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Criminal Defense

Two Elements To Every Drug Bust

Drug Defense Attorney

RJ Ferraro has defended against Drug convictions since 2001

With all of the focus on the legalization of marijuana in Florida, some important information on other types of drug charges may be getting overlooked. Remember that the crack down on drugs is not limited to pot, and even if you are engaged in legal activity regarding marijuana, there are still plenty of illegal activities as far as other substances are concerned. Once final, the legalization of marijuana will apply only to that substance, and if you are caught with cocaine, methamphetamine, or any other banned substance you can be arrested and brought up on drug charges.

Two parts to every drug bust, that is the responsibility of the State to prove in order to get a conviction against you, are:

  • That you were knowingly in possession of the drug in question.
  • That you were able to exercise control or ownership of the drug in question.


These two requirements mean that it is not sufficient to show that you possessed an illegal substance, you must also have done so both knowingly and willingly. These are difficult standards to prove and require an in depth analysis into each facet of your case. The prosecution will work hard to show that you knew you had the drugs on you, and that you did so of your own willful act. Our job is to dispute the evidence offered by the State, and minimize the possible range of punishment you face. This is done through careful investigation and persuasive argument. When an error is made by the prosecution, we point that out to the Court and make sure you get the benefit of a lawful proceeding against you. All cases are different and some are resolve by plea negotiation while others require a trial to prove the truth of the matter. You also need to know that the law defines possession as either actual or constructive. With actual possession it can be more difficult to rebut the presumption you knew you had the drugs on your person. Constructive possession, on the other hand, is a type of possession where the substance is simply near your and/or within your control. For more information about what to do if you are charged with drug possession, call our office.

If you have questions about drug possession cases, 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.

Two Reasons To Talk To An Attorney About Drugs

Being arrested for a drug related offense is a serious matter that can have serious consequences. The punishment for possession or some other drug crime can include jail time and loss of other liberties. This is true even if you are charged in a case that seems minor, such as misdemeanor possession of marijuana. A lot of people don’t consider marijuana to be a “hard drug”, and thus are unaware of how serious an arrest can be when caught with the substance. And now that there is movement towards legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the thought of some is that there is no harm in simple possession or that it won’t be long until marijuana is legalized for other purposes. But until that time comes, you do have to be careful and act fast if you are facing possession or other drug related charges.

The first thing to know if you have been arrested on a drug charge is that your best defense starts by talking to a qualified attorney about your case before you talk to anyone else, including friends and family! Two reasons to talk to an attorney about drug charges, including things like possession, possession with intent, and distribution, are:

  • Anything you say to an officer can be used against you, and this is true even if you said something in jest or to an undercover police officer. Because it is hard to know when an officer is taking part in an undercover operation, it is hard to keep your words to yourself. When this instance is part of your case it is time to zip your lips and say nothing further until you give all of the details to an attorney.
  • Talking about things you think you know can quickly become the equivalent of actual knowledge when charges get filed. It is never a good idea to speculate or guess about circumstances, and if you happen to open up to an officer outside of the presence of an attorney, take care not to try and provide an answer to a question you don’t know. The more you say, the more likely you will be implicated in an unlawful act.

It is important to exercise your right to stay silent for many reasons, and perhaps one of the most important reasons is because in order to be convicted of a crime the state has to prove certain elements of that crime. Rather than give the prosecution the information they need to establish those elements, stay silent and let a competent defense attorney help you.

For assistance with drug charges, contact our office. Call us today schedule an appointment with n qualified criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. The first visit is a free initial consultation.

Five Things You Might Not Know About Probation

VOP probation technical violation

Probation is an excellent option if you can follow the rules.

If you have been placed on probation then you know that there are certain things you can do and certain things that are prohibited. You probably also know that if you do something that is prohibited you can be charged with violating your probation. A probation violation or VOP is a new charge that you have to defend, and with every violation comes the risk that your supervision will be revoked. All of this is should sound familiar if you have been arrested and negotiated a plea that included a term of probation. But there are also some things about probation that are not as obvious, but just as important.

