Articles Tagged with criminal defense attorney

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

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

As Florida – and the rest of the country – have been grappling with a crisis of opioid addiction, law enforcement and prosecutors have been pursuing criminal action against those who make these drugs available. Drug-dealing has never been legal, but increasingly, prosecutors are going after doctors, pharmacists and others with murder charges against those who distribute drugs that lead to fatal overdoses.criminal defense attorney

Recently though, a circuit court judge in Central Florida has tossed several first-degree murder charges against dealers accused of doling out a fatal dose of fentanyl, based on the fact that the cases were reportedly initiated under a faulty legal premise. As The Orlando Sentinel reports, several other defendants are now seeking to have their homicide cases dismissed.  The state attorneys office has sent notice to attorneys and judges in similar cases of the ruling, as it could have a direct bearing on pending criminal cases in that region – and potentially throughout the state.

It was only last October, Gov. Rick Scott signed off on a law that would add fentanyl to the list of illicit drugs for which dealers could be charged with murder in the event of a deadly overdose. Maximum penalties per F.S. 782.04, the state’s murder statute, could include either life in prison or execution. Continue reading

Following the mass shooting at a South Florida high school in February, Florida became the sixth state to pass a so-called “red flag law,” something numerous other states are also examining. criminal defense attorney

Sometimes also referred to as a “risk warrant law,” this measure approved by state legislators last month give police officers the authority to temporarily remove guns and ammunition from individuals who display warning signs of violence to themselves or others. Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio has said he plans to introduce similar legislation at the federal level that would allow close family members and law enforcement the ability to obtain a court order to bar future gun sales to someone who might pose a threat. Backers of red flag laws say they can help drive down the number of gun-related injuries and deaths, including suicides. Opponents say they deprive citizens of their Second Amendment rights without due process.

Before Florida, five other states (Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Connecticut and California) had laws on the books enabling officers to seize firearms after receiving notice that a person with access to deadly weapons may pose a danger to themselves or others. It’s not clear exactly how effective these laws are (it’s difficult to opine the number of crimes prevented). We do know that in Connecticut, an average of seven guns were seized from every one person targeted from 1999 to 2013.  Continue reading

It’s been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed Florida’s process of deciding death penalty cases unconstitutional for the second time.criminal defense lawyer

Florida had a long-standing practice of allowing imposition of the death penalty without the unanimous support of a jury. Before the 2016 ruling in Hurst v. Florida, courts here only required a recommendation of a simple majority of jurors (7-5), though the decision was ultimately up to the judge. Not Ok, ruled the U.S. Supreme Court, finding it a violation of the Sixth Amendment. The state legislature revised the rules, deciding at least 10 out of 12 jurors needed to agree in order to impose the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that still wasn’t good enough, as it violated the Eighth Amendment’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. Juror input and consensus is mandatory in capital cases.

Now, the Tampa Bay Times reports that since those two rulings, there have been “far fewer” convicted murderers sentenced to death in the state. Continue reading

Florida state lawmakers are mulling drug crime reform, specifically a series of bill that include provisions allowing judges more discretion for sentences that currently require minimum mandatory sentencing and increases of substance abuse treatment funds.drug crime defense attorney

The chances signal a turn away from the hard-line stance so many lawmakers took in the 1980s and 1990s when the so-called “War on Drugs” was in full swing. Those efforts have largely proven ineffective, with many policy leaders agreeing hard-line sentences for low-level drug offenses didn’t lower use and didn’t keep the rest of us safer. In fact, all it did was decimate low-income, minority communities, which were disproportionately on the receiving end of enforcement.

Now, The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports the legislature appears somewhat split on criminal justice reform, with roughly half supporting these changes and half digging in their heels to maintain the status quo. Supporters of the bill say it will help bridge the gap of racial disparities that exist when it comes to enforcement and penalties for these offenses. Continue reading

Hazing, which years ago may have been considered little more than a normal rite of passage in some school-age circles, is now considered a felony offense in Florida. criminal defense attorney

F.S. 1006.63 states that hazing can be any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for numerous purposes, including (but not limited to) initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a post-secondary institution.

That’s what is charged against nine college students at Florida State University, accused of hazing a 20-year-old fraternity pledge to the point he suffered fatal alcohol poisoning. His BAC at the time of death was 0.447. To put that into perspective, the threshold for intoxication for drivers is 0.08. The fraternity brothers, aged 20 to 22, are charged with college hazing causing injury or death, a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Continue reading

The grand jury system is one that is often confusing for Florida criminal defendants. It is not as public as a trial, and the defense doesn’t have the same opportunity to present its case as it would in an actual trial.criminal defense lawyer

As noted by The Florida Bar, the grand jury system was formed as a kind of shield from unjust prosecution by determining whether there is sufficient evidence to indict the defendant and also to serve as an investigating body with subpoena power. They will have between 15 and 21 people, and at least 12 need to concur in order to obtain an indictment. An indictment is the initiation of the criminal prosecution, but it’s not required in all cases. In Florida, the involvement of a grand jury is only required when a person is being tried for a capital offense (i.e., one that could result in a death penalty sentence), but they are also sometimes used in cases that are high-profile or controversial. If your case is going before a grand jury, you be in contact with the best criminal defense attorney you can find.

The process isn’t perfect, as recent events out of Tallahassee show, and having an experienced legal advocate on your side is imperative. As The Tallahassee Democrat reported, defense attorneys were highly critical of the procedures (or rather, the apparent lack thereof) when 80 Florida State students were packed into a third floor waiting room over the course of two days and more than 20 hours total while waiting for the possibility that they may be called to testify before the grand jury.  Continue reading

Is it possible for your vehicle to be a deadly weapon? Although it might seem a straightforward question, given the fact that a vehicle could in fact be deadly if it’s used to run another person over, the answer isn’t clear when it comes to Florida law. The state appellate courts have reached different conclusions on this front, and the Florida Supreme Court is slated to issue a ruling on one such case, meaning it could settle the issue. criminal defense lawyer

The distinction between vehicle and deadly weapon is significant because it holds the possibility of an additional 15 years to one’s prison sentence if convicted of using a deadly weapon against another person.

In 2004, justices with the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a motor vehicle isn’t something that can be commonly considered an instrument for use in combat against another individual. Based on that ruling, a South Florida appellate court last year ruled that a 30-year sentence on a manslaughter charge imposed on a Fort Myers man for repeatedly running over a woman in 2008 should be reduced to 15 years. (However, he’ll still probably serve 30 years, given that he was also given 30 years for leaving the scene of a deadly accident.)  Continue reading