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Can giving an instruction on abnormal mental conditions be damaging to a Miami defendant’s defense? In a recent case, a Florida court considered standard instruction 3.6(p), which deals with abnormal mental conditions, and found that providing the instruction could be tantamount to a suggestion of mental illness when there was no other competent evidence of mental illness introduced. The instruction states that mental illness, abnormal mental condition and diminished mental capacity aren’t defenses to any crimes and evidence can’t be taken into consideration to show a defendant didn’t have the specific intent or state of mind needed to show he committed a particular crime charged. These complex situations and more can be navigated by a dedicated Miami criminal defense attorney.

The defendant was convicted of seven felonies based on one crime spree. He was sentenced to life, among other things. The defendant had a history of mental illness. However, at trial, there was no expert testimony presented about the defendant’s mental condition. When he was 16, the defendant was placed in a juvenile detention facility and while in isolation, he started to hear voices. He received a schizophrenia diagnosis.

In 2014, he was subject to the Baker Act. Two months after he was released, the crime spree occurred.

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In a recent Florida appellate decision, the court considered a case in which a burglar hit an 80-year-old man in the head and badly beat him up such that he suffered a brain hemorrhage. The old man was released before the hemorrhage resolved, and he died in his home. The defendant was charged and convicted of first degree murder. He appealed on the grounds that the prosecution hadn’t proven that his own actions caused the death of the old man. If you have been charged with a homicide, it is important to have a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney by your side throughout the process.

The case arose when the 80-year-old victim came home after a day shopping with his adult daughter. When he and his daughter got out of their car in their garage, the defendant attacked the old man. The victim collapsed and then the defendant sat on him and kept beating him up before running away.

At the hospital, the victim underwent a CT scan. The staff found there was no bleeding in the brain. He was discharged. After he was released from the hospital, his CT scan was reviewed again, with the doctor finding there was a little bit of bleeding. He came back to the hospital again the next day and underwent more scans. The doctor found the bleeding had resolved, but after being discharged, the victim collapsed on his bed at home and passed away.

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In a recent Florida burglary decision, two burglaries of the same home had occurred. These burglaries were separated by five days. The defendant had been convicted of burglary with more than $1,000 in property damage, but he was acquitted of the other residential burglary. He was also convicted of grand theft of property that was worth at least $20,000.

The defendant argued that the lower court had made a mistake in denying his requests for acquittal because the state failed to show:  (1) the amount of property claimed in the burglary charge and (2) the value of what was stolen in the grand theft offense.

At the lower level, the defendant was charged with residential burglary with intent to perpetrate theft and triggering property damage of more than $1,000. He was also charged with burglary with intent to perpetrate theft. The third charge was grand theft of assets worth at least $20,000 from victims’ homes.

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A 67-year-old man who was accused of raping a child under the age of 10 in the 1990s pled guilty to 10 felony charges in Miami County last month. The victim grew up and reported the crime to detectives last year. After being charged, the defendant made a deal so that prosecutors would recommend he spend 10 years in prison in exchange for agreeing to waive consideration of the allegations by a grand jury and pleading to 10 gross sexual imposition charges. The maximum term would be 50-years for the 10 charges.

The judge accepted the pleas, ordered a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled sentencing, at which time the defendant’s sex offender classification would be determined. The defendant is being held without bond until sentencing.

Often, those convicted or who plead to sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders in addition to serving jail or prison time and paying monetary fines. After serving the prison sentence, an individual is supposed to initiate registration when their sentence requires them to take such an action. Many people do not register because registration comes with a great stigma. You might hope to start over in a new community. However, there can be added penalties for failure to register as a Florida sex offender.

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The Miami Herald reported on May 7 that just hours after a press conference announcing the arrest of two suspects in the murders at the Liberty Square housing projects last month, Miami-Dade prosecutors were expected to ask a judge to quash the arrest warrants the following morning in court. The Herald wrote that the “unusual development suggests authorities rushed to make an arrest in a high-profile killing.”

According to the Herald, homicide detectives had secured a probable cause arrest warrant that was reviewed by prosecutors and signed by a Miami-Dade judge based on the identification of an eyewitness. The Herald reported that sources said “prosecutors expressed concerns about the weakness of the evidence during a meeting with top-ranking Miami police brass and the homicide detectives on Friday, the day before the arrests.”

