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Articles Posted in violent crimes

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Using a firearm while committing a felony is a serious charge in Florida. In a recent Florida gun crime decision, the defendant appealed his conviction for using a firearm while perpetrating a felony in violation of Florida Statutes section 790.07(2).

The case arose in connection with a drug deal that soured. The defendant had gone to the victim’s house to purchase marijuana and shot the victim. The defendant later argued he shot the victim in self-defense because the victim and another person tried to steal the money he’d brought to buy pot. The victim argued that the defendant shot him after trying to grab the pot without paying for it and running away.

The defendant was charged with armed robbery and aggravated battery with a firearm. Although he was arrested for the use of a firearm while committing a felony, he wasn’t charged with it because the prosecutor thought this offense was combined in the other two counts. At trial, the jury found the defendant not guilty of armed robbery and lesser included charges. It couldn’t make a decision on aggravated battery.

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On March 14, 2016, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a package of resources to assist state and local efforts to reform harmful and unlawful practices in certain jurisdictions related to the assessment and enforcement of fines and fees. One of the elements of the package was a Dear Colleague Letter from the Civil Rights Division and the Office for Access to Justice that was sent to the chief judges and court administrators in all 50 states.

The letter did not threaten any specific enforcement action for those who ignore it, but it did detail seven principles that court personnel should be aware of when imposing fines. The letter stated:

Recent years have seen increased attention on the illegal enforcement of fines and fees in certain jurisdictions around the country—often with respect to individuals accused of misdemeanors, quasi-criminal ordinance violations, or civil infractions. Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm. Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape. Furthermore, in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.

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