Articles Posted in Broward County Courthouse News

Navigating the Florida criminal case process is overwhelming for anyone arrested in the Fort Lauderdale area. Working with a dedicated Broward defense lawyer who knows the law, the local players, and the legal strategy most likely to help you prevail is essential. Broward defense lawyer

That said, we do like our clients and their families to have a basic understanding of how the case is going to proceed from start to finish. It’s worth noting that this process is applicable to state-level cases, not federal. Further, every case is different. One thing they all have in common, though, is that studies show the sooner you hire an experienced criminal defense team, the more favorable the outcome. (One analysis found that criminal defense attorneys in one large city helped reduce the murder conviction rate of their clients by 19 percent and reduced the probability of their client receiving a life sentence by 62 percent. Overall time served in prison was reduced by 24 percent.)

Our battle-tested criminal defense team is prepared to go to bat for each and every one of our clients, whether they’re facing felony or misdemeanor charges.

Arrest and Notice to Appear

This marks the start of your Florida criminal case. If an office of the law (typically a police officer or sheriff’s deputy) has probable cause to reasonably believe you committed a crime, they can make an arrest. Sometimes, this is predicated on the basis of an arrest warrant that has been written and signed by a judge. Other times, it stems from evidence gathered while officers are patrolling or responding to specific calls for assistance. Continue reading

Last month, the newly-formed Conviction Review Unit in Broward County convinced a South Florida judge to free a man convicted 16 years ago of robbery and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors working with the CRU told the Broward County Circuit judge that they likely would be unable to gain a conviction today, given numerous evidentiary issues with the case, including the reliability of witnesses  and an alibi that jurors never had an opportunity to hear.Broward County criminal defense lawyer

An assistant state attorney leading the CRU told the judge it’s not even clear how the defendant was identified as a suspect, given that there was no physical evidence, no witnesses knew him and the only thing that lead police to him was an apparently questionable search through the TRAP program, a previously-used database of prior offender mugshots in a given area.

Broward County has one of the highest rates of false convictions in Florida. The National Registry of Exonerations notes more than 2,500 cases nationally of convicts later found innocent. More than 80 of those are from Florida and nearly a dozen in Broward. Continue reading

Police and other law enforcement officers are increasingly asking people to turn over their cell phones, whether in the course of a traffic stop, after a motor vehicle collision or in the course of investigating the crime. A record number of people in America now have smartphones – nearly 80 percent according to Pew Research Center, which further noted among 18-to-29-olds, smart phone ownership exceeded 92 percent.

It should be obvious why investigators want to get their hands on these devices: They are a treasure trove of information and can make their jobs a whole lot easier. It’s hard to imagine even just a few short years ago, cell phones were solely verbal and texting communication devices. Now, they contain scores of sensitive and personal information, including calendars, emails, personal and professional contacts, music files, verification of recent purchases, bank records, public social media engagement (including personal messages) work files, browser history of  recent websites and of course saved photos and videos. This is not information you want – or usually that they never need – to see.

As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys  at The Ansara Law Firm can explain, the 4th Amendment to criminal defense attorneythe U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. There are numerous reasons why cell phone information should remain private – not the least of which for a potential defendant is the fact that it could give police and prosecutors key evidence against you. But even if you have nothing to hide, it’s generally unwise to simply hand your phone over on request. Plus – you aren’t required to do so unless the officer has a warrant.  Continue reading

Recently, the Broward state attorney’s office held a workshop for adults interested in having a criminal charge sealed or expunged from their record. eraser

Those who have a criminal conviction on their permanent record probably know that it can hinder one from landing a job, getting a decent apartment to rent, obtaining child custody or earning certain types of special licenses or certifications. It can touch nearly every facet of everyday life. This is true even though a person may have been cleared of the criminal allegation or they have successfully completed probation or a diversion program or otherwise paid their debt to society. Even having done all this, a person can still find that the arrest record haunts them. This is why expunging or sealing one’s criminal record can be so important to one’s future.

This is the fifth time the local state attorney’s office has held this workshop, which involves helping people prepare the sealing or expunging application that is required by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to initiate the process, which can be initiated for both adults and juveniles, though the process can vary. Although there are certainly some who benefit from these free workshops, there is good reason why most people who initiate the process do so with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.  Continue reading

Last year, a Pompano Beach man was convicted of a slew of burglary and robbery charges. He faced up to 60 years in prison. The judge deferred his sentence in lieu of probation. But then, he was stopped for driving without a license. He was hauled back into court and sentenced to the full 60 years in prison. Following widespread backlash, the Broward Circuit judge had a change of heart. Community leaders at a hearing promised to work with the 24-year-old defendant, Herbert Smith. They were going to help him find a job and keep him out of trouble. The judge agreed once again to suspend the 60-year prison term. The caveat was that any violation of that probation – no matter how minor – could result in that 60-year sentence being reinstated. police

Then just before Thanksgiving of this year, Smith was arrested, accused of a burglary that took place in September. He was identified as one of two men who broke into a home in Parkland and heisted $30,000 worth of jewelry. It didn’t look good for the defendant, especially because probation violations don’t have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, Smith got another break when prosecutors recently decided not to pursue the burglary charge or the probation violation. They dismissed both, finding there was not enough evidence to move forward.  Continue reading

In 2001, a Broward County boy became the youngest ever in American to be sentenced to life in prison. That was 15 years ago.


Recently, a number of those who were involved in the Lionel Tate case, including the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney, convened as part of a panel before the Broward County Crime Commission’s conference on juvenile and adolescent violence. They were there to discuss the landmark case, which involved a 12-year-old boy who in 1999 killed a 6-year-old girl whom his mother had been babysitting. He was reportedly attempting to imitate the pro-wrestling moves that he had seen on television.

