Fort Lauderdale is a prime destination for tourists from across the country and around the world. It’s estimated more than 120 million people flock to Florida each year – many making their way to the Southeast coast. Unfortunately, if you’re arrested on vacation in Fort Lauderdale (most often for DUI, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly, solicitation, and drug possession), your good time can quickly morph into a legal nightmare. Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can help.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

How you proceed will depend to some extent on the severity of the crime and the specifics of the case. Chances are, if you’re arrested for a misdemeanor, you will not be held for any extended period of time in jail, but you may be expected to return. It is possible that a lawyer can resolve your case for you without you having to return, but again, it will depend on the exact circumstances. It’s also possible that the consequences of any conviction will follow you in your own district, particularly if there are any supervised release requirements.

If you’re arrested for a felony (which are more serious charges), you may expect your time in jail to be a bit longer, and your legal fees, court costs, and penalties to be more substantial.

It is important to keep in mind that simply going home will not make the charge go away. It is critical to consult with an experienced, local Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer who will offer sound legal advise, ensure your rights are protected, and fight for the best possible outcome.

Some factors to consider following a Fort Lauderdale arrest on vacation: Continue reading

In any Florida criminal case, the testimony of the alleged victim (if available) plays an important role in prosecution. That said, an alleged victim’s refusal to cooperate with police or prosecutors won’t necessarily spell an end for the case – particularly when we’re talking about matters of domestic violence. In these types of criminal cases, victims cannot simply “drop” a case or “refuse to press charges.” Technically, the crime is against the state. It is up to the investigating law enforcement agency and ultimately the state prosecutor’s office to ascertain whether to proceed. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

Of course, an alleged victim’s refusal to cooperate can create some evidentiary headaches for investigators, and might lead them to conclude there is not enough evidence to continue. But as Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers, we tend to advise clients not to count on this.

Other avenues for evidence in a Florida domestic violence case besides a victim’s own statements may include:

  • Photos or videos of the incident, scene, or injuries sustained by those involved.
  • Testimony of third parties who may have witnessed the incident.
  • 911 calls.
  • Electronic communications. This can include social media messages, photos/videos, texts, emails, voice recordings, etc. Always assume that whatever is communicated in these forums may be subject to subpoena and presented as evidence in court.
  • Your own words. Too many defendants in domestic violence cases think they can talk their way out of charges. They almost never can. Talking to police or prosecutors without your lawyer present is rarely if ever a good idea.
  • Excited utterances. Courts generally do not allow hearsay into evidence. Hearsay is testimony from an under-oath witness who is reciting an out-of-court statement made by another person, the content of which is offered as proof of the truth of what’s being asserted. That typically includes officers who might attest to statements made to them by an alleged victim about what happened – something not personally witnessed by officers. An exception to this is an excited utterance. This is a statement that concerns a startling event, made by a declarant while that individual is still under stress from that event. Statements made by an alleged victim immediately after a reported incident of domestic violence may count as an excited utterance – particularly if the alleged victim is no longer cooperating with investigators.
  • Statements made for medical diagnosis or treatment. This is another hearsay exception. If an alleged victim makes a statement for or reasonably pertaining to a medical diagnosis, treatment, or that describes their medical history, this statement may be allowed to be presented at court.

When law enforcement officers arrive on scene for a domestic violence call, they will ask questions, take notes, maybe take photos or videos. All they need to make an arrest is probable cause that a crime was committed. That is a low proof burden, especially when you consider that a simple assault charge under F.S. 784.011 doesn’t even require proof a defendant laid a finger on the alleged victim. All that must be established is the defendant made an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence on another person AND that individual had the ability to carry out that threat, resulting in the alleged victim’s well-founded fear that violence may be imminent. It’s a second-degree misdemeanor. (More significant charges like battery will be filed if there is evidence one person touched the other or caused injury.)

