FAQ

DUI

What should I do if I am arrested on a DUI charge?

A DUI charge does not translate to a conviction.  After you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, by taking certain measures you increase your chances of disputing your charge in a court or negotiating your charge with prosecution.  The preparation that you begin now may become invaluable later on in the trial process.

If the arresting officer has situated you in his cruiser and is driving you to the station for booking, you may find that they attempt to strike up conversation with you.  While you may feel tempted to defend yourself or justify your actions, it is highly advisable that you remain silent.  At this point, the decision to arrest has already been made and you will not be able to talk your way out of it.  By speaking with the officer, you run the risk of incriminating yourself or providing the prosecution with fodder to use against you later on in trial.  In many cases, the officer will be recording any conversation occurring within their squad car.  Even if you are not being recorded, the arresting officer may testify to your statements during trial.

Similarly, anything that you may say or that is overheard by an officer after you have arrived at the police station, during booking, or while you are in a jail cell may be used in your prosecution.  Be cognizant of what you are saying, and avoid topics involving your night’s activity or the circumstances of your arrest.  The less information you provide to law enforcement, the less evidence the prosecution will have to push for a conviction.

Until the arresting officer has read you your Miranda Rights, anything that you say can be used against you in trial.  However, once your rights are relayed to you, you may speak without the risk of self-incrimination.  After you have been read your rights, you may also request to speak with an attorney.  If you already have an attorney you can contact, the officers should allow you time to give them a phone call.  If not, they may assign you a public defender to speak with.

If you are able to, try and write down as many details about the events that transpired as you can.  Even seemingly minute or insignificant interactions or observations may help your attorney build a strong defense.  Do not discount any potential information that may be in any ways useful.

Will I be able to get a job with a DUI on my record?

It is true that a DUI may affect your options and ability to secure employment in some industries.  Some government jobs or other industries do not allow those convicted of misdemeanors or felonies to hold employment with them.

Most employment applications include a section asking whether the applicant has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.  If you encounter this or a similar question, it is always in your best interests to answer honestly.  Many employers perform background checks on their prospective employees, and it will always look worse for you to be caught in a lie than to start out with complete honesty.  A conviction does not necessarily disqualify you from employment, but lying during the application process certainly will.

By showing honesty in the initial phases of the interview process, you are more likely to gain the employer’s trust.  You are not required to elaborate on the circumstances of your DUI, however if you took subsequent driving classes or other treatment after your DUI you may regain credibility with the employer.  You may even use it as an opportunity to elaborate on what you learned from the process, and to demonstrate positive qualities that the employer may be looking for in the position.

If you can demonstrate that you are an exemplary candidate in every other aspect, many employers will be willing to overlook your past infractions.  As you demonstrate your value to the company, the DUI will steadily decrease in influence in the workplace.

Obviously, the ideal situation would be not to incur a DUI conviction in the first place.  Unfortunately, such a conviction looks unattractive on any candidate’s record, no matter how strong they may be in every other applicable arena.  However, even in situations where you cannot avoid a DUI conviction, you should still be able to secure employment.  Your options may be narrower than individuals without a criminal conviction, and you may face a tougher interview process.  However, many employers will make concessions for the otherwise ideal job candidate.

Why should I hire a DUI defense lawyer?

A good DUI lawyer is not cheap, and cannot guarantee a particular outcome.  So, why should you commit to such a significant cost?  Well for starters, a DUI conviction can be an extremely costly endeavor.  In addition to the statutory penalties explicitly stated in the law, there are many hidden costs that result from a DUI conviction.  A judge may assess mandatory alcohol treatment or driving programs, at 100% cost to the defendant.

Auto insurance companies treat DUI’s with severity.  A DUI conviction will automatically garner you an assessment as a high-risk member, resulting in skyrocketing insurance premiums.  In the worst-case scenario, your car insurance company may even cancel your policy entirely, or decline to renew your policy when it expires.  If you are forced to seek car insurance with a different carrier, your previous policy cancellation will constitute a black mark on your insurance record and you will likely be assessed very high premiums.

Additionally, you may face added DMV costs not incorporated in your court-mandated penalties.  Mandatory costs of impounding your vehicle and reinstating your driver’s license add up.
Further, if you fail to have your license reinstated, you will be restricted from legally driving.  If you are caught driving without a license, you face further charges, fines and even jail time.

By failing to hire a DUI lawyer, you preclude the possibility of using their connections to your case’s advantage.  You will not have access to networks of medical professionals that could testify on your behalf.  You will also have less success in attempting to negotiate deals with prosecution without the preexisting relationships a seasoned DUI attorney has established with prosecutors and officials.

You may also be less successful in identifying areas of weakness or evidence in the prosecution’s case if you choose to dispute your charges.  Issues of the accuracy of field sobriety and chemical tests, as well as legal cause for arrest and other issues are areas that only a talented DUI lawyer will be able to navigate.

Finally, in failing to hire a DUI attorney, the entire burden of litigation will fall on you.  You will be responsible for filing all materials by stipulated deadlines, or you will face additional penalties.  If your case progresses to trial, you will be responsible for organizing and presenting your case on your own, with no expert assistance.

If you are facing DUI charges and waffling on whether to retain a DUI lawyer, consider the above factors carefully.  You do not want to make a decision you may regret, resulting in additional cost, stress and ongoing penalties in the future.

How will a DUI affect my insurance?

As is the case with most traffic violations, a DUI conviction carries the risk of increasing your insurance premiums.  Because DUI is considered such a serious infraction, if convicted you may find yourself with rapidly increasing premiums over the next 5 years, in some cases up to 300% of what you had previously been paying.  In the worst case, your insurance company may choose to cancel your policy entirely, or to choose not to renew your policy once it expires.

While you may seek out coverage from other insurance providers, your DUI and the fact that your previous insurance was cancelled by the carrier will paint you as a potentially risk candidate for coverage and most companies will assess higher premiums.  For many individuals convicted of a DUI, the skyrocketing insurance premiums become too great to continue insurance coverage.  However, if you allow your car insurance coverage to lapse in Florida, the DMV will automatically suspend your driver’s license, restricting your ability to drive and seriously inconveniencing you.  If you are cited for driving with a suspended driver’s license, the result can be very serious penalties and a further negatively impacted driving record.

After you have received a conviction of DUI, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended.  In order to have your driver’s license reinstated, you will be forced to request an FR-44 form from your insurance provider.  This form details the limits of your policy and demonstrates continued financial responsibility for your car insurance.  The form also stipulates that your carrier must notify your DMV in the event that your car insurance changes in any way, is cancelled or terminated, or lapses for any reason.

Your request for this form automatically notifies your provider of your conviction and will cause them to reevaluate your policy and premiums, taking into account your new, higher risk status.
If your current car insurance policy does not meet the minimum requirements set out by the state of Florida in the FR-44 liability limits, you will be forced to increase your policies coverage at a high cost to yourself.  Currently, the FR-44 liability limits in Florida require that the driver have bodily liability insurance amounting to $100,000 per person, $300,000 per occurrence and $50,000 property damage.  These financial requirements are ten times greater than those levied on drivers who have not been convicted of a DUI.

How can a DUI Lawyer help my case?

Being charged with a DUI can be overwhelming, and many individuals are not equipped with the knowledge, time or other resources to successfully defend against these potentially damaging allegations.  A DUI attorney can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the complex legal process involved in a DUI, and secure a favorable outcome for your case.

First and foremost, an experienced DUI lawyer can give you information.  With in-depth knowledge about local DUI laws, law enforcement and the local court system, a DUI attorney can explain to you exactly what sorts of issues will arise during your case, and what sorts of penalties or other fallout you may be facing.  Alone, you risk entering the process blind.  With an accomplished DUI attorney at your side, there will be no surprises.

A qualified DUI attorney will have handled many cases similar to yours already, and will know exactly how to address each of the particularities of your situation.  They will have undergone the process several times and will know what strategies work, and which will fall flat in front of a judge or jury.  An experienced attorney will anticipate the prosecution’s strategy and will craft a completely comprehensive defense.

A seasoned DUI lawyer will have been working in the area long enough to have positive working relationships with area prosecutors, judges, law enforcement, medical experts and other professionals involved in the DUI litigation process.  They will be able to use these relationships to your advantage, negotiating favorable settlements, plea deals and alternative arrangements.  They will have developed credibility and a good reputation as a strong litigator.

A good DUI lawyer will be able to give you multiple options in pursuing your case.  Most aspects of the legal process involve more than one possible choice, strategy or tactic from which to approach the issue.  A DUI lawyer should be able to provide you with several options and a realistic assessment of the outcome of each.

Most beneficially, a DUI attorney can bear most of the burden of your case.  Most people are busy with work, family and other obligations, and cannot afford to spend hours upon hours filling out and filing paperwork, appearing in court and in meetings.  A DUI lawyer can take care of most of this for you.  They can handle both your criminal case and any DMV issues, such as license suspension, allowing you to get back on the road legally with minimal effect on your daily life.

Do I need a DUI lawyer for my case?

Although the benefits of hiring a DUI lawyer are apparent, some facing DUI charges remain skeptical of the necessity of hiring one.  Lawyers can be costly, and there is no guarantee that your chosen attorney will secure a favorable outcome.

When deciding whether or not hiring a DUI lawyer is worthwhile, defendants will first consider the question of whether they should simply plead guilty to their charges.  Under some circumstances, an automatic plea of guilty may wind up being the easiest route.  If the circumstances of your arrest are such that you will almost certainly be convicted, it may make more sense to expedite the process and plead guilty.  For example, if you were pulled over and found to have a BAC in excess of .15 and the arresting officer will testify that you were driving recklessly or erratically, it may be worth it for you to consider a guilty plea.

However, in most circumstances where even a modicum of doubt can be conjured as to your DUI charge, it would be to your advantage to speak with qualified DUI counsel.  Even if you are convinced that you will be found guilty, a DUI lawyer may be able to work out a plea deal with prosecution, or secure a modified sentence that will prove less burdensome for you in the future.  Bear in mind that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of DUI in order to secure a conviction.  This is an extremely tough burden of evidence to prove, and any room for skepticism could result in a lesser charge or even your case being thrown out of court entirely.  Only a DUI expert attorney will know exactly what details to look for in generating a strong case.

Many DUI lawyers will provide cost free and obligation free initial consultations to potential clients considering whether to hire them.  During these evaluations, the attorney will listen to the defendant’s account of the events at issue and will provide them with options in pursuing their legal case.  These consultations serve to introduce the potential client to the specific benefits they stand to glean from retaining the attorney’s services.  If you are still on the fence about whether to employ the services of a DUI lawyer, look into the free consultation option and see what your prospective lawyer has to say about their offerings.

What is the legal blood alcohol limit in Florida?

What constitutes the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in Florida is dependent on certain characteristics of the driver.  For drivers under 21 (the legal age that one may consume alcohol), the BAC limit is .02%.  For individuals 21 and over, the limit is .08%.  For individuals operating a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is half the normal limit, or .04%.

Individuals found in excess of the above limits will be charged with criminal DUI.  Sentencing guidelines in Florida vary based on the percent above the legal BAC, as well as the number of previous DUIs that individual has been convicted of.

For an individual over the age of 21 operating a private vehicle, a first DUI involving a BAC between .08% and .15% warrants a maximum penalty of $1,000 and 6 months in jail.  A finding of .15% BAC or above carries a maximum penalty of 9 months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

For that same individual’s second DUI, the maximum penalty for a BAC below .15% is 9 months in jail and a $2,000 fine.  A BAC above .15% warrants a maximum yearlong stint in jail and a $4,000 fine.  If the second DUI conviction occurs within five years of the first, the individual will also receive a suspension of their driver’s license for five years.

In addition to the above Florida sentencing guidelines, those convicted of DUI may receive other court-mandated penalties such as license suspensions, mandatory treatment or community service, and ignition interlock devices.  Penalties increase with each subsequent DUI conviction.

What happens if I am convicted of DUI?

If you are found guilty of a DUI, the court will assess penalties based on the state sentencing guidelines dictated by statute.  In Florida, if this is your first offense, you will be facing a maximum of 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 (if your BAC is below .15).  Assuming you do not maintain a lengthy criminal record, it is likely that the judge will show leniency on your first offense and not assess significant jail time, however Florida law requires that an individual convicted of DUI be spend no less than 8 hours in jail.  The judge may opt instead for mandatory alcohol treatment programs or community service.

Penalties increase with each subsequent DUI conviction, culminating in a designation as a “habitual offender” under Florida statute upon your fourth conviction.  A fourth offense can result in up to five years of jail time, but, most severely, the Florida DMV will revoke your license for life without the possibility for reinstatement as a result of hardship.

Recent legislation passed in 2010 allowed this restriction to be reduced for four-time offenders who meet certain prerequisites.  As long as the original offense did not include a charge of manslaughter and as long as the offender does not drive for a period of ten years after conviction, they may be eligible for license reinstatement after ten years, with a one-year probationary driving period with restricted driving privileges.

Your vehicle will be impounded by the police department for a period of ten days upon your first conviction.  This period does not begin accruing until after you have been released from incarceration.  The DMV will also revoke your driver’s license for 6 months or longer, although in some cases you may apply for and be granted a hardship exception that will allow you to drive sooner.

Your judge may also invoke their power to require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in your vehicle.   The device acts like a portable breathalyzer, requiring the driver to exhale into the device before they can start the ignition of their car.  If the device detects a certain amount of alcohol on the breath, it will now allow the vehicle to start.
A DUI will remain on your driving record for 75 years after your initial conviction.  This may affect your driving privileges and insurance premiums.

Should I submit to a urine test?

If an individual is suspected of driving under the influence, the first chemical test the arresting officer will likely request is a breathalyzer.  However, if the suspect blows below the legal limit of .08 BAC but the arresting officer continues to suspect impairment, they may order a urine test.  Unlike a breathalyzer, which measures only the percent of alcohol in the blood stream, a urine test can be used to determine the presence of any potentially impairing substances in the body, including marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs and many others.

Urine testing can be potentially problematic for a number of reasons.  Evidence of illicit substances found during a urine test can potentially result in drug related charges in addition to the originally suspected DUI.  Parolees or other individuals under restrictions against drug use may find themselves in serious legal trouble if evidence of any controlled narcotic is found in the urine, even if the substance was not related to the reason for arrest.  Further, urine tests have been shown to be inaccurate in predicting at what time the substance was ingested.  Suspects may be charged with a DUI because their urine test found evidence of a certain cough syrup you had ingested hours before your arrest.

When asked to take a urine test, you need to take your individual situation into consideration.  Refusal to acquiesce to this request may result in automatic assessment of DMV penalties like driver’s license suspension.  However, the results of a urine test will be used by the prosecution in crafting their DUI case against you.

