Most folks know that misdemeanors are “minor” offenses (at least in comparison to the more serious felony tier of crimes). However, that doesn’t mean the impact on your life will be minor.

In fact, you can face heavy fines, jail time, and reverberating effects in other areas of your life that have the potential to plague you for years to come.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

If you are arrested for a misdemeanor offense in Broward County, it’s important to invest in legal counsel. Our primary goal is usually for our client to walk away without a conviction, but even when that’s not possible, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help negotiate the charges down to a lesser offense, fight for reduced penalties, and soften the impact on your daily life.

Florida Misdemeanor Penalties

Under the umbrella of misdemeanors, there are two tiers of severity:

  • First-degree misdemeanors. The maximum penalties for 1st degree misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
  • Second-degree misdemeanors. The maximum penalties for 2nd degree misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by a maximum 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

(There are also non-criminal violations that are typically issued via citation that carry possible fines and other penalties, but usually no jail time.)

Penalty schedules for misdemeanor and felony offenses are laid out in F.S. 775.082 and schedules are spelled out in F.S. 775.083.

But it’s possible your penalties could even exceed this if certain enhancements apply. This could happen because of aggravating circumstances (you used a gun, the alleged victim was a minor, etc.), you have prior convictions, etc. In some cases, first-degree misdemeanors can be leveled up to third-degree felonies – meaning all of the sudden, you’re facing the possibility of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

In addition to this, judges can require completion of costly diversion programs, community service, house arrest, substance abuse treatment and monitoring, loss of driver’s license, etc. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the offense, a misdemeanor charge or conviction can have a ripple effect on your life – in a pending divorce case, child custody issue, an immigration matter, or with your professional license. You could also be kicked out of school, be disqualified for certain loans, and passed over by certain landlords.

All of this is why hiring a Broward criminal defense lawyer to represent you with your misdemeanor is imperative. The State of Florida does provide you with legal counsel if you cannot afford one yourself – but only if you are facing the possibility of jail time. And while there are many dedicated, experienced lawyers working for the public defender’s office, the amount of time and resources they dedicate to your case is likely to be less than what a private lawyer can devote. When we’re talking about your future, that’s not something you want to skimp on. Continue reading

If you are arrested for domestic violence in Fort Lauderdale, there is no one-size-fits-all defense solution. That said, there are some strategies that are commonly used because they have proven effective in many cases. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

When you hire a defense lawyer, you can generally trust they are going to carefully examine the police incident report, arrest affidavit, and any existing evidence to begin formulating their legal approach.

Some questions we may ask in our initial review of the facts:

A first appearance in court following a Miami domestic violence arrest can be nerve-wracking. It’s important to keep a cool head and educate yourself on what to expect – and what will be expected of you.domestic violence defense

While many of the procedural aspects of a first appearance on a Florida domestic violence charge are similar to what one would expect in any other criminal matter of a similar severity, there are a few differences about which you’ll want to be aware.

Our Miami domestic violence defense lawyers will start though by outlining the purpose and basics of any first appearance in a Florida criminal court.

Purpose & Expectations of First Appearance

The main point of a first appearance – in Florida and most other states – is to:

  • Formally serve the defendant with the charges they are facing.
  • Inform the defendant of their right to an attorney. If you’re financially unable to afford a lawyer, the court can appoint one to you. (This only applies in cases where you’re potentially facing jail time – which is most domestic violence charges.)
  • Inform the defendant that they are not required to say anything, and that anything they do say can be used against them.
  • Inform the defendant of their right to communicate with counsel, friends, or family, and if needed, provide the reasonable means to do so.
  • Inform those facing felony charges of their right to a preliminary hearing.
  • Sets the defendant’s bond (if applicable) and pretrial release conditions.

Typically, it’s over in a space of about 15 minutes. It can go faster if the judge has determined prior to the first appearance whether the defendant can afford a lawyer and if not, whether one should be appointed by the court. Continue reading

Florida has strong and well-established “stand your ground” self-defense laws. But can you successfully argue self-defense in a South Florida domestic violence case? Broward domestic violence

The short answer is: Yes – but you better have solid evidence.

As our Broward County domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, there are a number of state laws pertaining to self-defense and how it should be applied in Florida criminal cases. Most of these can be found in Chapter 776 of Florida Statutes, which outlines the criteria for Justifiable Use of Force.

