Joinder and Severance of Offenses

Florida Criminal Rule of Procedure 3.150(a) tells us that two or more offenses that are triable in the same court may be charged in one indictment/information when the offenses are based on the same transaction or on 2 more connected acts or transactions.

Florida Criminal Rule of Procedure 3.152(a)(2) explains when a court must grant a severance of the two offenses. Basically, the rule is severance is appropriate when necessary to promote a fair determination of the defendant’s guilt or innocence of each offense.

That’s the law – but Courts interpret law. The Court in Hart v. State, 70 So.2d 615 (2011), held that “for joinder to be appropriate the crimes in question must be linked in some significant way. This can include the fact that they occurred during a shopping ‘spree’ interrupted by no significant period of respite, or the fact that one crime is causally related to the other, even though there may have been a significant lapse of time. But the mere fact of a general temporal or geographic proximity is not sufficient in itself to justify joinder except to the extent that it helps prove a proper and significant link between the crimes.”

So just because two allegations are connected by similar circumstances does not warrant joinder. There must be a “meaningful relationship” between the two crimes and they must be linked in some significant way. If the trial court errs in it’s evaluation, it could very well be harmful error and subject to reversal!