Double jeopardy is an important protection for anyone charged with a sex or other crime in Florida. The double jeopardy rule basically says that a person cannot be charged twice for the same crime. What do we mean by the same crime? A recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals sheds some light on how courts approach the issue.
The defendant was charged with various crimes stemming from an incident in which prosecutors said he got a 14-year-old girl in his car against her will, drove her to a secluded area, and raped the girl. He dropped the girl at her school after the attack, according to the court, and she immediately reported the rape. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of sexual battery with a deadly weapon, lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, and kidnapping, among other offenses. He later appealed the lewd or lascivious battery and sexual battery convictions, arguing that they violated the double jeopardy protection.
“When considering a double jeopardy claim alleging multiple convictions for the same offense, we first consider whether the convictions arose from the same criminal transaction or episode,” the court explained. “If we conclude that the convictions arose from the same criminal episode, we must then determine if the convictions were predicated on distinct acts.” Finally, the court said it would look at the laws describing each crime to see if one crime requires an element of proof that the other does not.
In this case, the court agreed with the defendant that the lewd or lascivious battery and sexual battery convictions created a double jeopardy problem. The charges arose from the same criminal episode – the incident with the 14-year-old girl – and were based on the same criminal act, the rape.
The court then turned to the statutes. Florida law defines sexual battery as “oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.” State law defines lewd or lascivious battery as “sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age.” Since sexual activity is defined in the same way under both laws, the court said lewd and lascivious conduct encompassed all of the elements of sexual battery. As a result, it ruled that the defendant could not be convicted of both crimes stemming from the same incident.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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