Articles Tagged with criminal defense lawyer

Many new types of fraud are either born or become big-time in Florida – South Florida in particular. A top agent for the Internal Revenue Service speculated it was a combination of factors: Beautiful weather and beaches a lot of people in general. Older folks – especially vulnerable to almost all kinds of fraud – often retire here. Florida also truly embodies the U.S. “melting pot,” with organized crime sprouting up from all ethnic groups. criminal defense lawyer Florida

The Federal Trade Commission reported earlier this year that Florida is the scam capitol of the country (based on both crime statistics and complaints made directly to the commission) with seniors the primary prey – at least in terms of dollars. Although there were more younger people who reported losing money to fraud, victims over 70 sustained higher median losses.

Whatever the reason, our Fort Lauderdale fraud attorneys know crimes of fraud, often referred to as “white collar crimes,” are often penalized severely, with defendants facing either state or federal charges, the distinction usually being the method of the scam, how much money it involved and whether it affected people in other states.  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

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

The day after a gunman fatally shot 17 people at a high school in South Florida, most of American teenagers returned to school. And when they did, a number of so-called “copycat” threats were made, posted on social media, scrawled on bathroom walls and called into school administration offices. Regardless of how serious these individuals are, they need to know that such actions can have very real criminal consequences, even for minors. Police, prosecutors and school districts are not likely to assume such assertions are idle. If anything, there will be a tendency to overreact, despite the fact that we know 15- and 16-year-olds (the most common perpetrator in these cases) aren’t developmentally mature and don’t always make the best decisions. criminal defense lawyer

  • In South Carolina, we saw a 9th grade student arrested after allegedly posting a photo of himself wearing a partial mask, holding what appears to be an assault rifle above a caption that says, “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow.”
  • A sixth-grader in Broward County was arrested for writing a note threatening to bring a gun to school and “kill all of you.” She had slipped the message underneath the principal’s door and later gave a confession to administrators.
  • In Brooklyn, New York, two 16-year-old boys were arrested for threatening to shoot up their school less than two hours after word spread about what happened Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
  • A Brevard County student was arrested after posting a photo on Snapchat of herself holding a gun, above the caption, “I’m coming to space coast, watch out.”
  • In Ohio, a high school student was arrested for a social media post referencing the Parkland shooting. He is facing a felony charge for inducing a panic.

The list goes on and on, and includes everything from students posting photos of unloaded guns to actually bringing weapons to school. In Collier County on Florida’s West Coast, officials reported 27 school threats in less than two weeks after the shooting. USA Today reports more than 600 copycat threats have been made against schools throughout the country (about 70 daily).  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