Are the tests for intoxification reliable?

The successful prosecution of a DUI is dependent on the accuracy of the battery of tests that law enforcement officials use to determine intoxication in drivers.  Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was above a specific, legally mandated limit, and their impaired driving could not be attributed to factors other than intoxication with alcohol. The empirical measurements provided by standardized testing employed by law enforcement officials are heavily relied upon to secure prosecution.

However, the reliability and accuracy of these tests are the subjects of constant dispute among law enforcement, government officials, medical and technical experts and defense attorneys.  The previous testing standard was the Field Sobriety Test (FST), which was employed by the police officer at the site where the suspect was initially pulled over.  These tests relied on the officer’s subjective observations of the suspect while they were asked to perform a series of physical tasks meant to evaluate their fine motor skills, balance and other skills that may be impaired by consumption of alcohol.

These tests fell out of favor when it was discovered that they were extremely unreliable in testing the true level of intoxication (or lack thereof) of the suspect.  Some studies found that up to half of completely sober FST participants in ideal conditions (even surface, well-lit, etc.) would be found to be impaired based on the standards of the test.  Presently, officers may ask someone suspected of drunk driving to perform an FST to provide justification for further chemical testing, but the results of the FST would likely be insufficient to secure a DUI conviction.

The current standard of intoxication testing is chemical testing.  These tests are performed with an examination of a biological sample taken from the suspect – usually breath, blood or urine.  Using medical grade equipment, law enforcement officials can determine a suspect’s BAC as a percentage of alcohol by volume or by mass of blood.

While more scientific and objective than FSTs, the reliability of chemical tests has also been challenged.  Breathalyzers in particular are the subject of scrutiny, as they are the most widely conducted of the chemical tests but also possess the most potential for error.  Many factors can contribute to an erroneous breathalyzer reading, including miscalibration of the device, improper administration of the test by non-medical personnel, improper assumptions of blood-to-breath ratio inherent in the device or certain characteristics of the testee such as age, gender, pre-existing medical conditions and other considerations.

Blood tests are considered to be the most reliable test of BAC currently available.  Unfortunately, these tests require administration by licensed medical professionals and special equipment that most police stations do not have readily available.  They are also much more intrusive for the suspect.

What is a DUI?

A DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is a criminal charge of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or another substance that can compromise your normal driving abilities.  Although the criteria for DUI vary between jurisdictions, all states in the United States have DUI laws on the books.

In Florida, if you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer and found to have a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .08 or greater, you will be arrested for DUI.  .08 BAC indicates that there is .08% or more alcohol in your blood stream, which is the legal limit allowed for operating a motor vehicle in Florida.

DUI is usually synonymous with alcohol, or drunk driving.  However, DUI or similar charges can be issued for any number of potentially impairing substances, such as marijuana, ecstasy, prescription medications and other controlled substances.

DUI is also typically associated with the operation of a car or truck, however can more broadly apply in instances where an impaired individual is found operating a motorcycle, boat, certain machinery and, in some jurisdictions, a bicycle (sometimes known as a BUI).

Florida DUI’s typically involve two separate actions.  The first is the criminal charge, which will require the defendant to appear in criminal court and issue a plea.  The second action occurs with the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which will move to suspend the defendant’s driver’s license.  Florida has instated an Implied Consent Law, which stipulates that it is understood that all holders of Florida driver’s licenses have consented to a chemical test if they are suspected of DUI.  In the event that the defendant refuses a chemical BAC test, the DMV will automatically revoke the defendant’s driver’s license unless the defendant actively seeks to dispute their license suspension.

DUI offenses come coupled with graduated penalties that increase with each subsequent DUI incurred.  In Florida, an individual’s first DUI conviction necessitates 180 days to a year-long revocation of the driver’s license.  The court may also mandate a maximum 6-month period of incarceration and a fine between $500-$1,000.  Second offenses warrant mandatory 10 days jail time, and up to 9 months, as well as a fine of up to $2,000 and a license suspension of 5 years.  The penalties continue to increase with each subsequent DUI assessed.
Collateral penalties may be enforced as well, including community service, mandatory treatment classes or the installation of an ignition interlock device into the defendant’s vehicle.

About DUI

DUI is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence.  Also referred to as DWI (driving while intoxicated), drunk driving, operating under the influence, impaired driving and many other names, DUI refers to the crime of operating a motor vehicle or certain kinds of machinery while impacted by alcohol or other compromising substances.

The crime is often associated with alcohol, and most jurisdictions enforce a maximum BAC (blood alcohol content) with which an individual can legally operate a motor vehicle.  Anything above this BAC constitutes criminal DUI.
BAC can be measured in a number of ways.  A blood test or breathalyzer test is commonly conducted, which measure the percent of alcohol in the blood stream by the individual’s weight.  These tests require special equipment, and which test is performed is dependent on the resources of the law enforcement division that performs the arrest.

In the past and in cases where these tests cannot be administered, law enforcement officials have had to rely on less empirical tests to determine whether a DUI charge can be levied.  A subjective battery of tests known as Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) have been approved by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).  These tests can include walking in a straight line or balancing on one leg for thirty seconds, during which the law enforcement officer will observe the suspect and look for any signs of unreasonable intoxication.  The results of these tests, coupled with the officer’s observations of suspicious driving before pulling the suspect over, used to be enough to secure a conviction of DUI.

DUI or similar charges can also apply in a situation involving any potentially impairing substance, including marijuana, prescription drugs or even some over-the-counter cough syrups.  Testing for these substances differs, and laws governing their treatment vary between jurisdictions.  However, any DUI related conviction can result in hefty fines, driver’s license suspension and, in the most serious cases, jail time.

Should I perform the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)?

If you are pulled over and the police officer suspects you may be intoxicated, they may ask you to perform an FST.  These tests require participants to perform a series of simple physical tasks during which the officer will look for signs of impairment, such as compromised balance, depth perception, reaction time and other factors.  Common FSTs include walking in a straight line, or balancing on one leg for thirty seconds.

FSTs are notoriously difficult to successfully complete, and police officers expect an extremely high level of accuracy to warrant a passing grade.  In fact, a police officer will ask you to perform an FST for no other reason than to establish reasonable suspicion to arrest you and require a chemical test of your blood alcohol content (BAC).  In most cases, an FST is set up to ensure your failure, and in general, you should refuse to perform these tests.  They are entirely subjective, and the findings will only be used in court to support the prosecutions case against you.  You stand to gain little from submitting to an FST, but potentially lose much.

Even if you are completely sober and confident that you could perform the test satisfactorily, circumstances beyond your control may affect your results.  FSTs are usually performed in extremely high stress situations.  Often on the side of busy roads, test takers can be distracted or startled by bright lights, loud noises or other external occurrences.  These distractions may cause you to loose balance or focus, or otherwise make a mistake.  Even a minute stutter in speech during one of these tests will be incorporated in points against you.  The observing officer may attribute any misstep made on the part of the test taker to alcohol impairment, resulting in arrest and further chemical testing at the police station.

Even if you manage to pass an FST, the officer may choose to arrest you anyways based on other criteria (such as erratic driving or behavioral cues).  An FST is by no means a quick way to avoid arrest.  More likely than not, the FST will be used to bolster the officer’s claims that your arrest was warranted.

You are under no obligation to submit to a FST, and the officer is aware of this fact.  Refusal to submit to the test cannot be held against you, and when asked to perform the test, it’s a safer bet to opt out.

Do I have the right to speak to an attorney if I have been arrested for DUI?

Absolutely.  However, there are certain phases of the arrest process where your request may go unheeded.  An attorney will be brought in only during the testimony phase, which occurs after the officers have completed their search and gathered whatever physical evidence they require.

You do not have the right to speak with an attorney before submitting to a chemical test (such as a breathalyzer, urine or blood test).  These tests are considered part of the search phase, and you don’t have the right to an attorney before the law enforcement search is complete.  In fact, if you respond to a request for a chemical test with a demand to speak with an attorney, your answer may be treated as a refusal to submit to the test.  This would put you in breech of Florida’s implied consent law, and result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license.

However, once the police have completed their search you should immediately demand to speak with a qualified DUI attorney.  If you do not have an outside attorney, you should be automatically assigned a public defense attorney.  Officers may attempt to ask you questions or to give testimony, however in order to protect yourself and avoid self-incrimination you should insist on waiting until your attorney is present.  Your attorney should be able to advise you on how best to answer these questions and what subsequent actions to take.

What are the different tests for intoxication?

Although the law enforcement officer will begin looking for signs of intoxication before they even pull a suspect over, there are certain standardized testing procedures that are instituted in Florida for dealing with suspicions of intoxication.
The first line of testing you will encounter when a law enforcement officer suspects you of intoxication is known as Field Sobriety Testing (FST).  They are performed before arrest, at the venue where the officer initially pulled over the suspect.  These tests are designed to test motor skills, balance and accuracy that are often impaired with alcohol consumption.  Common tests that you may encounter include:

  • Being asked to touch a finger to your nose
  • Being asked to balance on one leg
  • Being asked to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe

Highly subjective and the subject of scrutiny, these tests are notoriously difficult and, in many cases, are inaccurate metrics of intoxication.  Even under ideal conditions, as many as half of completely sober test-takers cannot perform the tests to the required standards.  When performed in the field, exigent and environmental factors further impact the results of the tests.
The second line of testing you will encounter is a chemical test, typically performed after arrest has been made.  There are three main categories of chemical testing you may find:

  • Breath test (breathalyzer)
  • Blood test
  • Urine test

All of these tests measure the amount of alcohol in the blood stream.  Alternatively known as Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), Blood Alcohol Level (BAL), blood alcohol concentration and others, they usually give the percent of alcohol in the blood stream by volume.

The breathalyzer requires that the suspect blow into a machine for a certain period of time, then indirectly measures the BAC based on the concentration of alcohol in the breath.  The blood and urine tests require the suspect to provide a sample of bodily fluid to be tested either on-site or in a lab.

All of these tests give a fairly accurate measurement of the BAC, and are generally the measurement relied upon by the prosecution and the courts when dealing with a DUI case.

To blow or not to blow?

If you have been pulled over and the police officer has found reasonable cause to suspect you have been driving while impaired by alcohol, they may ask you to take a breathalyzer test.  These machines measure the amount of alcohol in the blood stream indirectly by testing a sample of the breath to measure the amount of alcohol present.

Some officers may carry hand-held breathalyzer units in the field, however the reports that these units generate can be of dubious accuracy and they are typically only used as a complement to standard field sobriety tests or to justify cause for arrest and subsequent, more accurate chemical testing.  Many police stations also possess a desktop breathalyzer unit.  These units use a different type of technology and produce results accurate enough to justify a criminal DUI charge.

Many DUI law firms will advise you to refuse a breath analysis test under any circumstances.  While it is true that a failing breathalyzer measurement will almost automatically result in a DUI charge, we believe that in some cases it may be to your benefit to submit to a breathalyzer test.  Few legal questions can be answered in such black and white terms, and in general a little common sense should be applied when confronted with a request for a breathalyzer test.

If you have indeed been drinking and have even a modicum of suspicion that you may blow a BAC above the legal limit, it is in your interests to refuse the breathalyzer test.  With that empirical evidence in hand, law enforcement has no further burden of evidence to collect to obtain a DUI conviction, and you will have little recourse to fight these charges.  However, by refusing this test, law enforcement will be forced to collect secondary or more subjective evidence to try and build a successful case against you.  These methods allow for more potential for error, giving you more chances to dispute their findings in court.

However, if you are absolutely convinced that you would pass a breathalyzer test, you may want to consider submitting to the officer’s request.  In the same way that a failing measurement will almost always automatically result in a DUI charge, a passing measurement will usually result in your immediate release and prevent further inconvenience.  Unlike subjective criteria, numbers and empirical data present a difficult metric to argue against in a court of law.

Florida has instituted an implied consent law, which dictates that all citizens who have been granted a Florida driver’s license have implicitly consented to submit to a chemical test if requested by a law enforcement officer.  A refusal to submit to one of these tests constitutes a breach of this consent, and results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 6 months on your first refusal, and increasing with each subsequent refusal, regardless of whether you are found guilty of a DUI.  To dispute the suspension requires you to pursue a separate action from your criminal case with the DMV, which can be inconvenient for many.

When asked to perform a breathalyzer, we advise you to use your best judgment.  If you are absolutely sober, or have only had a few drinks spread over an extended period of time, you may want to consider submitting to the test.  Otherwise, you have a greater chance of avoiding a DUI conviction if you refuse the test.

What should I do if I get stopped by a police officer and he asks if I have been drinking?

If you see those blue flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, the first thing to do is do NOT panic.  The way you compose yourself now and in your subsequent interactions with the police officer will be critical in preventing a DUI charge or defending yourself in court against this charge.  Demonstrating control and comfort in the officer’s presence will help to mitigate their suspicion that you have been drinking.

The officer may ask you if you have been drinking tonight.  In dealing with the police officer, you want to be courteous but admit to nothing.  An officer needs to have reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated before they can pursue a DUI investigation.  By admitting to drinking and driving, you give that officer cause to push for a chemical test of your intoxication level.  You are not obligated to provide the officer with any information other than that which is listed on your driver’s license, and your refusal to provide this information does not constitute cause for the officer to pursue the matter further.

Cause can be established in a number of ways, beginning with his observations of your driving behavior before pulling you over.  Swerving or erratic driving may provide sufficient cause for the officer to request a chemical test.  However, if you were pulled over for a routine reason, such as a broken tail light or speeding, these factors do not constitute cause to pursue suspicions of drunk driving.

If the officer is unable to detect cause warranting a chemical test during his preliminary interactions with you, he may ask you to step out of the car and perform a field sobriety test (FST).  It is within your rights to refuse this test, and you should absolutely do so.  The only reason an officer may ask you to perform an FST is to establish cause to ask you for a chemical test, the results of which are more difficult to refute in court.

Even if you have taken all of these steps, the officer may still push for a chemical test.  Florida has an “implied consent” law, which mandates that all those possessing a Florida driver’s license must consent to a chemical test.  However, if in court it is found that the officer failed to establish reasonable suspicion and cause to request this test, the results may be inadmissible and your case may be thrown out.

Throughout these proceedings, be polite and courteous to the officer, but be aware that you are not legally obligated to comply with all of his requests.  Even if he chooses to arrest you, taking these preliminary steps may bolster your court case refuting the basis of your DUI charge.

Should I submit to a blood test?

There is no straightforward answer to this question that can apply in all cases.  In general, if you were absolutely sure that you would pass such a test, it would likely be in your benefit to comply with law enforcement’s request for a blood test.  If you refuse, immediate penalties will be assessed on your driver’s license, regardless of whether you are found guilty of a DUI.  License suspension for an initial infraction in Florida is 6 months, and increases with each subsequent refusal to submit to a chemical BAC test.  If you are completely sober or have only had a few drinks over an extended period of time, you may be able to avoid these DMV penalties by submitting to a blood test and presenting empirical proof that you are not too intoxicated to legally drive.

