As Broward criminal defense lawyers, we have successfully handled a broad range of Florida criminal case types – from serious felonies to minor misdemeanors. There is no single defense strategy that’s going to work in every situation. That said, there are some approaches more commonly employed than others. If you’re arrested in Fort Lauderdale on a misdemeanor charge, it’s important to seek out a defense attorney who can discuss those that might work best given the facts and realities of your case. Note: Not every misdemeanor defendant is entitled to an attorney (even if you can’t afford one), despite the potential consequences of conviction being substantial and long-lasting. Hiring a defense lawyer – even for seemingly minor issues – is the best way to lessen the blow this whole episode will have on your life long-term.
What Prosecutors Must Prove in Florida Misdemeanors
The exact criteria of what must be established to secure a conviction in a Florida misdemeanor case depends on the charge. Yet in all cases, prosecutors are tasked with showing guilt of the crime alleged beyond a reasonable doubt – which is the highest proof burden their is in Florida law.
As a criminal defendant, one is entitled to the presumption of innocence. However, without an experienced criminal defense lawyer to advocate on their behalf, odds of that person walking away with zero consequences or a slap on the wrist aren’t great.
It’s unlikely your case will go to trial, simply because most these days don’t. Roughly 90 percent of criminal convictions are secured via plea bargains. Prosecutors routinely offer plea bargains to defendants. However, just because it’s a lesser charge than what you initially faced or the consequences are less than the max doesn’t mean that a guilty or no contest plea is wise or in your best interest. You’re far better off if you have a defense attorney who can push back on the prosecution’s case. We can help explain the long-term impact of certain types of convictions, and whether the state’s case is all that strong to start (prosecutors are unlikely to cop to case weaknesses without prodding from the defense). If you’re inclined to accept a plea bargain, it’s still best to have a defense lawyer who can fully assess the particulars and actively negotiate terms most favorable to you.
Criminal Defense Strategies in Broward Misdemeanor Cases
Generally speaking, the goal of a Broward criminal defense attorney is to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, arguing things like lack of evidence, lack of intention/willful violation, or a legal justification for the action. Exactly how we do that will depend on the charge and specific facts.
That said, here are some of the most common defenses we use in Broward misdemeanor cases:
- Defense based on inadmissible evidence. If key evidence in the case was gleaned from methods that aren’t considered lawful or admissible, they can be challenged – in effect, substantially weakening the state’s case. For instance, if police unlawfully initiated a traffic stop or initiated a search of the vehicle without permission or probable cause, any evidence found in that stop or search may be thrown out. If the defendant clearly asked to have an attorney present and law enforcement ignored this, any confession or evidence gleaned in conversations thereafter may be tossed.
- Defense based on lack of evidence. Lack of evidence can be asserted when a fair amount of evidence is found to be inadmissible. But also, it’s not unheard of for prosecutors to file a criminal case without adequate evidence and then strong-arm the uninformed defendant into a plea deal. This is another reason why hiring a defense lawyer in a misdemeanor case is so important.
- Defense based on mistake of law or fact. Essentially, there’s a fundamental mistake that negates certain elements that make this act a crime. For example, one may be charged with theft, but mistakenly (and reasonably/honestly) believed that the alleged victim had given them the property. It might also apply when one believes their actions were lawful. In some cases, inability to form intent can be a defense under this umbrella. For instance, if you’re forcibly intoxicated, you can’t be held responsible for your resulting actions because you lacked the mental capacity to form criminal intent. It’s only going to apply in a narrow set of circumstances, but can be very effective where it does.
- Defense based on legal justification. This is when the defendant foregoes the argument that they did not commit the action alleged, but instead insists that those actions were legally justified – and thus, not criminal. The best known legal justification defense would be self-defense, or defense of another. Yes, you assaulted someone at the bar, but only because they attacked you first or threatened someone else in your party. One could argue defense of property. One can use (a reasonable degree of) force to protect their own property from being stolen or damaged. Yes, you punched that man, but only because he was trying to steal your purse. One might also argue duress. Yes, you broke into someone’s car, but only because the person with you threatened physical harm if you didn’t. Lastly, there’s a defense of necessity. This is less common in misdemeanor cases. It’s one one commits a crime in order to prevent greater harm. For instance, you broke into a car (a possible felony), but only to rescue a baby that had been inadvertently left inside.
- Defense based on lack of criminal act. Consent is one example. You aren’t guilty of domestic violence because your significant other consented/was a willing participant in the interaction. One could also assert abandonment. In other words, you initially meant to commit a crime, but later thought better of it and didn’t actually participate.
Determining which defenses might apply in a given case is a complex process. An experienced Broward criminal defense lawyer will have the ability to review the facts of your case, examine the strength (and weakness) of the prosecution’s case, and advise you of the most likely effective defense strategy.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in Criminal Sentencing, Justia
More Blog Entries:
Why Should I Hire a Broward Defense Lawyer for a Misdemeanor? Nov. 30, 2022, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog