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Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

How To Claim “Self Defense”

Every crime is different, and that means the defense to every crime is also different. If you are charged with DUI you will likely attack the validity of the breath test results by challenging the way the test was given or claim the equipment was not functioning properly. But if you are facing assault, battery, or weapons-related charge, the defense of self-defense is probably on your mind. This defense is tricky, and it can be looked upon unfavorably, especially with the media attention given to high profile cases where this defense has been raised. But if you truly were acting in self-defense, it is worth offering this defense in order to accurately state your version of the events.

To make a claim of self-defense, it is crucial to do the following things:

● Establish that you reasonably believed the forced used was necessary to prevent an unlawful use of force against your person.
● The belief that harm is imminent can be extended from you person to that of another (such as a family member in the case of a home invasion).
● The person against whom you used force must not have lawfully on the premises or under your care or custody. This can be tricky, because as we all learned from the Trayvon Martin case, it is not always easy to determine a person’s motives or their right to be in a certain place.

The defense of self-defense necessarily admits there was an altercation, and this can be hard to recover from if you are not able to establish the force you used in defense of yourself was legal. The facts are subjective, and not everyone will see eye-to-eye with you or your version of the events. This is why it is so important to partner with a qualified criminal defense attorney, so your case can be made in a way that casts you in the most favorable light. Whatever the charge, if you believe the defense of self-defense is available to you, call us for help. We will investigate the facts of your case, and let you know your options.

For answers to questions about self-defense, contact us today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to find out what rights you have, and how to protect those rights.

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Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

How Social Media Can Hurt Your Defense In A Criminal Case

The history of social media giant, Facebook, is well documented and can be ascertained by a quick internet search or a quick trip to the move store to rent the film The Social Network. When Facebook first came on the scene, it was exclusively used on college campuses, but since that time, it has evolved into a major form of communication and data sharing. But the things we put on social media can do more than inform a distant relative of what is going in our lives, it can also be used against us. This is especially true if you are charged with a crime, and have just moments before the arrest, posted questionable pictures, or made damaging statements. This is not a very well-known fact, but because we are all prone to snapping a selfie while out with friends, but it is a good idea to know how your social media presence can hurt you.

Take the instance of a DUI case, for example, and take note of how social media can hurt your defense in this type of criminal case:

• Posts you have made can be used against you. If you posted photos or made comments about drinking shortly before being pulled over and arrested for DUI, those photos and posts can be used as evidence that you were in fact driving while intoxicated.
• Posts that you did not make, but were tagged in can also be used to show your activity just before an arrest. So, before you allow your friends to tag you in a photo, make sure the content is not damaging.
• Even if you, or a friend, have not posted a photo or made a comment about your activities, if you have checked in to a bar or other place where alcohol is routinely served, that data can be used to prove you were in a certain place prior to your arrest. Once your location has been established, at a certain time, it does not take much effort for the prosecution to visit that establishment and interview the staff. Pretty soon, you could find yourself having to defend testimony from the very person you generously tipped.

One reason social media content is so damaging is that it is so accessible. Depending on how you have set your privacy settings, nearly anyone can search you name and find out what you have been doing. This can make it hard to argue that your privacy has been invaded and the information should be kept out of court, so the best advice is to stay off social media when you are enjoying time out with family or friends. But, we know this is not always possible, and so we stand ready to help you with your case, if you do get arrested and charged with a crime.

If you have questions about how to handle DUI or other criminal defense matters, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West. Call us today for help.

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Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

What Is Reckless Driving?

Being granted the right to drive is a privilege, but a lot of people consider it a right. That said, there are some drivers out there who take “the right to drive” for granted and, due to that attitude, can end up losing their license or even going to jail when their driving habits violate the law. But even those that take care when behind the wheel have to make sure they don’t make a mistake and get charged with a traffic violation. When most people think about a “traffic violation” the first thing that comes to mind is a speeding ticket. But the truth is there are other types of traffic-related crimes that can get a driver in trouble. Some examples include DUI and Reckless Driving. The term “Reckless Driving” is a confusing one, conjuring images of driving much faster than the posted speed limit instantly coming to mind. But there is more to a Reckless Driving charge than just excessive speed, and it is a good idea to know what you are up against if you are charged with Reckless Driving.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are facing charges of Reckless Driving:

● The official legal definition of Reckless Driving is driving in a way that is in willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.
● The facts needed to establish and prove a case for reckless driving vary from case to case. This means you have some room for interpretation, and within that room is where your defense will be built.
● Unfortunately, a Reckless Driving charge can be a sort of “catch all,” encompassing anything from driving too fast to weaving in and out of traffic to simply disobeying a traffic signal.

