Articles Posted in Criminal Defense Attorney

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

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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