Among these:

  • F.S. 776.102, Use or threatened use of force in defense of person. This statute holds that a person can be justified in threatening to use force or actually doing so against someone else when he/she reasonably believes that doing so is necessary to defend themselves against the other person’s unlawful use of force. However, they can’t use deadly force for this purpose – unless he/she reasonably believes that doing so is needed to halt imminent risk of death or serious injury to themself or someone else. In both cases, there is no duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.
  • F.S. 776.013, Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm. This provision states a person who is lawfully inside a dwelling or residence doesn’t have a responsibility to retreat if they feel threatened in that space. They can stand their ground and use force or threaten to use force. As for the degree of force, it can only be deadly if the person has a reasonable belief that they must do so in order to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another person OR to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
  • F.S. 776.031, Use or threatened use of force in defense of property. A person can use or threaten to use force against someone else when and to the extent that individual believes doing so is necessary to prevent or terminate another person’s trespassing on personal property or criminal or tortious interference with personal property in their possession (or in possession of an immediate family/household member). Force can only be deadly if one reasonably believes using it is needed to stop the imminent commission of a forcible felony. (Forcible felonies are those that involve the use of physical force against another human being.)

If you’ve used justifiable force, then you would not be subject to prosecution. However, there is another provision worthy of consideration if the underlying circumstances involved an allegation of domestic violence:

  • F.S. 776.041, use or threatened use of force by aggressor. Use of force won’t be considered justifiable if the person accused was either attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of a forcible felony OR that individual initially provoked the use or threatened use of force against themselves. (There are exceptions to the latter half if the use of force was so great they believed themselves in danger of imminent death or serious injury or they’d exhausted every other reasonable means to escape such danger OR they tried in good faith to withdraw from physical contact and indicates clearly their desire to withdraw/terminate use or threatened use of force.)

Risks of a Self-Defense Argument in a Florida Domestic Violence Case

Continue reading

When someone is facing a South Florida misdemeanor domestic violence charge, it’s worth exploring whether they qualify for a diversion program that would allow them to avoid a conviction. Florida domestic violence lawyer

As our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, not every defendant is going to qualify and it may not be the best strategic move for every case. But it’s important to discuss the possibility with your attorney.

What is a Domestic Violence Diversion Program?

A diversion program is a type of pre-trial intervention that essentially diverts the criminal case away from the usual track (which can end in conviction, jail, and fines) and instead allows qualifying defendants to complete educational courses and/or service requirements. When the program requirements are successfully met, the charges in the criminal case get dropped and the case is dismissed.

Some of the offenses that disqualify a defendant from a DV diversion program include:

  • Battery in which the defendant is accused of using substantial force to slap, punch, kick, or push an alleged victim to the ground.
  • Any battery that involves “degrading acts,” such as urinating or spitting on the alleged victim.
  • Any battery that involves alleged strangulation or choking of the victim.
  • Violations of domestic violence injunctions.

In general, domestic violence diversion program offenses are those involving minor intentional touching but don’t result in serious physical injury. If a defendant has a prior conviction or arrest for a felony as an adult, more than one misdemeanor adult conviction, or any prior domestic violence arrests, convictions, or pending charges, he or she will be ineligible for the domestic violence diversion program. No one is allowed to enter the diversion program more than once in their life.

It’s important to note that domestic violence charges – even those that are dropped due to a diversion program – generally cannot be sealed or expunged. Evidence of the arrest still shows up on your record. That’s why if there is a decent chance that your Broward domestic violence defense lawyer can successfully fight the charges against you, that may be in your best interests. But diversion programs can be an excellent alternative when there is a fair amount of evidence against you in a first-time, misdemeanor Florida domestic violence charge.

What to Expect in a Florida Domestic Violence Diversion Program

Continue reading

If you’re arrested for domestic violence in Florida, it’s important to understand the pretrial process for such offenses is different than it is for other alleged crimes. One of the biggest differences is that defendants arrested for Florida domestic violence will not be able to post bail immediately after being booked into jail.Broward domestic violence lawyer

It’s important if you’re arrested for domestic violence to understand that talking to police or other investigators about what happened before you’ve spoken to a defense lawyer won’t speed up this process – and may well hurt your case.

Domestic violence is defined in F.S. 741.28 as the commission of certain crimes against a family or household member. Such crimes include assault, battery, sexual assault or sexual battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other offense that causes the physical injury or death of a family or household member. Someone is considered a “family or household member” if they are spouses, former spouses, related to one another by blood or marriage, living together as if they are a family (or used to), and those who share a child – regardless of whether they’ve ever married or lived together.

Mandatory Court Appearances in Florida Domestic Violence Cases Prior to Bond

There are some crimes for which you can be arrested, booked, post bail, and walk out of jail in a matter of a few hours. But that is not the case for alleged crimes of domestic violence.

As our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, Florida statute requires the defendant to appear in court before a judge before they can post bail and be released. That initial hearing – called a first appearance – must be held within 24 hours of an arrest. During the hearing, the prosecutor is required to come prepared with:

  • Defendant’s prior arrest record, including any previous domestic violence offenses – whether with the same alleged victim or someone else.
  • Any current or former injunctions for protection filed against the defendant.
  • Any previous walk-in complaints of domestic violence against the defendant.

That information is presented to the judge for consideration of whether to allow bail and if so, how high to set it. In addition to the defendant’s criminal history, the court will consider the details of the pending charge and whether the safety of the alleged victim or others may be compromised by defendant’s release on bail.