As longtime Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers, we can tell you from experience that police officers on the whole loathe domestic violence calls. They can be volatile and dangerous and getting to the truth of the matter in the middle of a lot of heated “he-said-she-said” is a bit of a nightmare for investigators. But even if no one has been struck, officers don’t want to be called back to the same residence on the same shift. And they don’t want to risk anyone getting seriously hurt. So it’s not uncommon for them simply to make an arrest on thin evidence of assault just to get the parties to separate and cool down for a bit. That may not be pleasant for the accused, but take heart in the fact that an arrest alone almost never means the matter is open-and-shut. It’s probable you may have grounds for a strong defense – even if the alleged victim is cooperating with authorities. Continue reading

As a Broward defense lawyer with a heavy focus on domestic violence cases, pushing back against Florida temporary injunctions is a regular part of our wheelhouse.Florida restraining order

It often comes as a surprise to clients that in the Sunshine state, temporary injunctions for protection (also commonly known as “restraining orders”) can be pursued – and obtained – solely based on the unilateral accusations of the person seeking one. That means the claims are one-sided, and one can be entered against you before you even have your day in court. In fact, the court has 15 days to set a hearing where your side will be taken into account. Before that deadline, there is no requirement that you be apprised of the allegations against you or that you be given the right to cross-examine any witnesses about what happened. In some cases, courts may even extend a temporary injunction beyond those 15 days for “good reason.”

Despite this, temporary injunctions are part of public record. That means anyone can look them up and review them: Employers, landlords, ex-spouses, airlines, firearm retailers, etc. Though they might not hold as much weight as permanent injunctions, temporary injunctions can absolutely impact your ability to land (or keep) certain employment, access certain housing options, your ability to travel, your ability to carry a firearm, and your pending divorce/child custody case.

Because of the severity of these consequences – now and well into the future – it is imperative that anyone fighting a Florida temporary injunction hire a criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience specifically in the area of domestic violence law.

Temporary Injunction Procedure

As our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, the burden of proof for temporary injunctions in Florida is much lower than what is required to establish guilt in a criminal case. Continue reading

If you are arrested in a Broward domestic violence case, you may be wondering what evidence the state might use against you.Fort Lauderdale domestic violence

As experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys, we know at the outset exactly the sorts of things prosecutors are going to be deep diving for to make their case.

Just like in any Florida criminal case, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution to prove in court that a crime was committed and that the accused is guilty of it. They are held to the highest standard of proof, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite this, they have a fairly good conviction rate for domestic violence cases. According to one study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, domestic violence sexual assault defendants are more likely to be prosecuted (89 percent) than non-domestic sexual assault defendants (73 percent). Domestic violence defendants were as likely to be prosecuted (66 percent) as non-domestic assault defendants (67 percent), but their conviction rates are substantially higher (87 percent versus 78 percent).

Elements of a Florida Domestic Violence Charge

If you’re facing a charges under F.S. 784.03 (battery and felony battery) what the prosecution basically has to show is:

  • The defendant actually and intentionally struck the other person against that person’s will.
  • The defendant intentionally caused bodily harm to another person.

If the prosecution is trying to prove a domestic violence crime specifically under F.S. 741.28, they will need to show the basic elements of the underlying crime (which can include assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment or any criminal offense relating to physical injury) AND that the target was a family or household member. A family or household member can mean a spouse, people related to you by blood or marriage, people who reside together as if they are a family (or who have in the past), or someone with whom you share a child. Unless you share a child together, domestic violence can only be established if the defendant and accuser currently live together as a family or had in the past. Continue reading

Non-fatal strangulation involving intimate partners is seen as a bright red flag foreshadowing the risk of domestic violence homicide. In one analysis published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, 60 percent of those who experience domestic violence are strangled during the course of that relationship. If the person loses consciousness, they risk death within one-to-two days due to strokes, aspiration, and blood clots. A person who is strangled once is 800 percent more likely to become a victim of homicide by their partner. domestic violence attorney Fort Lauderdale

For these reasons, as our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, Florida prosecutors and the courts are going to take an allegation of domestic violence strangulation very seriously. If convicted, you will be facing substantial penalties, including the possibility of years behind bars.

