In criminal cases, it is not uncommon for people to call the office after their current lawyer has failed to reach an acceptable agreement with the prosecutors or the caller does not like the offer received. Sometimes, the unfortunate circumstance of the case is that the prosecutor will not make a deal. Sometimes just having a lawyer who answers to the Defendant for their paycheck instead of the government makes a big difference to the Defendant. Sometimes there are things that can be done to present the case in a better light.
Self Defense has been an available affirmative defense to criminal cases since the dawn of society. Florida also has long acknowledged the fundamental right to use force in defense of self or others. The essential elements of self-defense have stayed about the same. A person may use deadly force when it is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the person or to another person. The procedure and burden of proof required to make a self-defense argument has changed.
In Florida, a person accused of DUI has faced mandatory adjudication, also known as conviction, for many decades. In cases where the Court is not restricted, it can also withhold adjudication which means that technically a person is not convicted. The difference can have far reaching consequences. For example, a DUI cannot be expunged because of the conviction and convictions stay on a driving history for up to seventy-five (75) years. Convictions also require higher surcharges and court costs.
Reckless Driving, not to be confused with careless driving, is a criminal traffic offense in Florida. An accusation of Reckless Driving does not require a crash, but property damage does enhance the offense. In a recent case, an attempt at defending a charge of Reckless Driving was made via a motion for immunity under the Stand Your Ground law.
Recently the 5th District Court of Appeal held that a passenger of a vehicle is lawfully seized and not free to leave a traffic stop. Therefore, if evidence of a crime is found, it can be used against the passenger. A large amount of drug possession cases and other criminal cases start with a traffic stop and subsequent search of passengers.
Arrested for DUI? Before going to court, a driver's license will be suspended 10 days after the DUI arrest if the person refused to give a breath sample or sumbmitted to the test and blew over a .08. As to the license to drive, there are three options (1) request a hearing to reverse the suspension called a Formal Review Hearing, (2) request hearing for an immediate hardship license or (3) do nothing. The choice to do nothing is a choice to accept a driver license suspension. The deadline to file an election for a hearing at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is also the same 10 day period before the suspension is imposed. The DUI citation is a driving permit for those same 10 days.
In August 2014 I wrote about a Florida Court finding that in criminal cases of solicitation of prostitution the mandatory civil penalty ($5,000) is unconstitutional. Since then the matter has continued to be fought in courts. People who picked up charges of soliciting could still have imposed this penalty but depending on their representation, the sentencing court could have deferred imposing the penalty, left open the possibility of removing the fine or refused to impose the penalty all together.
In Florida, the criminal offense of Hit and Run is called Leaving the Scene of an Accident. The severity of this crime sometimes referred to as LSA, as do so many other criminal traffic charges, depends upon the nature and the extent of the damage.
The law on Leaving the Scene of an Accident (LSA), aka Hit and Run, with injury or death had been interpreted to require that the accused knew or should have known that an injury occurred. There is a knowledge requirement to LSA with injury or death because they are a criminal traffic offenses that are felonies. LSA with property damage is a misdemeanor. The requirement of knew or should have known has been applied to the injury element of the offense even if there is a death. However, the Florida Supreme Court had said in the opinion that led to the standard jury instructions that "knowledge of the accident is an essential element of the offense". State v. Mancuso, 652 So. 2d 370 (Fla. 1995). In addition, the court wrote that "one cannot 'willfully' leave an accident without awareness that an accident has occurred". Id.
In Florida, Chapter 825 addresses the criminal offense of Abuse or Exploitation of the Elderly. "Elderly person" is defined by law to mean "a person 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging as manifested by advanced age or organic brain damage, or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunctioning, to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for the person's own care or protection is impaired."