The confusion over what is considered Reckless Driving might lead you to believe that the charges are not that serious. However, Reckless Driving charges can be quite severe and result in harsh consequences. Among the possible forms of punishment is loss of your license and perhaps even a requirement that you spend some time behind bars. If you have been charged with Reckless Driving, let us help you.

For more information on Reckless Driving, and to learn what to do if you are charged with this crime, contact our office today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.

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Criminal Procedure key west Uncategorized

Spring Break Is Right Around The Corner, How To Avoid An Arrest While In The Keys

After the winter holiday break, most students go back to school and start planning for their spring break trip. There are a lot of popular destinations, from ski trips to weekend beach getaways. And, part of most spring break trips includes pit stops at local bars or restaurants, where alcohol is served. When it is all good fun and no one gets hurt, it is all good. But when things take a turn for the worse and an arrest is made, a spring break trip can leave sour taste in a student’s mouth. Some of the more common arrests are for Disorderly Conduct and DUI.

Most of us don’t have a reason to feel concern about an arrest while on spring break, because we do not intend to be committing any crimes. But, when alcohol or drugs are involved, people can make mistakes and act out of character. Here are some things to remember (especially if a DUI is a possibility) that will help you avoid an arrest while on spring break in Key West:

• Make alternate transportation arrangements before heading out for the day or night. If you have a plan in place before you begin the festivities, you can be assured that your trip will not be spoiled by an unexpected arrest.
• Remember to be aware of your surroundings and that, just because you are in a tropical paradise, there are still rules that have to be followed.
• Be sure to take information with you that is helpful, such as an emergency contact number, so you have someone to call if you need help.

If an arrest does happen though, be sure to seek counsel before heading home. If you are able to leave your trip with the information needed to defend charges against you, you will be that much farther along in the process when you get back to your reality. This will help because the first step will have been taken, and you can then focus on what is needed next. We have helped people charged with all sorts of crimes, and can help you too. We enjoy having tourists and visitors to Key West, but do want those visitors to have a good experience. When trouble arises, we work to protect your rights and understand the challenges that are presented if you are from out of town.

For help with an arrest in Key West while on vacation or spring break, call our office today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.

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Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

Is It A Probation Violation To Skip Drug School?

A large number of criminal cases are resolved when the defendant agrees to go on a term of probation. Each case is different, with different facts, and that means no two periods of probation are identical. The rules and requirements of your probation will be tailored to the specific facts of your case. And, as long as you follow all of the rules, you will be rewarded at the end of your probation in the form of whatever agreement you made when entering probation. For most people, the agreement includes a reduction or dismissal of the charges, so long as the probationary terms are followed. This makes it critical to know, and to fully understand, what is included in the rules of your probation.

It should seem obvious that it would be a violation of your probation to commit another crime. But what about some of the other requirements, such as being ordered to attend drug or alcohol assessments or schools? What happens if you fail to report for these classes? Will it be considered a probation violation, for example, to skip drug treatment or counseling?

The answer is “yes,” but here are some things the prosecution will have to show in order to convict you of a probation violation. The prosecution has to prove that you “willfully and substantially” violated a specific term of your probationary sentence. This means the prosecuting attorney has to show the court that the failure to go to drug school was your “fault.” If, for example, your probationary terms are silent as to the time frame in which drug school must be completed, you have a good argument that you have not yet “failed” this requirement of your probation.

Ultimately, it would be up to the judge to determine if you “willfully and substantially” violated probation. The determination is made on an individual basis, which means the facts that are unique to your case are the facts that have to be considered. This can give you several options for defending a probation violation, but it does require thoughtful legal analysis. For more information on probation, violations of probation, and what you are required to do while serving probation, call us today.

If you want more information about how probation works, or what to expect while you are on probation, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to schedule an appointment today.