Five things you might not know about probation, but should if you are considering agreeing to a term, are:

  • You might be subject to a random drug test, even if you were not arrested on a drug charge initially.
  • If you have been ordered not to “associate” with someone who is engaging in criminal activity, which might extend to minor violations. It is clear that you should stay away from hanging out with people who are dealing drugs or committing armed robbery, but what happens if you are out with a friend who gets arrested for public intoxication? That might be considered “associating with someone engaged in unlawful activity”.
  • Not all scientific proof has to be supported by an actual scientist. So, if you fail a one of the random drug tests mentioned above, don’t expect to get an opportunity to cross examine someone with scientific knowledge about the test itself.
  • Staying out past curfew can be a violation, and as easy as it is to lose track of time, this is a pretty common violation but one that gets little attention.
  • If you are caught committing a new crime, it might not be the best idea to enter a plea to that charge because doing so might be used as evidence in the case against you for VOP. You have to be very careful about how you respond to violation charges, or you risk digging a deeper hole.

The idea of going on probation sounds easy enough, but the little nuances described above show some of the complexities that must be considered first. If you have questions about probation or have been charged with a violation of probation, call us for help.


For more information about probation and VOP, call us today to schedule an appointment. One of our experienced criminal defense attorneys in Stuart and the Treasure Coast is here to help you and your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Tis the Season for Wine and Food Festival, Charity Dinners and DUI

Wine and Food Festival DUI Arrest

Enjoy all that our area has to offer, but drink responsibly!

Weather stations across the country have been reporting sunnier days in the midst of cold weather and residents from all parts of the nation are gearing up for summer. Snow birds are still in season, and we are in prime time for wine and food festival, charity dinners and often, DUI.

Not only does Florida have miles and miles of beautiful coast line, but also events for just about every taste. And, speaking of taste, a popular festival that involves good food and wine is getting ready to take place just to our north. The Vero Beach Wine and Food Festival has been a success in the past, and there is no reason to think it will not be a hit again in a few short months. But if you plan to go, do some advance planning in order to stay out of trouble with the law.

Two ways the Vero Beach Wine and Food Festival might land you in jail for DUI are:

  • The event includes wine, which is an alcoholic beverage. Any time you attend something where alcohol is served, and you got there by car, you run the risk of being pulled over on your way home and arrested for DUI.
  • This year the opportunity to attend after parties, where there will no doubt be more opportunities to take part in an alcoholic beverage. This is a new feature to the Festival and with even more chances to have a drink, your chances of being stopped and charged with DUI increases.

The best way to avoid an arrest is to make a plan prior to heading up the interstate for a safe ride home. You can designate a driver, use a driving service, or decide to stay put after the event ends. But even if you do make a good plan, things can still go wrong. This is true not only for this event, but also for a random Friday night out with friends. If you have been arrested for DUI you have to act fast to protect yourself and your right to drive. Our office has experience defending DUI cases and knows what type of defense will work best for the facts of your case. Call us today to find out more, and to work to save your driver’s license.

For questions about DUI defense, call us to schedule an appointment. Let one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys in Stuart and the Treasure Coast to help you with your case. Your first visit with us is a free initial consultation.

A Three Point Update On Medical Marijuana

medical marijuana is on its way

Medical Marijuana is still the exception, not the rule in Florida.

In November 2016 the most publicized issue at the voting polls was the choice of president, but there were more issues on the election ballot than just the race for the White House. Most states had local issues to decide and here at home one of those issues was the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Known as Amendment 2, the measure passed with just over 70% of the vote. But the “yes” vote was not an all clear to do as one wishes, and in the months that have followed there have been additional questions that have arisen, and getting answers is imperative if anyone is expected to act within the letter of the law.

A quick three point update on the status of medical marijuana in Florida includes the following information:

  • Of key concern to law enforcement officials is clarification on when, where, and how a dispensary will operate. This type of clarification is needed if law and order is to have any place within this new law.
  • What type of use will be permitted, vaping or smoking?
  • Growers have a large stake in the final version of the law, because they have invested a significant amount of time and money on this issue.

The State’s lawmakers have been tasked with implementing a law that operates in the way the voting public expected. The problem is that it is difficult to write a law that encompasses every voter’s needs or wants. The end result could be a law that sees a lot of legal challenges before there is any set groundwork for what is legal and what is illegal. In the meantime, we will keep our eyes on this very important issue, so we can provide accurate advice when required. It is also important to remember that the law will not give a blank check for things like distribution, possession, or other illegal drug activity. If you have questions about the status of medical marijuana or have another drug crime related mater that needs attention, call our office. We have experience defending people charged with drug crimes and will aggressively defend any charges against you.

