissible in court. Continue reading to learn more about your rights regarding search warrants and know when to reach out to your leading Volusia County criminal defense attorney, Genine Mejia.

Legality of Search Warrants Defined by the Constitution

A mere hunch is not enough for law enforcement to legally enter your home. Police must first create an affidavit, which is a sworn statement that lays out all the information they have obtained from informants or private citizens, then present it to a judge for approval. If this affidavit establishes a probable cause for the alleged crime and convinces the judge that evidence can be found in a certain location, then the judge will issue a search warrant. If done correctly, then this search warrant allows law enforcement to legally enter your personal property and search for evidence.

Battery is a serious charge, and a conviction for a battery offense can lead to significant penalties. Additionally, if a person with a battery conviction is later found guilty of committing another offense, it can lead to increased penalties. Generally, crimes are categorized by degrees, and convictions for more serious crimes can result in lengthy jail sentences. In a recent ruling, a Florida court discussed how prior record points are calculated for crimes that are not categorized by degree in a case in which the defendant argued his prior convictions for battery and other offenses were improperly assessed. If you are charged with battery or another crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Florida criminal defense lawyer to determine your options.

The Defendant’s Convictions and Sentence

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of three counts of battery and one count of kidnapping. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and the sentence was affirmed by the trial court. In July 2020, he filed a motion arguing that the sentence of life imprisonment on the kidnapping charge was improper. Specifically, he asserted that his sentencing guideline scoresheet was improper because his prior convictions were from 1973, when Florida’s statutes for his prior convictions, which included battery, were not classified by degrees. Further, he stated that because the degrees of the offenses were ambiguous, pursuant to the applicable law, they should have been scored as third-degree felonies. The court denied his motion, and the defendant appealed.

Calculating Prior Offense Scores

On appeal, the court noted that Florida began classifying felony crimes by degrees in 1972. Further, the court explained that when a prior offense is not classified by degree, it is appropriate to score it by reference to the current, similar statute. Based on the foregoing, the court found that there was no miscalculation on the defendant’s scoresheet. Further, even if the scoresheet was recalculated, resulting in a range below life imprisonment, the sentencing court could have put in place the same sentence regardless, based on the defendant’s escalating pattern of criminal behavior. Continue reading ›

Many criminal statutes include an element of intent. In other words, the prosecution must prove that the defendant possessed the mental state needed to commit the crime to obtain a conviction. In child pornography cases that involve the use of technology and sharing of files, however, the prosecution may not be able to establish intent. In a recent Florida ruling, a court described what evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that a defendant charged with distributing child pornography knew or should have known he was committing a crime. If you are charged with a child pornography offense, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Florida criminal defense lawyer to discuss your potential defenses.

The Defendant’s Charges

It is alleged that a detective involved in investigating child pornography used a computer to communicate with the defendant’s computer. The defendant’s computer had a peer-to-peer file-sharing program that allowed parties to share torrents. When the defendant’s computer was running, it indicated that it had child pornography, and the detective was able to download two videos that contained child pornography from the defendant’s computer on two occasions.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with the transmission of child pornography by an electronic device. He moved for an acquittal, arguing that the prosecution could not prove that he knowingly transmitted pornography. Following the trial, he was sentenced to eleven months in jail, followed by three years of probation. He appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion for acquittal. Continue reading ›

While ignorance of the law is generally not a valid defense, in many criminal matters, the State must nonetheless prove that the defendant meant to engage in criminal activity. Thus, if the State cannot establish intent beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be grounds for a non-guilty verdict or reversal of a conviction. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant’s conviction for driving with a suspended license was reversed due to the State’s failure to prove he knowingly committed a crime. If you are charged with driving with a suspended license or any other offense, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was stopped by a police officer, after which he was charged with driving with a suspended license and possessing marijuana in excess of 20 grams. Prior to trial, he moved for acquittal, but his motion was denied. Following the trial, he was found guilty as charged. He appealed his conviction for driving with a suspended license, arguing that the State failed to meet its burden of proof. Upon review, the appellate court agreed, reversing his conviction.

Proving the Offense of Driving with a Suspended License

Under Florida Statutes section 322.34(2), it is a crime for a person to drive with a suspended license. To convict a person of this offense, the State must establish each element as set forth under the law. Specifically, it must show that the defendant’s driver’s license was suspended at the time the crime was allegedly committed and that the defendant knew his or her license was suspended but drove a vehicle regardless.

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Convictions for drug crimes often result in significant penalties. Additionally, if a person is convicted of multiple drug-related offenses, it may result in a sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), which imposes a minimum sentence of fifteen years. In order for the ACCA to apply, a defendant must have at least three prior convictions for serious drug offenses. The question of whether the purchase of a trafficking quantity of cocaine constitutes a serious drug crime as defined by the ACCA was recently discussed in an opinion issued by a Florida court. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is vital to retain an assertive Florida criminal defense attorney to help you seek a just outcome.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of a weapons crime and was subsequently sentenced under the ACCA. Specifically, the trial court held that the defendant had three prior qualifying drug-related convictions, one of which was trafficking cocaine in violation of Florida law. The defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that his drug trafficking conviction did not satisfy the ACCA’s definition of a serious drug crime. The district court was ultimately unable to resolve the issue and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court.

Serious Drug Crimes as Defined by the ACCA

Under the ACCA, a serious drug offense is defined as an offense that involves the distribution, manufacturing, or possession with the intent to distribute or manufacture of a controlled substance. Thus, the court assessed whether trafficking cocaine in violation of Florida law satisfied the ACCA’s definition of a serious drug offense. The criminal statute in question listed six methods of trafficking, and the court noted that a violation of the statute would only be considered a serious offense if each of the alternatives met the definition.

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In many cases, people who drive recklessly due to intoxication and ultimately cause another person’s death will be charged with DUI manslaughter. In some instances, though, people may be charged with DUI manslaughter, even if it is not immediately clear that impaired driving caused the accident and subsequent loss of life. In such instances, a DUI defendant may be able to argue that the prosecution cannot establish that there is sufficient evidence to establish guilt. In a recent Florida opinion, a court discussed what evidence the State must produce to establish a driver operated a vehicle while intoxicated, and in doing so, caused a fatal accident. If you are charged with DUI manslaughter, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Florida DUI defense lawyer to evaluate your rights.

The Fatal Accident

It is reported that the defendant was operating his ATV with his son riding on the back. They were on a rural road that had decreased visibility and no shoulder. At approximately 9:00 pm, the ATV tipped into a ditch. The defendant was able to get the ATV back onto the road, and he and his son got onto the vehicle and attempted to start it. A truck began approaching the ATV, and witnesses nearby tried to alert the truck to slow down and advise the defendant and his son to get out of the road.

Allegedly, the truck hit the ATV, killing the defendant’s son and injuring the defendant, who was airlifted to a hospital. The defendant admitted that he consumed alcohol, and a blood test revealed his BAC to be .16. He was charged with DUI manslaughter, and following a trial, was convicted. He appealed, arguing that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence to establish his guilt. Continue reading ›

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