915055-gunThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is one of the most important constitutional protections afforded to citizens. That constitutional amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. For example, the police cannot simply pat you down and go rummaging through your pockets for no reason. In fact, there are only a few reasons where they can engage in this kind of search. When they do so without a valid basis, that search is illegal, and the items found in the search should not be allowed as evidence at your trial. Making sure that you are getting the full protection of your constitutional rights requires many things, and one the biggest ones is a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.

As an example of how an illegal search can occur, consider the recent case of T.N. two St. Petersburg police officers spotted T.N. sitting at a picnic table in a park that had closed 90 minutes earlier. Based on the park’s closed status, the officers approached T.N. He told them he was just leaving and headed toward his bicycle. The officers commanded T.N. to stop and, eventually grabbed the man’s bicycle so he couldn’t leave. They arrested him for violating a St. Petersburg city ordinance that bans people from being in city parks after hours.

Pursuant to that arrest, the officers searched T.N., at which point they found a concealed firearm and illegal drugs. At trial, the state charged the man with carrying a concealed firearm and two drug possession counts.

798516-drug-offensesSometimes, one can learn useful tips, even as a non-lawyer, from court opinions. They can highlight important legal rules or they can inform readers that the state of the law has changed. Other times, you don’t need a court opinion. A brief news story or two may tell you all you need to know. A recent incident that occurred in Central Florida is a stark reminder that the gulf between trying to handle your criminal case by yourself, as opposed to entrusting an experienced local attorney, can be very wide. In other words, don’t risk your future; contact an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney about your criminal charges right away.

The occurrence began, according to a villages-news.com report, when local police responded to an alleged disturbance during the wee hours of Nov. 30. The police spotted A.L.P., a 28-year-old woman, whom they alleged was on foot, stumbling drunk and about to drive away in a SUV. A check of her driver’s license revealed that she was driving on a restricted (“business purposes only”) license.

According to the police, they gave the woman multiple chances to call for a ride home. Instead, she allegedly fought the officers and required the threat of a taser before cooperating. As all this transpired, the police searched the woman’s vehicle and allegedly found a marijuana grinder with small amounts of the drug in it.

798514-burglaryToday, in this age of the Internet and social media, “Florida man” has become something of a meme, as “Florida man” is arguably infamous for finding trouble in unique and sometimes head-scratching ways. Often, Internet news sources play these stories for laughs. However, these stories involve real people who are often facing really serious crimes based upon their alleged actions. While you may never be the subject of a “Florida man”-type story, what you should be sure you know is that, regardless of how ordinary or extraordinary the facts are in the criminal case facing you or a loved one, you need to be sure you have an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney on your side to ensure you or your loved one gets the justice you need.

NBC Miami recently reported on an incident it flagged as an “Only in Florida” story. P.E., a man from Pinellas County, was inside a home and approached a locked “lock box.” He broke into the box and found a bottle labeled “hydrocodone acetaminophen,” which is a powerful opioid painkiller. P.E. poured the bottle’s contents into his hands and left the home. P.E. was caught on video engaging in this theft.

According to the report, P.E. discovered, after leaving the home, that what he had was not hydrocodone, acetaminophen, or any other type of opioid. What he had was a handful of “Equate Gentle Laxatives.” “Equate” is the house brand of health and beauty products sold at Walmart stores. A bottle of 100 Equate Gentle Laxative pills, which has the same active ingredient as Dulcolax, can be purchased at Pinellas County Walmart stores for less than $5. P.E. decided to throw the pills in the trash.

One of the most well-known elements of Florida criminal law and procedure, at least among lay people, is this state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This law can provide an important tool in the defense arsenal of a person accused of a violent crime who was, in fact, simply defending him/herself. Whether your criminal defense case involves an assertion of self-defense, other affirmative defenses or different trial strategies, your criminal case is too important to take chances with. Be sure you are getting the best defense possible by retaining an experienced Saint Petersburg criminal defense attorney.

While many “Stand Your Ground” cases that make news headlines involve guns, W.J.’s case was a bit different. W.J. was a St. Petersburg man who had a difficult relationship with his roommate. The two fought, but it was hardly the sort of lighthearted roommate squabbles one might see on a classic episode of The Odd Couple. This pair’s battles allegedly involved the roommate brandishing a baseball bat and threatening to kill W.J.

W.J. kept a knife on his bedside table because of his fear related to the roommate’s behavior. On the day of the roommate’s death, W.J. alleged that he awoke in his bedroom to find the roommate’s hand in his pants pocket, which was where W.J. kept his cash. A physical struggle ensued, which traveled from the bedroom to the living room to the backyard. In the backyard, W.J. finally gained control of the knife and stabbed the roommate, killing him.

There are many different ways to pursue justice if you’re a criminal defendant. Sometimes, the best way is to plead not guilty and to contest your case all the way through trial and any necessary appeals. Others times, however, the best path forward may be a plea agreement. Even if a “not guilty” verdict is not a viable option in your situation, there are still variables in play that can increase or decrease the severity of your criminal penalty. Getting justice can mean ensuring that you do not receive an unjust sentence based upon a bad application of the facts or the law. To get the help you need in securing the justice you deserve, be sure to retain the services of a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.

Here’s an example involving one man who pled guilty. J.P. was facing two charges in a DUI-related matter. Both charges related to one fatal crash that took place in Broward County in June 2011, where a motorcyclist died after skidding into J.P.’s SUV. The accused man entered a guilty plea and, as part of the agreement, the state dropped count one.