For more information about drug charges, call our office. Schedule an appointment with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Five Reasons To Keep Up On Current Events

If you are in the habit of catching either the morning or evening news, or even check the feed on your social media accounts throughout the day, chances are you have seen a lot of stories about what is going on in the world today. Most of those stories focus on actions taken by the new President, and how those actions might have an impact on the everyday American citizen. One of the hottest topics has been immigration, and the memory of Trump’s disparaging remarks about people from other countries may still be fresh. If your daily routine does not include taking a peek at the latest news, you might want to make some changes to your schedule and tune in for a few minutes to see if there is anything you need to know about being reported.

Five good reasons to keep up on current events relate not only to the immigration issue, but also how that issues plays a role in everyday legal proceedings in the country. The story of Sandra Duran and Estuardo Alvarado is a good place to start in this regard. Alvarado is a five time deportee, and has been charged with the murder of Duran as a result of a DUI case. Here is what the news media has to say about the situation:

  • Alvarado was arrested after a crash in California; the crash ultimately took the life of Duran.
  • Alvarado was charged with DUI and murder, since Duran did not survive the incident.
  • Reports claim Alvarado was an undocumented immigrant, who also had a prior criminal record.
  • Duran’s family is outraged that Alvarado was even in the country to be able to cause the crash, as he had previously been deported five times.
  • Calls are being made to tighten up the immigration laws, to prevent this type of accident from happening in the future.

The point here is that we have all heard Trump’s calls for a wall, have heard him refer to certain ethnicities as “bad hombres” (or at least read a report about his remarks), and have listened to the immigration debate for what might seem like years. But in truth, unless you or a loved one is in the cross hairs on this issue, you may not have given it much thought. The same may be true for DUI defense or criminal defense in general. But this story shows how all of these issues have the ability to touch any one of us at any time. When and if you are faced with a legal issue that requires the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, whether that issue is for possession of drugs, DUI, or a speeding ticket; call our office. We can help.

If you have questions about criminal defense, contact us for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Six Pitfalls Of Probation Violations

Most people know that if they agree to go on probation, they will have to follow certain rules and procedures and if they do not, that their probation can be revoked. It is also pretty common knowledge that when probation is revoked, you face a much more harsh punishment, which could lead to you spending some time in jail. But there are other aspects of probation violations that are not as well-known, but should be if you are considering going on probation or have been charged with a violation of probation.

Six pitfalls of probation violations that you may not know about include the following:

  • There is no time limit for pursuing the violation. So if you think you can avoid prosecution of a violation by leaving the state, you will be surprised upon coming home to find out you are still liable for the violation and could be arrested and hauled into Court to face the charges.
  • The standard for a conviction is not as stringent; the State does not have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When the legal standard is not as high, the likelihood of being convicted increases.
  • You will probably be denied bond while waiting for your hearing. This is different from the first time around, where you likely bonded out while you waited to go to Court and agree to your probation.
  • The right to a trial by jury is not an option, so the Judge will be the one deciding your fate rather than a “jury of your peers”. Most times Judges are more hardnosed than what a jury might be, so you have to fight even harder for a good result.
  • The rules of evidence are not as strict, and hearsay statements can be brought into Court and used against you.
  • You will be asked questions, the answers to which may amount to you basically incrimi9nating yourself.

This list makes it easy to see how important it is to stay on track while on probation, or else you could fall victim to a more harsh punishment. If you have been arrested for a crime, let us help you get the best result possible. If probation is right for you, we will work hard to make sure the terms are ones you can follow and that you understand. If you are already on probation and have been charged with a violation, we can help there too. Call us today to find out more.

Five Steps To Know About If You Are Caught Violating Probation

When you agree to a term of probation to resolve a criminal charge against you, you have to be sure to follow the rules to the letter or you risk violating your probation. If a probation violation occurs, you can be charged with the new crime of probation violation as well as whatever crime led to the violation. This amounts to at least two new charges against you, and you also no longer get the benefit of your probation agreement, which means the original charge can now be prosecuted in full. These possibilities are severe, and can lead to jail time and additional fines that have to be paid. So, if you are charged with violating your probation, you need to know where to turn for help.

