Florida Weekly Appellate Law Review 6

Florida Appellate Law Review: Each week Florida’s Appellate Courts release their new opinions. We read them so you don’t have to (and yes, we were watching the US team too). Here’s a summary of what happened this week:

Florida Supreme Court: 

Hildwin v. Florida:

Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction and death sentence for Hildwin, who was convicted of a strangulation murder in Hernando County. DNA evidence found on the victim at the crime scene matched the victim’s boyfriend, not Hildwin. The Florida Supreme Court stated that “the State prosecuted the case based on a false theory of scientific evidence that was woven throughout its presentation of evidence and argument—scientific evidence that has now been totally discredited.”

First DCA: 

Bush v. Florida: 

Appellate court reversed conviction of use of a firearm while committing felony grand theft because it violated double jeopardy when the defendant was also convicted of armed robbery.

RJ Reynolds v. Ward:

Appellate Court reversed an award of costs and fees under an offer of judgment because the offer of judgment did not specify an amount for settling punitive damages claims or otherwise indicate what portion of the total sum was applied to punitive damages claims.

Note: the dissent states that the Florida Supreme Court has not yet decided this issue, and states that the offers were not ambiguous. This will likely be yet another aspect of the offer of judgment statute that the Florida Supreme Court will have to clarify.

Florida v. Davis:

The state appealed a downward departure in sentencing in a solicitation of a minor case, but the appellate court affirmed the lower sentence imposed by the trial judge. The state had conceded at sentencing that the charge was an “isolated incident”, which was a valid basis for a downward departure.

Williams v. Florida:

Appellate court held that the US Supreme Court decision in Alleyne v. United States (any facts that increase the mandatory minimum sentence for an offense must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt) does not apply to enhanced sentences for “prison releasee re-offenders”. Whether or not the defendant was released from prison within three years of the new crime was not an element of the new crime, and did not have to be submitted to the jury.

Taylor v. Florida:

Trial court erred in forcing defendant to be represented at trial even though it found that the defendant had knowingly and voluntarily waived counsel and asserted his right to self representation.

Salonko v. Florida:

Appellate court reversed conviction of second degree murder where the evidence only showed that the defendant fired a gun in the direction of the victim. The evidence did not support a finding that the victim’s death was caused by the defendant’s culpable negligence.

Williams v. Florida:

Appellate court reversed conviction and finding of violation of probation where the trial court failed to conduct a Nelson hearing after the defendant requested discharge of his appointed trial counsel.

Florida Dept. of Corrections v. Williams:

Trial court entered an illegal sentence when it withheld adjudication on a prison (not jail) sentence, and the sentence was 150% above the sentence allowed by statute.

Second DCA: 

RAS v. Florida:

Appellate court held that drug evidence found in the defendant’s pockets should have been suppressed when the defendant (a child) was picked up by a police officer for suspected truancy, who then ordered the child to empty his pockets. The court held this to be an unauthorized full search.

Forth v. Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles:

Appellate court held that the DHSMV hearing officer erred in self-introducing a letter attacking the credibility of the expert the defendant hired to testify at the license review hearing.

Third DCA: 

Nothing interesting this week.

Fourth DCA:

Also nothing interesting this week.

Fifth DCA: 

Patel v. Florida:

Appellate court held that the police could not seize the defendant’s assets under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, where the police seized the assets as “substitute assets” for illegal cash proceeds.