Legal Principles

Three Ways The Media Can Hurt Your Case

When you are arrested for a crime, the last thing you need is to have your case tried in the “Court of Public Opinion”. But with high profile case that is just what happens sometimes. When an incident is given a lot of media attention, it is not long before people take to social media and voice their opinions. This dual method of having your story splashed across the TV and on the screen of anyone with an internet connection can cause serious problems for your defense. When the public has already made a decision about a highly publicized case, it is hard for a defendant to get a fair shake.

A good example of this type of problem is the case of Adacia Chambers, the 25 year old woman arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and crashing her car into a crowd at Oklahoma State University’s Homecoming parade. The public backlash against Ms. Chambers is so severe, that she risks these three ways the media can hurt her case:

  • A fair trial in Stillwater, Oklahoma is unlikely. A smart move in this circumstance is to ask for a change in the venue where the trial will take place (if in fact the case is resolved by trial rather than negotiation).
  • Public perception of Ms. Chambers is so low that finding a potential juror without a preconceived idea as to her guilt or innocence will be near impossible.
  • Media reports and opinion on social media can be taken as true, even before all of the evidence is presented. This means any person who does sit in judgment of Ms. Chambers is likely to listen to the news or troll the internet to learn what happened rather than giving the evidence presented in Court the weight it deserves.

The initial reports were that Ms. Chambers may have been on drugs or drunk when driving. If so, she will face charges of DUI as well as heightened charges now brought against her for the deaths of 4 people at the parade. This type of case takes special care and investigation in order to develop an effective defense. If you have been charged with a DUI or other crime, call one of our DUI attorneys for help. We can keep media impact to a minimum while aggressively defending you.

If you have questions about how the media impacts a criminal case, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Two Ways Social Media Plays A Role In Your Criminal Case

These days nearly everyone has a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. These outlets can be a great way to keep up with friends and family, and to share what is going on in your life. But there are certain things that should be kept off the internet, and remain private. One reason it is important to keep things to yourself is because what you post online could end up being used as evidence against you if something bad happens. Couples going through a divorce are advised to refrain from posting suggestive photos while seeking child custody, and are also counseled to refrain from posting shots of expensive purchases or vacations if property distribution is an issue. The reason is that when you put things online that show where you are and what you are doing, if those things are not in line with what you are trying to achieve you will have a hard time overcoming the image you’ve created. In a criminal case it is just as important to be careful about what you post to your social media accounts. It might seem acceptable to snap a shot of your dinner and glass of wine while out with friends and #nightout, but if you wind up being pulled over on suspicion of DUI later, that photo might be the evidence that shows you have had too much to drink.

This issue is not new, and it has been reported here at home with a great deal of frequency. One case that made headlines is the “2 drunk 2 care” driver. In that case, Kayla Mendoza tweeted this phrase a few short hours before she was in an accident that took the lives of two young girls. Mendoza was found guilty and sentenced to 24 years behind bars. This is one example of how social media plays a role in your case, but here are two other ways your case can be impacted by the world wide web:

  • Your “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter can tag you, and those images can be used against you. It might seem harmless, and who doesn’t want to be tagged in a photo so it is shared on multiple timelines? But, if the post is potentially damaging, take a minute to “untag” yourself or ask your friend to remove the image until a later time.
  • Judges and attorneys are people too, and many of them have social media accounts. You never know who is connected to who, so be careful what you say and what you post.

If you have been arrested and there is damaging information out there online, you must aggressively defend the case against you. We have experience with these types of issues, and can help you develop a strategy that works. Call us today for more information.

For answers to questions about how social media can impact your criminal defense case, call an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Skilled criminal defense attorneys in Stuart and the Treasure Coast are here to help you reach workable solutions. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Three Reasons Why You Have The Right To Remain Silent…And Should!

We have all heard the familiar phrases “you have the right to an attorney, you have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you”. But how often do people really keep their lips sealed when being placed under arrest? All too often people believe they can “talk their way out” of a ticket, or even an arrest. The problem with this thought process is that it requires talking, and when faced with the possibility of going to jail a lot of people think the more they say the more likely they are to escape an arrest. However, nothing could be further from the truth, and the things you say that are used in the case against you are not limited to just the arrest itself.

