Articles Posted in Criminal Defense Attorney

The intense media spotlight of the vigorous Florida criminal defense case being mounted following the Boca Raton prostitution arrest of billionaire NFL team owner Robert Kraft has revealed some interesting facts about South Florida police use of secret surveillance cameras. One of the main takeaways for those facing criminal charges in Florida is that in the few instances the legal bases for these cameras are challenged, those challenges are often successful.criminal defense lawyer

The Sun-Sentinel reported that while use of so-called sneak-and-peek or delayed-notice warrants have increased over the last decade (more in criminal drug cases than prostitution busts), it’s not something judges see every day or more than maybe a few times a month. However, when there were solicitation of prostitution charges involving these types of warrants, it was only with rare exception that prosecutors didn’t drop the charge after defendants successfully finished minimal penalties (i.e., paying small fines, completing community service).

Further, very few of those defendants even sought a motion to suppress evidence garnered as a result of these warrants – despite their questionable legality. For instance, in the Boca Raton cases, only one other defendant besides Kraft has challenged the warrant – and in that case, prosecutors dropped the charge before there was ever a hearing on that issue. Continue reading

In both federal and state criminal cases and even some civil case, the law (thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision 55 years ago in Gideon v. Wainwright) affords defendants the right to representation by a criminal defense attorney – even for misdemeanors. It is only when the individual is unable to afford a defense lawyer that one is appointed for the defendant (i.e., a public defender). The question of whether one can afford a lawyer is answered by determining one’s “indigent” status.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney

The question of one’s indigent status is one many of us don’t give a second thought to, but it’s made front-page headlines of late because of the recent high-profile case of the questionable indigent status of accused Parkland school shooter Nicholas Cruz. The 20-year-old is accused of carrying out one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history, killing 17 students and teachers. He has reportedly confessed and faces the death penalty.

Initially, he was appointed a Florida public defender after being deemed indigent. However, Law.com now reports he is anticipating a $432,000 life insurance policy payout following the recent death of his mother. His Broward defense attorney is now seeking to be removed from the case, arguing state law prohibits service of public defenders for defendants with financial means to higher a private Florida criminal defense attorney. The lawyer, with 40 years of experience, pointed out the defendant is now wealthier than most of those serving on his defense team and he has never had a client with access to as much money as Cruz. The average public defender in Broward County earns about $62,000.  Continue reading

The saying goes that one man’s trash is the next man’s treasure, basically meaning that we all place different value on material goods. But in the case of a South Florida defense attorney, it’s more likely to refer to the fact that you’re literal trash may be the treasure of a prosecutor seeking to put you behind bars. South Florida defense attorney

With the proliferation of DNA evidence as key to prosecutions, digging through a suspect’s trash has become a growing source of evidence for many state and federal attorneys. Generally speaking, unlike the contents of your home or even a DNA test of your own bodily fluids, once your trash is carried to the garbage for disposal, it becomes fair game for law enforcement authorities to access – without a warrant. As established in the 1978 federal case of U.S. v. Crowell by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy per the Fourth Amendment for the garbage you place outside for collection. In fact, so-called “trash pulls” have become a veritable treasure trove for some narcotics units in Florida. In some cases, it even becomes the basis for securing a search warrant on your actual home.

However, it’s not unheard of for police agencies to get too hasty in their quest to gather evidence sufficient for probable cause to secure a warrant to fail to obtain adequate evidence prior to requesting that warrant. For example, simply finding cocaine residue or marijuana seeds in the bottom of a trash bin may in fact be insufficient, thus leading to an affidavit that is deficient for the warrant that is ultimately signed. Based on the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, that could mean everything that is found thereafter is inadmissible (if your criminal defense lawyer files a motion to suppress) – and may result in an entire case being tossed.  Continue reading

If you are accused of a crime in Fort Lauderdale, you are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. That means that criminal cases can be successfully dismissed if there are prosecutorial delays that violate a defendant’s due process right to a speedy trial. But what is the exact period of time that triggers a violation of this due process right? Your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney should closely examine the facts of your case to ascertain whether a motion to dismiss under a due process argument makes sense.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney

Generally, your criminal defense attorney will need to prove one’s defense is compromised by the delay and the prosecutor had not good reason justifying the delay OR that the prosecution has been delayed beyond specified limits.

