In Florida, someone who has been convicted of a crime can consider appealing a conviction to obtain relief from the conviction and sentence.  The criminal court system allows appeal.  However, most lower court decisions are upheld.  Therefore, attempting to appeal a case may be a significant challenge.  Some appeals are a matter of right and some are discretionary on the part of the appellate court.  Generally, the party the files the appeal attempts to show a material error on the part of the trial court.

What Type of Error is Substantial?

The appellate courts distinguish between harmless error and a material error.  Where an appellate court reviews an error as harmless, it is not considered to have a substantial impact on the disposition and eventual result of the case.  Where an error by a trial court does not show that it affects the substantial rights of a party, it may be difficult to prove that a material mistake was made by the trial court and obtain relief.

What is Mens Rea? 

Mens Rea is the mental element of an individual’s intent to commit a crime.  It can also be expressed as the knowledge that a particular act would result in a crime being committed.

Why is Mens Rea significant if I have been accused of a crime?

The United States Supreme Court handed down a decision that has been historic in a case entitled the Miranda v. Arizona, in 1966Essentially, four cases made it to the United States Supreme Court with similar issues.  All cases involved interrogation by police in a closed room where the putative Defendant was cut off from the outside world.  In three of these cases, the Defendant signed statements that were admitted at trial and one of the cases involved oral statements admitted at trial.  Following the Miranda Case, whenever a person is taken into detention, that individual must be advised of their Fifth Amendment right against making any self-incriminating statements.  When the police question someone in custody, they must advise:

  1. You have the right to remain silent.
  2. Anything that you say can and will be used against you.

What is Petit Theft?

Petit Theft is defined in the Florida Statutes under F.S. 812.014(2)-(3)(c).  Where property that is involved in a theft is valued at less than $750, petit theft is usually the correct charge.

In order to prove the crime of Petit Theft, the following must be proven:

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is what Florida’s Speedy Trial Rules are based upon.  The right to a Speedy Trial is a fundamental right.  It is designed to eliminate incarceration for long periods of time when one is accused of a crime.  The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that persons charged with a crime will be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest where the crime charged is a misdemeanor and within 175 days where the crime charged is a felony. Rule 3.191(b) provides for a Defendant to demand a speedy trial in writing and when this occurs, he or she is entitled to trial within 50 days.  Under this rule, such a demand signifies that the Defendant is prepared to proceed to trial within 5 days.

What happens if the state fails to conduct a trial within the statutory time periods? 

Where the state fails too bring the accused to trial within the above referenced time periods, the Defendant is discharged (except for exceptions to the tolling of these time periods).

Is There a Warrant Issued in My Name?

There are numerous warrants issued for almost every type of crime that occurs in Florida.  The warrant system is used to apprehend criminals and those accused of a crime.  Despite the belief that warrants expire, they do not.  Additionally, warrants can be executed at anytime.  Just because you may not be located within the territory of the state that issued a warrant, you are not safe from exposure to arrest.  It is common for warrants to be issued for both felonies and misdemeanors in Florida.  A warrant will be active until it is served, the individual dies, or the judge recalls the warrant.  It is important to resolve a warrant promptly, so one does not have to deal with a multitude of problems unexpectedly.  Your arrest could result from the most minor traffic stop for a tailgate light.

The FDLE has a database which usually lists active warrants and may be found online at http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/.  You can select “search wanted persons” and you will be taken to a search screen.

In Florida, since 2012, there has been a statute that prevents discrimination against disabled persons who require the use of a “service animal”.  It can be found at Florida Statute 413.08.  This statute covers discrimination regarding public employment, public accommodations and housing accommodations. This statute was amended in 2020 to include a criminal penalty for persons who fraudulently claim the need for a service animal.  Contact your local Jacksonville criminal attorney to assist you if you have been charged with a misdemeanor for falsely representing you need a service animal.

Under Florida statute 413.08 it defines an individual with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.  A “housing accommodation” would be any real property or portion of the real property that is used or occupied as a home, residence or sleeping place of one or more persons in which the occupants rent or lease the premises. A “public accommodation” would be a common carrier, airplane, motor vehicle, railroad train, motor bus, streetcar, boat or other mode of public transportation; it also includes hotels, timeshares and other places to which the general public is invited.  A “service animal” under this statute is limited to a dog or miniature horse that is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  The work performed by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability.  It specifically states that a service animal is not a pet.  If you think you are being discriminated against because of your “service animal”, contact your local Jacksonville family law attorney.

This is different from an “emotional support animal” who does not require training to do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or provide therapeutic emotional support.  Emotional support animals may also be the disabled person’s pet.  There is a separate statute that prohibits discrimination in housing to persons with a disability or disability-related need for an “emotional support animal”.  That statute is Florida statute 760.27 and it deals with public housing.  Both statutes address the fact that the public accommodation or housing provider cannot impose a deposit or surcharge on the individual with a disability as a precondition to permitting the service animal or emotional support animal to accompany the individual with the disability.  Under both statutes, the individual with the disability is liable for any damages caused by the service animal or emotional support animal.  Under both statutes, the individual with the disability is responsible for the supervision of the animal and most provide for the care and maintenance of the animal.  Both statutes require the service animal or emotional support animal to be in compliance with vaccination requirements.  Contact your local Jacksonville family law attorney if you feel you are being discriminated against because of your “service animal” or “emotional support animal”.

            The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that:

            In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

            The Constitution does not define what a speedy trial means.  There is a Speedy Trial Act governing federal criminal charges and in Florida state trials there is a criminal rule of procedure that addresses speedy trial.  The Florida rule provides for Speedy Trial without Demand which requires defendants to be brought to trial within 90 days from the arrest on a misdemeanor, or 175 days from the arrest for a felony.  There is also a provision for Speedy Trial Upon Demand this provides that every person charged with a crime by indictment or information shall have the right to demand a trial within 60 days by filing a pleading entitled “Demand for Speedy Trial”.  These provisions can be found in Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.191.

When Should You File a Post Conviction Relief Motion in Florida?

A motion for post conviction relief is a motion that is filed after an individual is convicted of a crime where the court is being asked to relieve a person from their conviction.  The following grounds may be used as the reason for filing:

  1. The sentence imposed was illegal or violates the Florida or United States Constitution.

What Are the Potential Costs?

When an individual is charged with theft or shoplifting in Florida, he or she faces potentially serious penalties.  This can affect one’s ability to secure a job because such a crime is classified as a crime of dishonesty.  This is significant even though a misdemeanor is typically considered relatively insignificant.  When a potential employer performs a background check and finds a conviction for such a crime in a candidate’s history, it may disqualify the candidate depending on the type of job.  The penalties for shoplifting or retail theft include jail, fines, civil penalties, restitution, court costs, and attorney’s fees.  In the event one is convicted a Grand Theft in Florida, they may be sentenced a prison.

How Does Florida Law Define Retail Theft?

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