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Paul v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

November 22, 2017

Kevin Paul, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 16-4968, Milton Hirsch, Judge.

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Jeffrey Paul DeSousa, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Jeffrey R. Geldens, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and FERNANDEZ and LUCK, JJ.

          ROTHENBERG, C.J.

         Kevin Paul ("the defendant") appeals the trial court's entry of an order denying his motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, wherein the trial court determined that jurisdiction was justified based on the effect of the defendant's conduct in Florida. Because we find that the State of Florida properly and reasonably exercised jurisdiction, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         The defendant, a crewmember aboard the Norwegian Pearl, attempted to commit a sexual battery against a fellow crewmember ("the victim") while the Norwegian Pearl was in international waters. The defendant is a citizen of Grenada, and the victim is a citizen of Nicaragua. Neither the defendant nor the victim are Florida residents. The Norwegian Pearl flies under the Bahamian flag. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd., owns the Norwegian Pearl and is a Bermudian company, but the company's headquarters is in Miami, Florida. The Norwegian Pearl departed from Miami and returned to Miami, and nearly all of the revenue passengers embarked and disembarked in Miami.

         After the attempted sexual battery was reported, the defendant was taken into custody by the ship's Captain (master of the ship) and confined to the brig on the Norwegian Pearl until the ship returned to Miami. Upon its return to Miami, Miami-Dade law enforcement was contacted, and Miami-Dade police subsequently took the defendant into custody. The State of Florida charged the defendant by information with battery, attempted sexual battery, and false imprisonment.

         The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges brought by the State for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion based on its determination that Florida's exercise of jurisdiction under section 910.006(3)(d), Florida Statutes (2016), was appropriate and justified based on the effect of the defendant's criminal conduct in Florida. Thereafter, the defendant pled guilty to one count of attempted sexual battery without serious personal injury, reserving his right to appeal the order denying his motion to dismiss. The defendant's appeal followed.

         ANALYSIS

         Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, which we review de novo. Mobley v. State, 197 So.3d 572, 574 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016); Nissen v. Cortez Moreno, 10 So.3d 1110, 1111 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009).

         Pursuant to section 910.006(3)(d), Florida has criminal jurisdiction over acts taking place on board a ship outside of Florida's territory where "[t]he act or omission occurs during a voyage on which over half of the revenue passengers on board the ship originally embarked and plan to finally disembark in this state, without regard to intermediate stopovers." In the instant case, it is undisputed that over half of the Norwegian Pearl's revenue passengers embarked from and disembarked in Miami, Florida. In fact, 2, 885 of the 2, 888 revenue passengers aboard the ...


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