If, however, you have been drinking and have any suspicion that you may be over the legal limit, you may want to consider your options.  The inconvenience of a license suspension is significant, however a DUI conviction may be even more so.  A DUI conviction will persist on your criminal record, add points to your driver’s license and potentially increase your insurance premiums, as well as carry any court-ordered penalties such as fines, treatment or jail time.  Because a blood test presents the most accurate reading of BAC available, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to argue against the results of a blood test during a DUI court proceeding.  It may then be beneficial for your future DUI defense case to refuse a blood test.

However, Florida law mandates that any individual suspected of DUI in the course of an accident that involves serious injury or death can be forcibly compelled to submit to a blood test.  If the suspect refuses a blood test, law enforcement officials must first seek a warrant to perform an invasive blood drawing procedure.  However, this refusal will be documented and can be used to demonstrate cause later on in a criminal trial.  The DMV will also automatically institute the driver’s license suspension protocols that are mandated with the refusal of any chemical test.

If a law enforcement officer asks you to submit to a blood test while you are under suspicion of DUI, take a moment to evaluate your situation and the potential fallout of both of your options.  A little common sense goes a long way in negotiating these precarious situations.

How long does a DUI stay on my record?

Florida statute maintains that a DUI conviction in the state of Florida will remain on your permanent record and on your driving record for 75 years.  For most drivers, this well exceeds their prospective life span, and record of their DUI conviction will remain on their record for the rest of their lives.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is the entity responsible for the maintenance of Florida state driving records.  The Department notes that most traffic infractions that involve the accrual of points on an individual’s driver’s license remain on their driving record for ten years.  However, serious violations like manslaughter, vehicular homicide, DUI and other DUI-related convictions remain on the driver’s record for 75 years.

There is no way to avoid this particular penalty after conviction as the DMV does not allow expungements or other attempts to remove existing records, however you may be able to plead guilty for a lesser offense and avoid a DUI conviction.

What signs of impairment does the officer look for?

Police officers are given extensive training in how to identify an intoxicated or otherwise impaired driver.    These signs can be grouped into three different phases – the “vehicle in motion” phase, the “personal contact” phase and the “pre-arrest screening” phase.

The “vehicle in motion” phase begins before the officer makes contact with the driver.  Signs of impairment that an officer will be looking for during this stage include reckless driving, swerving over the center or side lines of the lane, excessively slow driving, driving at night without headlights on, erratic braking and stopping without reason.  Any traffic violation observed by the officer may constitute a sign of impairment.  If an officer is called to the scene of an accident that occurs late at night, a suspicion of impairment is almost always in play.

Once you have been pulled over, the officer will begin looking for signs of impairment based on their direct observations.  The officer will be trained to notice factors apparent to sight, smell and hearing.  A strong smell of alcohol in the car or on the driver is always a tip-off.  A driver sucking on a mint, potentially to mask the smell of alcohol, may also be suspicious.  The officer may look for visual cues such as disheveled appearance, unfocused or bloodshot eyes, or empty containers in the car.  Behavioral cues are also a significant factor in this phase.  Fumbling or inability to multitask (for example, inability to answer questions while simultaneously retrieving identification or insurance information), slurred speech and confused responses to questions are telltale signs of alcohol impairment.

If the officer maintains suspicions of impairment after your initial interaction, they may ask you to exit the car.  In doing so, they will be looking for additional signs of impairment.  These can include leaning on the car for stability, swaying, staggered movement or clumsiness.  The officer may ask you to take a Field Sobriety Test (FST), during which they will ask you to perform some physical tasks that legal statute indicates an unimpaired individual should be able to complete without issue.  Common tasks include walking in a straight line, heel-to-toe, and balancing on one foot for thirty seconds.

If the determines there is enough evidence to arrest you for impaired driving, you will be brought in and asked to perform a chemical test.  These tests can be comprised of a blood test, breathalyzer or urine test.  These tests provide empirical data relating to your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), and will be the most important piece of evidence used to determine whether to charge you with a DUI.

Federal Offenses

What is a federal offense?

The federal government has the right to make laws to govern the citizens of the United States. When a person breaks one of these laws, it is considered a federal offense.

Sometimes federal laws and state laws regulate the same activities. If you commit an act that is illegal under both a federal law and a state law you can be convicted for the same act in both the state court and the federal court. It does not violate double jeopardy to be convicted in both courts.

What makes a crime a federal offense?

When the legislature of the Untied States passes a law that makes a certain act illegal the crime is a federal offense. These laws govern more serious crimes such as kidnapping, fraud and drug charges.

When a crime crosses state lines or uses a federal service (such as sending drugs by mail or use of fraudulent social security benefits) the crime is considered a federal matter. If you rob a bank or a post office, that can also be a federal offense.

If you are prosecuted by the federal government for a crime, you may also be prosecuted for the same crime in a state court.

What crimes are considered federal offenses?

There are several federal laws in place and breaking any of those laws is considered a federal offense. Crimes that cross state lines or the international borders trigger federal jurisdiction as well. If the United States government is a “victim” of a crime, the case becomes federal as well.

Some of the most common federal crimes are:

Drug trafficking
Bank robbery,
Kidnapping
Wire, mail and tax fraud,
Crimes in which the United States is a victim (such as when you receive federal benefits when you are not entitled to do so or when you deface federal property),
Gun and ammunition violations
Counterfeiting
Certain crimes involving the internet
Immigration crimes such as human trafficking
Moonshining an alcohol tax or licensing evasion

These are just some of the more common federal crimes. There are several federal offenses for which you can be arrested.

What should I do if I am arrested on federal crime charges?

If you are arrested for a federal crime you need to contact an attorney that specializes in federal criminal defense immediately! The federal system is much more complex and formal than the state court. You will need someone to guide you through the process and protect your rights.

Do not answer any questions without an attorney present. The police will tell you that if you cooperate they will cut you a deal Police officers have no authority to do that. Only the Attorney General can make decisions regarding the filing of your case.

Once you speak with the attorney, they will assist you in how to proceed.

What is an indictment?

An indictment is the formal charging document issued by the grand jury that accuses you of a crime. It spells out the accusation against you so that you are aware of what illegal acts the government says you committed.

There are constitutional safeguards regarding indictments and the hearings that must follow. If you do not hire an attorney familiar with federal law, your rights may not be protected. Make sure the attorney you hire is aware of all of the procedural safeguards in place to protect you from an improper conviction.

What are the federal sentencing guidelines?

The federal sentencing guidelines are rules set up to ensure consistency in sentencing. The guidelines set a minimum and maximum penalty for the crime charged. Your sentence must be within these guidelines unless your attorney shows that you qualify for an exception.

Federal guidelines take many factors into consideration. These considerations include:

The offender’s prior record (if any)
The nature of the crime
Any aggravating factors (such as did the person have a weapon or was the amount of money taken very large)
Whether the person was the primary actor of the crime (for instance; was the plan all your idea or did you work with someone else that may be more culpable).

The judge may also consider factors such as the defendant’s behavior while on pretrial release and any remorse, rehabilitation or attempts to rectify the situation.

It is illegal for you to receive a sentence outside the guidelines without a finding as to why. There is certain criteria in place that allows you to receive a sentence below or above the stated guidelines. But usually you receive a sentence within the guideline range.

What happens if I am convicted of a federal offense?

If you are convicted of a federal offense, you will receive an appropriate sentence. This could be probation, time in a federal prison or both. You will lose civil liberties such as the right to vote or hold a firearm. A conviction can result in your deportation if you are not a citizen. Conviction of a federal crime can disqualify you from military service and certain occupations. If the crime is sexual in nature then you may be forced to register for the remainder of your life.

Because these consequences are so severe, it is important that you have proper representation. An attorney can assist you in challenging the charges so that you obtain the best possible result.

Will I be able to get a job if I am convicted of a federal offense?

It depends on what type of job you are trying to get.

In general, federal crimes are seen as more serious than state crimes, even though many of the crimes involve the same offenses. If your job requires a background check, no matter what the position, a federal conviction will probably keep you from getting the job.

A conviction of a federal crime can disqualify you from military service, federal jobs, jobs with law enforcement and some positions that require professional licensing.

If the conviction is for fraud, it is very likely that you would not be able to obtain employment in fiscal positions. This means jobs that involve the handling of money or property held in trust.

If the crime is a sex offense then you will be prohibited from working in positions that bring you into contact with children.

Each company is free to hire who they choose. So while a federal conviction does not automatically mean that you can’t get a job, it does make the search much harder.

How is a federal crime different from other criminal offenses?

The only real difference between federal crimes and other crimes is the prosecuting agency. In a federal crime you are prosecuted by the government of the United States. In other crimes you are prosecuted by the state or municipality in which the crime is committed.

Federal crimes differ from other offenses in the way they are prosecuted. A federal crime is brought by indictment issued by a grand jury. At the state level, a crime can be brought by the filing of an information by the prosecutor. Many states also have additional safeguards in place regarding a person’s rights.

The stigma of a federal crime is also higher than that of a local offender. There are federal crimes that are misdemeanors. But if you say you have been convicted of a federal offense there is a perception attached to that phrase that can be detrimental.

Who investigates federal crimes?

All federal agencies investigate federal crimes. In addition, if you commit a crime that is investigated at the state level, but it crosses the state lines or involves federal lands or federal property, the case can be taken by the federal government and prosecuted at that level.

Some of the federal agencies that investigate federal offenses are:

Homeland Security
Secret Service
Federal Bureau of Investigations
Department of Environmental Protection
Internal Revenue Service
Securities and Exchange Commission
Department of Immigration
U.S. Border Patrol
Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Attorney General’s Office

These are only some of the agencies that investigate federal crimes. There are no set restrictions on which agencies can investigate and report a crime so long as the crime falls within the agency’s area of supervision.

I have been arrested on federal offense charges and I am innocent, what should I do?

If you have been arrested for a federal offense you need to remain silent! Do not answer any questions and ask for an attorney immediately!

Do not make any statements at all to anyone! Law enforcement will try to pretend like they can assist you if you cooperate and tell them what they want to hear. This is not true!! It is the prosecutor and the judge that make decisions as to the filing of your case and the sentence. Not the police! Answer every question with a request to call an attorney.

When you contact the attorney, ask them to discuss all of your legal options in a secure setting. Tell the attorney exactly what happened and the names of any witnesses. The attorney can then use the information to prepare a defense.

Being accused of a crime is very stressful. But the attorney will walk you through the process and help you to obtain the best possible outcome. It is their job to look out for you and to protect your rights. Trust the attorney and follow their advice. This will ensure the best possible result for your situation.

How can an attorney help me with my federal crime charges?

The United States government has an attorney representing their interest, so you should have an attorney representing yours.

When you hire an attorney to represent you in your federal case, the attorney works for you. The attorney can represent you in the grand jury proceeding and assist with that process. If the indictment is handed down, the attorney can help to arrange release conditions or bail. Attorneys review the evidence and the sufficiency of the charges and make arguments on your behalf. Attorneys prepare and file motions to assist in your defense and help you to prepare a proper defense for trial.

The federal rules are complex. It is overwhelming enough to be arrested of a federal charge. You should not try to represent yourself. Contact an attorney who practices federal law and allow them to represent your interests. By hiring an experienced federal attorney you can obtain the best result for you and your situation.

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my federal crime charges?

Yes, you do.

If you are indicted on a federal charge you have all the resources available to the United States government working against you to obtain a conviction. The government is not going to inform you of your rights and protect you from prosecution because they want to see you convicted.

Having a lawyer is a constitutional right. If you do not hire a federal attorney to represent you are giving up the most important protection guaranteed to us as U.S. citizens. Hiring a lawyer ensures your rights are protected.

Most people do not have enough legal knowledge to defend themselves against the United States government’s aggressive prosecution. Because of this you could be convicted of a federal offense simply because you do not know enough about the law. An attorney can protect you and help you to obtain the best possible outcome for your circumstances.

Why should I hire a federal crime defense lawyer?

There are many reasons to hire a defense attorney. The most important reason is that the government will stop at nothing to prosecute you. So you need someone who will fight just as hard to keep you from being convicted.

Most people who get arrested do not know all of their rights. Sometimes people know their rights, but are misinformed as to how that applies to their current charges. For instances, most people are aware of their Miranda rights. But they mistakenly believe that if an officer does not read them the Miranda warnings, that the officer has no right to arrest them. This is not true. Because most people who are arrested are not experts in criminal law, the judges do not take pro-se defendants seriously. The State will also take advantage of what you don’t know and use it to convict you.

A defense attorney knows the law and how those laws apply to your situation. When you hire an attorney to represent you in your felony case they use their knowledge to help you achieve the best possible outcome. An attorney can also help you contact friends and relatives to post bond, research alternative sentencing options and petition the court on your behalf.

Federal charges have serious consequences such as prison, loss of civil liberties and possibly even your job. It is important to have someone just as serious about keeping you from these serious consequences.

Violation of Probation

What is violation of probation?

A violation of probation is a criminal charge that is triggered when you fail to comply with one or more terms of your probation.

When you are placed on probation, the judge gives you several terms and conditions. If you do not do exactly what the judge orders, it is considered a violation. When the probation officer feels that you have not complied with one or more terms of your probation, they file an affidavit with the court. The affidavit sets out all of the things you allegedly did wrong. The judge then signs a warrant for your arrest. This warrant is for a “Violation of Probation.”

A violation of probation is not like other criminal charges. You are not entitled to a bond for a violation of probation. The standard of proof is “preponderance of the evidence.” This is much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt. This means it is easier to be convicted.

In order to prove a violation of probation the State must prove the violation was “willful.” This means they must show you intended to disregard the court’s instruction. When you hire an attorney, the attorney can represent you at the hearing and defend you against those accusations.

What are my rights if I am on probation?

If you are on probation, your rights are limited. The probation officer has the right to make unannounced visits to your home to make sure you are complying with court orders. You must make a true and accurate report monthly to your probation officer even if it may incriminate you. The State has the right to restrict your travel and living situation and they can order you not to hang around certain people.

The two rights you do have is to have a lawyer present to represent you if you violate and to have a hearing to determine if you have actually violated the terms of your probation. But the standard is not beyond a reasonable doubt. The State need only prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the State must prove that it is more likely than not that you violated.

What are the different types of probation violations?

There are two types of probation violations: substantive violations and technical violations.

Substantive violations are also known as new law violations. These occur when you are on probation and you commit a new crime. These are the most serious.

