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Successfully Combatting Sexual Charges in the Tampa Area

When you have been charged with a sex crime, you need an attorney who knows how to help you mount the most aggressive defense possible. Florida sex crimes lawyer William Hanlon leverages nearly 20 years of experience and a detailed knowledge of the law to offer you the advice you need to understand your case, the approach the prosecution may take against you and the options you have for mounting your defense.

During his many years of practice in the Tampa area, Attorney Hanlon has helped countless clients combat the severe penalties stemming from a conviction of a sex crime.

His Past Successes Include

State v. G; Judge Peters, Pinellas County
Romeo and Juliet Law Changes Lives

Most rational people would agree that sexual offender registration laws are necessary in today’s society. However, there is great debate concerning the manner in which those laws are applied. “Romeo and Juliet” laws address situations involving consensual sexual relationships between teenage minors and young adults. Effective July 1, 2007, the Florida Legislature has revised many of the laws relating to these types of situations. Although it is still illegal for any adult to have sexual contact with a minor, the Legislature has acknowledged that there is a fundamental difference in situations where two young people within 4 years of age engage in consensual sexual contact, and other types of sexual offenses. The enactment of Florida Statute 943.04354, provides for a method by which certain people previously convicted of a “Romeo and Juliet” offense may petition to remove the requirement that they register as sexual offenders.

Our client had been previously convicted of a lewd and lascivious charge in Pinellas County Florida. The charge arose out of a consensual sexual relationship that occurred when our client was 19, and his partner was 15. At the time of the offense, the “victim” acknowledged that the sexual relationship was consensual, and did not wish to press charges. However, under the law she was technically not capable of giving consent. The State takes these types of allegations very seriously. The State Attorney’s Office proceeded with the charges despite the victim’s opposition. Eventually the client plead guilty and was convicted. Due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the case, the Judge showed leniency and sentenced the client to house arrest followed by probation. However, due to the sexual nature of the offense the client was required to register as a sexual offender from that point on.

Over the course of the next several years, the client worked diligently toward completing the conditions of his probation. He went through sex offender counseling, completed community service and complied with all of his mandatory sex offender probation requirements. All the while, our client worked as a manager at a successful local business and attended business school fulltime pursuing his MBA. Eventually, our client completed probation without a single violation. He got married to his high school sweetheart, and bought a house.

To the casual observer, things seemed to be looking up for our client. Most people who knew our client never would have guessed that he had a criminal record, much less a prior sex crime. He was well respected by his co-workers and classmates. In fact, since his conviction, the client had not received so much as a traffic ticket. Despite all of his success, our client continued to pay for his conviction long after probation was over. As a sex offender, the client was required to register his name and address with FDLE for their on-line sex offender database. This information is accessible for anyone to see. While our client’s charge was relatively minor compared to most sex offenses, his online registration record didn’t tell the whole story. To the online viewer, our client’s situation was indistinguishable from much more serious sex crimes. Over the first few years that our client’s information was posted online, he was repeatedly threatened and harassed. Our client had his home vandalized, and had his tires slashed on numerous occasions. He considered moving, but he knew it would only be a matter of time before the harassment started again.

Over the years our client had come accustomed to life as a sex offender. However, it wasn’t until he and his wife began to discuss having children that our client fully realized the implications of his past. As a sex offender, he would be prohibited from attending school functions, little league games, birthday parties, or any other type of event where children were present. This was too much for the young couple to bear. When they read about the Romeo and Juliet law in the newspaper, they called our office to see what could be done.

Upon first meeting the client, it was apparent that he was a perfect candidate for removal of the sex offender registration requirement. After carefully reviewing the situation, we drafted out petition and filed it. Because of the significance of the relief sought in this type of petition, there are special filing requirements within the statute. It is crucial that everything is done correctly, because if the petition is denied for any reason it may not be re-filed. Once the petition was properly filed, we contacted the prosecutor. Based on the circumstances, the prosecutor agreed to provide us with the victims contact information. After hearing about the petition, the victim agreed that the client’s sex offender status should be removed. On the hearing date, the victim’s father appeared in court on behalf of his daughter and testified for our client.

RESULT: The petition was granted. The client is no longer required to register as a sexual offender.

State v. B; Judge Perry, Judge Holder
Tampa man with troubled past gets another chance at sex offender probation.