Unfortunately there are many people that believe the Miranda rights are an ongoing protection against chatting with an officer or detective. This is simply not the case. Here are three good reasons why you have the right to remain silent…and should:

  • Conversations overhead in the back of a patrol car can be used as evidence against you. Fight the urge to break the awkward silence, because talking to the patrolman about where y you’ve been and what you’ve been doing will only hurt you later.
  • If you are using a phone at the jail, keep your comments to a minimum and relay only basic and necessary information to the person on the other line. Calls at prisons and jails are often recorded, and what you say can come back to haunt you.
  • Talking to a detective while waiting for your attorney to arrive is also a bad idea. You may think you are saving time by getting some of the facts out there before your attorney arrives, but in reality all you are doing is giving the detective valuable information that he might be able to hold against you in Court.

It is also important to know that if you waive your rights, you can invoke them later. If you have agreed to talk and during the conversation believe it is in your best interests to remain silent, you can advise the interrogator that you no longer wish to speak without an attorney present. You should also know that the police are not always required to give you the warnings, but that does not mean you shouldn’t exercise caution with your words. Many arrests are made without the Miranda warnings being given, and this has been found to be within the letter of the law. The key is whether you are being questions or interrogated. If so, you have the right to stay silent…and should!

If you have questions about your rights as a criminal defendant, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast for answers. Your first visit is a free consultation and we work with you to reach results that fit your needs.

What Is A Withholding Of Adjudication?

When a person is arrested and charged with a crime, they are required to appear before the Court and enter a plea to the charges. In many instances, depending on the type of charges, a defendant makes the decision to enter a plea in exchange for a reduction in the charges or other favorable treatment. The way this usually works is that by agreeing to enter a plea to what’s been filed against you, you enter a term of probation and the final adjudication on your case is put off (or withheld) until the probationary term expires. This is an attractive option for many criminal defendants, because it allows them to remain out of jail while resolving their case. However, there are some important things to know about agreeing to a withholding of adjudication, because it might be that the consequences are not what you expect. Knowing what you are agreeing to and the possible outcome will put you in the best position to make a decision about what type of defense strategy you want for your case.

Withholding of adjudication is most often offered to defendants that fit the following parameters:

  • Little or no prior criminal history or record.
  • The charges are misdemeanor charges.
  • The defendant does not pose a flight risk, meaning he or she will show back up to Court at the end of the probationary term.

Agreeing to have a final determination made on your case put off until some future date does mean you have to comply with certain terms until that time. For DUI’s and other traffic related offenses it is common to have to perform community service or attend driving school, you also cannot have any more tickets while on probation, and you will have to pay the fines associated with your case. You will not lose certain rights, such as the right to vote or to apply for certain licenses (such as a wildlife or firearm license) and in most cases you will be able maintain at least a limited right to drive. This all changes if the case against you is filed as a felony (including a felony DUI) though, so special thought must be given to whether withholding adjudication is right for you. We can help by walking you through the possible outcomes, and advising you of the consequences of the agreement.

For help with defending a criminal charge, call our office to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney. We help people charged with all sorts of crimes in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Call today to schedule an appointment.

A Second Look At Stays Of Execution

In April 2014 a death row inmate in the State of Oklahoma was put to death by lethal injection, but during the process something went terribly wrong. The “botched” execution of Clayton Lockett received worldwide press, and the death penalty debate took on new life. Now, a death row inmate in the same state is cheering the State’s Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision to stay his execution. Richard Glossip received a stay of execution on September 16, 2015 amid arguments from his attorneys that there is new evidence in his case. With the spotlight on the issue, it is a good time to take a look at how stays of execution are granted here at home.

A stay of execution in Florida is governed by the rules of criminal procedure. And, unless an inmate receives a stay, an execution is carried out as planned. This is true, even with the controversy surrounding the drug used in Oklahoma, which is also used in Florida. Further information on the topic includes:

  • The drug midazolam is used to cause respiratory arrest, which is one of the parts of the execution process.
  • Florida has used the drug in a dose of 500 mg since the year 2013, but Oklahoma just recently increased the dose given.
  • Given the problems with the Oklahoma execution, Florida voluntarily stayed some executions scheduled for the summer of 2015, until the issue was resolved by the United States Supreme Court.

