Putting up “the best possible defense” can mean different things in different cases. Sometimes, it’s about establishing your complete and total innocence. Other times, it is about demonstrating that, even if you did something wrong, the prosecution has advanced charges that do not fit the facts. Whatever form your “best defense” looks like, be sure you have retained an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer to help get the best outcome available to you under the law.
Some cases have an “only in Florida” flair because they involve the misguided exploits of Florida Man (or Florida Woman.) Other times, a case has an “only in Florida” flavor for reasons wholly unrelated to the alleged perpetrator involved.
This criminal case is an example of the latter. First, as background, it is important to understand that the State of Florida takes the illegal collection and sale of alligators, alligator hatchlings, and alligator eggs very seriously. So much so that, a few years ago, the Florida Wildlife Commission set up a sting operation at an alligator egg processing facility in DeSoto County.
During the FWC’s operation, they allegedly collected evidence that C.P. violated the law by knowingly collecting eggs from private property without a license or permit. The state also acquired evidence that C.P. collected more eggs than were allowed by permit limits. Specifically, the state accused C.P. and his cohorts of collecting 710 eggs when the permit limit was 560.
The state charged C.P. with conspiracy to commit racketeering and four counts of illegally killing, possessing, or capturing alligators or eggs. At the trial’s end, the prosecution secured a conviction on all counts. As C.P. correctly argued in his appeal, though, the state had a major problem with one of the charges. Specifically, the evidence that the prosecution provided at trial did not add up to a case that met all the required elements of “racketeering.”
To be guilty of conspiracy to commit racketeering in Florida, the law says that you either have to have known “of the overall objectives of the criminal enterprise and agreed to further its purpose” or else have “personally committed at least two predicate acts.”
Predicate Acts of Racketeering Activity in Florida
So what, you may ask, is a “predicate act”? Good question! The list of predicate acts of racketeering in Florida is laid out in Section 895.02(8)(a) of the Florida Statutes. That subsection contains some 51 criminal acts that can be the predicate of racketeering activity in Florida. Section 895.02(8)(a)(33) specifically mentions theft or robbery in violation of Chapter 812.
So, the state had C.P. up on racketeering conspiracy charges related to C.P.’s alleged activity that constituted theft. The problem for the state was that what C.P. did wasn’t criminal theft. Florida’s theft statute requires proof that the accused “knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another.”
What C.P. did was the illegal taking of alligator eggs from their nests without permission from the State, but that wasn’t theft in violation of Chapter 812.
As long as the eggs were in their nests — which they were when C.P. took them — they belonged neither to the landowners upon whose property the nests sat nor to the state. As a result, that meant the eggs were not “property of another” and C.P.’s conduct couldn’t satisfy the statutory definition of theft. That, in turn, meant he couldn’t be guilty of a racketeering conspiracy.
In the end, an in-depth knowledge of the law, combined with a detailed awareness of the facts of C.P.’s case, combined to get this man this favorable outcome. When you’re facing criminal charges — or potential criminal charges — make sure your rights are protected by having the right legal team on your side. Count on the skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. to be that winning team for you. Call us as soon as possible so that we can start getting to work for you. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation