Criminal defendants in Florida have the right to a defense attorney in any criminal proceeding. It’s one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution (the Sixth Amendment in particular), with the U.S. Supreme Court applying this right to state-level criminal proceedings in the 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright. Further, deprivation of a defendant’s right to a criminal defense attorney or denial of a choice of attorney absent good cause should result in the reversal of a criminal conviction, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling in U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez.criminal defense lawyer

Unfortunately, the government (law enforcement investigators in particular) do not always go to great lengths to fulfill this duty to make counsel available – particularly at key times pre-trial, such as during questioning and interrogation.

That’s reportedly what happened recently in a case, Baskin v. State that resulted in a Florida homicide conviction in Manatee County. According to Sunshine State News, Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial for a man convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the death of a woman in Bradenton in 2012. Authorities, in the course of their investigation, reportedly discovered decedent had been romantically involved with defendant and that he was a frequent guest in her apartment, where her body was discovered.  Continue reading

There is an inherent interplay between criminal and immigration law that has recently come under an intense spotlight since the Trump administration has taken a hard line on immigration policies,. This includes aggressive action by immigration authorities to initiate proceedings against those with decades-old criminal convictions for non-violent crimes. In the past, that usually involved recent convictions for felonies – violent crimes in particular – and typically only undocumented immigrants.criminal defense

However, as the Miami Herald reported recently, even documented immigrants, such as those holding green cards who have green cards and are long-time residents, aren’t immune. In fact, this is now policy per new guidelines passed earlier this month by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have indicated that immigrants who abuse any program that is related to acceptance of public benefits can be brought before an immigration court and subject to removal if evidence of fraud or willful misrepresentation is established. Under this new guidelines, immigration officials actually have expanded authority to issue Notices to Appear, which is what starts the whole deportation process.

Since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case of Padilla v. Kentucky, criminal defense lawyers have been required to advise non-citizen clients about the possible immigration consequences that may result from acceptance of a guilty plea. Failure to do so amounts to a violation of one’s Sixth Amendment guarantee of effective counsel. A violation on this front can be grounds for post-conviction relief, including possibly a modification of one’s criminal sentence or a new trial.  Continue reading

Since the passage of Amendment 2 in 2016, Florida lawmakers have been trying to weed through the state’s already-complex marijuana statutes to hammer out new rules for growing, processing, distributing and possessing/ using the plant. Some individual cities have adopted their own ordinances with regard to recreational marijuana, which has led to many people being confused about what’s legal and what isn’t in Florida.marijuana defense lawyer

What we can say for certain is that Amendment 2 did NOT:

  • Alter Florida’s drug possession laws;
  • Change the fact that you can be arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana – medical or not;
  • Grant permission for the public consumption/ smoking of the drug;
  • Have any impact on federal law, which expressly prohibits marijuana possession and distribution, regardless of purpose.

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Many times a person is pulled over on what the police call a routine traffic stop and end up finding weapons, drugs, or other contraband.  However, if the police did not have probable cause to search the vehicle, or another valid reason to search the vehicle, experienced Miami criminal defense attorneys can move to have all of the evidence excluded from trial after filing a motion to suppress evidence.

DUI Defense AttorneyThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives people the protection from having their persons, homes, papers, vehicles, and other possessions searched without a warrant, probable cause, a reasonable suspicion (in some cases), or another legally-valid reason to conduct the search.  If an officer witnesses a traffic infraction, which may constitute the suspected violation of a traffic ordinance, the officer has a right to stop the vehicle. At this point, the officer has a right to run the suspect’s license plate to find out if the car is reported stolen, and to see who the owner of the vehicle is.  The officer can also request proof of insurance, registration, and the driver’s license of the operator of the motor vehicle. Continue reading

A substantial number of criminal cases that are prosecuted in Florida result in some type of conviction by way of a plea bargain. As noted by the American Bar Association, this typically involves prosecutors offering a deal that allows the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser crime than what was originally charged. However, many of these are not truly “bargains” at all. A dedicated, experienced criminal defense attorney should carefully weigh whether you might be better served taking the case to trial. If not, he or she should be skilled and adapt at the plea bargain negotiation process.plea bargain attorney

The issue with the plea bargain process is that, as noted in a recent analysis by The Atlantic, innocence isn’t always relevant to the outcome – particularly if you don’t have a good lawyer defending you. Approximately 94 percent of state-level criminal felony convictions and 97 percent of federal felony convictions are the result of a plea bargain. Estimates for misdemeanor cases are even higher. This highlights something our Fort Lauderdale defense attorneys often must explain to our clients: The vast majority of criminal cases don’t go to trial. Of course, those figures don’t include cases wherein the charges are dismissed prior to the trial or plea bargaining phase. But this is a reality that was underscored in the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Missouri v. Frye, an important case that helped establish a defendant’s right to competent counsel when they are extended a prosecutor’s plea bargain.

Plea bargains can absolutely be advantageous to a defendant, particularly when the weight of the evidence against them is substantial. It’s also less costly for taxpayers because it costs a great deal of time and money to hold a criminal trial. But here’s the other thing plea bargains can do: Compel you to plead guilty to a crime you didn’t commit. Continue reading

Forensic science has played an increasingly larger role in criminal courtrooms across the country – particularly in cases involving more serious crimes, such as homicides, robberies and sexual assaults. However, the scientific veracity of this evidence has come under fire in recent years as even more advanced science has proven some of those convicted largely on these older forensics were indeed innocent as they’d always claimed.criminal defense attorney

In 2015, The Washington Post reported the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI both formally acknowledged that almost every examiner in the FBI forensics unit gave flawed testimony in nearly every trial in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants in the nearly two decades preceding 2000. Of the methods to which they testified were forensic hair analysis and forensic bite mark analysis. Among those cases effected, 32 were sentenced to die, with 14 having already been executed or died in prison. This was acknowledged by the agency after a study found that in 95 percent of nearly 300 cases reviewed, forensic examiners overstate those forensic matches in ways that favored the prosecution’s case.