Voluntarily staying an execution is an extraordinary step for the state to take, but given the circumstances it was warranted. Most inmates do not get this lucky, and instead must seek a stay from the government. There are a limited number of reasons why a stay may or may not be granted, and it takes an artful legal argument to prove a stay is appropriate. If you have a loved one that needs help with a criminal case, don’t take matters into your own hands. Call a qualified criminal defense attorney today for help. We focus on helping people charged with all kinds of crimes, from DUI’s to drug charges and traffic tickets to juvenile offenders, find solutions that work.

 

For more information about criminal defense, call an experienced defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. We offer an initial consultation for no charge, and look forward to helping you resolve your case in a satisfactory way.

The Top Five Ways To Lose Your Right To Drive

Getting around without a car is a difficult task. If you rely too heavily on friends or family, or have to resort to public transportation you can easily find yourself without a ride by imposing too often, or by missing the bus. So if you are arrested for a crime that includes potentially losing your driving privileges, it is critical to take immediate action to preserve your right to drive, even if that right is temporarily modified. Having at least a limited right to drive will give you the freedom you need to get where you are going, and to maintain some independence.

The top five most common charges that call for revocation or suspension of your license include:

  • A DUI conviction or being convicted of crimes involving drugs or other controlled substances.
  • Violating the requirements to have an interlock device installed in your car, which is a common term of probation for DUI cases.
  • Having too many tickets, points on your record, or otherwise landing on the habitual traffic offender list.
  • Traffic related convictions that include a death or serious injury.
  • Convictions for reckless driving, which includes instances of driving at rates well over the posted speed limit.

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI or another traffic related offense that results in loss of your license, there are things you can to do maintain some right to drive. But, in most instances there are certain rules and procedures, and time restrictions that must be followed in order to make a request for limited license. If you do not follow the proper procedure or miss the deadline, you will not be able to ask for a license. And, if you decide to drive anyway while your license is suspended, you run the risk of being charged with additional crimes. Rather than take these chances, call our office for help. Our experienced DUI defense attorneys have helped keep others on the road, and can help you too. Let us put our experience to work for you, call us today to learn more about what can be done for you.

Allow an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast to help you. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Two Traffic Ticket School Do’s And Don’ts

Spending the day in traffic school is no one’s idea of a good time. But if you have received a traffic ticket it may be just what you need in order to keep damaging points off of your driving record. Attending traffic school after getting a ticket is also one way to maintain lower insurance rates. These two reasons should be enough to give you pause over whether simply paying the fine and moving on is in your best interest. Most times paying the fine without exploring your legal options is not the most advantageous method of resolving a traffic ticket. A better approach is to fight the ticket, and see if you are able to do things like go to traffic school in exchange for a lower fine, and a charge that does not show up on your driving record. The fewer instances of traffic violations on your driving record the better, because when you accumulate too many tickets you stand the chance of losing your license.

A couple of rules on school, and two traffic ticket school do’s and don’ts of attending include the following:

  • Do not attempt to try and attend traffic school more than once in twelve months. The state does not permit attendance more than once in this time period, so you have to be careful about when you decide to go. You are also prohibited from going to driving school more than five times in a ten year span.
  • Do attend an accredited school, and be sure to obtain your certificate of completion.

Proof that you have completed the course is generally a requirement for a reduction in the ticket, so you will want to be sure to hand this over to your attorney as soon as it is received. Keeping you on the road is important, and we know how to look at your case and determine when the time is right to attend traffic school. Let us help you maintain your driving privileges after receiving a traffic ticket by calling our office to speak with a trained traffic ticket attorney today.

If you have received a traffic ticket, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast for answers. Your first visit is a free consultation and we work with you to reach results that fit your needs.

