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Uncategorized

Theft, Burglary and Robbery Are Not the Same Crime

The terms robbery, theft and burglary are sometimes used interchangeably in popular discourse, but they are distinct crimes under Florida state law, even though the lines between them aren’t always clear.

For example, taking merchandise from a publicly accessible space in a store is shoplifting, a form of theft. But taking merchandise from a portion of the store that is closed off to the public could be considered a burglary. And if the person uses any degree of force, such as resisting attempts to stop him, the crime could be charged as a robbery.

Theft is considered a petty crime, a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the goods stolen. An item worth less than $100 could result in a $500 fine and a maximum of 60 days in jail, while, on the other end of the spectrum, property valued at $100,000 or more could garner a sentence of up to $10,000 in fines and 30 years in prison.

Burglary, on the other hand, does not require a taking of property. It is simply the act of entering a property without permission with the intent of committing a crime. The gravity of the crime depends to some extent on the property broken into. In Florida, burglary of a home or other dwelling carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Breaking into an automobile, by contrast, carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. If there are aggravating factors — such as possessing a firearm or harming or threatening harm to someone — the sentence might be increased to life in prison.

Robbery is the act of stealing using force, violence or the threat of violence — for example, holding up a shop clerk at gunpoint in broad daylight and making her hand over all the money in the cash drawer. But if the same person breaks into a store after hours and threatens someone inside, that could carry a charge of burglary and robbery. Armed robbery carries a sentence of up to 30 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Theft, burglary and robbery — together or in combination — can carry hefty penalties and fines and require a skilled lawyer to provide an effective defense.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successful defended clients in a range of criminal cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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Uncategorized

What Happens if You Violate Your Probation

Probation is always preferable to jail, but the key to successful probation is to avoid violating it. And that means knowing what kinds of conduct rise to the level of violations.

In Florida, such conduct can include refusing to pay fines ordered by the court; traveling or meeting with certain people without first seeking permission from your officer; possessing, using or selling illegal drugs; getting arrested for any reason; missing appointments with your probation officer or missing a court appearance.

Your probation officer may merely issue you a warning but could require you to appear in court on a Violation of Probation charge. If that happens, it is important to treat the case as seriously and defend it as vigorously as any other criminal charge, which includes retaining a skilled lawyer immediately.

Just because your probation officer says you violated the terms of your probation doesn’t mean the charge will be held up in court. The state must prove that you willfully and substantially violated the terms of your probation. The judge will hear from your probation officer and you as to what exactly happened and will consider your criminal history and the seriousness of your violation.

So if you missed one appointment but gave a reasonable explanation, a judge likely would not consider that either substantial or willful. But missing several appointments would suggest deliberate avoidance, which is much more likely to be considered a violation. Likewise, an arrest alone is not considered a violation, but if you are convicted, it is a serious one.

A capable lawyer may be able to challenge other charges, including positive drug test results, which have been thrown out when the expertise of those administrating drug tests is called into doubt. As in other criminal cases, hearsay generally is not admissible, so a records custodian testifying that you failed a test may be excludable evidence.

Though there are defenses, a Violation of Probation charge is extremely serious and shouldn’t be treated lightly. If a court finds that you violated your probation, the maximum penalty for your original offense could mean going from probation to prison. Other potential consequences are wide ranging, from a warning or an additional fine to new criminal charges or an extension of your probationary period.

If you have been accused of violating probation, immediately contact an experienced lawyer who may be able to contest the charge or minimize penalties.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successful defended clients in a range of criminal cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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battery

What Is The Difference Between Simple and Aggravated Battery?

Battery is the intentional touching of another person without consent, even if that person isn’t harmed. In Florida, this is known as a simple battery, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

But where the touching results in injury, it is an aggravated battery, a second-degree felony that carries serious penalties. 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. The minimum sentence is 10 years in prison if the accused was carrying a firearm.

Defense of a battery case requires skilled criminal defense attorney. For either type of battery, prosecutors must prove that the defendant intended to touch the victim. For a simple battery, your attorney could argue that the touching was an accident, such as bumping into someone in a crowded bar.

