Plea bargains, as Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys can explain, have rapidly become the standard resolution in most criminal cases, both at the state and federal level. The U.S. Supreme Court estimates more than 9 in 10 federal and state criminal cases are resolved by plea bargain. This rise has resulted in the previously uncommon practice of defendants appealing convictions for charges on which they already pleaded guilty. So now many prosecutors insist defendants sign appeal waivers as part of the deal. criminal defense lawyer

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is now reviewing a case that stems from this very issue. The outcome in Garza v. Idaho could well impact how criminal plea bargains are resolved both in federal court and within Florida state courts. It’s one most criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges are watching carefully.

The defendant alleges that his trial lawyer’s counsel was inefficient because when he refused to file an appeal as defendant requested, citing the waiver. The court is being asked whether the defendant needs to prove prejudice in order to establish his lawyer’s counsel was not effective. Back in 2000, the SCOTUS ruled in Roe v. Flores-Ortega that prejudice by an attorney can be presumed if a lawyer doesn’t file an appeal at the behest of a defendant. However, given that the case is almost 20-years-old and didn’t involve an appellate waiver, new questions have bubbled to the surface about whether this standard still fits.  Continue reading

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that while the appearance of a defendant shouldn’t matter in a criminal trial, it inevitably does. In fact, it’s relatively standard good practice for criminal defense attorneys to initiate some alteration of one’s looks in preparation for trial. Usually, that’s something as simple as a haircut, a beard trim, wearing glasses, a collared shirt with a tie. We may even instruct them on how to sit at the defense table, where to look and advice on their general demeanor. We do this because the reality is judges and jurors are human, and they formulate quick judgments of a person that can be difficult to set aside, particularly when damaging evidence is presented. It’s tougher to “picture” a clean-cut, sharply-dressed defendant carrying out certain criminal acts than it is for one who is heavily bearded and bedraggled. criminal defense lawyer

While most appearance changes are subtle, it’s not unheard of for them to be dramatic. Recently, VOX detailed the altered appearance of a New York defendant, identified as a member of a far-right group (labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), who stands accused of participation in a violent assault on leftist protesters. Specifically, he’s accused of body slamming, repeated punching and stomping on a protester. His charges include assault, attempted gang assault, criminal possession of a weapon and rioting.

At his first court appearance, the accused showed up with long hair, a scraggly beard, an orange t-shirt and overalls. Less than a week later, at a second court appearance, he was almost shockingly unrecognizable. His hair was neatly trimmed and slicked back, his beard shaved. He wore a pressed black suit and tie that covered his heavily-tattooed arms and black-rimmed glasses. Although the transformation is startling, it’s one potential jurors won’t ever see. They’ll only ever know him in his new look.  Continue reading

In a split 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court soundly rejected the Daubert standard of evidence for expert witness testimony – the one used in federal courts and adopted by many state courts, in favor of the less stringent Frye standard, the older method that prior to 2013 had been the standard in the Sunshine State.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

What does this mean for Fort Lauderdale criminal defendants? It will be relevant both for them as well as for plaintiffs in civil cases. The Daubert standard establishes a rule of evidence (found in Federal Rules of Evidence 702) that pertains to the admissibility of an expert witness’s testimony, stemming from the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. It holds that a witness can only be qualified as an expert if he or she has the knowledge, skill, experience, training or education that is considered a baseline to form that opinion. Testimony must meet a specific list of criteria, and the judge acts as the gatekeeper. Those whose opinions fail to meet that proof burden can be excluded.

Frye, meanwhile, is less stringent, considered a general acceptance test for scientific evidence requiring that one’s expert opinion, if based on a scientific technique, can only be admitted where that technique is “generally accepted as reliable in the relevant scientific community.” Continue reading

There are many scenarios wherein panicked people “toss the drugs” – when they are being chased by police, when law enforcement is at their door, when they fear they are about to be searched. What we are obliged to inform you as criminal defense attorneys is that if you make any attempt to tamper with evidence under Florida law (which is essentially what “tossing the drugs” is in these scenarios), you would be facing a third-degree felony charge (up to five years in prison) for this alone, per F.S. 918.13.drug possession defense Florida

It really is often a bad idea, and you’ll likely never hear an ethical Broward criminal defense attorney give you the green light to “toss the drugs,” – whether for yourself or a loved one.

However, the outcome of a 1999 case of Stanton v. State, wherein a conviction for cocaine possession was overturned, is worth a mention in this context.  Continue reading

In a single recent year, Florida law enforcement agencies received 105,700 reports of domestic violence. More than half of those, 63,200, resulted in an arrest. It’s known to be a relatively under-reported crime, but there are a fair number of cases that go to trial wherein the alleged victim refuses to cooperate or testify. It is a myth that prosecutors cannot move forward on these cases or that they cannot sometimes win them. It often depends on the independent evidence available – and the strategy employed by your Florida domestic violence defense attorney. domestic violence defense lawyer Florida

Let’s consider the case of Baker v. State, an appeal before Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal back in 2007. Defendant had been convicted of felony battery for accusations that he attacked his girlfriend, who had called 911 to report the defendant had bitten her and took her phone “and stuff.” She said she did not require medical attention. A police officer was dispatched, observing and photographing what appeared to be a small bite mark on victim’s arm.