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Criminal Procedure Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Uncategorized

Penalties For A Second, Third, Or Fourth DUI

Sometimes things are not sweeter the second (or third, or fourth) time around. In fact, not all things are worth experiencing even once. Generally speaking, the things in life you never want to be a part of, not even for a first time, are related to criminal law. It is not anyone’s plan to go out and commit a crime, be arrested for that crime, and then made to stand in front of a judge. But things happen, and it is not an unusual event for a person to be arrested, for minor or more serious charges. When that does happen, the best thing to do is to get to an experienced lawyer’s office as soon as possible, so you can begin to develop a defense that will result in the least amount of impact on your life. Good results can be accomplished with most first time offenders, but if you are a second or third time offender you should not expect as lenient a sentence as you may have received in your first case.

As the number of incidents of similar action increase, so do the penalties. For DUIs, the most notable increase in penalties are for jail time, fines, and the impact on one’s driver’s license.

● An increase in the amount of time you might have to spend in jail. Many first-time offenders are able to escape jail time, even though the law allows for a sentence of no more than six months, but a second-time offender might have to go to jail for up to nine months. If this is your third DUI, you could be looking at incarceration of up to 12 months.
● The fine also increases from between $500 and $1,000 for a first-time offender to between $1,000 and $2,000 for a second-time offender, and between $2,000 to $5,000 for a third-time DUI offense. If you have more than three DUIs, the fine is no less than $2,000.
● First-time DUI offenders may lose their driver’s license for up to a year. And, that time increases to five years if the second conviction occurred within five years of the first case. Third-time offenders will lose their license for 10 years, if the third case happened within 10 years, and fourth-time offenders face permanent loss of driving privileges.

Due to these increases in punishment, properly defending subsequent DUIs becomes increasingly imporant. If you have been charged with a subsequent DUI, call us right away. We know what needs to be done to protect your rights and to help get the most satisfactory results.

If you have questions about DUI defense, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West. Call us today to talk about your case and learn what to do next.

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Criminal Procedure Drug Crimes Uncategorized

Possible Punishment For Marijuana Possession

The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes has gained a lot of momentum in several states. But even when marijuana is made legal for a medical purpose, there are still rules that have to be followed in order to fall in line with what is considered lawful use or possession. If you fail to abide by one of those rules, your activity can be classified as illegal, and you can be charged with a variety of drug-related crimes. One of the possible charges is possession of marijuana, which carries a range of punishment from the relatively minor to quite severe. Knowing the possible punishment can help you to develop an effective defense to the charges.

Despite recent voter approval of certain acts associated with marijuana, there are still many illegal actions. Here is a list of the possible punishments you can face for a possession of marijuana charge:

● Loss of freedom and independence, by being sentenced to a jail term.
● Loss of your driver’s license, if you are adjudicated guilty.
● Some cases are resolved by the defendant agreeing to go on probation. During your probation you will have to abide by certain rules and terms, and if you do not then you can face the full range of punishment possible in your case. This could include jail time, or other harsh consequences.

As far as punishment goes, “none of the above” is not usually an option when you are charged with possession, so it is critical to have the right defense attorney on your side. We are skilled at dissecting the facts of your case and arguing for a punishment that fits those facts. If you have been arrested for possession, or are confused over what is now legal versus what might still be against the law, call our office. We will talk over your case with you and let you know what to expect. Until it is completely and fully legal, you will need help defending possession of marijuana charges.

If you have questions about criminal possession of marijuana charges, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.  

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Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

An Update On The Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shooting

The war on terror, immigration, and gun control dominated the November Presidential election. And just a few days after the new year, the country may have seen why these issues are so important. On January 6, 2017, Esteban Santiago opened fire at a Fort Lauderdale airport. Immediately, the public wondered how the crime happened, the legal residency status of Santiago, why it was done, and how someone could enter an airport with a firearm undetected. Some answers have been provided in the time since the shooting, but there are still many pieces to this puzzle that have not yet come together.

An update on the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting includes the following information:

• Santiago entered a Not Guilty plea, to 22 federal charges which have been filed against him.
• Many of the charges are punishable by either life in prison, or the death penalty, making this a serious case and one to watch for how the law is applied to the facts.
• Santiago is a war veteran, and has a history of mental health problems. But even given those issues, it has been reported that Santiago is refusing to take medication while behind bars.
• No terrorism charges have been made, and the case will be heard in Miami for the safety of those involved.

