Florida Court Says Gun Crime Conviction Requires Jury Finding that Person Charged Had Gun – Nettles v. Florida

In order to convict a person of a crime in Florida, the prosecution must prove each element of the particular crime charged. A simple robbery conviction, for instance, requires proof that the person charged: 1) took money or other property from the person or custody of another; 2) with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property; and 3) the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.

Criminal charges (and sentences) are often enhanced in situations where the person committed the crime while possessing a firearm. But, as the First District Court of Appeals explains in Nettles v. Florida, a conviction on such a charge cannot happen without a jury finding that the person charged actually had a gun at the time he or she committed the crime.

Tevin Nettles was charged with carjacking with a firearm, robbery with a firearm and kidnapping with a weapon. Following trial, a jury found him guilty on all three charges. The jury had also been asked to determine whether Nettles actually possessed a gun in committing the carjacking and robbery offenses, however, and concluded that he did not. Although Nettles asked the trial court to convict him on lesser carjacking and robbery charges (meaning without a firearm) the court declined, and instead adjudicated him on the specific crimes charged, each of which carry a possible life sentence.

The First District reversed the decision on appeal. “A verdict which is legally inconsistent…cannot stand,” the court explained, citing the Second District Court of Appeals’ decision in Shavers v. State last year. “Such a verdict occurs when a not-guilty finding on one count negates an element on another count that is necessary for conviction.” In this case, the jury’s finding that Nettles didn’t have a gun when he committed the armed carjacking and robbery offenses necessarily contradicted its verdict finding him guilty on the charges, each of which included firearm possession as an element of the crime which must be proved in order to support a conviction.

“Accordingly, the trial court erred in adjudicating Nettles guilty of carjacking with a firearm and robbery with a firearm,” the court ruled. Reversing the convictions, the First District remanded the matter back to the trial court with instructions that the lower court adjudicate Nettles as guilty of lesser carjacking and robbery charges that do not require firearm possession and resentence him based on these convictions.

A criminal conviction can have significant, long lasting effects. Unlawful possession of a firearm, for example, is a serious offense that becomes even more serious when combined with other charges like drug trafficking, carjacking and robbery. If you have been charged with a crime in Florida, contact the South Florida criminal defense lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. Our attorneys handle a variety of criminal defense cases, including those involving gun possession, throughout the area. We can help assess your particular case, negotiate with the prosecution and aggressively defend your rights in court.

Related blog posts:

Federal Court Upholds Weapons Charge for Cocaine Trafficker – U.S. v. Garringer

Florida Court Dismisses Charge Against Man Carrying Gun in Union Hall Parking Lot – State v. Little

When Can Police Stop You on the Street? Mackey v. State