What to Do When a Key West Night Out Leads to a Battery Arrest

With cocktails on the beach at sunset and endless dining options, nightlife on the Keys is a big draw to locals and tourists alike. It can also lead to trouble when a night out ends in an altercation.

If you’re involved in altercation and the police respond, you could also be charged with battery. The crime does not require the alleged victim to have been injured. Simply touching someone without their consent or touching something close to their body, such as grabbing a woman’s purse while she’s holding it, is enough to result in a battery charge.

Simple battery is a misdemeanor in Florida and carries a penalty of up to one year in jail or 12 months’ probation and a $1,000 fine. Aggravated battery requires the intent to do serious bodily harm, or the use of a deadly weapon, and carries a sentence of up to five years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.

But a battery charge doesn’t necessarily end in a conviction. You can raise such defenses as:

  • You tripped and or knocked into someone accidentally without intent to touch or harm them.
  • You were acting in self-defense, defense of someone else or defense of your property.
  • You engaged in mutual combat, such as a bar fight, in which each person essentially consented to escalate a dispute to physical contact.

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with battery, contact a lawyer immediately. An attorney with experience handling criminal defense matters may choose from several strong defenses, which are essential considering the seriousness of this charge.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, have extensive experience successfully defending clients in battery cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Drug Crimes Drug Offenses

Do You Risk Losing Financial Aid After a Marijuana Arrest?

Laws about marijuana possession are changing rapidly. States across the country are moving to legalize medical and, in some cases, recreational uses of the drug. But in Florida, state law still prohibits possession, except for medical use, and imposes some surprisingly stiff penalties. Even for possession of 20 grams or less, a conviction may result in a jail sentence up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000 and a revocation of all driving privileges.

The consequences of illegal marijuana possession can fall even harder on college students, due to a federal law providing that a conviction can result in loss of financial aid. How long you remain ineligible for financial aid depends on whether you’ve had prior drug convictions. A first-time conviction results in the loss of eligibility for one year. It is possible to shorten the duration of ineligibility by completing a drug rehabilitation program and by passing unannounced drug tests.

Lawmakers included some exceptions in the law, so as not to make things worse for a student with a potential drug problem who can’t stay in school without financial aid. For one, you must be currently enrolled in school when the arrest occurs. So a student who is arrested in July on summer break won’t lose financial aid eligibility for the fall semester. But an enrolled student arrested in October could lose eligibility for the rest of the school year and beyond.

More recently, lawmakers have been trying to break the link between financial aid and drug convictions. In 2018, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill to help reduce barriers to applying for aid, including removing the drug conviction penalty. So far that bill hasn’t made it out of committee.

In Florida, Key West and some other Keys municipalities have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana among recreational users. Possession of less than 20 grams is treated more like a traffic violation, resulting in a citation and a $100 fine. But state law still takes precedence.

Because of the complexity of Florida and federal drug laws and the harsh penalties that come with them, you should consult an attorney who has successfully handled drug possession cases immediately following your arrest.

Key West Criminal Defense represents clients in drug possession and other criminal cases in southern Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Drug Crimes

Can You Be Prosecuted for Possessing a Drug Without a Prescription?

If you are carrying a prescription drug outside the original packaging and without the paper prescription, you could be arrested for possessing a controlled substance without a prescription — even if a doctor actually prescribed it to you. Although carrying a prescribed drug that isn’t in its original packaging is legal under Florida law, some enforcement officials either aren’t aware of the law or don’t follow it, which can lead to unfortunate and sometimes costly consequences.

If you are arrested for possessing a drug that was legitimately prescribed to you or a relative, a skilled attorney with experience successfully defending such cases can help. For example, your lawyer can raise the “prescription defense,” providing the court with the prescriptions for drugs you may have been carrying for yourself or for someone else, such as an elderly parent. The law restricts you from obtaining drugs illegally but not from putting them in another package, such as a daily pill dispenser.

Your lawyer may assert a defense based on the legality of the police conduct, regardless of whether you’re able to produce a prescription. In 2012, a Florida man, Wallace Deaton, was arrested when police stopped him for parking improperly. With his consent, they searched him and found a single Oxycodone pill in his pants pocket. Deaton said he had a prescription at home, but officers arrested him on the spot. A trial court suppressed the evidence on the ground that there was no probable cause for a warrantless arrest. An appeals court, in State v. Deaton, upheld the decision, noting that “it is not unusual for a traveler with a valid prescription to separate a pill from the prescription bottle for later consumption.”

If you or someone you care about has been arrested for possessing a controlled substance without a prescription, contact a lawyer with experience in successfully handling drug possession cases. They can intervene with police and prosecutors and work with you to develop a sound strategy for your defense.

Key West Criminal Defense represents clients charged with drug possession and other criminal cases in Key West and southern Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Drug Crimes

Can Drug Possession Lead to Lost Driving Privileges?

A serious side effect of a Florida drug possession conviction is the mandatory one-year suspension of the person’s driver’s license that results. The penalty applies to any drug possession — even one not involving a vehicle, such as a marijuana arrest outside a bar. In some cases, sentencing judges may allow a restricted license for business or employment purposes, but they aren’t required to do so.

The license-suspension penalty is considered so strict that some in the Florida legislature have made multiple attempts over the years to soften it. In 2018, the state senate considered but did not pass a bill that would have reduced the maximum suspension to six months and would have made it easier for the court to grant exceptions for driving to work.

Because even a lenient plea agreement in a drug possession case may result in the suspension of your license, consider the consequences to your driving privileges before you agree. Also, consult an attorney with experience in the area of criminal defense of drug possession cases.

To avoid license suspension, your attorney may decide against a plea agreement and go to trial. If you are convicted, you may be able to petition the court for a restricted license so that you can continue driving to work or using your car for business. An attorney familiar with your local court system is more able to gauge the likelihood of a particular judge granting such an exception. Another option is to complete a rehabilitation program, for which you may be eligible six months into your license suspension. After you complete an approved program, your lawyer may petition the court to lift the suspension.

An experienced lawyer may also fight charges on the grounds that police failed to follow proper procedures, such as lawful search and seizure. Police often find illegal drugs during traffic stops. If they found drugs by illegally searching your car, the evidence is inadmissible. Even if the search was legal, prosecutors need to prove you knew the drugs were there. If the car you were driving belongs to a friend, your attorney may be able to argue that you had no knowledge of the drugs.

In drug possession cases, there are numerous avenues of defense to pursue. Be sure to seek out help immediately from an attorney who has experience successfully defending clients in drug cases. Ask about your options, including how you might avoid a suspended driver’s license.

Key West Criminal Defense represents clients in drug possession and other criminal cases in southern Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.