Five things that can happen when you are caught violating probation are:

  • Your probation will be revoked, leaving you to stand and face the full range of possible punishment for the original crime.
  • You will be charged with whatever new crime has been committed, and may not be offered probation as a way to resolve that case.
  • You will be charged with violating probation, which is a separate charge in and of itself.
  • You could be arrested, or have a warrant for your arrest issued that leads to an eventual arrest.
  • You may have to spend some time behind bars.

Most probation violations are defined as actual violations, which means the defendant has committed a new crime while on probation. But it is also possible to commit a technical violation of probation, which could be something as minor as forgetting to pay a fine when due or failing to report in as scheduled. In order to avoid a violation, make sure you understand all of the terms of your probation before the agreement is final. The best way to do this is to have a competent defense attorney negotiate your probation. Our staff is skilled at working out probation plans that make sense, and that you can follow. Because if your probation contains unreasonable terms, the chances of being successful while on probation are slim. For help, call us today.

For answers to questions about violations of probation, call an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Skilled criminal defense attorneys in Stuart and the Treasure Coast are here to help you today. Your first visit is a free initial consultation.

Four Different Types Of Drug Charges

Florida has a reputation for having easy access to drugs, but the state also has a reputation for handing out harsh punishment to those who get caught up with drugs. It is important to understand that there are classifications of substances, and not every case will be the worst case scenario. For instance, a possession of marijuana case will not be punished in the same was as manufacturing methamphetamine or distributing cocaine. Not only does the type of substance play a role in what type of charges are filed against you, but so do the actions taken in connection with the substance.

Four different types of drug charges that can be filed, regardless of the substance, include:

  • Possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
  • Distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.
  • Possession with the intent to sell, or simply selling a banned substance.
  • Trafficking in an illegal substance.

These are not the only possibilities, and you need to know that the State can come up with other combos of charges. As the type of activity becomes more involved, the range of punishment increases as does the piling up of charges. You also have to watch out for how much of a substance is involved in the case, as that can cause a case that might otherwise be filed as a misdemeanor to be filed as a felony. All of this information makes it close to impossible to keep track of the different combinations of charges that can be filed, but our team of experienced drug defense attorneys knows how to sort through a case. Once the facts of your case have been placed on the table, a defense strategy can be developed. We know which types of cases are more serious than others, and how subsequent convictions play a role in a new charge. We also know how important it is to you to get a good result in your case, and work with you every step of the way so vital pieces of information do not go overlooked. For more information about drug related crimes, and how to best defend them, call our office today.

If you have questions about how to defend a drug charge, 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.


Four Phases To Implementation Of The Real ID Act

With summer right around the corner, you might be starting to plan a few vacations. And, if your plans include travel outside of the country or on a domestic flight from Florida to somewhere else in the United States, you might be wondering what type of identification is required to get on that plane. Prior to 2005 you could board a plan for an in country flight simply by showing your driver’s license or other state issued identification. Passports were not needed to travel from state to state, but were needed if you planned to leave the country. But that has all changed now, with the implementation of the Real ID Act.

The Real ID Act requires U.S. citizens to have specific identification in order to board planes, even those that do not travel outside of U.S. airspace. If you do not have a Real ID Act approved license or identification card, you might not be able to fly. But it is not that simple, and even though Florida is Real ID Act compliant, there are still some things you should know about the Act. The four phases of implementation of the Act include:

  • As of April 21, 2014 you cannot be granted access to Department of Homeland Security offices in Washington, DC without an approved form of identification. This could be an approved state ID or driver’s license, or a passport.
  • As of July 1, 2014 nuclear power plants became off limits if you do not hold the proper form of identification.
  • In January and October of 2015 most federal facilities became off limits without a Real ID Act approved form of identification. This might include a military base or other federal facility.
  • On schedule for January 22, 2018 you will not be permitted to board a commercial plane if your ID is from a state that is not compliant with the Real ID Act.

These restrictions were designed as a way to fight the war on terror, as well as to get a handle on immigration. But the rules are confusing, and can wreak havoc on your vacation plans. Again, even though Florida is in compliance (with driver’s licenses having a star in the upper right corner to denote the license is compliant and should be accepted across the country), the above four points is a good quick reference to the Act’s implementation.

For questions about criminal cases, call us to schedule an appointment. Let one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys in Stuart and the Treasure Coast to help you with your case. Your first visit with us is a free initial consultation.