There are several things that must happen in order for you, as a criminal defendant, to receive justice. If you did nothing wrong, then you should receive an acquittal and be allowed to go on about your life. Even if you were not completely blameless, justice requires that a criminal charge you face be reflective of what you did, and nothing more. If a crime has within its definition elements that simply weren’t met in your case, then you should still be entitled to an acquittal. In order to give yourself the best chance of getting true justice from the legal system, be sure you have the power and skill of an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer on your side.
So, what do we mean when we talk about the “elements of a crime”? Here are a couple of examples, one hypothetical and one from an actual recent case.
Hypothetically, let’s say that John Doe was spotted urinating in public. There’s no evidence that he was touching or displaying himself in a sexual manner; just that he was relieving himself in the open and that his genitals were exposed. In that scenario, an attempt by the state to charge John with exposure of sexual organs could very possibly lead to a successful motion to dismiss or motion for an acquittal by the defense. Why? Because Florida law, including Supreme Court decisions, is relatively clear that simple public nudity, without something additional (such as sexual touching or some sort of vulgar/sexual display) generally does not meet the elements of that crime. If you look at the standard jury instructions judges use in court in Florida, those instructions say that this crime requires (1) nudity and/or exposure of sexual organs, (2) in public or viewable from a public place or the property of another person and (3) that the display was (or was intended to be) “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” in nature. In John’s case, unless the state presented more evidence, it generally would fall short of meeting that final element, so it would not be entitled to a conviction. In fact, in 1994, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled for a man charged with this crime when all he had done was urinate in public.