When there is an allegation that you committed a new crime, the state will have to prove that you committed the offense. But at a violation of probation hearing, the state only needs to prove that you committed the crime by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Technical violations are violations that occur when you fail to comply with a condition of your probation. The most common is failing to make your scheduled probation appointment, changing address without permission or failing to pay fees or court costs.

In order to prove a technical violation, the state must show that the violation was “willful.” That is, you meant to do it. For example: if you just don’t show up for your probation appointment because you don’t feel like going, it is a willful violation. If you wanted to go but your car broke down, it may not be. If you are unemployed and have no money, it is not a willful violation that you didn’t pay. But if you work 50+ hours a week an make $20 an hour and you don’t pay, it may be a violation.

No matter what type of violation, if you are found guilty of violating your probation, you can receive any sentence that you may have received the first time less any time served. This can include reinstatement of your probation or jail. To make sure you get the best possible deal you need to make sure you hire an attorney experienced in violation of probation representation.

What is the difference between parole and probation?

Both parole and probation involve reporting to an officer, having court ordered terms and conditions and strict supervision.

Parole is the term used when you are released on supervision from prison in place of serving the rest of your sentence. This early release is strictly monitored. If you violate any terms, you are sent back to prison to finish your sentence.

Probation is the term used to describe supervision given instead of jail time. If you violate your probation you can be sentenced to a jail term as a punishment. But it is not mandatory.

No matter which type of supervision you are under, parole or probation, you need to comply with all conditions ordered by the court.

What are the terms and conditions of probation?

The terms and condition of probation are whatever the judge says they are. The terms and conditions for your probation vary from case to case. But many conditions are standard.

For all probation cases, you must report monthly to a probation officer. During the visit you must make a full and truthful report. This means if you have violated any of the terms of your probation you must tell the probation officer.
You can not commit any new law violations. This can include traffic tickets.
You may not use drugs not prescribed to you. You will not be allowed to use alcohol to excess.
You will not be able to change your address without permission. You also may not be able to leave the county without permission.
You will have to pay any costs or fees ordered by the judge.
You will not be allowed to associate with any codefendants or, in a case of felony probation, other convicted felons.

These are the basic requirements that are required for all probation sentences whether felony or misdemeanor and regardless of the charge. The judge may also award additional conditions such as a curfew, the payment of restitution or random drug testing.

What happens if I violate my probation?

If you violate your probation, you will be arrested and charged with a violation of probation.

If you do not strictly comply with any of the conditions of your probation, the probation officer signs an affidavit explaining what conditions you violated. The judge then signs a warrant for your arrest. Most of the time the warrant will be deemed a “no bond” warrant. This means once you are arrested for the violation, you will not be able to bond out. You will have to remain in jail until a bond hearing or a violation of probation hearing is scheduled.

If it is shown at a hearing that you violated your probation, you will be sentenced. The judge can give you any sanction allowed by law. But you must be given credit for any time previously spent in jail or successfully served on probation. The judge may also reinstate or modify your probation if the violation was minimal.

What happens if my probation is revoked?

If the judge finds that you violated conditions of your probation they can revoke, or end the probation. If this happens, the judge will re-sentence you. This sentence terms can vary. The judge can place you on a new probation or give you jail time. In rare cases the judge may determine that what you have done is enough and decide to end the probation term without and further sanction. But this does not happen often.

Can I shorten my time on probation? How can I reduce my time on probation?

Sometimes it is possible to shorten the length of your probation. If you complete all of the things the judge has instructed you to complete, you can petition the court for what is called “early termination.”

Early termination is the term used to describe a situation in which a person has done everything asked of them on probation before the entire probationary period is up. For example, if you are placed on probation for one year to complete 100 hours of community service, and you finish all 100 hours in three months, you can ask the court to end your probation after the three month period.

Early termination is discretionary. In some cases the judge may want to keep you on probation for monitoring even if you have completed everything you need to do. This is especially true with individuals who are placed on probation for violent crimes or serious drug offenses. But most of the time, the sooner you finish everything the judge asks you to do, the sooner you can get off probation.

What is a bench warrant?

A bench warrant is the name given to the warrant issued by the judge when you fail to appear at a court date. Just like any other warrant, a bench warrant gives the police the right to arrest you and take you to jail.

What happens if I fail to appear in court?

If you do not appear in court, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. The warrant allows the cops to find you and take you to jail.

If there is a good reason for your failing to appear in court, you should contact an attorney right away. The attorney can set a hearing to try to get the warrant recalled so that you do not have to go to jail, so long as you appear for all court dates set in the future.

What is an arrest warrant?

When an officer catches a person “in the act” of committing a crime, the officer arrests the person and takes them to jail. Sometimes, a crime is committed and the officer does not see the person commit the crime or the person is unknown. When this happens, the officer must request an arrest warrant for the individual so that a criminal case can be opened in the court.

For instance, if you come home and find that your house has been broken into, but there is no one there you call the police. The police take fingerprints and gather evidence. If they determine that those fingerprints match an individual, they swear out an affidavit stating they have probable cause to believe that the person committed a burglary to your home. They then give the affidavit to the judge with a request for an arrest warrant. If the judge signs it, the officer can then go out and arrest the person suspected of committing the crime.

What is failure to comply?

Failure to comply is a charge brought when you do not obey an official command. The command usually comes from a judge. It is very similar to contempt of court.

In Florida, the most common failure to comply charge brought is that of child support orders. But it can be any order given by the court. If you fail to comply with any court order, you can be arrested and taken to jail.

What should I do if I violate my probation?

If you have been accused of violating your probation you should contact an attorney immediately. A person does not have the same rights on probation that they do in a regular criminal law case. There is no entitlement to bond. The State does not have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. There is also no right to have your probation reinstated. When you hire an attorney, the attorney can assist you through the process and assist you in obtaining the best result.

If possible, make sure that you make arrangements to have any evidence, such as proof of counseling or proof of community service hours completed, delivered to the attorney. This will be helpful in preparing your defense. If you have witnesses you will need to provide their names and addresses to the attorney as well.

If you are given a bond, make sure that you continue to report to probation and work on any terms you have not finished while your case is pending. This will look good to the judge if and when you are sentenced for the violation.

The most important thing to do if you are arrested for a violation of probation is to follow the advice of your attorney and any orders given to you by the court. Failing to do so can result in a lengthy jail sentence.

Do I need a lawyer for my violation of probation?

It is always advisable to hire a lawyer for probation violation cases. The rules of procedure for violation of probation are slightly different. Because the standard of proof is so much lower for the State, it is much more likely that you will be convicted without proper representation.

How can a lawyer help me with my violation of probation?

When you hire an attorney to help you with your violation of probation they will do several things. They will represent you through all stages of the proceeding and answer any and all of your legal questions. They will advise you how to proceed in order to try to get the best outcome for your situation.

If you have not yet been arrested, the attorney will try to arrange a bond for your violation of probation case. If you have already been arrested, they will set a bond hearing to try to secure your release.

When the violation of probation hearing is set, the attorney will present evidence on your behalf. They will cross examine witnesses and challenge the probation officer’s accusation. Many times the judge will take the word of a probation officer over that of an offender. The attorney can help present the probation officer’s facts in a light most favorable to you. They will also present any defenses to the court on your behalf.

If you are found guilty of violating your probation, the attorney will argue for the lightest possible sentence. Without an attorney it is very possible you could receive the maximum sentence even if it is not warranted.

The most important thing an attorney does when you hire them is to watch out for you. The attorney’s job is to protect your rights and interests against the State. Without an attorney it is your word against that of the probation officer and the prosecutor.

Why should I hire a warrant or probation defense lawyer?

There are many reasons to hire an attorney for a violation of probation charge. The first and most important reason is that the State has an attorney working against you. So you need an attorney who is working for you! A skilled defense lawyer with experience in violation of probation charges will be able to get the best possible outcome for you.

Judges do not take defendants who represent themselves seriously. That makes it much harder for you to make arguments on your behalf. Also most people do not known the rules of law. So the prosecutor may be able to get in evidence to be used against you that they would not normally be able to use because you would not know to object

Lastly, you will need someone to assist with sentencing if you are found guilty of a violation. The State or probation officer may ask for the maximum sentence. You will need an attorney to present mitigating factors so that you can get the lightest sentence possible.

Felony

What is a felony?

A felony is a crime that is punishable by more than one year in the Florida Department of Corrections (also known as DOC or prison). They are considered to be more serious than other crimes and carry heavier sanctions in addition to the possible jail time.

Being arrested for a felony exposes you to serious consequences! In addition to the jail time, being a convicted felon can strip you of many civil rights. When you are convicted of a felony, you lose your right to vote, carry a firearm, receive financial aid and sometimes your home!! Some apartment complexes, public housing authorities or condo associations will disqualify you for any felony conviction. You may also lose your job!

If you are arrested for a felony it is very important that you hire an attorney immediately!! The attorney will work hard to try to protect you from spending time in prison and losing these civil liberties.

What are the most common felony crimes?

There are many types of felony crimes. Some of the most common are:

Robbery
Burglary
Sexual Battery (Rape)
Murder or Manslaughter
Grand Theft and Grand Theft Auto
Possession or Sale of Cocaine
Possession of Marijuana over 20 Grams or Sale of Marijuana
Possession of Controlled Substances (such as Valium, Xanax or Oxycodone)
Possession of Methamphetamine
Habitual Driving on a Suspended License

These are not all of the felony crimes that can be charged in Florida. But they are the most common. No matter what the charge, a felony is a serious matter and you need to contact an attorney at once!! An attorney can help protect your rights and explain all of your possible options and outcomes. If you or a loved one have been accused of a felony contact a reputable attorney immediately!

Can I get a job if I am convicted of a felony?

Maybe.

While there are some employers that will hire people with felonies, there are many more that will not.

As a general rule, employers do not want to take the chance in hiring a person with a felony. Many times a felony conviction prevents you from obtaining the license necessary for the job. This is especially true for health care licenses, security and money handing positions, and positions that deal with children or the elderly.

Some felonies create a risk for employers that they are not willing to take. For example, a housecleaning company would not want to hire someone with theft charges because they feel it is more likely that you may steal from the house you are cleaning. If you have an auto theft charge, the company may not want to hire you as a valet. If you have been convicted of burglary they will not want to send you into houses to install alarm systems.

While it is not impossible to get a job with a felony conviction, it is much more difficult. The best outcome is to not have the conviction on your record. If you have been accused of a felony, call the attorneys of Finebloom & Haenel. They can discuss all of the consequences of a conviction with you.

What should I do if I am arrested on felony charges?

Ask for an attorney and keep your mouth shut!!

When you are arrested for a felony charge, the officers will ask you several incriminating questions. Do not speak with law enforcement! Once you arrive at the station, call an attorney immediately! Do not discuss your case with anyone. Tell the attorney what you have been charged with and ask for them to meet with you at the jail to ensure that your call will not be recorded. Do not discuss your case with other people who have been arrested, friends for family members.

Once you contact the attorney, follow the attorney’s advice. The attorney will assist you in posting bond, preserving evidence, and presenting your case to the judge. Fighting a felony case takes time. So be patient. The attorney will assist you in getting the best possible result.

I have been arrested on felony charges and I am innocent, what should I do?

When you are arrested, make sure you remain silent and ask for a lawyer!

The very first thing to do is to remain silent! Don’t make any statements at all to anyone! Law enforcement will try to pretend like they can assist you if you cooperate and tell them what they want to hear. This is not true!! It is the State Attorney and the Judge that make decisions as to the filing of your case and the sentence. Not the police! Answer every question with a request to call an attorney.

Next, call an attorney!! Ask them to discuss all of your legal options in a secure setting. The attorney will come and answer your questions. The attorney will help guide you through the process and will protect all of your legal rights.

If you have any witnesses, make sure that you get their names, addresses and if possible their phone numbers. If you were at a location with cameras, inform them you will be asking for a copy of the video. When you meet with the attorney, provide them with all of this information. They can then use the information to prepare a defense.

The criminal justice system works slowly. This is especially true for felony charges. Be prepared to take a couple days off from work or school for court appearances and appointments with your attorney. If you are in jail because you cannot afford the bond, the attorney will arrange for a bond hearing. They will also set your case for trial. This may take time. It is important to remain patient. The attorney has no control over how fast the judge hears your case.

Being accused of a crime is very stressful. But the attorney will help you to obtain the best possible outcome. It is their job to look out for you and your interests. Trust the attorney and follow their advice. This will ensure the best possible result for your situation.

How can an attorney help me with my felony crime charges?

The State has an attorney representing their interest, so you should have an attorney representing yours.

When you hire an attorney to represent you in your felony case, the attorney works for you. The attorney can help contact family members to arrange bail. They can review the sufficiency of the charges and make arguments on your behalf. An attorney can make sure that you know about any and all evidence that the State plans to use against you. Attorneys can take depositions, file motions and investigate any and all aspects of your defense. The most important thing the attorney can do is to prepare a proper defense for you to present at your trial.

Although it is possible to file a motion on your own, it will not be taken seriously by the judge. Many times people do not know the rules of the courtroom and that places them at a severe disadvantage.

If you had to have open heart surgery you wouldn’t do it yourself. You would go to a professional. It is the same with the law. Don’t try to do it yourself. Hire an expert who can get the best result for you!

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my felony charges?

Yes.

If you are convicted of a felony you could be sent to prison. You could lose your civil rights and possibly your job. Many judges will not take a pro-se defendant seriously and the State will try to manipulate you. Hiring a lawyer ensures your rights are protected.

When you are convicted of a felony, you can be sent to prison. There is the possibility that you can lose any professional license you may hold, you have to surrender any and all firearms, and if you live in approved housing requiring a background check you may be evicted.

Most people do not have enough legal knowledge to defend themselves against the State’s aggressive prosecution. Because of this you could become a convicted felon simply because you do not know enough about the law. An attorney can protect you and help you to obtain the best possible outcome.

Why should I hire a felony defense lawyer?

There are many reasons to hire a defense attorney. The most important reason is that the State will stop at nothing to prosecute you. So you need someone who will fight just as hard to keep you from being convicted.

Most people who get arrested do not know all of their rights. Sometimes people know their rights, but are misinformed as to how that applies to their current charges. For instances, most people are aware of their Miranda rights. But they mistakenly believe that if an officer does not read them the Miranda warnings, that the officer has no right to arrest them. This is not true. Because most people who are arrested are not experts in criminal law, the judges do not take pro-se defendants seriously. The State will also take advantage of what you don’t know and use it to convict you.

A defense attorney knows the law and how those laws apply to your situation. When you hire an attorney to represent you in your felony case they use their knowledge to help you achieve the best possible outcome. An attorney can also help you contact friends and relatives to post bond, research alternative sentencing options and petition the court on your behalf.