There are two basic types of speedy trial rights for Florida criminal defendants.

  • Statutory speedy trial. These are afforded according to Rule 3.191 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. These require one’s trial takes place within a very specific time window – 90 days for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony.
  • State/federal constitutional protection under the Sixth Amendment. These provide for a speedy trial even if your statutory remedy er state law has been waived, effectively mandating due process protections.

Your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense team may well advise you NOT to seek a speedy trial; that may not be in your best interests, particularly in complex felony cases where the stakes are high, testimony is conflicting, discovery is extensive and expert witness testimony is warranted. However, if your case has sat on the back burner for an extended period of time, your defense lawyer may be wise to file a motion to dismiss due to a delay by the prosecution. This is not as uncommon as one might think, particularly in cases involving extensive delays in processing laboratory work.  Continue reading

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys generally advise clients that when interacting with law enforcement, one should be firmly quiet – but generally polite. That last part is more for your benefit than theirs; police officers have a fair amount of discretion, and you risk greater scrutiny and harsher treatment when you’re rude. criminal defense attorney

However, as revealed in a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, you technically do have a right to be rude.

In Cruise-Guylas v. Minard, a federal appeals court held it is within your Constitutional rights to make uncouth gestures at police officers. That doesn’t make it a good idea, and as the appellate court ruled, it may violate The Golden Rule. Nonetheless, that doesn’t make it sufficient grounds in itself for a traffic stop.  Continue reading

The hidden cameras used in a South Florida prostitution sting are drumming up nearly as much discussion as news of a billionaire sports team owner’s arrest for solicitation of prostitution. According to reporting and analysis published in The Sun Sentinel, the question is whether allegations of sex trafficking are sufficient to surreptitiously record individuals on private property. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer know such a move is a significant leap in terms of privacy rights – one that was first introduced in the wake of 9/11, the U.S. war on terror and The USA PATRIOT Act. The fact that it has seeped into domestic criminal investigations for is indeed concerning – and legally questionable. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

Hidden Cameras Purportedly Capture Human Trafficking

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has pleaded not guilty to charges of solicitation of prostitution after he was allegedly captured twice on hidden cameras earlier this year entering a day spa in Jupiter that authorities say was a front for a human trafficking ring and soliciting sex.

This practice of placing hidden cameras on private property without the knowledge or consent of owners in order to conduct secret searches are allowed by so-called “sneak-and-peek warrants.”

But legal scholars, along with many South Florida criminal defense lawyers, are skeptical that such practices are legal. One University of Miami law professor who spent a quarter century as a federal public defender said not only had she never seen it used in all those years, she considered it “very, very troubling.” And while human trafficking is indeed a serious criminal issue, that wasn’t the basis on which law enforcement secured the warrant initially – it was basic prostitution, a misdemeanor.

The concern is that there are few limitations for which law enforcement can employ this strategy. This was by no means a case of terrorism or a matter of national security. Continue reading

Is a sniff a search? It seems that may be a constitutional question for the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices are considering whether to grant review in the case of Edstrom v. Minnesota. The case, as our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys understand it, turns on the issue of whether trained narcotics-sniffing dogs can lawfully be brought to a person’s door to sniff for drugs or whether this requires police to first obtain a warrant. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

The Minnesota Supreme Court held that police do not need a warrant to walk the dog to one’s front door and see if it passes the sniff test. We have no way of knowing which way the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to swing, especially since Justice Stephen Breyer stepped down and has been replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In several previous cases the court has considered that involved drug-sniffing dogs, the court has generally come down on the side of law enforcement – but one Florida case seemed to flip the script. Continue reading

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

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