Can Florida Prosecutors Charge a Defendant Twice for the Same Crime?
In criminal cases, Florida prosecutors will often try to bring as many separate charges as possible against the defendant. Such practices may bump up against the constitutional ban on double jeopardy. That is, the state may actually split hairs to the point where it is asking a jury to convict the defendant of multiple instances of the exact same criminal offense.
Appeals Court: Defendant Only Committed Kidnapping Once, Not Twice
The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals recently called out this practice in a case, Watkins v. State, where the prosecution argued that one kidnapping was really two separate kidnappings.
Here is what happened. According to the evidence introduced at trial, the defendant solicited the services of a prostitute, who is the victim in this case. After having consensual sex in the defendant’s car, they drove to a location in Volusia County to have sex a second time. At this point, the victim withdrew her consent to further sex, prompting the defendant to punch the victim and threaten to kill her. The defendant then forced the victim “to perform oral unprotected sex.”
The defendant then forced the victim to go with him to a third location, still in Volusia County. The defendant again forced the victim to have sex with him. He then promised to take her home if she got back in his car. She did, but the defendant proceeded to “[drive] around kind of aimlessly,” according to the victim, and eventually ended up in Flagler County. The defendant proceeded to assault the victim a final time there before leaving her there “naked, injured, and unconscious in a field.”
Volusia County prosecutors charged the defendant with battery, sexual battery, and kidnapping. The defendant was later convicted of these charges. Flagler County prosecutors then brought their own charges of “second-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery.” Again, the defendant was convicted on all charges.
The Fifth District reversed the Flagler County kidnapping conviction, however, noting it was based on the exact same events as the prior Volusia County kidnapping charge. That is to say, there was only “one continuous act” of kidnapping that crossed both counties. Indeed, the prosecutors in Volusia County made this exact argument at the defendant’s first trial.
Nevertheless, the Flagler County prosecutors took a different view. They maintained the Volusia County kidnapping ended when the defendant “express his intent to let [the victim] live” and she got back into his car before he entered Flagler County. The Fifth District rejected this argument. It noted that regardless of what the defendant intended or told the victim, he actually maintained continuous control over her. Her decision to reenter the car was not truly “voluntarily” given that her only other option was to remain “stranded in a secluded, rural area.”
Get Help from a Miami State Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
Even when a defendant is guilty of heinous crimes, that does not justify the state’s decision to pile-on unconstitutional additional charges. If you find yourself on trial for any serious state crime and need the assistance of a qualified Miami state crime attorney in asserting your constitutional rights, contact the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos today.