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As representatives of the State, prosecutors have special responsibilities that the defense does not have. Prosecutors are supposed to be on the side of justice, so they should look at the evidence with that goal in mind. If they find evidence that would tend to show that the defendant is innocent, they have a responsibility to share that evidence. Specifically, a Supreme Court case called Brady requires that the prosecution must turn over any evidence to the defense that meets certain criteria. If they do not do this, a conviction may be reversed. There are a number of different ways that a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney may be able to get your conviction overturned. Of course, individual results will depend on the facts of your case.prisoner

Brady Violations

There are certain requirements that need to be met in order for a court to find that a Brady violation has occurred. The burden is on the defendant to show that a Brady violation has taken place. The first thing the defense needs to prove is that the evidence either impeached the testimony of a prosecution witness or was exculpatory. They also need to prove that the State either willfully or inadvertently withheld that evidence from the defense. Finally, the defendant needs to show that the evidence was material and that their lack of access to the evidence hurt their case.

The U.S. Constitution protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If evidence was gained by the police through illegal means, that evidence can be suppressed. Suppression means that the evidence cannot be presented in court. If evidence that should have been suppressed is presented, and there is a conviction, that conviction can be overturned. There are many possible ways that a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney can try to get evidence against you suppressed.traffic stop

Warrants and Searches

When a search warrant is issued, it will have a description of the specific places that are allowed to be searched. In this case, the warrant permitted the police to search three motel rooms, any people who were believed to be involved in the crime, the curtilage, and any vehicles located in the curtilage. The SWAT team came in to perform the search. During the search, they saw the defendant leave one of the hotel rooms and walk to his car, which was parked a few feet away in the parking lot of the motel. He got into his car, and as he tried to leave, he was stopped by law enforcement, blocking him in. Then he got out of his car and lay on the ground. The officer searched his car and found drugs.

behind barsFlorida cops and courts treat drug and other related crimes very seriously. A conviction can come with significant consequences, including long stretches behind bars and significant money penalties. Many drug cases also often involve the confiscation of money and other property seized by police officers during an investigation. As a recent case out of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals makes clear, it can be tough to get that money back. State law creates only a small window of time to file a request to return seized property.

The defendant was charged with drug trafficking and money laundering following a 2006 police surveillance operation. Officers observed him pacing back and forth and talking on his cell phone for about 15 minutes before the defendant placed a black duffle bag in his car and drove off. They said he drove erratically to another location, where another man removed a black rolling suitcase from the defendant’s car. An undercover officer approached the two men and the defendant eventually consented to having the car searched, according to the court. The cops found “a significant amount” of cocaine and $738,000 in cash in the duffle bag inside the car.

The defendant was convicted two years later and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Law enforcement officers also seized the money from the duffle bag. A state court denied Defendant’s request to force the return of the money. The court cited a Florida statute that provides that any property lawfully seized by a law enforcement agency becomes the property of that agency 60 days after the closure of court proceedings related to the property. The court said the defendant filed his request outside of that 60-day window.

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criminal lawPolice officers must have reasonable suspicion to believe that you’re committing a crime in order to stop your car on the road. They need to have probable cause—a higher bar—to actually search the car. These are two important protections for anyone suspected of or charged with a Florida crime. But, as the state’s Third District Court of Appeal recently pointed out, there are many ways in which the cops can legally stop your car and search it.

Defendant was charged with possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver a controlled substance after a police officer found Xanax pills in Defendant’s car. The officer, who was in an unmarked car investigating unrelated crimes in the area, said he originally pulled Defendant over because he noticed part of Defendant’s license plate was obscured. A metal frame was blocking “MyFlorida.com” from the top portion of the license plate and “Sunshine State” from the bottom portion. The officer said he searched the car because he smelled marijuana inside.

A trial judge agreed with Defendant that the search was illegal. As a result, the judge granted Defendant’s request to suppress all of the evidence gained during the stop, including the Xanax pills. The Third District reversed that decision on appeal, however, finding that state law gave the officer the right to pull Defendant’s car over.

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The rule against hearsay essentially bans a person from testifying in court about what another person said outside of court if the testimony is meant to prove that the out-of-court statement is true. As Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently pointed out in a murder case, however, there are a number of exceptions to this rule. That includes certain statements made by a person shortly before he or she dies.

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Defendant was charged with first degree murder and an assortment of related criminal offenses, stemming from the killing of a Florida man during what prosecutors described as a drug deal gone wrong. Defendant was visiting Miami from New York when he and a friend bought $5 worth of marijuana from M., according to the court. M. then arranged for Defendant to buy $1,500 in cocaine and marijuana from V., the court said. Defendant allegedly coaxed M. to his hotel room, where he and his associate claimed to be police officers, threatened M. with a gun, beat him, and forced M. to set up a meeting with V..

V. eventually met with Defendant and got in the back of his car. Defendant’s associate showed V. a police ID card. V. tried to get out of the car when he realized Defendant didn’t have money for the drugs he said he wanted to buy. A struggle ensued, during which Defendant allegedly shot V. three times as V. was getting out of the car. Defendant and his associate drove off with M. still in the back of the car. A police officer who arrived on the scene asked V. who shot him. V. told the officer that it was “a black man with dreads.” He died shortly after making the statement.

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In Florida and elsewhere, probation is an alternative to prison time in which a person convicted of a crime is able to remain free, so long as he or she complies with certain terms and conditions. This is an attractive option for anyone charged with a crime in Florida because it allows the person in question to avoid prison time, continue working, and remain with your loved ones. As a recent case out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal makes clear, however, a person who has violated the terms of his or her probation is liable to face some serious consequences.

