Florida Court Discusses Motions for Disqualification in Criminal Matters

A person charged with a crime has the right to a fair and impartial trial. This means, among other things, that if a judge demonstrates bias or evidence suggests that the judge is otherwise unable to rule in an objective manner, the defendant can file a motion for recusal. In a recent Florida ruling, a court discussed the grounds for granting a motion for disqualification in a matter in which the defendants were charged with DUI offenses. If you are accused of driving while intoxicated, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that defendants were each charged with DUI crimes, and their cases proceeded before a county judge. Due to the fact that the judge had ex parte communications with the State Attorney’s office regarding another matter in which a defendant was charged with DUI, they each filed motions for disqualification. Their motions were denied, after which they filed writs of prohibition, which were denied as well. They then sought certiorari review of the order denying their petitions.

Grounds for Granting a Motion for Disqualification

The appellate court explained that its review was limited to determining whether the trial court granted the defendants procedural due process and applied the appropriate law. In other words, whether it adhered to the essential requirements of law. As such, a district court should only grant certiorari relief when the lower court failed to uphold a clearly established tenet of law, resulting in a miscarriage of justice.

In the subject case, the defendants did not argue that they were not afforded due process; rather, they argued that the circuit court failed to apply the correct law. The court disagreed. Instead, the court noted that the email that was the basis of the defendant’s motion for disqualification merely stated the judge’s interpretation of a DUI statute and was not adequate to demonstrate prejudice or form the basis of a reasonable fear of bias. The circuit court found that such comments did not meet the threshold necessary to grant a disqualification because they were legally inadequate to create a fear that the defendants would not receive a fair trial, that could be perceived as objectively reasonable.

The court noted that the dissenting opinion in the circuit court found in favor of the defendants, but as the email in question could have been interpreted in numerous ways, the court could not state that, as a matter of law, the circuit court ruled incorrectly. Thus, the circuit court ruling was affirmed.

Speak to a Proficient Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

A DUI conviction can dramatically impact a person’s liberties and reputation, and it is critical that people charged with DUI crimes receive an impartial trial. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is advisable to speak to a lawyer regarding your rights. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient DUI defense attorney with the skills and resources needed to help you seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Hanlon through the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a conference.

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