If you are accused of domestic violence strangulation in Florida, it is imperative that you immediately get in touch with a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer will work to inform you of your rights and obligations, protect you from unwittingly harming your case, and swiftly identify any violation of rights that may impact the strength of the state’s evidence against you.

What is Domestic Violence Strangulation?

Under Florida law, domestic battery by strangulation, as defined in F.S. 784.01, is a felony offense. It’s a charge that can apply when a person commits domestic battery while knowingly, intentionally, and against the will of the other person impedes the normal breathing or circulation of blood of a person, so as to create great bodily harm while applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth. The victim in these cases is a family or household member, a romantic partner (current or previous) or someone with whom you share a child.

This offense is considered a third-degree felony. Although that is technically the lowest level of felony, it still carries potential penalties of up to five years in prison PLUS five years of probation PLUS $5,000 in fines – not to mention restrictions on firearms possession and mandatory batterers’ intervention courses (which you must pay for). If there are aggravating circumstances, such as use of a deadly weapon or a victim who is a minor, the charge could be bumped to a second-degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. This is also true if the alleged victim suffers serious or lasting injury or death. Those with prior criminal records will likely face more significant penalties as well.

It’s important for anyone facing a Florida charge for domestic violence strangulation to understand that prosecutors are aggressive when it comes to this charge. They will be pressing the courts for extended periods of prison time and probation oversight. Even if this is the only time you’ve ever been in trouble with the law, you can expect that they are going to try to throw the book at you. And because this is a domestic violence case, it doesn’t matter if the alleged victim wants to “drop the charges.” They don’t have the authority to do so. Only the prosecutor does. This is another reason you need to have an attorney with specific experience in domestic violence cases representing you.

Failure to Seek South Florida Domestic Violence Attorney Help Can Hamper Your Case

This is a charge that will substantially impact you for the rest of your life if you’re convicted. Continue reading

A Florida domestic violence conviction can carry many substantial, long-lasting consequences – not the least of which being restrictions on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer from the very start of your case. Even if the evidence seems stacked against you, we may be able to deploy legal strategies that could reduce the charges or lessen the impact. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence arrest

The high stakes of these cases were recently underscored in the Congressional action to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in gun legislation.

Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence in Florida or in any other state from possessing guns. However, that provision was only applicable to individuals who were married to, lived with, or had a child in common with the alleged victim. People who were merely dating (not married, living together, or raising a child together) were not subject to this federal provision.

The new bipartisan gun law changes this, closing the “boyfriend loophole.” Proponents of the measure say this was necessary, given that people spend much more time dating now than they did in the past, carrying on romantic relationships for years or even decades without officially tying the knot.

Additionally, the new federal law allows for expanded background checks on young adults purchasing firearms and gives authorities the power to access certain juvenile criminal records. Lastly, the law allows states to use federal funding to enact and enforce “red flag laws” that give authorities the right to remove guns from anyone they suspect may be a harm to themselves or others. This could potentially be someone accused of domestic violence in Florida.

As it stands, 31 states have some rule on the books barring those convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns. Of those, 19 do cover dating partners convicted of domestic violence. Florida does not have any such provision in its laws, so the new federal law will have a direct impact. Those with misdemeanor convictions who have stayed out of trouble for five years may be able to have their gun rights restored. However, there are exceptions for spouses, parents, guardians or co-habitants – all of whom may still face lifetime firearm restrictions.

Florida Domestic Violence Penalties

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Florida domestic violence cases are typically handled at the state level by local police and state attorneys’ offices. However, as our Fort Lauderdale defense lawyers can explain, there are some circumstances under which one can be charged federally.domestic violence criminal defense Fort Lauderdale

Some circumstances under which Florida domestic violence may be pursued by federal authorities include:

  • Crossing a state line to physically injure an intimate partner. An intimate partner can be someone like a spouse, former spouse, someone with whom you share a child, or a person who lives or used to live with you.
  • Crossing a state line to stalk or harass an intimate partner.
  • Crossing a state line to violate a qualifying protection order.

