All criminal defendants in the United States are guaranteed the right to counsel by the Sixth Amendment and are also guaranteed the right to due process in the Fifth. These two rights interlock to make certain anyone charged with a crime is afforded a fair trial where they will have the opportunity to present a competent defense. When facing any charge in the state of Florida related to sex crimes like rape, lewd conduct and sexual battery, every defendant should be aware that Florida has some of the toughest and most unforgiving laws when it comes to requiring convicted sex offenders to register.
By and large all convicts must register for life. The only means of escaping the sex offender registry legally are to have a conviction overturned, or establish some kind of mitigating circumstances, like a Romeo and Juliet exception, that would allow a more serious charge to be reduced.
Now that you’re aware of the potential consequences of a conviction or even a guilty plea to a sex crime in Florida, it is a good time to be reminded of your right to counsel and your right to a competent defense. If you are facing such a charge, the simple fact is you need an attorney, and the sooner the better.
Most defendants are surprised by the registration requirement and are further surprised to learn it is permanent. These two bombshells usually land moments after they agree to plead guilty to what they are told is a “lesser charge” like “lewd behavior.” Even if they successfully serve their sentence, a defense attorney like William Hanlon Criminal Defense Lawyer in St Petersburg will tell them their registration will follow them forever, neatly foreclosing on most of their opportunities to rehabilitate themselves and rebuild their lives.
This is one of the key reasons a defense attorney is a crucial part of any defendant’s survival strategy. Facing a formidable list of sanctions, even for something like lewd behavior, and being convinced there is no way out, many people will surrender their rights and their future without objectively evaluating the prosecution’s case at all. This is a huge mistake. A guilty plea is almost as permanent as the sex offender registry. Once entered, it is nearly impossible to rescind.
Rules of Evidence
Sex crimes like rape and sexual battery, almost without exception, now turn on forensic evidence. While complaining witnesses are necessary to sustain certain charges and can be very compelling at trial, the fact is DNA can prove both a sex act and the presence of the defendant at the scene, which when combined are usually enough to get a conviction or at the very least a plea.
Forensic evidence isn’t invincible, however. As with all things in a criminal case, there are rules regulating the introduction, scientific meaning, weight and type of evidence allowed to be presented to a jury. A skilled attorney can navigate these rules of evidence to help their client avoid the prosecution’s best case and give the defense an advantage.
Further, the process by which evidence is collected and tested is almost always subject to scrutiny and even attack by a well-prepared attorney. The fact is police officers, crime scene investigators and crime lab technicians can and do make mistakes. The slightest flaw in any chain of evidence can be seized upon by the defense to establish reasonable doubt, which is all that is necessary to pulverize a criminal case, regardless of how strong it otherwise may be.
Your attorney will also have another major tool in their arsenal, and that is your Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. With all the time in the world, any man, or any prosecutor, could build a case into an invincible cathedral. But prosecutors don’t get that advantage unless it is given away. A skillful attorney will use their leverage to crowd the prosecution and possibly win key concessions before the case is ready to be presented. Those concessions could lead to a withdrawal of the most serious charges or even an outright dismissal.
Never underestimate the power of a competent defense attorney. They know well the burden the prosecution has and they can use their unique position in the process to work the system in your favor.