car accidentIf you are charged with DUI in Florida, you may be facing serious consequences depending on your blood alcohol content, whether you have had previous DUIs, and a number of other factors. However, if you are driving while intoxicated and cause the death or serious injury of another person you may face an even harsher sentence. That’s why it is so important to work with an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney if you are charges with DUI manslaughter or another crime.

DUI Manslaughter

If you are convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida you will be required to spend a certain amount of time in jail. The Florida Criminal Code classifies DUI manslaughter as a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence. That means that there is a certain amount of time that everyone convicted of DUI manslaughter must spend in jail and the judge does not have the discretion to lower that sentence (though they can order more time be served). In Florida, the mandatory minimum sentence is four years for DUI manslaughter.

Though the mandatory minimum sentence is four years, those convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida can get up to fifteen years in prison and fifteen years of probation. However, the presumptive amount of jail time for a DUI manslaughter conviction is a little over ten years in prison. Those convicted of DUI manslaughter may also have to pay up to $10,000 in fines, have their vehicle impounded, and have their driver’s license revoked permanently. Continue Reading

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manslaughterIf you are charged with a crime, the prosecution has the burden of proving that you committed all the elements of the crime in order to convict you of that crime. Some crimes involve an element that requires a specific mental state which depends on what a defendant was intending to do and what he or she knew. For example, the law treats someone differently if they accidentally kill someone versus if they intentionally kill someone, with the latter being punished more harshly. What a defendant does or does not know, and the intentions of the defendant, can be proven by circumstantial evidence. A skilled Florida murder defense attorney may use the defense that a defendant did not have the requisite mental state to commit the crime.

Mens Rea

Mens rea is a latin term which means “guilty mind.” Proving the mens rea, or mental state, of a defendant is a burden for the prosecution if a specific mental state is part of the crime. One of the mental states that may need to be proven is “recklessness.” Recklessness goes beyond general carelessness or negligence. (Negligence can land you in court, but only civil court, not criminal.) Recklessness goes beyond just negligence, and entails doing something that anyone should know is extremely dangerous. For example, leaving a loaded gun out somewhere that children have access to or another equally unreasonably dangerous scenario.

behind barsIn Florida, people convicted of certain crimes may be sentenced to death for those crimes. However, there are some people who are constitutionally protected from the death penalty due to their status or characteristics. For example, the United States Supreme Court has declared it unconstitutional to sentence someone to death if they committed their crimes when they were less than 18 years of age. The laws around violent crimes and sentencing change periodically as federal and state courts clarify their positions. A knowledgeable Florida violent crimes defense attorney can help you understand any potential penalties of the crimes you have been charged with.

Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty

Another one of the categories of people that cannot be executed are people with intellectual disabilities. This is because they are not seen as having the same decision-making ability as people without these kinds of disabilities, and so the death penalty is considered cruel. Florida amended their death penalty statute in 2003 to include this prohibition. Under the 2003 Florida statutes, a defendant has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that they are intellectually disabled. To do this, they needed to show three things: significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, with concurrent deficits in adaptive behavior, that manifested before age 18. At the time, Florida used a strict cutoff of an IQ score of 70 to determine what counted as “significantly subaverage” intellectual functioning.

deportationIf you are not a citizen of the United States, and you are convicted of a crime, it may result in being deported back to your home country. This is clearly a notable consequence, and lawyers are supposed to advise their clients of this if it is a possibility. If you are charged with a crime in Florida, it is crucial that you have a knowledgeable defense attorney to advise you about all the potential consequences of any course of action you may choose. United States law requires that criminal defendants facing incarceration have competent counsel. If a defendant can prove that their counsel was not competent then they may be granted a new trial.

Facts of the Case

In this appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida discussed the requirements for defendants facing possible deportation. The defendant in this case was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell or deliver. With the assistance of his counsel, he agreed to a plea agreement. The defendant pled no contest to the charges. Thus, an adjudication of guilt was withheld and he was given 18 months of probation.

search warrantIf you are caught with drugs, you may think that you should just plead guilty and accept the consequences. However, depending on your situation, this may not be the best idea. Sometimes, the evidence against you may have been found during an illegal search. If the police perform an improper search on you, your home, or vehicle, the evidence gathered from that search may be inadmissible in court. If the State’s whole case is based around this evidence, then the charges may be thrown out entirely. A skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney can help you decide the best strategy for your case.

The Circumstances of the Evidence

A man was charged with possession of cocaine after the police found crack cocaine in a takeout food container the man was holding. The officer testified that the defendant was standing on a street corner around 7:30 a.m. When the officer drove by in an unmarked vehicle, he stated that the defendant glanced at him with a “deer in headlights” look. Immediately after noticing the officer, he dropped the fork he was using, along with another small packet, into the container. The police officer instructed his partner to detain the defendant and then he took the container. The container held grits and a white, semi-waxy square that contained crack cocaine.