Felony charges have serious consequences such as prison, loss of civil liberties and possibly even your job. It is important to have someone just as serious about keeping you from these serious consequences.

Traffic Offenses

How will a traffic ticket affect my insurance rates?

It depends on the type of ticket.

If you get a non-moving violation for parking, having a headlight out, or something similar it will probably not affect your insurance rate at all.

If you get a ticket for a moving violation such as speeding, racing or DUI your insurance company may raise your rates. In some cases they may even drop your coverage.

What is a moving Violation? What is a non moving violation? What is the difference?

A moving violation is a violation that involves some type of error while you are operating your vehicle. A non-moving violation is an error that does not involve how you operated your vehicle.

Moving violations are considered more serious. Violations that occur while you are operating your car can cause an accident. Speeding, failing to maintain a single lane, and running a stop sign are common examples of moving violations. These types of violations place points on your license and carry expensive fines.

Non-moving violations are considered less serious and deal with issues of safety and convenience. Common examples of non-moving violations are parking tickets, failing to change the address on your license, and window tint violations. These violations still have fines, but they do not place points on your license.

Will a traffic ticket in another state affect my driving record in the state which I am licensed?

More than likely a ticket in one state will affect your license in another. Almost all states are “integrated.” This means that the system that the driver’s license agencies use to assess points or keep track of suspensions are all connected.

Almost all states have “reciprocity” when it comes to driver’s licenses. This means one state will recognize the penalties given in another state. So if you have a ticket or point suspension that suspends your license in one state, more than likely you will not be able to go to another state to obtain a valid license.

The insurance companies have access to all records regardless of the state. So getting a ticket in another state may affect your rate as well.

What are the different penalties for traffic violations?

There are two types of traffic violations, civil and criminal.

If the traffic violation is a civil citation, such as speeding, failing to stop at stop sign, or having a headlight out, the penalty is a fine.

If the violation is criminal, such as leaving the scene of an accident or driving on a suspended license, then in addition to fines, you could be placed in jail.

For both civil and criminal citations, you can have points placed on your license. If you get too many points your license can be suspended. For some criminal violations your license can be suspended regardless of the points.

If you fight a civil citation and lose, you could be assessed court costs in addition to the fine. In all criminal cases there are court costs that are assessed.

What should I do if I got a traffic ticket?

If you receive a traffic ticket, there are three options. You can fight the ticket, pay the ticket or in some cases you can elect to go to traffic school.

If you choose to fight the ticket, you can represent yourself. But it is better to hire an attorney to assist you. The attorney knows the law. In many cases, the lawyer can speak with the officer directly and get a better outcome without the need for a hearing.

If you do not want to fight the ticket, you can pay it. CAUTION: When you pay a ticket you are automatically adjudicated guilty!! This means points are placed on your license.

If you meet the criteria, you can elect traffic school. If you choose to attend traffic school to avoid points, you will still have to pay the ticket. In addition there may be fees for electing traffic school and a price for the school itself. But you will not have the points placed on your license.

Can I fight my traffic ticket?

Everyone has the right to fight their ticket in court. If you choose, you can represent yourself. But it is not advisable. It is much wiser to hire a traffic attorney to represent you.

A traffic hearing is less formal than a trial, but it has the same rules of evidence. If you are not experienced, the officers may be able to get in facts that will be unfavorable to your case. When you hire the attorney, it is less likely that will happen. An attorney can also negotiate with the officer to reach a resolution in your case before the hearing.

What should I do if my license is suspended due to a traffic violation?

There are several ways a traffic violation can suspend your license. How you address it depends on the reason for your suspension.

If you receive a traffic violation and you do not pay the fine, your license will be suspended. If you pay the ticket, the suspension will be lifted and you will be able to re-instate your license.

If you have received several traffic tickets and you have received a point suspension, you will have to wait out the suspension period. After the suspension period is over you will be able to reinstate your license. WARNING: Points are not assessed to your license until you pay the ticket. So if you have several outstanding traffic violations, and you pay them off all at once, you must be careful to keep track. Paying all of the tickets at once might give you a point suspension.

If you receive a traffic violation for racing, or DUI there is a suspension associated with that charge. If your license has an “HTO” or habitual traffic offender designation there are extra steps you need to take to reinstate. For these types of suspensions there is a protocol that must be followed if you wish to drive. You should consult an attorney to learn what you will need to do to regain your driving privilege.

If your license is suspended DON’T DRIVE!!! Knowingly driving on a suspended license is a criminal charge. You could end up in jail. If you are caught driving on a suspended license 3 or more times, the Department of motor Vehicles will suspend your license for 5 years as a habitual traffic offender!!

What happens if points get assessed to my license?

If you have a ticket that assesses points to your license, it might raise your insurance rates. But if you get too many points on your license in a short period of time, your license can be suspended.

The current penalties for points on a license are as follows:

12 points accumulated in 12 months will result in a 30 day suspension of your driving privilege.
18 points accumulated in 18 months (including points from a 12 point suspension) will result in a 3-month suspension of your driving privilege.
24 points accumulated in 36 months (including points from a 12 point and /or 18 point suspension) will result in a one-year suspension of your driving privilege.

How will a traffic violation affect my CDL license?

CDL drivers are held to a higher standard than other drivers. CDL drivers are not permitted to attend traffic school without court order.
If you are a CDL driver and you receive 3 traffic violations within 3 years, you are disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for 120 days. After 120 days, you can pay a disqualification reinstatement fee and restore your commercial driver’s license.
If you are a CDL driver and you receive 2 traffic violations within 3 years, you are disqualified for 60 days from driving a commercial motor vehicle. After 60 days, you can pay a disqualification reinstatement fee and restore your commercial driver’s license

Do I need an attorney to fight my traffic violation?

There is no requirement that you hire a traffic attorney to fight your ticket. But if you are going to fight the ticket, it is a good idea.

When you choose to fight a ticket, no matter what the reason, you want to win. While no lawyer can guarantee a result, your chances are better with an attorney than if you fight the case on your own.

If you are a commercial driver, a driver who is on the verge of a point suspension, or if the ticket will affect your driving privilege in another way, it is very important that you win your case. If you lose, you could lose your ability to drive. Attorneys are experienced in the rules of law. When you hire a traffic attorney the likelihood of prevailing is substantially increased as opposed to doing it on your own.

If you are going to go through all of the trouble to fight your ticket, you should make sure that you have the best representation. Hiring an attorney will help you obtain the best possible result.

How can a lawyer help me with my traffic violation?

There are several ways a traffic attorney can assist you in your case. One of the advantages is that a lawyer can appear on your behalf saving you the time and trouble of appearing in court.

Lawyers are trained in the law. They know the rules of evidence, the best defenses for common violations and the best way to present your case to the judge. When the attorney represents you, the judge or hearing officer takes the case more seriously. This can help you get a better result.

Officers may present facts or evidence that is not allowed and you would not know to object. But if an attorney is representing you, that is much less likely to happen. Also, officers appear in court a lot! Although they are not formally trained, many of them learn from their experiences. Officers come off as extremely credible when testifying. So it is better to have an experienced person representing you as well.

What should I do if I get a traffic ticket/violation?

If you do not want to dispute the traffic violation you receive, you should pay it right away to avoid a license suspension. Paying the ticket will place points on your license. If you want to avoid the points you may be able to elect traffic school and avoid a hearing.

If you want to dispute the ticket, you need to let the clerk known right away so that they can schedule a court date. If you hire an attorney they will take care of this for you. If you fail to notify the clerk that you want to challenge the ticket you will lose your right to do so and your license may be suspended for failing to timely pay the citation.

If you are choosing to fight the ticket it is better to hire an experienced traffic attorney than to try to fight the citation yourself.

Why should I hire a traffic defense lawyer?

When you challenge your ticket, you do it because you want to win your case. If you were trying to win a game, you would get the best player to increase your chances of winning. So when you are trying to win a case, you should hire the best attorney to try to get the best result.

Traffic hearings are much less formal than a regular trial. But there are still rules that must be followed. A traffic attorney is familiar with these rules and knows how to use them to present a case most favorable to you. Judges and magistrate officers take attorneys more seriously than the common person who comes before them which can be an advantage in your case. An attorney can also save you time by appearing on your behalf. This saves you the trouble of taking off of work or school.

Most importantly, a traffic attorney is the only person in the courtroom who will be looking out for your best interest. The attorney will fight for you and help you to obtain the best possible result for your situation.

Drug Crimes

Do I really need a lawyer to fight my drug charges?

In your day-to-day life, you likely encounter periodic legal questions or issues.  If you’ve ever been issued a parking ticket, if you’re considering getting married, if you’re considering starting a business, if you’re conducting plans for when you pass away, you have encountered an issue that has legal implications.  In many cases, you can resolve these issues on your own and the assistance of an attorney is not necessary.  However, in others, consulting with a lawyer may prove extremely valuable in the long run.

If you’ve been formally charged with a crime, particularly a crime as serious as a drug crime, you probably need a lawyer.  Common sense is not enough to negotiate your way out of these complex problems, and you need the guidance of someone well versed in legal statute, jargon and protocol to advise your actions and to provide you with competent legal defense.

You could attempt to stand in your own defense or rely on a court-assigned public defender, however in doing so you put yourself at significant risk of conviction.  It is extremely inadvisable to stand in your own defense unless you have a law degree or dozens of hours to devote to legal research.  Public defenders are often over-burdened by their existing caseload, and may not be particularly well acquainted with the specific issues that arise in a criminal drug case.

You could also succumb to prosecutorial pressure and plead guilty, thinking a fine or some minor jail time is not too significant a price.  However, if you are convicted of a drug crime there exist other hidden costs that the court may not inform you of.  Convicted drug offenders often have difficulties securing employment and housing, face driving restrictions and are not able to obtain government subsidized loans, among other complications.

When deciding whether to retain a drug defense attorney, you need to ask yourself the question “what is at stake for me?”  If the loss of your criminal case poses significant risk to you financially, substantively threatens your liberty or could otherwise prove enough of a detriment to your lifestyle and well-being, you should seriously consider providing yourself extra insurance by hiring a qualified attorney.

What types of drugs are most frequently involved in drug crimes?

The list of controlled substances in Florida and on Federal rosters is long, however there are a handful of substances that recurrently find themselves the subject of drug crime litigation.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States. Although moves have been made in states like California to legitimize its use for medical purposes, in Florida it is still 100% illegal to possess, distribute, cultivate, traffic in or otherwise deal with Marijuana. Possession of any amount of Marijuana less than 20 grams constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor offense in Florida, and can carry penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Cocaine is another illicit substance that is commonly implicated in drug crimes. It is produced either in a powder form, or processed into a rock crystal known as crack cocaine that is usually smoked. Cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic and is highly addictive.

As a popular vacation destination with a vibrant nightlife, Florida is also unfortunately a hotbed for the use and distribution of club drugs like MDMA (also known as Ecstasy), GHB, ketamine and methamphetamine. These drugs are typically used individually or in combination to create feelings of euphoria and distorted perception in club environments. There has been a disturbing trend in recent years of certain distributors cutting these drugs with dangerous substances, enhancing the toxicity of the drugs and causing potentially fatal events in users.

Prescription drugs have also become an increasing issue in Florida in recent years. The most commonly abused are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), diazepam (Valium) and amphetamine salts (Adderall). Although these drugs are distributed legally by medical doctors, there has been increasing trafficking in these drugs illegally and for recreational purposes.

In the last few years, several disturbing events have been picked up by news outlets that have drawn attention to an extremely powerful and dangerous new class of synthetic drugs known as bath salts. Little is known about biochemistry, makeup and exact effects of these drugs, however a recent high profile event in Miami and a subsequent event in Palmetto both involved hyper aggression and bouts of gratuitous cannibalism in two individuals suspected to be under the influence of bath salts. Lawmakers are scrambling to criminalize the use of baths alts and other synthetic drugs.

What is trafficking?

Drug trafficking involves the transport and commercial exchange of drugs and other illicit substances, chemicals and equipment used to manufacture drugs, and other paraphernalia involved in the creation, trade and use of drugs.

Typically, a prosecutor’s decision to issue a charge of drug trafficking against a defendant is dependent on the amount of the substance found in their possession. As the amount of a given substance in an individual’s possession increases in the graduated spectrum of drug charges, the lowest echelon of drug crime is “possession,” followed by “possession with intent to distribute,” and finally “drug trafficking.”

In Florida, if a person is found to be in possession of a minimum of 25 pounds of marijuana or greater than 300 cannabis plants, they will typically be charged with drug trafficking. Prosecutors do not necessarily need to prove that the defendant had an intent to traffic or sell these amounts, as the mere presence of such a large amount of the substance is enough to constitute reasonable assumption that the drugs are not for personal use. For cocaine, the minimum amount needed to warrant a drug trafficking charge is 28 grams, and 4 grams of heroin constitutes trafficking in the substance.

These amounts constitute the minimum amount warranted to support a drug trafficking charge. Degree of crime and penalties increase as the amounts of the drugs discovered increase. A drug trafficking conviction can result in up to 25 years in prison and as much as a $500,000 fine.

What is the difference between possession and possession with intent to distribute?

Possession with intent to distribute is a criminal charge involving a defendant found
in possession of an amount of a particular controlled or illicit substance greater than
the amount required for a charge of simple drug possession. Even if the amount
discovered was intended for personal use, the law will assume intention to sell
or distribute if enough of the substance is present. Prosecutors do not have to
prove intent to sell the drug as long as certain other burdens of evidence are met,
based on the quantity of the substance confiscated. Prosecutors will also take into
consideration the circumstances under which the property was seized, as well as the
accompanying paraphernalia found at the scene.

If two or more people are implicated in a possession with intent to distribute
situation, prosecutors will often also include a charge of drug conspiracy with the
possession charge. In certain circumstances, those found in possession of very large
amounts of a controlled substance may face accusations of drug trafficking.

Possession with intent to distribute is a felony offense, carrying a mandatory
minimum federal penalty of 5 years in prison, and a Florida state minimum penalty
of 3 years in prison.

Common drugs involved in intent to distribute charges in Florida include marijuana,
ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Possession of marijuana in an
amount greater than 20 grams, for example, would likely result in a charge of
possession with intent to distribute.

How long will a drug charge stay on my record?

Drug charges fall into two categories: misdemeanor and felony. What you are charged with is dependent on many factors including the amount of the substance found in your possession, the circumstances surrounding its discovery, the intent behind the possession of this amount of the substance and others. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, the conviction will remain on your criminal record indefinitely.

The state of Florida does allow certain individuals convicted of a misdemeanor or felony to seek to seal or expunge the record of their conviction. Florida statute §943.059 sets up the process by which you may have your criminal record sealed, which restricts access to the records from government view, however the record will still be accessible to certain government agencies like the police. Criminal record expungement is covered under Florida statute §943.0585. Expungement restricts access to the record to the public, though certain government agencies may still obtain access to the record through a court order.