Aggravated battery has an added burden of proof. The prosecution must show not only intent to make physical contact but also intent to do bodily harm. In one bizarre case, a Key West wedding ended early when a groomsman was showing off his knife skills after a round of drinks at the bar and accidentally stabbed the groom in the thigh. Because witnesses and even the groom agreed that the groomsman didn’t intend harm, he was charged not with aggravated battery but only with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon.

If you have been charged with battery, retaining a skilled defense attorney who has successfully handled battery cases can make all the difference. Even if a deadly weapon is involved, as in the Key West wedding case, your lawyer could argue that you didn’t intend to hurt anyone or that it was an accident. Other potential defenses against aggravated battery charges include arguing accidental harm, self-defense, mutual combat or alibi.

Not matter how serious you perceive your case to be, contact a lawyer right away.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successfully defended clients in aggravated battery cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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Uncategorized

How a Lawyer Can Defend You After a Marine Life Violation Charge

Key West offers abundant opportunities to enjoy marine activities, whether you are a deep-sea fishing or flats fishing enthusiast. But it’s easy to run afoul of the vast network of Florida laws protecting fish and other marine life. Anything from not having the right license to going over the maximum lobster catch allowed could land you in trouble. You could receive a ticket or you could be charged with a misdemeanor for a more serious violation, such as spearfishing with a bangstick or powerhead.

Your first line of defense is learning the rules that pertain to your activity. For saltwater activities in the Keys and elsewhere in the state, review fishing rules and regulations before leaving shore.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the agency that monitors and enforces state and federal statutes. FWC officers patrol on and offshore and can issue citations or conduct investigations concerning marine-life crimes. If you are stopped by FWC officials, be polite but explain that you would like to have your lawyer present for any questioning. At that point an officer should stop questioning you. Even if an officer tells you that you are facing only a small fine, do not take the promise at face value. The officer could be hoping you will give up additional information. Contacting a lawyer right away can save you in fines and other penalties, including probation or even jail time.

The most serious hunting and fishing violations can result in months of jail time and hundreds of dollars in fines. Contacting an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable in federal and state marine life laws can help you avoid an unpleasant outcome.

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

Categories
key west Warrants & Arrest

Five Reasons Not to Talk to the Police Without a Lawyer (and What to do About it if You Did)

Despite the Miranda warnings familiar to every TV crime show audience, people in custody often talk to police and prosecutors without an attorney present. But the TV shows are right: If you are under arrest, you should never submit to police questioning without the presence of an attorney who has experience defending clients in criminal matters.

Here are five reasons why you should consult an experienced criminal lawyer:

  • Your lawyer knows your rights — Often defendants think they are required to give police anything they ask, particularly if they are convinced it will help their case. Not only should you not answer questions without a lawyer, but you should never submit to DNA testing, allow searches or hand over anything to law enforcement without asking a lawyer first.
  • Police and prosecutors may say they want to help you but their goal is to convict — The U.S. justice system is intentionally adversarial, with police and prosecutors seeking convictions while defendants and their lawyers fight to have charges dropped or win acquittals. Any offer to help you in exchange for information should be viewed with suspicion. You need a lawyer to analyze the potential value of cooperation.
  • You may be helping law enforcement build a case — Sometimes defendants, to please their interrogators, give information that is later used against them. Just because an official offers to give you a better deal for cooperating doesn’t mean they are bound by it. Police are allowed to make promises during interrogations and break them. The presence of a lawyer during interrogation puts a check on such practices.
  • Your lawyer can protect you during an interrogation — A good lawyer will advise you on what questions you should or should not answer. He or she will also see through police ploys, such as a friendly offer of a can of soda that is later confiscated to test for DNA. Likewise, when police ask an unfair question or one whose answer could incriminate you, your lawyer can object before you have a chance to give information that could hurt your case.
  • If you’re not in custody, anything you say still can be used against you — Even a routine traffic stop can be investigatory, triggering the requirement that police give Miranda In Florida, you are required only to identify yourself during a traffic stop and to hand over license and registration information when police ask for it. Answering further questions can be declined on the grounds that you request the right of counsel.

When retaining counsel in a criminal defense case, look for a lawyer who has successfully defended clients facing criminal charges in Florida and specifically in cases similar to yours.