Other forensic disciplines touted as practically airtight in criminal trials for decades had by that time been largely discredited, including shoe and tire impressions and handwriting. A 2009 report from the National Academy of Science released a groundbreaking report revealing these “sciences” were not as credible as what they claimed to be, as they aren’t rigorous, grounded in peer-reviewed research and outcomes often rely on judgments of individual practitioners. The report stated opinions offered by these “experts” were generally more subjective than scientific. Specific to bloodstain patterns, the report stated complex patterns fluids make as they exit wounds are “highly variable,” making valid interpretations difficult or impossible.

Recently, a ProPublica investigation delved into another reportedly dubious forensic analysis method, bloodstain pattern analysis. The case they highlighted was that of a once-loved high school principal in Texas who was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of his wife, an elementary school teacher, who was shot in their home in 1985 – a key piece of evidence in his conviction being bloodstain pattern analysis.  Continue reading

People in the U.S. have a number of Constitutional rights that ensure (among other things) due process as they go about their lives. One of those, as outlined in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. It has long been established that warrants are generally required to initiate a non-consensual search of one’s person or property. However, there is an automobile exception that allows warrantless searches if the vehicle is traveling on a public road and the law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion of a crime. criminal defense attorney Fort Lauderdale

Now, in what’s being hailed a win for privacy rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has just handed down an 8-1 decision holding police are not allowed to search the area around a private home absent a warrant – even if they believe they’ve seen stolen property on site. A motorcycle in a driveway was was started this particular case.

Officers at a county police agency in Virginia say they attempted to initiate a traffic stop of a motorcycle rider on two different occasions, but both times, the driver evaded. Police were able to learn from those encounters that the motorcycle in question was stolen. A suspect was identified, based on Facebook photos the suspect had posted of the motorcycle in question, which was parked at suspect’s girlfriend’s home. An officer went to that location, where a motorcycle was spotted – covered by a tarp – in the driveway. The officer – who did not have a warrant and was not invited onto the property – removed the tarp. Based on the information he gathered, he identified the bike as stolen and arrested the suspect – who claimed he purchased the motorcycle without a title. He was charged with receiving stolen property. Continue reading

A recent decision by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals makes it clear that police have the right to stop you for license plate framing that obstructs ANY portion of the words on the plate. That means police have yet one more reason to initiate traffic stops (which can lead to additional charges).criminal defense attorney

In Florida v. Pena, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Assistant Attorney General Christina Dominguez argued for the state, citing in particular the statute F.S. 316.605(1), which states that license plates must keep plainly visible and legible at all times 100 feet from the front or rear “all letters, numerals, printing, writing and other identification marks upon the plates regarding the word ‘Florida,’ the registration decal and the alphanumeric designation.”

Defendant in this case alleged the Miami traffic stop was illegal – and the trial court agreed, meaning any other evidence gleaned thereafter would be inadmissible. However, the 3rd DCA reversed.  Continue reading

Under Florida’s controversial new “red flag” law, passed after the deadly shooting at a Parkland High School, law enforcement agencies in Broward lead the state in arrests for violations.criminal defense attorney

The Red Flag gun law was passed March 5th, designed to allow local law enforcement agencies to seize weapons from individuals who suffer from emotional or mental health issues or those who display certain problem behaviors that indicate posing a direct danger to others. Florida is one of just a few states to pass such a law, and many have been critical of it as a knee-jerk reaction.

From the standpoint of a criminal defense lawyer, the concern is individuals who have committed no crimes may be targeted by law enforcement in a manner that not only infringes upon their Second Amendment rights, but could make them vulnerable to arrest – not only for this, but potentially other unrelated charges. Throughout this process, our goal is to ensure our client’s Fourth Amendment rights (shielding against unreasonable search and seizure) are fiercely protected. It is unlawful for any evidence obtained from a lawful search to be introduced into court (this evidence is often referred to in legal terms as “fruit of the poisonous tree”).  These searches may lead to evidence used to assert another crime – but only if that evidence was gleaned lawfully. Continue reading

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has come under scrutiny after it was revealed a man arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a juvenile last year was charged earlier this month with armed kidnapping and sexual battery of another person in 2003. That case had remained cold for 15 years.criminal defense attorney

At the time, the woman reported to police she was walking on South State Road 7 one night in late December when an unknown man approached with a gun and threatened to shoot her if she struggled or made a scene. She then said the man forced her to a nearby car dealership and sexually assaulted her repeatedly inside a vehicle. The woman survived the attack, reported it to police and a rape kit was performed and submitted to the crime laboratory at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. But nothing happened. Defendant has a lengthy criminal record and documents from the Hollywood Police Department show their agency received a crime lab report from Broward in 2006 indicating a routine search of their national DNA database had returned a possible lead in the 2003 case with this particular defendant. It’s unclear why neither agency followed up.

A 2014 audit of practices at the Hollywood Police Department, according to NBC Miami, revealed the agency had dozens of sexual assault evidence kits stowed away in a locked evidence room, rather than submitted to a crime laboratory. Once the audit was finished, two arrests were made in the two dozen cases that were reviewed. The chief reported at the time that he was establishing a special unit solely to handle rape kit analysis.  Continue reading