Both of these processes would prevent your conviction from being visible during a typical employment background check (unless you are applying for certain government or otherwise highly sensitive positions). However, there are difficult restrictions placed on who may apply for a criminal records sealing or expungement. The option is not available for any individual who has already been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, or of anyone who has a previous juvenile conviction, a previously sealed or expunged misdemeanor or felony, or is currently under community supervision. More serious crimes such as child abuse, drug trafficking, violent crimes and others are exempt from sealing or expungement.

What drug crimes are felonies?

Almost all drug crimes are either second or third degree felonies in Florida.  This includes:

  • Possession of marijuana in amount greater than 25 grams
  • Possession of cocaine
  • Possession of a controlled substance (per drug schedule guidelines)
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Prescription forgery
  • Drug trafficking of any scheduled substance
  • Possession or sale of any drug within 1,000 feet of a school, church, public park, movie theater or convenience store
  • Cultivation of marijuana

What are the penalties if I am convicted of a drug crime?

Drug crime penalties vary based on the substance involved, the nature of the crime and the amount of the substance.  Following is a summary of penalties for some of the more common drug charges:

Possession

Marijuana (less than 20 grams) Fine up to $1,000 and/or 1 year in jail
Cocaine (less than 28 grams) Fine up to $5,000 and/or 5 years in jail
MDMA/Ecstasy (less than 10 grams) Fine up to $5,000 and/or 5 years in jail

Possession w/ Intent to Sell

Marijuana (20 grams to 25 lbs.) Fine up to $1,000 and/or 5 years in jail

Drug Trafficking

Marijuana (25 lbs. – 2,000 lbs.) Minimum $25,000 fine and/or mandatory 3-30 years in jail
Cocaine (28 grams – 199.99 grams) Minimum $50,000 fine and/or mandatory 3-30 years in jail
MDMA/Ecstasy (200 grams – 399.99 grams) Minimum $50,000 fine and/or mandatory 3-30 years in jail

In addition to fines and jail time, you may also face mandatory drug treatment, community service, probation and DMV restrictions relating to your driving privileges.  A drug conviction may also have an effect on your ability to secure employment and other aspects of your personal life.

How can a lawyer help with my drug charges?

If you have been charged with a drug crime, you are probably considering whether or not to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. An attorney specializing in drug crime defense can immensely benefit your case. They bring expertise in the specific issues you will be facing during the course of your trial that a public defender or generalist attorney may not possess.

A local drug crime defense attorney is intimately knowledgeable about local, state and federal laws and procedures relating specifically to drug offenses. Drug law is especially complex because statutes exist governing drug crimes at both the state and federal level, and often the charges, evidence and penalties do not mirror one another. A successful drug defense attorney needs to be well versed in both, and be able to navigate both the state and federal court systems with ease and expertise.

Florida law enforcement and court systems are especially strict with drug offenders because the state is situated at the entryway to the North American drug market for Latin American producers. As a result, drug trafficking is a particular problem for Florida lawmakers, residents and law enforcement. Police are instructed to be especially vigilant when they suspect drug offenses, and prosecutors tend to issue the strongest charges warranted for the evidence they possess.

A drug crime defense attorney can identify areas of weakness in the prosecutions case, and can skillfully use these to their advantage in presenting a strong, indisputable defense on your behalf. Criminal law is an area requiring meticulous attention to detail that requires a specialist to comprehensively understand.

A local attorney knows this, and also knows how to work within and around the procedures put into place by law enforcement. They will know exactly the sorts of arguments the prosecution will attempt to make in litigating against you, and how to dispute or mitigate these arguments in your favor. A drug crime defense attorney will have established relationships with prosecutors and law enforcement officials that will be beneficial in negotiating lesser charges, plea bargains or alternative sentencing arrangements.

An area drug crime defense attorney will have an established record of achieving positive results for their clients. You can trust that a lawyer with a provable track record of success will provide you with the highest quality defense available for your situation.

What should I do if I am arrested on a drug crime charge?

Being arrested for on suspicion of a drug crime can be a terrifying ordeal.  However it is important to bear in mind that an arrest does not equate to a conviction for a drug crime.  If you have been arrested, it is important to keep calm and think rationally about your situation.
Even if you are caught with an illicit substance on your person or otherwise with your possession, you are not necessarily without recourse.  Police officers and prosecutors must meet a certain burden of evidence before they can bring charges against you.  In investigating and attempting to meet that burden of evidence, there are several mistakes that can be made that may render certain items of evidence inadmissible, and weaken their case against you.  For example, a police officer must have lawful cause to search you, your home or your care on suspicion of drug possession.  Materials discovered during an unlawful search are inadmissible during trial.  An attorney specializing in drug crime defense will be able to best advise you on where you may have a potential case for unlawful search or seizure.

During your arrest and subsequent booking, incarceration and arraignment, it is important to be cognizant of everything you and the law enforcement officials are doing and saying.  As soon as you are able to, write down as many details about your arrest as possible.  The clearer an account of the events leading to your arrest you have, the more fodder you and your attorney will have to craft a strong defense later on.

Be aware of your rights, especially your right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.  After you have been arrested, do not feel pressured to divulge details about your crime or to justify your actions.  You are not obligated to provide law enforcement with any information other than identifying facts, and anything you say about your crime may be mobilized by the prosecution in their case against you.

As soon as you are able, ask to speak with a defense attorney.  You may either call a third party attorney, or if you have none, the government should provide you with a public defender.  An attorney who specializes in drug crimes defense is your best bet, as they will have ample experience dealing with exactly the sorts of legal issues you will be facing if formal charges are filed against you.

What drug crimes are misdemeanors?

Only a few crimes relating to drugs constitute misdemeanors.  These include:

  • Possession of an amount of marijuana less than 20 grams
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

Why should I hire a drug crime defense lawyer?

If you were caught by a law enforcement officer red handed with drugs on your person, you may be thinking “I’m guilty, why do I even need to bother retaining a criminal defense lawyer?”  What you may not be aware of is that regardless of the evidence the prosecution superficially seems to wield against you, you possess many options other than to automatically issue a guilty plea.  A criminal defense attorney can outline these options for you, and help you to secure a lesser penalty, or even have your case thrown out entirely.
Just because you have been caught doing something wrong or illegal does not mean that this corresponds with the tangible crime you are charged with.  Prosecutors will often selectively present or manipulate evidence to craft a story more amenable to the particular charge they are pursuing against you.  Each crime on the books is unique and requires a unique set of factors to be proven in order to secure conviction.  For example, if you are pulled over in your car with a passenger and the law enforcement officer finds drugs in the car, they may charge you with drug possession.  However, circumstances such as where in the car the drugs were found, details about your passenger, and other mitigating factors may render the drug possession charge inappropriate.   Only a seasoned drug crime defense lawyer would know how to identify these details.

Further, law enforcement officials are required to follow strict legal protocols in conducting searches, seizures and arrests.  Oftentimes, police officers lack reasonable suspicion to pull a vehicle over or cause to search the vehicle.  Even if they find drugs in your possession, their failure to observe the proper guidelines for reasonable search could constitute grounds to have the entire case thrown out of court.  Again, only a drug crime defense lawyer could identify these areas of possible weakness in the prosecution’s case and act accordingly.

Finally, even if the conduct of the law enforcement officers is infallible and the prosecution appropriately charges you, you may still have options in negotiating your sentence.  Many judges are amenable to creating alternative sentencing arrangements to traditional incarceration, such as mandatory treatment or community service, for first-time offenders.  However, you would need the assistance of an attorney to advocate for one of these alternative arrangements.

In sum, although your case may seem superficially futile, you may stand to gain a lot in retaining a qualified drug crimes defense attorney.

What types of drug crimes are there in Florida?

In Florida, there are three main categories of drug crimes considered by law enforcement.  These include in increasing level of severity: drug possession, sale of drugs and drug trafficking.

Possession is the most common drug offense, and also the least serious.  To obtain a conviction for drug possession, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had physical or constructive possession of the drug in question.  Usually, this means that the drugs must be found on the suspect’s person or within obvious and easy reach of the suspect (for example, the suspect possesses a key to a locker containing the drugs).  Possession of marijuana or cannabis is considered a misdemeanor offense under Florida law, while possession of any other illicit drug is treated as a 3rd degree felony.

All crimes involving the sale or intent to sell or distribute drugs constitute felonies, most of the second or third degree.  Sale or distribution of drugs within one thousand feet of a school or church will increase the severity of the crime one degree. For example, if you are caught distributing marijuana (normally a third degree felony) within 1,000 feet of a school, you will be charged with a second-degree felony and face up to 15 years in prison.  Often, charges of drug sale are based on information from confidential informants or undercover police officers.

Drug trafficking charges are the most severe drug charges in Florida.  Trafficking involves the sale, manufacture, delivery or purchase of statutory amounts of a given illicit substance.  Even simple possession of these amounts would constitute grounds for a drug trafficking charge.  In Florida, if you are caught in possession of 25 pounds of marijuana, 28 grams of cocaine or 4 grams of opiates, you will likely be charged with drug trafficking.  Similarly, if you are caught with equipment or primary ingredients used to manufacture certain illicit substances, you can be charged with drug trafficking.

What is a drug schedule?

In the United States, the legal treatment of controlled substances is detailed in the US Controlled Substances Act (Title 21 United States Code, Subchapter 1, Part B, Section 812). Section 812 lays our regulations for the use and availability of drugs, which drugs can be prescribed, in what amounts and with what restrictions.

Section 812 sets up 5 classifications of drugs known as “schedules,” going from the least restricted Schedule 5 drugs up to the most restricted Schedule 1 drugs, which include Marijuana. As of January 3, 2007, Section 812 stipulated the following about Schedules of Controlled Substances:

Section 812. Schedules of Controlled Substances

(a) Establishment
There are established five schedules of controlled substances, to be known as schedules I, II, III, IV, and V. Such schedules shall initially consist of the substances listed in this section. The schedules established by this section shall be updated and republished on a semiannual basis during the two-year period beginning one year after October 27, 1970, and shall be updated and republished on an annual basis thereafter.
(b) Placement on schedules; findings required Except where control is required by United States obligations under an international treaty, convention, or protocol, in effect on October 27, 1970, and except in the case of an immediate precursor, a drug or other substance may not be placed in any schedule unless the findings required for such schedule are made with respect to such drug or other substance. The findings required for each of the schedules are as follows:
(1) Schedule I.–
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

(2) Schedule II.–
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.
(C) Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

(3) Schedule III.–
(A) The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.

(C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

(4) Schedule IV.–
(A) The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III.
(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III.

(5) Schedule V.–
(A) The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV.
(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV.

Source: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/812.htm

What does possession actually mean?

Merriam Webster defines “possession” as the “control or occupancy of property without regard to ownership” (source: http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possession). In legal terms, possession in relation to drugs is a legal charge levied against an individual who is found with a statute defined amount of an illicit or controlled substance on their person or otherwise within their willful control. Prosecutors seeking to obtain a drug possession conviction must be able to prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally possessed the drug, and also had knowledge that the drug was controlled or illegal.

Possession falls into two classifications. Normal possession involves the controlled or prohibited substance found on the person of the suspect or otherwise within their immediate, physical control. Constructive possession involves a substance
that is not physically held by the defendant, however the defendant possesses the means and the rights to readily access the substance. This might be the case if an amount of marijuana were discovered in the suspect’s apartment while they were not present, or if the suspect were in possession of a key to a locker that contained an illicit substance.

If you are found with 20 grams or less of marijuana in the state of Florida, you will be charged with first degree misdemeanor possession of marijuana. It does not matter if you claim the marijuana does not belong to you, or if the marijuana was found in your locker without your presence. If you intend to claim that the drug belongs to someone else, you will have to present your case during a courtroom trial and produce evidence to support your claims.

What is alternative sentencing?

Alternative sentencing options are legal alternatives to traditional sentencing guidelines such as jail time. In cases involving nonviolent crimes of lesser severity, judges and prosecutors are often amenable to working out alternative sentencing.
Alternative sentencing allows for certain offenders to eschew jail time if they fulfill certain court mandated requirements, such as community service, residential or nonresidential medical or psychological treatment, probation and other alternatives.

In cases involving nonviolent drug crimes, the courts are often sympathetic to the travails of drug dependence and understand that incarceration can be ineffective in providing the assistance drug users need. In fact, for many drug addicts a stint in jail can inflame their already difficult addiction. Courts are often inclined to prescribe drug treatment programs rather than jail time for first time offenders or misdemeanor offenders.

Although treatment programs can be expensive, many non-profit organizations are affiliated and work with the court system to provide affordable access to treatment programs for drug offenders who are exploring options of alternative sentencing.

In some cases, a judge will automatically assess an alternative sentence after a conviction has been made. However, in others, defense attorneys will need to negotiate these arrangements with the judge and with the prosecution in order to reach a consensus that works for all parties involved.

White Collar Crimes

Why should I hire a white collar crime defense attorney?

White collar crimes are unlike other types of crimes. More often than not you know you are being investigated. White collar crimes involve complicated financial records that need to be read and understood by the attorney who is representing you. If you hire an attorney that is not familiar with white collar crimes, there is a good chance that they will miss important elements that can help to exonerate you! So it is extremely important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with crimes of this nature.

How can a lawyer help me with my white collar crime charge?

There are several ways that an attorney can assist you in your white collar charge.

When you find out you are being investigated, the attorney can help you provide the proper documents. They can discuss your testimony that is to be given to the grand jury and they can try to arrange turn-in conditions for you if the indictment is issued.

Once you are arrested the attorney can assist you in obtaining bail, preserving evidence, questioning witnesses and presenting legal arguments to the court. The attorney can hire experts to go through the government’s evidence to find inconsistencies or issues that benefit your case. The attorney can also help to craft a defense strategy for trial.

When you go to trial, the attorney will present your case and cross examine the government witnesses. They will make arguments on your behalf and file any necessary motions needed to make sure you get a fair trial. If you are found guilty or need to enter a plea, the attorney will assist you in getting the best possible deal.

These are only some of the ways your attorney can assist you. If you are being investigated for a white collar crime, it is imperative that you call an attorney right away! This will help to make sure all of your rights are protected!

Do I need a lawyer to fight my white collar crime charge?

Yes. You absolutely need an attorney to represent you if you are charged with a white collar crime.

White collar crime charges are complex. In addition to all of the legal issues, there are complex financial matters that will be presented. A qualified defense attorney will understand these financial records that are being presented and will use this knowledge to defend you. They will also be able to present any an all legal arguments that will benefit you to the court.

