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.
Acquittal required when an integral piece is missing from the state’s case
Another example is an actual one and comes from Pinellas County. J.M. was a nursing home worker who, allegedly, was spotted in a compromising position outside with one of the facility’s dementia patients. The state charged the man with “lewd or lascivious exhibition in the presence of an elderly or disabled person.” To be guilty of that crime, one must, in the presence of an elderly or disabled person unable to consent, either (1) engage in sexual self-gratification, (2) intentionally expose one’s genitals or (3) engage in “other lewd or lascivious” acts, which includes things like sadomasochism or bestiality.
The state’s case against J.M. alleged that he had engaged in the second of these three. The appeals court ruled in favor of J.M., though, explaining that the state’s evidence simply didn’t meet the elements of the crime. Exhibition by exposure, by its plain meaning, necessarily involves the perpetrator having his genitals exposed, or “visually observable.” Having one’s genitals out where others could see them was an essential element of this crime. The state alleged many facts that might, on the surface, appear to look bad for J.M. However, at no point did the state ever allege, or prove, that J.M.’s genitals were ever out of his pants. Without that essential element of exposure, the state’s case necessarily fell short.
Both of these scenarios are somewhat graphic in nature but are offered to make a very specific point. While you may very possibly never find yourself facing charges like J.M. or this hypothetical John Doe faced, you might find yourself facing charges for a crime that you didn’t commit. The key to getting justice in your case may lie, as it did in these scenarios, in demonstrating that your actions did not meet the elements of the crime charged. Getting to a dismissal or acquittal, though, often requires in-depth knowledge of the law and skillful argumentation before the courts. Contact the skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to get the high-quality representation you need. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.