That left the court to sentence J.P. on count two, which was a felony. Florida splits felony crimes into 10 categories of severity. 10 is the most severe and 1 is the least severe. There are several factors that can cause the “score” you are assessed on your scoresheet to go up. Some include if you have prior criminal convictions, if your crime injured multiple victims, if your crime resulted in a victim’s (or victims’) death or if you were on probation when you re-offended. Your score may go up in instances such as those.

When you’ve been accused of a particularly salacious crime, yours can be an especially difficult uphill battle. Sometimes, people may want to look more closely at the nature of the charges against you, as opposed to the actual, admissible evidence against you. Fortunately, in this state and country, you are entitled to a fair trial(regardless of the charges asserted) consisting of only that evidence that was obtained in a manner that did not violate your constitutional rights, including your right to be free from most warrantless searches and seizures. To make sure you get the fair trial and the vigorous defense you deserve, be sure you’ve contacted and retained a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney.

A.P. was a man who found himself in the type of scenario laid out above. He was on trial for 15 counts of video voyeurism. According to the state, A.P. had installed a camera in a bedroom wall in his home and used it to maintain a live video feed of the woman who lived in the room, including capturing her in “various states of undress.” The case was extremely serious for A.P., because the Florida legislature had recently upgraded the crime of video voyeurism to a felony, and the accused man faced as much as 380 years in prison if he was convicted on all charges.

The state believed it had strong evidence, as it had multiple videos taken from A.P.’s computer that appeared to depict exactly the sort of secret surveillance that the state alleged. The state, however, had one major problem, which the defense was ultimately able to use in its favor: the police didn’t have a warrant, and they also didn’t have valid consent, when they searched the computer and seized the video files.

Whether you’ve dealt with the criminal justice system or you simply watch crime-themed television programs, you are probably familiar with a person’s Miranda rights. These rights are a very important part of a criminal suspect’s constitutional rights. A suspect has the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel. If the suspect agrees to talk to police without an attorney present, then the suspect is considered to have “waived” his right to remain silent, as well as his right to counsel (during the questioning).

Obviously, one of the major keys to any successful criminal defense is keeping out evidence that is harmful to the defense case. One way that can happen is if the defendant made a statement or confession to police after waiving his Miranda rights, but that waiver wasn’t valid. A valid waiver must be “knowing,” “voluntary” and “intelligent.” There are many ways that a defendant’s waiver can be invalidated, including proof that he was confused, was intoxicated, or that he lacked the intellectual capacity to give a valid waiver. What all this establishes is that, even if a defendant confessed to the police, the defendant may still have options and opportunities to obtain an acquittal. That’s why, if you or a loved one are facing charges, don’t give up and don’t go without counsel; retain an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney to handle the case.

An example of this was on display in a recent case that originated in Polk County. J.W. was, at the time of his arrest, an 18-year-old man with cognitive delays. Two deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office questioned the teen regarding an unsolved sex crime. A sergeant read J.W. his rights and he said he understood. He also signed a waiver form.

Sometimes, obtaining a reversal of your conviction may not be feasible. The state may simply have amassed too much evidence against you at trial. Even if you cannot reasonably expect to obtain a reversal of your conviction, that definitely does not mean that you should abandon filing an appeal altogether. Sometimes, pursuing (and succeeding in) an appeal of your sentence can provide you with very significant benefits, including a lot less time behind bars. To make sure that you get a truly fair hearing, whether it is at your trial or at your sentencing hearing, be sure to obtain the services of an experienced Tampa Bay defense attorney to represent you.

An example of a such a case where the defendant received a fair trial but not a fair sentencing hearing took place recently in DeSoto County. K.L. was arrested and charged with selling meth within 1000 feet of a place of worship and possessing drug paraphernalia. The state secured a conviction at trial. At the woman’s sentencing hearing, the prosecution called K.L. a “consistent drug dealer” and stated that multiple police officers could testify that K.L. had a “predisposition for dealing drugs multiple times to multiple people, not just this one drug sale.” The court allowed the state to use this evidence in the sentencing hearing.

The woman appealed her conviction and her sentence. The appeal of the conviction went nowhere, but the appeals court concluded that the woman was correct in her challenge of her sentencing hearing. This meant that K.L. was entitled to have her sentence thrown out and to get a new sentencing hearing before a different judge. The problem with the first sentencing hearing that triggered a reversal and a new hearing was the trial judge’s allowing in impermissible evidence. The state argued during the sentencing hearing that K.L. had a history of engaging many instances of dealing drugs subsequent to the sale upon she was arrested. The state, however, had never charged the woman with any drug-selling crimes other than the one deal that was the subject of this trial. Based on charged offenses, the state had a record of K.L. dealing drugs exactly once.

 

Per the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, “Operation flush out”, an undercover unlicensed contracting sting, was a smashing success…

Taking place between Saturday, August 4 to Monday, August 6, this secret operation took place on 54th avenue near 27th street in Saint Petersburg, Florida.  The deputies put out advertisements asking for contracting help.  When the operation was over, 29 people were arrested for over 60 counts including  unlicensed specialty contracting violations, worker’s compensation fraud, and various other criminal charges unrelated to unlicensed contracting such as drug possession and outstanding warrants.

What is unlicensed contracting?  It is exactly what it sounds like.  After the local newspaper  wrote a 2017 expose on the practice of painters, roofers and other construction practices working on people’s homes without the proper license, the Sheriff was quick to get involved.  This has been his third sting since last October and he claims that south Pinellas is a hotbed for this illegal activity.

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