Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

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.

 

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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Sometimes, Florida can be famous – or infamous – for news stories with strange twists. While some of those twists might elicit a chuckle or two, the possible legal consequences for the subjects of those news articles can be profoundly serious. If you are facing arrest, it’s no joke. Make sure you retain a skilled Tampa Bay defense attorney.

One possible takeaway from a recent South Florida news story is this: if you are going to cut off someone in traffic in Miami-Dade County, make sure it isn’t a law enforcement officer. One man made that mistake and found himself the subject of a traffic stop, according to a recent Miami Herald report. Once the police initiated the traffic stop, they found several things they deemed suspicious inside the man’s car. These included six guns, several bottles of strong cough syrup (without a prescription), suspected marijuana oil and nearly $20,000 in cash.

The Herald report also noted that the police proudly touted the bust on a local TV station. “It’s amazing how something as simple as a traffic stop can lead us to crack a lot of cases,” the police told CBS 4. There was one not-so-small problem: it wasn’t a “good” bust.

Are you a military veteran with court costs, fines or even warrants?  Then this Saturday, April 14, 2018 may be for you!  The annual VA stand down event is taking place at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, Bay Pines Fl 33744.  This event is from 8:30 a.m.-1:00p.m.

You must register via phone at 727.464.6446 or email pdvastanddown@wearethehope.org before April 11, 2018.

What is this event?  This once a year program helps veterans by reducing/eliminating certain court costs/fines and they may be able to get minor warrants dropped completely!

By reducing/eliminating tickets, court costs or warrants, many veterans will be able to get their driver’s license back, avoid jail/arrest and may be free to start job hunting again. Continue reading

In a criminal case, there are many technical and procedural rules that can affect your case. Sometimes, those rules may serve as an impediment to your case, but, at other times, those rules (and the proper utilization of them by your Florida drug crime attorney) can be massively beneficial to your case. For one man facing drug charges in DeSoto County, the rules related to determinations of mental competence and plea bargains gave the defendant a renewed opportunity in his criminal case to escape from the plea deal he’d previously made.

The defendant, George, was arrested in December 2013 and charged with multiple crimes related to drugs and to resisting police officers. Eighteen months later, George was determined to be not competent to proceed. Some time later, two doctors determined that the defendant was competent. The court set a trial date, and, on the day of trial, the defendant agreed to a plea deal. He pled guilty to four charges and received a sentence of 36 months plus 24 months’ community control.

The defendant later sought to invalidate his plea agreement. The defendant noted to the court that, although two doctors had found him to be competent, there had never been a court order entered in which the judge declared him to be legally competent, so his plea deal was involuntary. The trial judge rejected these arguments and declined to void the plea agreement.

There are a lot of things anyone should understand when being questioned by the police. First and foremost, when the police are asking you questions, they’re often not there to help you; they’re seeking to obtain information that will help secure an arrest in a criminal matter. That’s not intended as an insult to those who wear the uniform, but it’s just a statement of fact –- that it is the job of the police to investigate potential crimes and, when appropriate, make arrests. Thus, unless the officer who approached you did so because your car has a flat tire on a busy highway, the chances are that the “helpful” officer talking to you is actually trying to get useful information relevant to a case on which they are working.

Also, be aware that whatever you say is likely to be regarded with suspicion by an officer, even if they give no outward signs of that or even appear empathetic. As the main protagonist of a popular TV show set in Florida once opined, “spies spend their lives telling lies, [while] cops spend their careers listening to them.” All that is to say that, when you find yourself being questioned by law enforcement officers, your first instinct should be to protect yourself legally, and that means getting a lawyer. A recent Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling in a South Florida case provides a useful example of this.

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In criminal cases, jury trials demonstrate the “human element” that comes with involving a group of everyday people who come together to serve as jurors. On the opposite side of that sometimes unpredictable “human element” are the rules of procedure. Sometimes, in dealing with juries, a judge may make a mistake that runs afoul of these rules. Part of pursuing the strongest possible defense is making sure that, when this type of mistake occurs, you ensure that the mistake does not unfairly harm your rights.

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If you or a loved one is facing criminal prosecution, there are many things that can help you get to a successful outcome. Sometimes, that event can be a ruling in another case. In the situation of a man who was accused of violating the state’s hit-and-run law, he was able to overcome the charges against him and achieve success in the Fifth District Court of Appeal after the Florida Supreme Court clarified that the accident at issue in his case did not qualify as a “crash,” which was required in order to trigger a prosecution under the statute.

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A government report that was just released showed that state laws/regulations regarding teen driving has actually contributed to a large decrease in crime.

Starting in the early 90’s a few states passed GDL (graduated driver licensing) laws, making teenagers gain experience driving before they could become fully licensed drivers.  As of this writing, all 50 states have some form of GDL.  Now, research has suggested that these laws have contributed to fewer teenagers being arrested for nontraffic-related crimes.

State GDL laws, limiting teens ability to drive at night, have led to fewer kids being arrested for battery and burglary.  In effect, driving curfews have cut down teenagers being out in the dark when the majority of violent crimes and home invasions take place.

When these laws were first being passed, the effect on crime was not a consideration.  The sole purpose was to improve teen safety.  These findings, if correct, are just a happy bonus.  This protects both the public and keeps kids out of the juvenile criminal court system.

Still, this study is new and more correlation is needed.  Yet so far, studies have shown that introduction of the GDL has reduced total arrests of 16- and 17-year-olds between 4 and 6 percent.

It appears that the nighttime driving restriction is the main reason behind the crime reduction.  States in which driving curfews are not lifted until 17 or 18 see an even larger drop in arrests for 16-year-olds.

The study also shows certain crimes drop more then others.  The FBI tracked nine of the most serious crimes and found various degrees of change.  For instance, theft crimes dropped between 5 and almost 7 percent.  Aggravated assault charges dropped between 4 and 6 percent.  Even murders saw a decline.  However, other crimes such as grand theft auto and sexual battery saw little to no change.

These results were determined by comparing arrests between juveniles and 18-24-year-olds acting as a control group.  They were then cross checked between each state and particular age groups for each year between 1995 and 2011 while taking into consideration other law changes.  The conclusion?  Fewer teens driving at night means fewer arrests.

The report also found that traffic enforcement by police played a role as well.  Depending on the state and the particular rules, many teens were ticketed or charged with driving at night.

One final bit of good news.  It appears that the GDL restrictions had a part in lowering teenage traffic deaths.  The study showed that the longer kids had to wait for their driving licenses or permits, the lower the state’s teen driving fatalities.  The much stricter nighttime driving restrictions also yielded lower auto deaths. Continue reading

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