Articles Posted in Legal Process

If a defendant is asking the court for something, usually they need to file a motion. A motion is a document that asks the court to take a specific action. When a defendant files a motion with the court, there are specific requirements that the motion must conform to in order for the court to be willing to consider it. Generally, the motion must include the relief requested and the reasons the court should grant the relief. One of the things that defendants need to be aware of is if that some motions are only allowed to be filed once, and so must include all of the requisite information. It can be confusing, which is where your skilled Clearwater sex crimes defense attorney comes in. They can help you to make sure that any motions you file are complete.

Florida Post-Conviction Relief: 3.850

In a case heard by the Fourth District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida, the motion at issue was a motion for post-conviction relief, based on rule 3.850 in the Florida Criminal Code. The defendant here was convicted of two counts of lewd or lascivious battery on a child over 12 and one count of lewd of lascivious molestation. After his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal, the defendant filed a rule 3.850 motion with the assistance of counsel from the public defender’s office.

Post-conviction relief may be available for defendants when there has been ineffective assistance of counsel, when there are requests for DNA testing, and when there are concerns that the sentence may be illegal. Since this motion is seeking post-conviction relief, it can only be filed after there has been a conviction. Generally a motion of this kind is asking for the original verdict to be vacated and for there to be a new trial.

Continue reading

Unless the weapon used to commit a crime is recovered, it may be unclear what kind of weapon it is. In a case heard by the Florida First District Court of Appeal, a defendant argued that his conviction for a Florida robbery with a firearm should be overturned. His position was that the trial court erred in their jury instructions and thus the court committed fundamental error.

What is a Firearm?

It may seem like a straightforward question, but your experienced Clearwater violent crimes attorney can tell you it is not as simple as it sounds. In this case, there was surveillance footage that showed the defendant holding up the clerk at gunpoint. The defendant alleges that the “weapon” he was using was actually a BB gun, though the prosecution showed evidence that would tend to indicate that it was not. However, the main argument in this appeal was over jury instructions.

During closing arguments, the defense explained that a firearm is a weapon that expels a projectile through the use of an explosive. At trial, and with the consent of defense counsel, the jury was given instructions that once again explained that a firearm requires an explosive action. As they were deliberating, the jury asked the court to clarify whether a BB gun counted as a firearm or not. The prosecution noted that there was a case that specifically held that a BB gun was not a firearm. The judge decided to tell the jury that they have heard the evidence and referred them back to the jury instructions. The jury returned with a verdict that found the defendant guilty of robbery with a firearm and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison with a mandatory 10 years due to possession of a firearm.

Continue reading

It is crucial that criminal defendants get a fair trial. One of the ways that the justice system assures fairness is by making sure the jury that is selected is impartial. Typically, both sides of a trial will get a specific number of peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges allow either side to strike a juror for any reason or no reason at all. However, it is illegal to strike jurors solely based on their race or gender. Along with the peremptory challenges, either side can request that a juror be stricken for cause. A juror being stricken for cause means that there is something in the juror’s past or the way they have answered a question that makes it appear that they may not be able to be impartial. For example, a juror may be stricken for cause if they know the defendant or the victim. Since the process needs to be impartial, both sides can strike as many jurors for cause as they want, as long as the court approves.

Florida Grounds for Cause Challenges and Peremptory Challenges

Florida law lays out the specific grounds that courts will allow to strike a juror for cause. These grounds include: the juror has beliefs that would preclude them making a finding of guilt, the juror does not have the qualifications that the law requires, or the juror is of unsound mind or has a bodily defect that makes them incapable of performing the required duties. Other grounds include: the juror was on a criminal or civil jury that tried the same defendant for the same offense, the juror is related to one of the parties or one of the attorneys, and a few other grounds. Finally, there is a catch-all provision that allows a challenge for cause if the juror has a “state of mind” that prevents them from acting impartially. Continue reading