Important Changes To Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Upon being arrested a criminal defendant’s most pressing concern is the range of punishment. Knowing what to expect by way of fines and possible incarceration helps to prepare you for what lies ahead and can also help aid you when deciding on a defense strategy. When the offense is in federal court rather than state court the Judge is required to adhere to strict sentencing guidelines. Over the years these guidelines have changed. This Fall, criminal defendants in federal matters will see another change. It is important to know what’s in store for the future, even if your case is not a federal case. This is because some prosecutors in state court try to draw parallels to these rules, so understanding the rationale behind them is key to understanding how the criminal judicial system works.

The United States Sentencing Commission has approved the following changes, to be effective November 1, 2015:

  • Clarification on who is considered a “conspirator” in a conspiracy case. This change is aimed at clarifying who can be held accountable, and for what. The hope is that one single defendant will not be made to answer for all the charges in a case, but only those for which evidence points to their involvement.
  • For financial crimes, the punishment can be adjusted downwardly depending on the amount in controversy. The financial harm suffered in a money crime (commonly thought of as white collar crimes) has been adjusted to take into account inflation.

The Commission hopes these changes will provide fair punishment, and hopefully decrease the amount of incarcerated individuals. An interesting fact is that the United States jails a higher percent of its population than do most other countries in the world. This statistic is truly amazing, and should give prosecutors pause when pushing for jail time. Our goal is to reach results that are appropriate for the case. When a punishment is out of line with the charge, we aggressively pursue alternative sentences.

If you have questions about how criminal sentencing works, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free consultation and we work with you to reach results that fit your needs.

An Explanation Of The Two Types Of Probation Violations

Entering a plea in exchange for a term of probation in a criminal case is a popular way to resolve the charges against you. However, it is critical to fully understand the terms of your probation and the possible types of violations. This is because if you violate your probationary terms you will face not only the new charge of the violation, but be made to answer for the original charges. This combination of criminal charges against you can lead to jail time and hefty financial penalties. Therefore, taking care to stay out of trouble while on probation is key to a successful term.

Probation violations fall into certain categories. The Court does not differentiate between the types of violation when imposing punishment, but that does not mean ignoring the type of violation will make the problem go away. The two types of probation violations include:

  • A technical violation: these violations include missing a scheduled meeting with your probation officer or traveling to a geographically restricted area.
  •   An actual violation: this happens when a new crime is committed during the term of probation.

 

Avoiding jail time as a possible punishment is the ultimate goal when defending any criminal case. This is never more so true than when dealing with probation violations. Because the possibility of being sentenced to jail increases with a violation of probation for an existing charge, it is crucial you aggressively defend the violation charge. It is also just as important to fully understand what is required of you while on probation, so that you can work hard to avoid a violation. We can help you agree to terms that make sense for your schedule and your life, and that are not confusing. Call our office today to learn more about the ins and outs of probation.

If you have questions about probation and violations of probation, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. We aggressively defend you and work to maintain your driving privileges. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Three Strikes, You’re Out! Three Ways To Probation Is Violated

When you agree to go on probation in order to avoid going to jail for a criminal charge, it is critical that you fully understand the terms of your probation. If you are not clear on what is expected it will be near impossible to follow the rules. And, if you are not following the rules you can face being charged with a probation violation as well as being punished for the origi8nal criminal charge. Some of the terms of your probation will be easily understood, but others are less clear. Make sure you know what is expected of you prior to entering any agreement by having a qualified criminal defense attorney help you.

When probationary terms are set you can count on the state giving you a list that contains the terms and conditions of probation. While every case is unique and has its own requirements, the most common requirements include:

  • Timely and in person reporting to your probation officer.
  • Keeping your probation officer advised of your whereabouts, which includes a requirement of notifying your officer of any new home or work address.
  • Making sure pay the fines associated with your case as they become due.

Failing to do any of the above three things will lead to a violation of your probation. This will create a new charge that requires a defense and you will also face the full range of punishment for the original charge. If you are uncertain as to what you are allowed to do while on probation, ask. Your probation officer should be able to provide answers, but the best source of information is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. We are experienced with the different forms of probation violations and can develop a defense that works for you.

If you have been charged with a probation violation, call a competent criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast for help. We offer aggressive representation for criminal charges. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

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