A serious criminal record can follow a person for the rest of their life. Even when a person has turned their life around and moved on from a troubled past, a serious conviction can still come back to haunt them years later.

Our client was a perfect example of this situation. At 16 years old, our client was convicted of a sex offense in another state while on vacation. The charge arose out of a consensual sexual encounter with another minor. In many states this type of charge would not be considered a “sex offense,” that requires registration as a sexual offender. However, our client was charged as an adult and labeled a sex offender. Shortly later our client returned to Florida, where he was also required to register as a sexual offender, on the basis of his out-of-state conviction. Our client soon realized that life would never be the same. The sexual offender designation had a far reaching impact on every aspect of his life. He was not allowed to return to his high school. His family was forced to sell their home and move to comply with stringent sex offender residency restrictions. As he got older, the client came to find that he did not have the same job opportunities available to his peers due to his prior record. However, the client was an extremely gifted musician. The pastor at his church arranged performances for him all over the state. Unfortunately, traveling for work turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. The sexual offender registration system is designed to monitor the whereabouts of potentially dangerous members of the community. There are very strict registration and reporting requirements. It was extremely difficult for our client to comply with these regulations given his hectic traveling schedule. Eventually it caught up with our client, and he was arrested and charged with failure to register as a sexual offender, a third degree felony. Due to his prior sex offense, the client scored very high on the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet. The prosecutor is required to complete a scoresheet for every defendant in felony court. The scoresheet uses a formula that factors in a defendant’s current charges and prior record to determine the permissible sentencing range. Needless to say a prior sex offense will almost always result in a very high score, usually resulting in mandatory prison for any future conviction. When our client went to court for this offense, the prosecutor took in to account the special circumstances in this case, and offered an extensive probation sentence in lieu of prison. (Our firm did not represent the client at this time.) The Judge mistakenly assumed that the client qualified for lifetime electronic monitoring under the Jessica Lunsford Act, based on his prior offense. The JLA requires that certain sex offenders wear an ankle monitor. The JLA usually does not apply if the defendant was under 18 years old at the time of the offense.

Read a full account of the Jessica Lunsford Act which the florida house of representatives passed.

By the time client got out of jail, he had been evicted from his apartment. He was once again faced with the difficult task of finding an apartment complex that would rent to him, that was also acceptable to probation and in compliance with Florida Department of Law Enforcement regulations. Before long the client was violated for failing maintain a stable residence and arrested with no bond. Prison seemed imminent.

Fortunately, the client’s family contacted our office right away. Since there was no bond on the VOP, our office immediately filed all the necessary paperwork to get our client’s hearing date moved up.

Defense: The law says that to be held in violation of probation, it must be shown that the violation was “willful and substantial.” In other words, a defendant should not be found in violation if the allegation arose out of circumstances that were beyond their control. There are important public police concerns behind the laws requiring sex offenders to keep the State informed of their place of residence. For that reason, prosecutors take these types of violations very seriously. Despite the prosecutors insistence on prison we were able to successfully argue that our client’s failure to maintain a stable residence was due to circumstances beyond his control.

Result: The client was continued on probation.

Jessica Lunsford Act: After being continued on probation. Our office was able to take a closer look at the original terms of the client’s probation. Upon review of the JLA designation, it was clear that our client did not qualify. Florida Statute 928.30 provides for mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring for certain types of sex offenses. The law surrounding this requirement is complex and often confusing. In most cases the defendant will not qualify if their sex offense occurred before they were eighteen years old. Since our client’s offense occurred when he was 16, and he was not considered a “sexual predator,” he did not qualify for the JLA, and thus the part of his original sentence requiring him to wear the ankle bracelet was illegal. We filed a “motion to correct illegal sentence” before the sentencing Judge which resulted in that requirement being removed.

State v. Y

FACTS: The client was pulled over in Pasco County, Florida for speeding. During the stop of his vehicle the officer determined that there was a active out-of-state warrant for the client’s arrest in Ohio. Unfortunately, the officer in that situation had to arrest our client, and transport him to the Pasco County Jail to await extradition to Ohio. The defendant had a very good job working with the government, and his incarceration in the Pasco County Jail was having a dramatic impact on his employment. Our office is typically retained to resolve warrants that emanate from Florida. However, many times it can be helpful to retain a lawyer in the jurisdiction that actually executed the out-of-state warrant.