Would this be enough to secure a conviction?  Continue reading

If you regularly tune into the evening news or pick up a daily paper, you could be forgiven for thinking the most common offenses encountered by Broward law enforcement are things like shootouts, sexual assaults and gang crimes. Reality check: One of the most common (if not THE most common) is an offense known as “Driving With a Suspended License.” In Florida, if you are caught driving with a license that is suspended or revoked, it could be considered a serious criminal charge, accompanied by long-term negative consequences for one’s driving privileges and criminal record. But what you also may not know is that prosecutors bear the burden of proof in these cases, and if they cannot prove you knew or should have known your license was suspended, it becomes a relatively minor traffic offense.driving while license suspended

The statute to which we refer – F.S. 322.34 – details the penalty for driving with a suspended license, which requires knowledge of the suspension, revocation or cancellation. It can result in a jail sentence of up to two months, plus a $500 fine. A second offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail. A third or subsequent offense is considered a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison (yes – state prison), and a fine of up to $5,000. If that third offense is committed within a five-year period of the other two, you will be considered a habitual traffic offender, which further results in a driver’s license revocation that lasts 5 years. You might be eligible to obtain a hardship license – but only after one full year elapses from your most recent conviction.

If you’re on probation, you could be in serious trouble for driving with a suspended license. Consider the case of Stringfield v. State, weighed by Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal in August. Defendant was sentenced to 15 years in prison after the court revoked his probation upon finding he broke the law when he drove his motor vehicle while his license was suspended. This may seem like a stunning miscarriage of justice, but it was perfectly legal – except that defendant successfully appealed on the issue of “knowledge.”  Continue reading

It’s been nearly 1.5 years since the City of Miami signed off on an agreement to allow police to issue civil citations for minor misdemeanors like marijuana possession rather than making arrests. Now, The Miami New Times reports the city police chief will be allowing his officers to actually do so.marijuana arrest defense

This delay in implementing the policy has meant that thousands of people – 2,800 – facing minor charges were arrested – and face a permanent criminal record – rather than simply receiving civil citation. Approximately 85 percent of those were for marijuana possession. One of the charges in question – illegally possessing a milk crate – was filed almost exclusively against the homeless.

City Commissioner Ken Russell has been pushing for the city to issue civil citations for some time now, and was reportedly surprised to find the police had yet to put the policy into practice, saying, “I assumed that it had been enacted.” He was anticipating a report on how the first year of it had gone. The former police chief retired earlier this year, and the new police chief said he could not account for why the program was not put into effect previously. He did say that once he took over, it took several months to train police officers on how the new procedures would work. Plus, the department also had to set up an account with the county so those civil citations could be paid, order the paperwork books on which citations would be issued, write the policy and create a radio signal for the violation. Continue reading

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney clients accused of a felony crime – especially one as serious and morally fraught as a sex offense – have told us it feels like the whole world is coming to an end. The reality is arrest is just the beginning of the process. Evidence can be refuted. Witnesses may recant or not be credible. Criminal investigators may do a poor job. There may be lesser crimes to which one can plead that do not have the same stigma or penalty.criminal defense lawyer

Having an skilled criminal defense attorney is imperative. This person will be defending your integrity, your credibility and your civil right to due process and fairness. Because sexual crimes are among the most reviled (and the consequences so steep), it is extremely important that you work with a defense lawyer who has experience and a history of prevailing.

In the state of Florida, sexual battery is described in F.S. 749.011. It’s extensive and there are varying degrees of offense. For example, if you are 18-years-old or older and are accused of sexual battery on a person also older than 18 without that person’s consent, it’s considered a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. However, if the defendant did not use physical force and violence likely to cause physical injury, it’s considered a second-degree felony, punishable by 15 years in prison. The offense can be aggravated by a number of circumstances, including the use of a firearm. Continue reading

Many new types of fraud are either born or become big-time in Florida – South Florida in particular. A top agent for the Internal Revenue Service speculated it was a combination of factors: Beautiful weather and beaches a lot of people in general. Older folks – especially vulnerable to almost all kinds of fraud – often retire here. Florida also truly embodies the U.S. “melting pot,” with organized crime sprouting up from all ethnic groups. criminal defense lawyer Florida

The Federal Trade Commission reported earlier this year that Florida is the scam capitol of the country (based on both crime statistics and complaints made directly to the commission) with seniors the primary prey – at least in terms of dollars. Although there were more younger people who reported losing money to fraud, victims over 70 sustained higher median losses.

Whatever the reason, our Fort Lauderdale fraud attorneys know crimes of fraud, often referred to as “white collar crimes,” are often penalized severely, with defendants facing either state or federal charges, the distinction usually being the method of the scam, how much money it involved and whether it affected people in other states.  Continue reading

Eyes may be “windows to the soul,” but could it be said that smartphones contain the “contents of our minds”? That’s what one criminal defense attorney recently argued before a state appellate court, asserting that police investigators executing a search warrant on her smartphone – and prosecutors’ effort to hold her in contempt of court when she refused – were a violation of her 5th Amendment rights. criminal defense attorney

The trial court agreed, and recently, so did the Indiana Court of Appeals, in a split opinion noting smartphones today are “truly as close as modern technology allows us to come to a device that contains all of its owner’s conscious thoughts, and many of his or her unconscious thoughts as well. So when the state seeks to compel a person to unlock a smartphone so that it may search the phone without limitations, the privacy implications are enormous.”

It’s a case that has raised some very interesting questions about how we navigate well-established constitutional protections for those accused of crime. In the case conclusion here, the majority wrote that courts will probably be continually faced with these kinds of issues that deal with the intersection of rapidly-evolving technology and law. Here, compelling a defendant to unlike her iPhone under threat of contempt and imprisonment is an unlawful violation of her Constitutional Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. (In other similar cases nationally, it’s the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure that have been cited.) Revealing a smartphone passcode, the court ruled, and prosecutors failed to meet the requirements of the “foregone conclusion doctrine” by describing with reasonable specificity why the information defendant should be compelled to produce and why. (It should be noted that without a passcode, even cellphone makers like Apple can’t extract data from the device, as the encryption key is tied to the passcode. After 10 failed attempts, the phone locks up and might even erase all contents therein. Continue reading

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