In a case that recently came out of the First District Court of Appeals in Florida, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s finding of a probation violation. If you are given a suspended sentence or probation, and you believe that you were wrongly accused of violating those conditions, you should contact a skilled Clearwater probation violation attorney as soon as possible.Legal News Gavel

Probation and Suspended Sentences

In some cases, especially for minor and first offenses, instead of incarceration, the judge may order probation or a suspended sentence. A suspended sentence means that the defendant will not have to serve the sentence if they meet certain requirements for a specific period of time. During sentencing, the judge should make clear what the conditions of the suspended sentence are and what the conditions of probation are. Sometimes all that is needed for a suspended sentence is to stay out of trouble. In other cases, the defendant may need to attend rehab or pursue employment.

In a criminal trial, there is only certain evidence that a prosecutor is allowed to present in order to prove that the defendant is guilty. One kind of evidence that judges may exclude from trial is evidence that will prejudice the jury. In this context, that means that the jury will be predisposed to find the defendant guilty whether or not the evidence is sufficient to prove guilt. This helps protect the defendant from being found guilty due to assumptions about the kind of person the defendant is, rather than their actual actions.Legal News Gavel

Some evidence that is in danger of being prejudicial may be excluded before trial. For example, a previous alleged victim of the defendant can be barred from testifying. However, when the trial is happening sometimes things will happen in the moment. During the trial, sometimes a witness may say something prejudicial before the judge stops them. What happens then?

One option is for the judge to declare a mistrial. In Florida, if there is a reasonable possibility that prejudicial testimony influenced a guilty verdict, the defendant may be granted a new trial. There are many complicated rules about which evidence is and is not allowed into a criminal trial. That is why it is so important to contact a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you or a loved one have been charged with a crime.

Legal News GavelFlorida law generally bans prosecutors from charging a person with a new crime after he or she has already been tried on related offenses. The state’s First District Court of Appeal recently explained how that ban works in a case involving a botched drug deal.

Defendant was charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery with a firearm, and the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony following a drug deal gone wrong. He admitted to going to a house to buy marijuana and shooting one of the men inside, but Defendant said he was acting in self-defense. He said two men tried to rob him when he got to the house. The person who was shot, however, claimed that Defendant tried to steal the marijuana without paying for it and fired the weapon at the men when they chased after him.

Prosecutors eventually decided not to charge Defendant with use of a firearm during a felony. After the case went to trial, a jury found him not guilty on the armed robbery charge and deadlocked on the aggravated battery charge. Prosecutors decided to retry Defendant on the aggravated robbery charge. They also tacked on a new charge of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. Defendant asked a judge to dismiss the charge, arguing that it was part of the same criminal episode as the armed robbery charge for which he was previously found not guilty. The trial court rejected that request.

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Legal News GavelA Florida man who was sentenced to four decades behind bars when he was 14 years old is getting a new chance at freedom after a recent decision from the Second District Court of Appeal.

Defendant was charged with first degree murder, stemming from an alleged 2010 robbery. One man was shot and three others were robbed during the incident. Witnesses told police officers the perpetrator—who made off with only a few dollars—was wearing a dark bandanna, possibly black, and carrying a black bag. Defendant went to a local police station two days later and confessed to the shooting. He said, however, that he didn’t rob the men and was simply acting in self-defense. Police officers later found a black bag with gun residue in it in Defendant’s home.

Defendant changed his story before trial. He said he was taking the blame for an older friend who committed the robbery and shot the man. The friend talked Defendant into making the false confession and even walked him to the police station, according to Defendant. But a neighborhood man testified at trial that he saw and briefly spoke with a person wearing a red bandana and carrying a black bag shortly after the shooting and near the place where the crime happened. The man wasn’t able to identify the person, but he said he was certain that it wasn’t the friend that Defendant said committed the crime. The man said he knew the friend, and was sure that he would have recognized the friend’s voice.

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Florida criminal law calls for enhanced punishment in cases that involve the sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of a church, school or convenience store. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently took up a case that shows some of the difficulties that can come with trying to show precisely where a transaction takes place. The decision is also a good reminder that many Florida drug cases come down to your word against that of the police officers who arrested you and the prosecutors trying to convict you. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer in your corner.

legalnewsDefendant was charged with selling cocaine within 1000 feet of a place of worship, stemming from an undercover police sting operation. Officers involved in the operation testified at trial that Defendant sold the drugs to an undercover officer in a moving car. The car was parked at 6th and Main streets, according to the officers, and a church was located two blocks away on the 700 block of Main. The car was moving away from the church for 19 seconds at a speed of 20-30 miles an hour at the time Defendant made the transaction, they said. Prosecutors also said that the street the car was traveling on runs into a dead end less than 1,000 feet from the church.

Defendant responded by asking the trial judge to acquit him, arguing that it was impossible for the cops to say with precision where the car was when the alleged transaction took place. The judge denied the request, concluding that a jury could reasonably conclude that Defendant was within 1,000 feet of the church. If the car was traveling at 25 miles an hour for 19 seconds after starting 240 feet from the church, it would have been 933 feet away when the transaction occurred, the judge said. Defendant was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.