An appellate court overturned Tate’s murder conviction in 2004, finding it wasn’t clear he had understood the charges. That led to a plea deal in which he agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 10 years probation. Those who were involved in the criminal case say they lacked clear guidelines for how they were supposed to handle matters like this. They had never before faced this type of circumstance, and the courts didn’t offer much guidance.  Continue reading

In November, a Broward County Sheriff’s Office crime lab analyst being investigated for missing drugs resigned. That was almost two years after discrepancies arose with regard to the amount of cocaine evidence she had been working on. When the office came up 0.4 grams short, an independent analyst was asked to re-check her work. By then, the amount had shrunk by 5 grams. Then a random sampling of her work was done, and it was discovered one was off by 12 grams. Her supervisor was forced to resign. scale1

Now, with questions raised about the 5,800+ drug cases she worked during her nine-year tenure at the agency, the Broward New Times is taking a closer look at what it alleges were lax policies and poor oversight at the crime lab.

This is potentially a big deal, as it could result in thousands of Broward drug cases either being reopened or thrown out completely. A few grams may not seem like a major deal, but when it comes to criminal prosecutions, it is significant because it could mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, a few months in prison versus several years.  Continue reading

Criminal cases against dozens of people that have been languishing in Broward County’s felony mental health court have been dropped by prosecutors following the publication of “Trapped,” an investigating by The Sun Sentinelhandcuffs2

Reporters learned that people facing minor felony charges in mental health court spent six times as long in the criminal justice system as those whose cases proceeded in regular court. For a system design specifically to avoid this, it was deeply troubling. In fact, it wasn’t just defense attorneys who were concerned. Mental health advocates and even prosecutors agreed something had to be done about mental health court.

The court started out in 2003 with good intentions. The idea was to give them access to treatment in preparation for trial. But in practice, what happened was many were too ill to face the criminal justice system. And while Broward prosecutors had the authority to drop the charges at any point, very few actually did. That meant people were spending years locked up for crimes they had not even been convicted of. Continue reading

Lazaro Castellon, or “King Speedy” as he is known within the Latin Kings “tribe” was sworn as the “Second Crown” of the South Miami sect of the gang about six months prior to his arrest earlier this year.
He is now the fourth of two dozen Latin Kings gang members arrested following an undercover sting operation to work out a plea deal. Originally charged with racketeering conspiracy, robbery and possession of a firearm during a violent crime, he is pleading guilty solely to the racketeering charge. The exact terms of the deal won’t be released until the court gives final approval, but he still faces up to 20 years in prison. Nineteen other suspects are slated for trial on similar charges later this year.

Authorities say the sting put a major dent in gang activities throughout Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties. Anytime a person is charged with a gang-related crime in Florida, the offense is serious. That’s because gang involvement is considered an aggravating factor under Florida law, and these offenses can and often do carry enhanced penalties.
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The Fort Lauderdale theft of some $100,000 in merchandise from two area electronics stores is being potentially linked to other retail thefts in Florida.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers recognize that this incident comes on the heels of an announcement by local, state and federal authorities that a comprehensive retail task force is in the works.

According to federal officials, retail thefts nationally result in losses of approximately $30 billion and affects most storefront retail businesses to some degree.

The new task force, which is going to include deputies from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, will target the many different types of retail theft crimes, from individuals who line their pants-pockets with tin foil to throw off anti-theft sensors to organized theft rings that have been known to drive off with containers packed with merchandise.

The recent electronics store burglaries are one example of what authorities are targeting. According to news reports, the first incident happened at a store on North Federal Highway, where a pair of individuals gained entry after store hours by cutting a hole in the roof. From there, they forced open several display cases and reportedly heisted about $30,000 worth of electronics.

The second incident, which occurred at another branch of the same business, this one on Southeast 17th Street, happened when two individuals broke in through a wall the store shared with another business. Once again, the pair targeted the display cases, this time making off with about $90,000 worth of electronic merchandise.

Similar incidents have been reported in Largo, and detectives say the incidents could be connected.

Another recent example was the case of a couple in Palm Beach County who were arrested after attempting to steal nearly $2,400 worth of baby formula from a large chain store retailer.

Then there was the Hialeah couple accused of stealing some $36,000 in children’s products. Their scheme involved purchasing expensive, big-ticket items one day. They would then return a few days later, pull these items off the shelves and then return to the register for cash using the original receipt.

The methods reportedly run the gamut, from robberies at gunpoint to sophisticated heists.

Task force investigators say these items, often stolen in bulk, are then sold at local flea markets or online.

The National Retail Federation, which cited the $30 billion figure in its latest national survey, has reportedly ranked Miami as 4th in the nation for prevalence of organized retail theft. The organization said many retailers are unprepared to confront those with elaborate schemes. He said the methods have evolved rapidly, and the deterrent actions that were effective even a year ago are no longer working.

While the task force operators say they have little interest in targeting small operations, we are confident that arrests for all types of shoplifting and retail thefts are going to spike in the coming months with the creation of this initiative.

Florida Statute 812.014 holds that anyone who steals property in excess of $100,000 can be charged with a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Items valued at between $20,000 and $100,000 will be charged with grand theft as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Any theft between $300 and $20,000 can be charged as grand theft of the third-degree, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

There are also exceptions to these rules. For example, if you steal a firearm, it might only be worth $200, but according to the law, it will be charged as a third-degree felony.
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