Prison CellsA defendant in 2010 pled no contest to dealing in stolen property, a second degree felony, and grand theft, a third degree felony. He also pled no contest to dealing in stolen property in a second case. A trial judge withheld sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve three years of probation. One year later, however, Defendant pled no contest to various drug crimes, including cocaine possession. He also admitted to violating the terms of his probation. Defendant later violated the terms of his probation again by failing to undergo drug and alcohol treatment.

In 2015, Defendant entered into an agreement with Florida state prosecutors after once again violating the terms of his probation. He agreed that any new criminal offenses, including for traffic infractions, would violate the terms of his probation. Defendant was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison on the three 2010 charges after being busted for driving on a suspended license.

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A recent Supreme Court decision is widely expected to make it easier for people wrongly convicted of Florida crime to get compensation. A later ruling out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, however, makes clear that there are still strict time limits on efforts to get that compensation.

Prison CellsDefendant was charged with grand theft and uttering a forged instrument, executing a scheme to defraud a financial institution, and counterfeiting a license tag in three separate criminal cases. He eventually entered into a plea deal, under which Defendant plead no contest to the crimes. He also agreed to pay restitution to the victims of the forged instrument and scheme to defraud offenses. Defendant was sentenced to three years of probation on the scheme to defraud charge as part of the deal.

A federal court in 2009 overturned Defendant’s conviction on the scheme to defraud offense. The court held that writing a check that’s unsupported by sufficient funds doesn’t qualify as a fraudulent representation to a bank without proof of intent. So Defendant also went back to state court and asked a judge to scrap his plea deal and give Defendant back the restitution money he had paid for the scheme to defraud conviction. The trial court declined that request in 2009. Some eight years later, Defendant filed a “motion for damages” seeking the return of the restitution money. A judge said that this filing wasn’t timely.

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The U.S. Supreme court recently bolstered personal privacy protections for anyone who owns a cell phone. The court’s new 5-4 ruling also clarifies some important safeguards for anyone facing Florida criminal charges (or elsewhere). The justices said that law enforcement officers generally need a warrant before they can obtain and search records showing when and where calls take place.

Supreme Court“Although such records are generated for commercial purposes, that distinction does not negate [Defendant]’s anticipation of privacy in his physical location,” the court said in a majority opinion penned by Chief Justice John Roberts. “Mapping a cell phone’s location over the course of 127 days provides an all-encompassing record of the holder’s whereabouts.”

Defendant was charged with six counts of robbery and another six firearms offenses for his alleged role as the leader of a string of robberies. Prosecutors used cell tower records—showing Defendant’s whereabouts over the span of 127 days—to try to show that Defendant was in the area where the crimes happened when the crimes happened. A trial judge allowed the prosecutors to enter the cell tower data as evidence, and Defendant was later convicted. A federal appeals court affirmed the decision.

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A recent fatal DUI accident in North Florida is an unfortunate reminder of the risks that come with getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. The criminal conviction of a driver involved in the accident also shines a light on some of the legal issues related to proving impairment in cases in which a driver is allegedly under the influence of drugs. That’s because the science of toxicology hasn’t advanced to the point where experts can definitively say that a person was legally impaired at the time of a crash.

Squad CarDefendant was charged with driving under the influence causing death, driving under the influence causing serious personal injury and driving under the influence causing property damage, stemming from an accident in which a 13-year-old child was killed. On the day in question, Defendant was fresh off of a stint in county jail. He allegedly was involved in two accidents. First, Defendant allegedly sped off after hitting a vehicle. The driver of that vehicle chased after Defendant to get his license plate number. During the chase, Defendant purportedly ran a stop sign, hit a guardrail and then slammed into another car. The child was killed in the second collision.

Blood tests showed that Defendant was under the influence of amphetamine and methamphetamine at the time of the crash. Prosecutors at trial called a University of Florida College of Medicine toxicology professor as an expert witness. They wanted the professor to weigh in on whether Defendant was actually impaired at the time of the collision. Defendant’s attorney objected, however, arguing that the professor didn’t qualify as an expert. Specifically, the lawyer argued that the professor wouldn’t be able to determine based on the amount of the drugs in Defendant’s system and the circumstances of the accident whether Defendant was impaired.

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Plea agreements can be useful tools for anyone facing criminal charges in Florida. These deals allow you to resolve criminal charges without at least some of the time, expense, and stress that come with a full-blown trial. They may also give a criminal defendant the leverage to reduce the punishment that comes with a conviction. It is important to remember, however, that these deals are binding legal agreements that you probably can’t go back and change later down the road. A recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida is a good example of that point.

Prison CellsDefendant was charged with introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs, a federal crime, stemming from his alleged involvement in a synthetic marijuana business. According to prosecutors, the products “were manufactured by applying chemicals (synthetic cannabinoids) to plant material to create a product which users would smoke for a ‘high.’” The products were intended to be smoked, the prosecutors said, but they were not properly labeled. The prosecutors said the packaging indicated that the products were “not for human consumption” and that they included potpourri and incense. The packaging didn’t correctly identify the synthetic marijuana and didn’t include adequate directions for using the drug, according to prosecutors.

Defendant eventually entered into a plea agreement. As part of the deal, he agreed to waive his right to appeal the sentence eventually handed down by a judge. He nevertheless filed a motion to vacate the sentence after it was handed down. Defendant argued that the trial judge wrongly concluded that the fraud involved $1.9 million in business from the synthetic drugs. He said the amount was actually less than that because he was involved in the business for 10 months rather than 17 months.

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