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

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Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

What a DUI Conviction Could Cost You

A DUI conviction, in addition to carrying stiff penalties such as jail and driver’s license suspension, can be hurt your finances. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that the total cost of a DUI conviction, including fines, insurance increases and attorney fees, is typically around $8,000. This alone is incentive to seek out the best counsel to mount a careful defense — if avoiding jail and license suspension isn’t reason enough.

These are some of the out-of-pocket costs you may face:

  • Fines — For a first conviction in a DUI case, the fines are $500 to $1,000 — and double that amount for DUIs for blood alcohol content of .15 percent or more. The fines also increase if you’ve had previous DUI convictions.
  • DMV charges — The DMV will charge fees for any driving records you require, as well as other fees associated with reinstating your license or temporary licensing.
  • Probation costs — If you’ve been sentenced to probation, you may have to pay fees associated with drug testing, telephone reporting, monitoring and other administrative costs.
  • Community service — Your sentence or plea agreement may also include community service with the option to pay the hourly rate for the work instead of completing the service.
  • Alcohol education program — In Florida, drunk driving sentences can also require completion of an alcohol education program, for which you will be charged nearly $300.
  • Towing and impoundment costs — Even if you’re not convicted, you may have to pay for your car to be towed and impounded, which is standard procedure after a DUI arrest.

So it’s clear that a win in court — or even a fair plea deal — can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Hiring a knowledgeable lawyer who has successfully defended clients in DUI cases can make all the difference. These cases can be complex and many criminal defense lawyers don’t have experience with the nuances of the process. A skilled attorney may be able to have charges dropped or reduced and, even if you are convicted, can help you minimize the penalties and the long-term consequences of a DUI on your record.

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

Categories
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

What Are Your Options After Being Charged With a DUI in Key West?

When you’re arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, you must deal with the criminal court charges as well as the mandatory suspension of your driver’s license.

A typical DUI arrest occurs after a traffic stop, which could be due to a violation like running a red light or speeding or to the driver swerving or showing other signs of impairment. Police can also arrest an impaired person in a parked vehicle if that person is in control of the vehicle with keys in proximity. An officer can request that a driver participate in a field sobriety exercise and may also ask to administer a Breathalyzer test or a blood test if the driver shows signs of impairment.

As in other states, the legal threshold for impairment is blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. For drivers ages 21 and under, the law considers a BAC of .02 percent as impaired. Even first-time DUI convictions carry stiff penalties, such as 90-day license suspension, jail time, fines and reinstatement fees and the loss of student loan eligibility.

With so much at stake, engaging a skilled lawyer with successful experience defending DUI cases is critical. Your lawyer may call into question the probable cause for the traffic stop, the validity of the breath test, the conditions of the field sobriety test and the timing of the blood alcohol test. Alternatively, your lawyer may advise you to accept a plea deal that reduces the charge to reckless driving. Every case is different and your lawyer will consider all of the facts before advising you on your best options.

Another legal problem to be resolved is that after a DUI arrest, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license. Your lawyer can petition the DHSMV for a civil hearing to seek reinstatement of your license due to hardship, which requires proof of enrollment in DUI school and, in some cases, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for up to six months.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have handled many DUI cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Categories
battery

What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery in Florida?

In Florida, assault and battery are two separate crimes, despite often being linked together. Both carry potentially serious penalties, including incarceration and fines. The difference is that assault refers to a threat that causes fear of harm, whereas battery is an unwanted touching or causing of physical harm.

An incident can be both assault and battery — a threat combined with unwanted contact — or just one of the two. Imagine a scenario in which someone is slapped from behind. If they didn’t see it coming, they weren’t fearful. In such a case, there would be a battery but no assault.

Both offenses may be charged in varying degrees. Ordinary assault is a second-degree misdemeanor, while aggravated assault — one that involves a deadly weapon — is a third-degree felony. If the deadly weapon is a firearm, then a distinct charge applies: aggravated assault with a firearm — a crime that carries a mandatory minimum three-year prison term.

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.

If you’ve been charged with assault and/or battery, your best recourse is an experienced, skilled lawyer who will review the facts of your case and determine a defensive strategy. Potential defenses include showing that the incident was accidental or otherwise unintentional, that the alleged victim gave consent for physical contact or that the action was made in self-defense, in defense of someone else or of property.

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

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battery

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.

Categories
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.