At this early stage it is not possible to determine an outcome, but it is likely we will see an insanity defense raised. Given Santiago’s service history, issues surrounding PTSD may also likely emerge. This case could be a good example of how important societal issues play out in a court of law, and we should all expect a lot of media attention will be given as the case progresses. And, if there are any changes to existing laws that may affect you, such as weapons laws, rest assured we will stay on top of those changes in an effort to continually provide accurate representation to our client base. If you have questions about criminal law, or have been charged with a crime, call us for help. We have experience in several areas of criminal defense, and we will work aggressively to minimize the impact of any charges against you.

Contact our office for answers to your questions about criminal defense. Let an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West help you today. We offer initial consultations by phone, and we are just a call away.

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Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

What Is The Difference Between Dismissal And Expungement?

If you have been arrested for a crime you are probably wondering if the final outcome will have a lasting impact on your record. The answer depends on the type and facts of your case, and what type of final resolution was reached. The type of case is relevant because a misdemeanor will be less serious than a felony, and may also lend itself to post-adjudication actions to “clean up” your record. The facts of your case are also important, because first-time offenders may have options available to them at the end of their case that repeat offenders do not enjoy. And, there are also issues of the final disposition of your case to address, that may or may not do permanent damage to your record.

It is important to understand the difference between a dismissal and an expungement. Here is what you need to know:

• If your case is dismissed, your record will show that the charges were brought, but that they were later dropped. Also, there will be a history of your arrest. After a dismissal, your case file and arrest record is still public record.
• An expungement is when the record of your arrest, and your subsequent criminal case, are destroyed and any public access to this information is eliminated.
It is best to think of expungement as a process that eliminates records of an arrest that did not result in anything more than a filing of charges that were later dismissed. An expungement is not a process for removing the resolution of a case – that’s a sealment.

In order to be eligible for an expungement, certain requirements have to be met. The most important requirement is that charges were never filed or they were filed, but later dismissed. In both circumstances, you have no criminal record. This can occur if you were arrested, but the prosecutor decided against filing charges. Or, if you were arrested and charged, but the charges were later dismissed. This later scenario can happen after a dispositive court event, like a motion to suppress crucial evidence, or completing of a diversion program, such as Pretrial Intervention.

The benefit to having your record expunged is all records of your arrest and court case are destroyed and cannot be discovered by a public search. That is not to say certain law enforcement or governmental agencies may not still be able to access your records, but potential employers or everyday internet searches will not. If you have questions about expungement, call us for answers. We will review the facts of your case, let you know if an expungement is an option for you, and, if so, how you will benefit from making the request.

If you have questions about the difference between a dismissal and an expungement, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.

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Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Uncategorized

Can I Be Arrested For “Walking While Drunk”?

When most of us think about a DUI case, the image of a driver behind the wheel of car being pulled over and made to “walk the line” or take a breath test comes to mind. But, there are all sorts of alcohol-related crimes, such as Drunk and Disorderly Conduct, which are just short of DUI but can be just as serious. When the opportunity to drink is coupled with the opportunity to go to the beach or walk from bar to bar in an historic area, the likelihood of being arrested for some sort of alcohol related crime rises commensurately. But, can you actually be charged with DUI, if you are not driving a car while you are drinking? Believe it or not, we get this question a lot.

The DUI statute in Florida defines the crime as driving while over the legal limit or when the driver’s normal faculties are impaired. The legal limit being a 0.08% concentration of alcohol in your system. But, that limit can also be applicable in other types of cases, such as:

● Disorderly conduct.
● Disorderly intoxication.
● Possession of alcohol by a minor, being a person under 21 but over 18.

A Minor in Possession is not as difficult a crime to define as Disorderly Conduct or Disorderly Intoxication, where the police have wide latitude to define your actions as “disorderly.” So, if you have been drinking and decide that walking home or to your next stop is better than driving, be on your best behavior. You cannot be arrested for DUI, but you can be arrested for some other crime.

But, do keep in mind that being arrested is not the same as being convicted, and you do have the chance to defend the charges being brought against you. Given the special nature of a disorderly type of charge, it is critical to fully recount the facts as best you can to a trained attorney, so a clear picture of what really happened can be formed. Once there is a clear picture about the facts of your case, an effective defense strategy can be developed. Our office has experience helping people with DUI defense and also with defending other alcohol related charges that stop just short of being classified as a DUI. For help with your case, call us today.

For answers to questions about DUI’s and other alcohol-related crimes, contact us today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to find out what rights you have, and how to protect those rights.