Judges do not take people who represent themselves seriously. The prosecutors use a person’s lack of legal knowledge to obtain information that can be used to convict them. Don’t try to fight the charge yourself. Hire a competent attorney who will be watching out for you and your interests.

What is a target letter? What should I do if I receive a target letter?

If you receive a target letter call an experienced federal attorney immediately!!

A target letter is a letter sent to an individual by the federal prosecutor that informs them they are being investigated for a crime. The letter will tell you why you are being investigated. It will also inform you of your rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during questioning.

IF YOU RECEIVE A TARGET LETTER YOU WILL PROBABLY BE INDICTED FOR A FEDERAL CRIME! So it is very important that you consult an attorney right away in order to protect your rights.

What are the defenses to white collar crime charges?

There are several possible defenses to a white collar charge. The defense is individual and unique to each person depending on the circumstances.

One possible defense is that it wasn’t you. The government, whether it is state or federal, must show that you are the person who committed the crime. If it wasn’t you, that can be a valid defense.

Another possible defense can be lack of intent. Maybe you didn’t realize that you did not have sufficient funds in the bank when you wrote the check. Or maybe you did some duties as a part of your job not knowing your boss was doing something fraudulent. Lack of intent is a defense in some situations.

There are other defenses that may be available to you. When you call an experienced attorney, they can explore all of your options and possibilities with you.

How can I tell if I am under investigation for a white collar crime?

In most cases, a law enforcement agency does not want a person to know they are the subject of a criminal investigation. This is because the agencies assume that if they tell the person they are being watched, they will stop whatever activity it is that they are doing. This would make it impossible for law enforcement to catch them.

White collar crimes are different. If you are suspected of committing a white collar crime, you will be contacted by the agency. They may serve you with a subpoena for documents. They may take you in and question you. Sometimes you will be subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury. You may also receive a target letter from the federal prosecutor advising you that you are the target of a white collar investigation.

What agencies investigate white collar crimes?

There are several agencies that investigate white collar crimes. On the federal level these agencies are:

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Securities and Exchange Commission
Internal Revenue Service
United States Treasury
United States Postal Service
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

At the state level white collar crimes are often investigated by special task forces within a local law enforcement agency. They may also be investigated by the local tax collection agency.

Many investigations are started from civilian tips, accountants and employees of local banks that notice discrepancies in the records.

What are the penalties for white collar crimes?

The penalties for white collar crime can be severe. Some penalties depend on which jurisdiction brought the charges before the court.

In both the federal and state system a person can be placed on probation. Probation is a type of court ordered supervision. While on probation, the court will give you conditions to abide by. These usually include the paying of restitution, completion of community service, and living restrictions. There is usually a provision that states you can’t use drugs at all or alcohol to excess. You are not able to change your residence or to leave the state without permission. Your home can be searched at any time and you may have a curfew. Once a month you will be required to meet with a probation officer to make sure you are complying with any and all conditions.

You may also be given house arrest. House arrest is a stricter form of probation. You will be confined to your house. In order to make sure you do not leave, the state or federal agency will place a GPS on your person to track your movements. If you leave it is a violation and you can be placed in jail immediately.

Jail is always a possibility. If you are convicted in a state court and sentenced to less than one year, you will serve your sentence in the county jail. If you are sentenced to more than none year, you will serve it in the Florida Department of Corrections. If you are convicted in a federal court you will serve time in a federal prison.

In addition there can be civil penalties such as fines and lawsuits. In all cases you will be ordered to pay restitution. Restitution is a payment of money made to the victims of a crime in order to compensate them for the money they lost.

What is a grand jury investigation?

Federal crimes are charged by indictment. Indictments are handed down by a grand jury. The process by which the prosecutor tries to obtain an indictment is called a grand jury investigation.

A grand jury is a panel of citizens taken from the area that makes up the jurisdiction of the court. Many times, after the panel of jurors is selected, they meet once a month for one year. In some jurisdictions they serve for one week and then they are excused. The job of the jurors is to decide if a person should be officially charged with a crime.

When the federal prosecutors want to charge someone with a crime, they present evidence to the grand jury. This evidence can be in the form of testimony or exhibits. It is similar to the presentation of a trial. During this time, the prosecutor tries to convince the jurors that there is probable cause that the person committed a crime.

After the prosecutor presents the evidence to the grand jury, the jurors vote to decide whether or not there is probable cause that the person committed a crime. If they decide that there is probable cause they vote to indict. If not then an indictment is not issued.

What are the different types of white collar crimes?

According to the Nationnal Check Fraud Center, there are several types of white collar crimes and schemes. Some of the most common are:

Bank Fraud: which is an activity set out to illegally obtain funds from a bank.
Blackmail: which is a threat to do bodily harm, to injure property, to accuse of a crime, or to expose secrets unless money is paid.
Bribery: which is offering money, goods, services, information or anything else of value in an attempt to influence the actions, opinions, or decisions of the person being paid. You may be charged with bribery whether you offer the bribe or accept it.
Cellular Phone Fraud: which is the unauthorized use, tampering, or manipulation of a cellular phone or service. Such as using a stolen phone, or signing up for service under false identification.
Computer fraud: is when a person steals information contained on computers.
Counterfeiting: is the name given to the crime committed when someone copies or imitates an item without having been authorized to do so and passes the copy off as genuine or original.
Credit Card Fraud: which is defined as the unauthorized use of a credit card to obtain goods of value.
Currency Schemes: which is the practice of speculating on the future value of currencies.
Embezz1ement: which is the crime charged when a person who has been entrusted with money or property appropriates it for his or her own use and benefit.
Environmental Schemes: are schemes that involve the fraud committed by corporations which purport to clean up the environment.
Extortion: this crime occurs when one person illegally obtains property from another by actual or threatened force, fear, or violence.
Forgery: which is the crime committed when a person passes a false or worthless instrument such as a check with the intent to defraud the recipient.
Health Care Fraud: is defined as an unlicensed health care provider giving services under the guise of being licensed and obtains monetary benefit for the service.
Insider Trading: is a crime associated with stocks. It occurs when a person uses inside, confidential, or advance information to trade in shares of publicly held corporations in exchange for some type of monetary gain.
Insurance Fraud: is the crime of lying to an insurance company to get benefits.
Investment Schemes: occur when a victim is contacted by a person who promises to provide a large return on a small investment.
Money Laundering: is the investment or transfer of money from racketeering, drug transactions or other embezzlement through different sources in order to make the money appear legitimate.
Racketeering: is the operation of an illegal business for personal profit.
Securities Fraud: is the act of artificially inflating the price of stocks by brokers so that buyers can purchase a stock on the rise.
Tax Evasion: this crime occurs when a person commits fraud in filing or paying taxes.
Telemarketing Fraud: which is the crime committed when people place telephone calls to residences and corporations requesting donations to a fraudulent charitable organization.
Welfare Fraud: is where someone lies in order to obtaining benefits such as food stamps or welfare from the government
Check Kiting: this crime is charged when a bank account is opened with good funds. Then the person deposits a series of bad checks. But prior to the bank discovering the checks are bad, the person withdraws funds from the bank.
Home Improvement: which is when a person approaches a home owner with a very low estimate for a repair or improvement. Inferior or incomplete work is performed. Once the repairs are completed, actor intimidates the victim to pay a price much greater than the original estimate.
Land Fraud: which occurs when one person convinces another to purchase tracks of land in some type of retirement development which does not exist.
Ponzi: This is the type of crime committed by Bernie Madoff. This is an investment scheme where the actor solicits investors in a business venture, promising extremely high financial returns or dividends in a very short period of time. The actor never invests the money, however, does pay dividends. The dividends consist of the newest investors funds. The first investors, pleased to receive dividends, encourage new investors to invest. This scheme falls apart when the actor no longer has sufficient new investors to distribute dividends to the old investors or the actor simply takes all the funds and leaves the area.
Pyramid: this involves an investment fraud in which an individual is offered a distributorship or franchise to market a particular product. The promoter of the pyramid represents that although marketing of the product will result in profits, larger profits will be earned by the sale of franchises. Many times, there are no products involved in the franchise, simply just the exchange of money.
West African Investment Scams: this is often associated with the e-mails from the Nigerian prince who states he wants to send you money to hold for him in exchange for paying you a percentage. These schemes target businesses and people in order to obtain bank account information from which all funds are later withdrawn.

There are other types of white collar crimes, but these are the most common. Officially a white collar crime can be anything that involves financial fraud.

What are the possible outcomes for a white collar crime charges?

The outcomes for white collar crimes are the same as for other crimes. There is probation, house arrest, jail or acquittal.

The best outcome is to take your case to trial and win. This is called an acquittal. If this happens you walk away a free person.

The next possible outcome is to lose your case at trial or to enter a plea of guilty. If this happens, you can be sentenced to jail, house arrest, probation or a combination of any of these punishments.

The jail sentence you serve depends on many factors. If you are found guilty in the federal court, you will go to a federal prison. If you are found guilty in the state court, you will either be sent to the Department of Corrections or the county jail depending on the length of the sentence.

It is also possible that the judge may sentence you to probation. When you are on probation you have certain restrictions as to your living conditions. You may have to perform community service. You may be given a curfew or other restrictions as to your day to day life. You will have to meet once a month with a probation officer to ensure you are complying with all of the court’s orders.

House arrest is another type of sanction. When you are on house arrest, a monitor is placed on your person to monitor your whereabouts 24/7. You are under strict supervision and usually cannot leave your home except to check in with your probation officer or go to the hospital.

No matter what the sanction, you will be ordered to pay restitution. This means you will have to pay back any and all money you received when you committed the crime.

I am being charged with a white collar crime and I am innocent, what should I do?

When you are arrested, make sure you do not make any statements and ask for a lawyer immediately! White collar crimes can be charged both by the State agency and the Federal Government. So anything you say can be used in several courts of law. So don’t say anything that can be used against you!

When you are arrested for a white collar crime, law enforcement will try to pretend like they can assist you if you cooperate and tell them what they want to hear. This is not true!! It is the State Attorney or Federal Prosecutor who will decide whether or not to charge you. The Judge controls your sentence. Not the police! Answer every question with a request to call an attorney.

Next, call an attorney who is knowledgeable about white collar crimes!! White collar crimes are more complex than the average case. When you contact the attorney, ask them to discuss all of your legal options in a secure setting. The attorney will come and answer your questions. The attorney will also give you advice on how to proceed and what to expect.

If you have any witnesses, make sure that you get their names, addresses and if possible their phone numbers. If you have financial records that will assist you in your defense, make sure you make several copies and keep them in a secure location. When you meet with the attorney, provide them with all of this information. They can then use the information to prepare a defense.

The criminal justice system works slowly. Be prepared to take a couple days off from work or school for court appearances and appointments with your attorney. If you are in jail because you cannot afford the bond, the attorney will arrange for a bond hearing. They will also set your case for trial. This may take time. It is important to remain patient. The attorney has no control over how fast the judge hears your case.

Being accused of a crime is very stressful for all parties involved. But the attorney will help you to obtain the best possible outcome for your situation.

What are the effects of being convicted of a white collar crime?

White collar crimes carry the same types of penalties as other crimes. This means that you can be sentenced to probation, house arrest or prison. This is true whether you are convicted at the State or Federal level.

In addition to any criminal sanctions, you can be sued civilly for damages by the State, the Federal government or by the person or persons that were affected by your crime. This is separate from any criminal liability imposed by the court.

White collar crimes are considered crimes of dishonesty. Which means it will be much harder to get a job when you are released from jail. If you are convicted of a felony charge, you will lose your right to vote and carry a firearm.

If I am convicted of a white collar crime will I be able to get a job?

Most white collar crimes are felonies. This means a conviction carries the same penalties as other felony crimes such as burglary. This means if the job you are seeking does not allow an employee to have a felony conviction you will not be able to get the job.

In addition, a conviction of a white collar crime will probably disqualify you from holding any position that has to do with money handling or fiscal responsibility.

What is a white collar crime?

“White collar” is a term used to describe crimes that are associated with the business world and/or financial crimes. The term is an outdated reference to businessmen who used to wear white shirts to work. But the laws are not outdated and the penalties if convicted of a white collar crime can be severe.

White collar crimes usually refer to offenses such as embezzlement, insider trading, or scheme to defraud. Ponzi schemes are also a form of white collar crime. White collar crimes are committed in an attempt to gain more money for the person committing the crime. The amounts of money taken are usually very large and the crimes are usually committed over a long period of time.

Juvenile

About Juvenile Charges

Juvenile charges are very unique. When a child under the age of 18 is arrested for a crime, they are referred to the juvenile court. The juvenile court procedure is similar to that of an adult court. However there is no right to a jury trial and the speedy trial period runs in 21 days.

The first part of the process is the detention review. Individuals from the Department of Juvenile Justice determine if the child should be sent home with the parent or kept in the secure facility. Juveniles are not housed in the jail. If it is found that they need to be kept in a secure facility they are taken to the detention center. If they can not go home, and they do not qualify for secure detention, then the child is sent to a shelter.

After the detention review, there is an arraignment. The arraignment is similar to the arraignment for an adult. At the arraignment the juvenile enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. If they plea guilty they are scheduled for a disposition hearing. If they plea not guilty they are set for trial.

In juvenile court there are no jury trials. The judge determines the guilt or innocence of the child. If they are found not guilty the case is over and the child goes home. If the juvenile is found guilty, a disposition hearing is scheduled.

A disposition hearing is similar to that of an adult sentencing hearing. At a disposition hearing, the juvenile probation officer makes a recommendation as to the proper sentence. In most cases that is the sentence imposed by the court.

There are also “status offenses” that can be committed by a juvenile. These are offenses that would not be crimes if they were committed by an adult. Truancy, running away from home and being out past curfew are examples of status offenses. These offenses do not have criminal sanctions, but they are handled in the juvenile court.

What is the difference between an adult crime and a juvenile crimes?

There is no difference in adult and juvenile crimes. The crime itself is the same whether it was committed by an adult or a juvenile. The only difference is in the procedure and how the case is handled by the court.

If the crime is committed by an adult, the adult is taken to jail. There are no confidentiality rules and no one is required to be notified. An adult is usually entitled to a trial by jury and an adult can represent themselves in na court of law should they choose to do so.

If the crime is committed by the juvenile the child is taken to a detention facility. The charge is kept confidential. The parent (or guardian) must be notified. There is non right to a jury trial in the juvenile system. The child also has the additional right of having a parent present during any questioning by the police.

What happens after my child is arrested?

Technically, children are not arrested. They are “taken into custody.” But there is really no difference other than the terminology.

When your child is taken into custody for a crime, they will be taken to the detention center for an assessment. The assessment determines if the child should be released to the parent or sent to a secure detention facility to await their court proceedings.