As noted by the U.S. Department of Justice, these are all federal crimes that fall under the regulations of the Violence Against Women Act. One may also be found guilty of a federal crime under the Gun Control Act if they possess a firearm or ammunition while subject to a qualifying protection order OR they possess a firearm/ammunition after conviction of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

All federal domestic violence crimes are felonies. Some may be more serious than others if there are aggravating circumstances (i.e., a deadly weapon or minor involved). But if your domestic violence case is being handled by federal authorities, you should take note that you’re facing very serious charges and consequences. It is imperative that you hire an experienced Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer who has a track record of successfully defending other clients accused of the same offenses in the same jurisdiction.

Recently, a Florida woman was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for a conviction of interstate domestic violence involving both a weapon and a minor. Continue reading

More than 32,000 people are arrested for DUI in Florida every year, with about 2,100 of those being in Broward County. But despite its frequency, many Broward DUI defense lawyers will tell you that misconceptions about drunk driving arrests are rampant. Unfortunately, few people know their rights and what they should (and should not) do if they’re stopped in traffic for suspected drunk driving.Broward DUI defense lawyer

Here, our Broward DUI defense lawyers bust some of the most common South Florida DUI myths.

Myth 1: Refusing to Answer Police Questions Can Make You Look Guilty.

In the experience of our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers, many parents are in the dark when it comes to Florida’s sexting laws. In fact, a fair number aren’t even aware of the definition, let alone that their teens may be engaging in it. Florida sexting defense

Sexting in general refers to the exchange of sexual content material via technological devices. It’s a term deriving from the words “sex” and text.” By some measures, approximately 1 in 5 teens have engaged in sexting. While males are more likely than females to engage in sexting, females are more likely to send nude photos of themselves. Most of these are to a boyfriend or girlfriend. But even minors could find themselves facing serious criminal charges in Florida for sexting. In some respects, it is treated as akin to child porn. Consequences can include prison time and requirements to register as a sex offender.

If you’re a parent of a teen, it’s imperative that you educate yourself on what sexting is, what the law says, and how your child can protect themselves from legal trouble.

Florida Sexting Law

Where two consenting adults are involved in sexting, there is no crime. (Consent, however, should be explicit from both sides. Additionally, be certain you know your partner’s true age, as you can be held responsible even if your partner lied about their age. Further, even if sending/receipt of such material between adults is consensual, it can cross the line into revenge porn – also known as sexual cyberharassment, per F.S. 784.049(3) – if the receiving party willfully and maliciously forwards material to third parties without the consent of the initial sender.)

Sexting is considered a serious crime when it involves:

  • Lack of one party’s consent.
  • A minor (under 18).

Specifically, F.S. 847.0141 prohibits explicit exchanges of photos, videos, voice notes, and sexual texts between two minors AND between an adult and a minor.

Minors can be charged with sexting if they use a cell phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic device to send nude videos or photos to another minor. The other minor possession of those images could be charged with sexting, but may defend against the charges if they:

  • Did not solicit/ask for the photo.
  • Did not forward to a third-party.
  • Took steps to report it (to a parent, school, or law enforcement authority).

Continue reading

Florida law imposes minimum mandatory sentences for certain serious or violent offenses. However, even someone who is convicted of a less serious offense may face severe penalties – if they had a prior conviction. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney

In fact, the state legislature imposes several categories of sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders, which include:

  • Habitual felony offender
  • Habitual violent felony offender
  • Violent career criminal
  • Prison releasee reoffender

As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys can explain, anyone previously convicted of a crime who now stands newly accused must take the potential consequences seriously. Investing in quality legal representation is an imperative when the stakes are so high for your freedom and future. Continue reading

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