One suspect claimed he was shopping with his mother at the time of the shootings, and supermarket surveillance video reviewed only after the suspect was booked confirmed his claim. At the press conference, Miami’s police chief and mayor also urged the capture of a third suspect still loose on the streets. The arrest warrant for the third suspect has also been canceled, according to the Herald.

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Florida’s so-called 10-20-Life law, established under § Florida Statute 775.087, has been in effect since 1999 and has largely accomplished its primary goal to sentence thousands of people to mandatory prison terms because of certain convictions involving firearms or other dangerous weapons. The prosecutor is the only person with the power to waive a mandatory minimum sentence, and judges are only allowed to deviate from mandatory minimum requirements when an alleged offender is a youthful offender. 

One key provision of Florida Statute 775.087 that was amended, however, by Senate Bill 228 (SB 228) when Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law on February 26, 2016, related to convictions for aggravated assault involving the possession of a firearm, destructive device, semiautomatic firearm and its high-capacity detachable box magazine, or machine gun. Whereas such convictions automatically triggered mandatory three-year prison sentences, SB 228 deleted that requirement. 

It now appears that more lawmakers in Florida may be trying to eliminate other mandatory minimum provisions under state law. If you were arrested for any kind of criminal offense that could carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence, it is in your best interest to immediately contact The Hoffman Firm.

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In 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 477 (HB 477), adding the opioids fentanyl and carfentanil to the list of drugs that can result in mandatory minimum sentences. Now, two bills have been proposed in the Florida Legislature that could allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.

House Bill 481 (HB 481) provides that mandatory minimum sentences for controlled substance offenses may be reduced by up to specified percentage for offenders meeting certain criteria. Senate Bill 694 (SB 694) authorizes a court to impose a sentence other than a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and mandatory fine for a person convicted of trafficking if the court makes certain findings on the record.

“This year, the momentum is stronger than ever in the Senate for real criminal justice reform,” State Senator Rob Bradley, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Miami Herald. “It remains to be seen if our friends in the House share that appetite.”

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The Miami Herald reported on January 18 that police suspected there was a “marijuana lab” inside a warehouse on 123rd Street in Medley and saw a Hialeah man park a pickup truck in front of the warehouse, go inside, and return back to the truck about two hours later. According to the police report, officers entered the warehouse with a search warrant and found “two fully functioning hydroponics laboratories,” one of which had 25 plants and the other had 11. 

The Herald reported that police also found grow equipment and chemicals and documents addressed to the alleged offender. A stolen truck was also discovered inside the warehouse during the search, with one detective noticing that the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the truck had been tampered with and determined the truck had been stolen from Broward County in 2016. 

The man was held in jail with no bond on charges that included grand theft of a vehicle, altering a vehicle’s information, and trafficking marijuana, according to the Herald. All three of those crimes are felony offenses.

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The Miami Herald reported on December 7 that a 28-year-old man was arrested during a traffic stop near U.S. Route 1 and Southwest 136th Street in Pinecrest. Police set up surveillance near the Pinecrest Whole Foods on Dixie Highway where the man was spotted. According to the Herald, the alleged offender had been accused of offering rides to female students at the University of South Carolina, taking them to places other than their desired destinations, and refusing to let them out of his vehicle. 

According to the South Carolina newspaper The State, the man was arrested by the Pinecrest Police Department on two outstanding arrest warrants: one for assault and another for domestic violence. Neither warrant was related to any incident involving University of South Carolina students. 

Two women, ages 21 and 18, reported to the Columbia Police Department on November 26 that they received a ride from the alleged offender. One female reported getting out of the car after feeling uncomfortable while the man attempted to prevent the other woman from leaving, causing her to receive medical treatment for scrapes and bruises to her leg. 

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On October 27, the Miami Herald reported that the principal at Wesley Matthews Elementary in Miami was reassigned on by Miami-Dade County Public Schools after she was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) on July 21. The 46-year-old woman who has been with the school system for 23 years will work at a district administrative office, a non-school site, Miami-Dade schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego told the Herald. 

The Herald reported that a breath test administered following the alleged offender’s arrest showed blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.140 and 0.142—both over Florida’s legal limit of 0.08. The woman reported the misdemeanor to school officials and remained in her role as principal until the reassignment, according to the Herald. 

“We don’t usually reassign in cases such as these, but the district can and will take action if a case has the potential to cause a disruption to the learning environment we work so hard to maintain,” Gonzalez-Diego said in an email to the Herald. “Our goal is to maintain continuity of education with minimal disruptions.” 

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