The child is then taken to a judge for detention review. This is similar to an adult’s first appearance. The judge will determine if the child should remain in custody or be sent home with the parent. The parent should be present for the detention review as the judge will have questions to ask.

After the detention review the child will be given an arraignment where they can plea guilty or not guilty. If there is a plea of not guilty a trial will be set. The trial is not a jury trial but a trial by a judge (called a bench trial).

If the child is found guilty, or enters a plea of guilty, then they will have a disposition hearing. This is similar to an adult sentencing hearing. At that time the judge will determine the appropriate sanction for the child.

Children taken into custody for crimes have many of the same rights as adults. They do have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present to represent them.

Should I talk to the police?

If your child is taken into custody it is not advisable for you to speak with law enforcement. You should be forthcoming about information such as your child’s name and address. However, parents have a tendency to want to tell the police officer the entire background or history of the child. That information may be used by law enforcement later to bring more charges or to further penalize the child.

So while you should never lie to a law enforcement officer or hinder their efforts for information in nanny way, you should also not volunteer any extra information that can be used against your child.

How will having a juvenile crime on my record effect getting into college?

This issue can get a bit complicated.

An important part of the juvenile system is that once the child “becomes an adult” the charges are not supposed to count. All juvenile proceedings are confidential. Which means the general public is not allowed to know that the child was ever arrested, let alone convicted for a crime.

However, some agencies are allowed to have access to, and to use, the juvenile record against the individual on a limited basis in limited circumstances until the child turns 21. One of those circumstances is when there is concern for public safety or the safety of others.

When you apply for college, if you have been convicted of certain crimes as a juvenile, you may have to disclose them on a college application. If the convictions were drug related, it may affect your financial aid. If you have a juvenile conviction, you should ask to speak with a college admissions officer to determine what you have to disclose an what documentation you may need in order to be granted admission.

Will having a juvenile crime on my record effect getting a job?

The general public does not have access to juvenile information. So having a juvenile crime on your record should not affect your getting a job.

In some cases, if you are planning to go into a profession such as law enforcement or the military, the juvenile record can be accessed. However it will not automatically disqualify you from service. If you have plans to become a lawyer or doctor, you have to disclose all juvenile offenses. But it does not usually affect your entry into the profession.

Who is a Juvenile?

Under statute 39.01, a juvenile is “any unmarried person under the age of 18 who has not been emancipated by order of the court and who has been found or alleged to be dependent, in need of services, or from a family in need of services; or any married or unmarried person who is charged with a violation of law occurring prior to the time that person reached the age of 18 years.”

What this means is that unless the court has previously made a ruling to the contrary, all children under 18 are considered juveniles.

What is an undisciplined Juvenile?

An undisciplined juvenile is a child under the age of 18 who is regularly disobedient to and beyond the control of the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian.

It can also refer to a juvenile who is regularly found in places where it is unlawful for a juvenile to be (such as bars or in unsafe areas) or who has run away from home.

A juvenile who is habitually truant (skips a lot of school) can also be labeled an undisciplined juvenile.

What is juvenile delinquency?

A juvenile delinquent is a child who has been found guilty of an offense that if committed by an adult would be a crime. Juvenile delinquency is the equivalent of an adult conviction. This does not include traffic offenses.

For example, if an adult steals a shirt from the store, and the court determines that the adult committed the act, the adult is “adjudicated guilty” and “convicted” of the crime. If a child goes into the same store, steals the same shirt and the court finds they committed the act, the child is “adjudicated delinquent.”

What is the juvenile justice system?

The juvenile justice system is the branch of the court set up to deal specifically with children. The theory is that children are not fully developed and need different consideration and services than that of an adult.

The juvenile justice system has two branches. First there is a branch that deals with “delinquency.” Delinquency is the criminal branch that deals with a child’s criminal conduct when they commit crimes. The Department of Juvenile Justice (“DJJ”) is a part of this branch. DJJ provides the detention facility, probation officers and alternative programs for the juvenile offenders.

Then there is a separate branch called “dependency.” Dependency deals with the welfare of children who may be abused or neglected. The Department of Children and Family Services (“DCF”) participates in this branch. DCF holds hearings called “Shelter hearings” when they want to take a child out of a home that is considered dangerous or neglectful to a child.

Sometimes these two areas overlap. Because of this the same judge rules over all proceedings. This gives the court a full picture of the child’s background and history, allowing the judge to make a more appropriate ruling should the child become delinquent.

When can a juvenile be held in a detention facility?

A child may only be held in secure detention if the juvenile is alleged to be delinquent or undisciplined and meets the criteria for secure custody. Whether or not a juvenile will be held in a detention facility depends on the circumstances of the case and whether there are grounds to detain the juvenile to protect the community, for the juvenile’s protection or to secure the juvenile’s presence in court.

The preferred method when dealing with juveniles is to release them to the parent on “home detention.” This means they are sent home with strict rules of supervision. If they do not comply then there is a hearing to determine if they should be moved into a detention facility.

What are the different kinds of delinquent acts?

If a child is “delinquent” it means they have been found guilty of a crime. So a delinquent act is any act that is criminal if committed by an adult.

There are other acts called “status offenses” that are not criminal in nature that can justify an officer of the law detaining a juvenile. These offenses are:

Truancy (skipping school)
Running away from home
Being out past curfew
Loitering in places unlawful for a minor (such as bars)
Alcohol use
Disobeying a parent

If a child commits these acts on a regular basis, they are deemed to be “in need of services.”

How is being tried as a juvenile different than being tried as an adult?

In its current form, the adult criminal system focuses on punishment. There is very little regard for mitigating factors such as the offender’s environment, family history, background or extenuating circumstances.

In the juvenile system, the focus is on rehabilitation and getting services for a child. The idea is that children sometimes make bad decisions and with guidance they can make better choices as they get older. Locking up the child is a last resort.

The biggest difference is that in the juvenile system there is no entitlement to a jury by your peers. All trials are determined by the judge only.

What should I do if my child is arrested on a juvenile charge?

If your child is taken into custody for a juvenile charge you should report to the agency immediately. The officers will inform you if they will be releasing the child to your custody pending the detention review or if the child will need to be transported to the DJJ housing facility.

If the child is released to your care, you will need to make sure you make every court date. All juveniles must have a parent or guardian present during court proceedings.

Next, you should call an attorney to review the merits of the case and to represent your child. The attorney can help explain the process and help your child to prepare their case. The attorney will speak with the judge and the prosecutors to make sure your child is treated fairly.

When you hire the attorney, the attorney represents the child, not you! The attorney will keep you apprised, but the attorney’s concern will be obtaining the most favorable outcome for the child.

How can a lawyer help in a juvenile case?

As with any case, lawyers are trained to deal with the law. They understand all of the processes and procedures. This means they can assist and guide you through the process. The attorney will know what information will help, and what will hurt, your child’s case. The attorney will prepare a defense and present the case in a light most favorable to your child so that the best possible outcome can be achieved.

Do I need a lawyer to fight my juvenile charges?

With very few exceptions, a parent can’t represent or present a case on behalf of their child. This means if you do not hire an attorney, your child will be presenting his or her case to the judge on their own. Your child would have to make legal decisions regarding their case without any guidance from the court. This is not advisable.

When you hire an attorney, the attorney represents your child and makes legal argument on their behalf. The attorney explains all consequences and procedures in detail so that your child can make the best decisions regarding their case. The attorney then presents the information to the court allowing a more favorable outcome for your child.

Why should I hire a juvenile crime defense lawyer?

When hiring a juvenile defense attorney, it is important to hire someone with experience in the juvenile justice system. Without representation, your child may receive consequences that are unwarranted or unnecessary. Your child may even be adjudicated of a crime they did not commit!! This is because most children do not have the legal knowledge necessary to present their own defense.

The presentation to the judge in the juvenile system is different than that in the criminal system. When you hire a juvenile attorney, that attorney can make arguments and present evidence that will allow your child to get the very best outcome for his or her unique situation.

Misdemeanor

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by less than one year in jail.

Many people think of misdemeanors as “petty crimes.” As a general rule, misdemeanor crimes are not considered as serious as felony offenses. However, some types of misdemeanor charges can have similar consequences. For instance, it is a misdemeanor to possess under 20 grams of marijuana. But pleading out to a misdemeanor marijuana charge can suspend your license for two years, disqualify you from financial aid, and prevent you from obtaining certain professional licenses. Petit theft charges are crimes of dishonesty and can disqualify you from certain jobs.

If you enter a plea to some types of misdemeanors, such as battery, petit theft or driving on a suspended license multiple times, it is possible the State can use it against you and file the charge as a felony instead.

You should not accept a plea offer from the State or confess to a crime simply because it is a misdemeanor. Before you enter a plea to any misdemeanor it is important that you speak with an attorney. An attorney can fully explain the consequences of your plea. An attorney can also determine if you have any defenses to the charge. That way you can protect yourself from any unexpected outcomes.

What are the most common misdemeanor crimes?

There are several crimes that are classified as misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is any crime punishable by less than one year in the county jail. Common misdemeanor crimes include:

Possession of Paraphernalia
Possession of Less Than 20 Grams of Marijuana
Driving on a Suspended License
Prostitution
DUI
Trespass
Domestic Battery
Simple Battery
Violation of Domestic Injunction and
Petit Theft

These are not the only crimes that are misdemeanors but they are some of the most common. All of the crimes listed above can carry a jail sentence. Some of them may also disqualify you from certain jobs or licenses.

If you or a loved one have been arrested or given a citation for a misdemeanor charge, it is important to discuss your rights with an experienced attorney. Otherwise you may give up some of your rights and liberties without even knowing.

Can I get a job if I am convicted of a misdemeanor?

It depends.

Some misdemeanor charges such as petit theft are considered “crimes of dishonesty.” Some businesses will not hire anyone with a crime of dishonesty. This is because the employers worry about theft from their businesses.

Charges such as battery, domestic battery and violation of domestic injunctions, can prevent you from obtaining employment in the health care fields and sometimes teaching or daycare positions.

If you are convicted of possession of marijuana, DUI or possession of paraphernalia, it may also prevent you from obtaining some types of professional licenses or from working in environments where drugs are dispensed.

And of course there are some businesses that will not hire anyone with any type of charge non matter how small.

For these reasons it is very important that you hire an attorney for even the simplest misdemeanor charge. Entering a plea to something as simple as disorderly intoxication may cost you your job.

What should I do if I am arrested on misdemeanor charges?

Be quiet and call a lawyer!

If you are arrested for a misdemeanor charge it is a criminal offense. That means you have the right to remain silent. Make sure you do not discuss your case with anyone as the State will use it against you.

When you are arrested, you will be given an opportunity to make at least one phone call. If you do not know an attorney’s number, call a friend or family member to contact one for you. The attorney can assist in posting bond and preserving any evidence that may help your case.

After you post bond, make sure you meet with your attorney to discuss all of your options. It is also crucial that you appear at all mandatory court dates to avoid having a warrant issued for your arrest. Most importantly, you need to follow the advice of your attorney. It is their job to look out for you and to protect your rights.

If the court places any conditions on your release, make sure you abide by any and all court orders. If you do not do exactly as the Court says, a warrant can be issued for your arrest.

Having a misdemeanor charge can be stressful. But if you are patient the attorney can assist you in obtaining the best possible outcome as quickly as possible.

I have been arrested for a misdemeanor and I am innocent, what should I do?

Don’t talk to the police and request an attorney!!

The very first thing to do is to remain silent! Don’t make any statements at all to anyone! Next, call an attorney to discuss all of your legal options in a secure setting. The attorney can help guide you through the process. An attorney can also help to protect all of your legal rights.

If you have any witnesses, make sure that you get their names, addresses and if possible their phone numbers. If you were at a location with cameras, inform them you will be asking for a copy of the video. When you meet with the attorney, provide them with all of this information. They can then use the information to prepare a defense.

Although misdemeanor cases move faster than their felony counterparts, the justice system works slowly. Be prepared to take a couple days off from work or school for court appearances and appointments with your attorney.

It is important to remain patient. Being accused of a crime is very stressful. But the attorney will help you to obtain the best possible outcome. It is their job to look out for you and your interests.

How can an attorney help me with my misdemeanor charges?

When you hire an attorney to represent you for a misdemeanor charge, there are several things the attorney will do to help you.

First, they will review the case to see if there is a factual basis for the charge to be brought in the first place. It is possible that you committed no crime at all. If necessary they will file motions on your behalf.

Second, an attorney can request discovery to ensure that you can view any and all evidence that can be used against you. The attorney is also trained to determine what types of evidence can and can’t be used.

If you decide to enter into a plea, the attorney can negotiate with the State to obtain the best possible sentence for you. The attorney can also advise you of any and all unforeseen consequences, such as license suspensions or extra costs.

Lastly, if you decide to take the case all the way, the attorney can help you fight your case in a trial. Lawyers are trained in the rules of evidence and presentation and they can make sure that your trial is fair and that your rights are protected.

This is only an overview of what an attorney can do for you if you are charged with a misdemeanor. Attorneys can also be a great source of information. So it is important that you speak with one as soon as possible after you are arrested or cited for the charge.

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my misdemeanor charges?

Sometimes it may seem as though you do not need an attorney to represent you for a misdemeanor charge. But it is always a good idea to hire good representation, even for a misdemeanor.

If you do not have an attorney to represent you, the State may offer something that sounds like a good deal. For example, if you were caught with a small amount of marijuana, they may offer you a deal where you are adjudicated guilty and complete some community service hours instead of going to jail. This may sound good. But what the State won’t tell you is that if you accept that offer, the adjudication will suspend your driver’s license for two years, and if you violate any terms of your probation you can be arrested and placed in jail for a new charge. If you have an attorney, the attorney can make sure that you are aware of any and all consequences. The attorney can also advise you if you should enter into any type of plea.

So technically there is no law that says you have to hire an attorney to represent you for a misdemeanor. But it is a very good idea to do so to make sure all of your rights are protected.

Why should I hire a misdemeanor defense lawyer?

Misdemeanor charges are looked at as “simple” or “petty.” But the truth is that many carry very serious consequences that may not be known to the offender at the time they enter their plea.

For example, entering a plea to possession of marijuana can suspend your driver’s license privileges for two years. Entering a plea to petit theft charges can also suspend your license. In addition, petit theft charges are considered crimes of dishonesty. This means it can be used against you when you apply for jobs and professional licenses. Battery charges can be considered violent offenses in some circumstances.

Hiring a defense lawyer can protect you from these unforeseen consequences. When you hire a lawyer, the lawyer reviews your case and discusses all of your options. The lawyer will review any defenses you may have and will fully explain any and all consequences before you enter a plea or take a case to trial. When you hire a lawyer, their job is to look out for you and your best interest. So before you enter a plea and accept the consequences for a “petty” crime make sure that you speak with an attorney first.