What to Expect at Your First Appearance Hearing

Continue reading

A criminal record can follow you for a lifetime, impacting your ability to land a job, continue your education, or sign a lease. This is true even if your case never resulted in a conviction. One way to rectify this (if you qualify) is to petition the court to have your record sealed or expunged.Broward criminal defense lawyer

If you have been arrested in Fort Lauderdale and are curious about whether your records can be sealed or expunged under Florida law, our Broward criminal defense lawyers can offer details.

Record Sealing vs. Expungement

When Florida law enforcement officers interact with the public in the course of their duties, there are three levels of interaction that will dictate how any search or seizure in the course of that interaction will be judged from a legal perspective.

These three levels of interaction are:

  • Consensual encounters.
  • Detention or investigative stops.
  • Arrests.Broward criminal defense lawyer

Within each of these interactions, the person involved has constitutionally-protected rights. But those constitutional protections are different at each level. If those rights are violated, then it is more likely that your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer will have some success in convincing the court to suppress evidence gleaned in that interaction. Here, we review the rights and protections at each level.

Consensual Encounters

Consensual encounters with police in Florida don’t require officers to establish any sort of evidence of wrongdoing. There’s no bright line rule for when an encounter is consensual vs. investigative, but we can say that a key aspect of consensual police encounters is that the person at the center of the interaction is free to leave.

The lines can get a little fuzzy because courts have held that law enforcement is allowed during a consensual encounter to ask you questions, ask to see your ID, might even ask to search your vehicle. If they say or imply that complying with their requests is mandatory, then it’s no longer a consensual encounter. However, police encounters can often be intimidating and people sometimes feel they don’t have much of a choice – even when they do. If you consent to answer questions or to be searched during a consensual encounter, it can be difficult to challenge any evidence gleaned from that – because you freely agreed to it. You’re often better off keeping your answers brief, politely declining any requests to search, and asking point blank whether you’re free to go.

In determining whether a police interaction began with a consensual encounter (as opposed to an investigative stop), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1980 case of U.S. v. Mendenhall that courts should examine the totality of circumstances – and specifically, whether a reasonable person believed themselves free to go. Continue reading

If you are arrested on a Fort Lauderdale domestic violence charge while on probation, it may result in harsher penalties – and the need for a strong defense strategy. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense

Probation is a form of alternative punishment that allows individuals convicted of an offense to fulfill the terms of a sentence while outside prison or jail. The oversight of a probation office or officer is supposed to serve the function of public safety, while allowing the offender the opportunity to work and contribute to society – in the hopes of rehabilitation and possibly victim restoration. The conditions of probation vary depending on the underlying offense, criminal history of the individual, and the judge who handed down the sentence. However, most terms of probation require the defendant to abide by all local, state, and federal laws.

When a new offense is committed by someone on probation, that person not only faces potential consequences for the new offense, but additional penalties for a probation violation.

Florida’s probation violation statute is F.S. 948.06.

While a criminal conviction may require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, probation violations aren’t held to that same proof burden standard. The probation officer/prosecutor only needs to show you violated the terms of your probation by a proof standard of “a preponderance of the evidence.” In layman’s terms, that means you more likely than not violated the probation rules.

As our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, you might evade a criminal conviction for the new offense but still be found to have violated your probation. And in that situation, you might be given the maximum penalty for the original underlying offense (the one for which you were on probation in the first place).

This is why it is so important if you’re accused of a probation violation to seek immediate counsel from a criminal defense attorney. Continue reading

In Florida, domestic violence battery by strangulation is codified in F.S. 784.041. It’s a very serious felony charge, with those convicted facing years in prison, thousands in fines, and extensive probationary requirements. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

Recently, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal considered a case of domestic violence battery by strangulation. The defendant argued state prosecutors erred in denying his motion for acquittal because the state failed to prove that he impeded the victim’s normal breathing and created a risk of great bodily harm with application of pressure to the victim’s throat.

The appellate court rejected this argument in Dennis v. Florida, and thus affirmed the trial court’s guilty verdict.

To understand what goes into a decision like this, we must first look at the statute to know exactly how Florida defines domestic violence battery by strangulation.

As our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, to secure a conviction on this charge, prosecutors must prove all of the following:

  1. A person knowingly, intentionally, and against the while of another impedes the other person’s normal breathing or circulation of blood.
  2. This act created a risk of or caused great bodily harm by applying pressure to the throat or neck of the other person OR by blocking the mouth or nose of the other person.
  3. The alleged victim in the case was a family or household member of the defendant, as defined in F.S. 741.28(3), or was involved in a dating relationship, defined as a significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.

This crime in Florida is a third-degree felony, meaning it carries a maximum five years in prison, five years probation, and $5,000 fine.

In this case, the pair were boyfriend-girlfriend and they began fighting after the girlfriend shared a dream she’d had the night before in which she cheated on him. This led to an on-off, weekend-long spat between the two. Continue reading

Contact Information