Initially, the client retained our office and attempted to retain an attorney in Ohio. For some bizzare reason the attorney in Ohio refused to represent the defendant until he was actually transported to Ohio. This was extremely frustrating for the client and the client’s family because it made it very difficult to resolve the criminal charge in Ohio without an Ohio criminal attorney to address the Prosecutor. Ultimately, we contacted the Ohio prosecutor and had discussions about the merits of the charge and their desire to prosecute this sex charge from 1990.

RESULT: The Ohio prosecutor dismissed the warrant and the defendant was released.

State v. F
Exposure of Sexual Organs

FACTS: The client was accused of exposing himself to children in his neighborhood at the front door of his home.

DEFENSE: During our discussion of this case with our client we became aware of the animosity between his family and a number of his neighbors. It appeared that some children may have been peering into the client’s home and the exposure allegation was totally false.

RESULT: It is very common for these types of false allegations to escalate out of control. This client contacted our office right away, and we addressed the allegations with the State. Ultimately, the State “No Filed” the charges.

State v. Z; Judge: Rick Defuria; Sarasota County
Lewd & Lacivious

FACTS: The Client (defendant) was charged with Lewd and Lascivious Battery and was looking at 15 years in Florida State Prison pursuant to the Florida Statutes. According to police reports, the client (35 years of age) met a 14 year old girl outside of his apartment, shortly after moving into the area. After a few visits to his home the girl engaged in consensual sex with our client. When the Client became aware of her age he ended the relationship immediately. This breakup greatly upset the victim. According to reports, the victim later broke into the client’s home and stole a firearm, with the apparent intent to have him killed. The client became aware of the girl’s plan and left the state.

During the course of their investigation, law enforcement eventually requested that the client come into the station and give a sworn statement. The client agreed and was consequently charged with L&L battery. Unfortunately, this client never contacted our office prior to giving his recorded statement to police. This mistake was compounded by the client’s lack of knowledge regarding Florida’s statutory rape (sexual battery) laws. By failing to contact our office prior to questioning, the client potentially exposed himself to the much more serious charge of sexual battery.

In this situation the State Attorney’s case hinged solely on the client’s statement due the victim’s lack of credibility. The victim had numerous prior juvenile arrests. In addition, she had burglarized the client’s home in an effort to possibly have him killed.

It is important to remember that whenever you are approached by law enforcement to contact a lawyer immediately . Even if you feel your role or knowledge of a crime is minor, taking proper steps to contact an attorney immediately can have a drastic impact on your case.

RESULT: We eventually negotiated a deal with the The State that allowed the client to avoid prison.

State v. R; Judge: R. Timothy Peters
Handling and Fondling a Child Under the Age of Sixteen

FACTS: The client was charged with Handling and Fondling a Female Child Under the Age of Sixteen (2nd degree felony). The defendant had allegedly molested his children and grandchildren in 1992. The victim of the offense had a falling out with our client shortly before he was arrested out of state and extradited to Florida. The age of the charge made it problematic for the State Attorney to move forward on the Fondling charge. As a result, We made the State Attorney aware that we were filing a motion to dismiss the Fondling charge due to a violation of the Statute of Limitations. In response, the State claimed they would amend the charge to Sexual Battery (1st degree felony), in order to avoid the statute of limitations problem.

DEFENSE: The State could have moved forward on the Sexual Battery charge, but there were some serious issues as to the credibility of the victim. These credibility problems led to negotiations with the State.

In this situation the State Attorney’s case hinged solely on the client’s statement due the victim’s lack of credibility. The victim had numerous prior juvenile arrests. In addition, she had burglarized the client’s home in an effort to possibly have him killed.

RESULT: The client did no jail time. He entered a plea to a probationery sentence on a much less serious charge, which carried no sex offender designation.

If you have been arrested or have learned that you are a suspect in an investigation of a sexually related offense, do not wait to hire an attorney. By getting Attorney Hanlon involved in your case early, you improve your chances of avoiding the severe penalties resulting from a conviction, including jail time and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Contact Attorney Hanlon online or call 813.228.7095 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and learn more about how he can help you mount your defense.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.