Articles Tagged with criminal defense lawyer

Manslaughter is the killing of another human being without malice aforethought. That means a person may not have intended for the other person to die (unlike homicide/murder), but nonetheless that was the result of one’s conduct, usually reckless or criminally negligent. It can stem from crimes like driving drunk, criminal assault or neglect. In these cases, it is not necessary to prove intent.manslaughter defense lawyer

Recently, several nursing home employees were arrested on charges of manslaughter, pursuant to F.S. 782.07, following the deaths of 12 elderly patients who overheated in sweltering conditions with no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma struck South Florida in 2017.

Manslaughter is considered aggravated when it involves the death of an elderly person or disabled adult due to culpable negligence without lawful justification. Culpable negligence, as noted in Florida Standard Jury Instructions, is defined as a course of conduct that shows reckless disregard for human life or for the safety of individuals exposed to it that displays recklessness or wantonness. Continue reading

It’s no secret that immigration enforcement has increased in recent years under President Donald Trump’s administration, the stated purpose being to target undocumented residents who commit crimes. However, The Tampa Bay Times reports that federal data shows detention of immigrants with no criminal conviction has soared. This is especially true here in Florida, where arrests of undocumented persons with no criminal records were seven times more likely to be arrested now than they were four years ago – twice the national average. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand it, traffic offenses in particular are the primary vehicle by which this crackdown is being facilitated. Immigration attorneys report clients frequently being pulled over on their way to work for minor traffic infractions. Some agencies are accused of relying on racial profiling to net the highest number of undocumented immigrants, with heavy (some say excessive) enforcement of traffic laws being carried out in Hispanic neighborhoods.

It is true that anyone – regardless of criminal background – can be arrested, detained and deported. However, the priority has historically been to target undocumented individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety, border security and national security.

That doesn’t appear to be what’s happening. Continue reading

It’s hard for some folks to believe that non-violent, small-time, petty theft can land people in a Florida prison for years. But it happens all the time, both because of Florida’s low felony theft threshold and minimum mandatory penalties for those convicted of prior offenses.criminal defense lawyer

Two bills that had been advancing through the Florida legislature earlier this year sought to address it. Both, however, have since been defeated, meaning at least this year, the Sunshine State won’t be joining the ranks of a growing number of states that are increasing the dollar amount threshold for felony theft charges (the dollar amount at which a theft crime becomes a felony instead of a misdemeanor).

Lowest Felony Theft Threshold in the Country

In fact, Florida has the second-lowest felony theft threshold in the country – just $300, per F.S. 812.014. Someone may end up in prison for stealing even less than that if they have prior convictions or are on probation/parole. Other states, on average, have a felony theft threshold of somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500. Plus, many don’t have the punitive provision that Florida has, wherein the third petty theft is an automatic felony charge. Continue reading

Florida’s penalties for drug traffickers are harsh. With few exceptions, penalties imposed for homicide are much harsher. But increasingly, when drug users die, their dealers are being charged with their murder – thanks to a 2017 Florida law passed unanimously by the state legislature. drug crime defense lawyer

For example last year, a 26-year-old father reportedly died one month after moving from Ohio to Florida, where his girlfriend and son were slated to join him weeks later. The medical examiner reported finding a form of opioid fentanyl in his system, at which point his death investigation became a homicide investigation. Several neighbors were interviewed, after which police identified the suspected dealer of the drugs in the decedent’s system. They arranged two undercover buys, after which time he was arrested for selling drugs near a school – a felony. The investigation continued, and the suspect was charged with first-degree murder in the death of the man who had overdosed.

It’s not that defendants in Florida couldn’t be charged with homicide for dealing drugs that someone later died of on overdose after using. Technically, that law has been on the books since the early 1980s, when the War on Drugs was raging. However, it was rarely used in practice, individuals were rarely convicted and it wasn’t until 2017 that fentanyl was added to the list. Now, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers have noted an uptick in these types of criminal case. Those facing first-degree homicide charges in Florida overdose cases can, themselves, face the death penalty.

An appellate judge for the Fourth District Court of Appeal says he sees a recurring problem in Florida criminal cases when it comes to hearsay. Specifically, it’s being confused with the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and therefore subject to being weighted more heavily by case law standards rather than Florida Statute.criminal defense lawyer

The problem, said the judge, is that courts are veering further and further from legislators’ intent in these interpretations.

What is Hearsay in Florida Criminal Case? 

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know hearsay is one of the most misunderstood criminal laws in its application. Some mistakenly think prosecutors can’t pursue charges based on he said/she said evidence. In fact, the state can pursue charges on nothing but verbal testimony, but there are specific definitions and exceptions. Continue reading

Police call it a “modern-day neighborhood watch,”  a proliferating network of surveillance cameras affixed to the doorbells of private residences. Florida criminal defense lawyers are increasingly wary, citing concerns about privacy – especially because police from here to Houston have been “gifting” these devices to homeowners – using taxpayer money – with the caveat that they must turn these devices over to police upon request (something Amazon – the company that acquired the firm for $1 billion last year – said it will be “cracking down on”).criminal defense lawyer

This was at least the case in Houston, and criminal defense attorneys recognize that it raises the question of possible violations of citizens’ Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures. If any arrests were made based on footage police demanded an unwilling homeowner fork over, it’s plausible that evidence could be suppressed.

CNet reports more than 50 local police departments have been partnering with the manufacturer of these “smart doorbells” to give them away free, cheaply or with a $3-a-month “subscription service” that allows police to tap into these feeds whenever they want. In some neighborhoods, police can tune in to watch – and record – what’s happening in real time on surveillance footage. 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

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

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