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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.

Legal News GavelA 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.

Legal News GavelDefendant 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.

Legal News Gavel“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.

Legal News GavelDefendant 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.

Legal News GavelDefendant 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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Getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated is a mistake that can have wide-ranging consequences. In addition to putting yourself and others at risk of an accident, you also face criminal prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A conviction can mean steep fines and even jail time. A person busted for DUI in Florida also may be looking at the loss of his or her driving privileges. State law provides for a five-year revocation of a person’s driver’s license if he or she is convicted of DUI twice within a five-year period. A recent case out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal shows just how seriously courts take that punishment.

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The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles initiated proceedings to revoke a defendant’s driver’s license after he was convicted of a second DUI. He was arrested twice in an eight-day span in October 2013 and pleaded guilty in both cases. He was convicted on both charges in November 2013. He later challenged the revocation of his license, arguing that a Florida law allowing for license revocation in the event of multiple DUI convictions didn’t apply to him.

The Florida law provides for license revocation in the event of “a second conviction for an offense that occurs within a period of 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation.” Since the defendant was convicted for both DUIs during the same criminal proceeding on one, single day, he argued that his second conviction wasn’t “after” the date of the first conviction. A circuit court disagreed. The First District also sided with the FDHSMV.

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No matter which kind of charges you are facing, it is important for a person accused of a crime in Florida to understand that prosecutors have the burden of proving your guilt. Specifically, they have to convince a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the specific crime with which you were charged. As a recent case out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal makes clear, it is the prosecutors’ fault if they charge you with the wrong crime.Legal News Gavel

A defendant was charged with two counts of violating a state law that makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to drive a car while knowing that your driver’s license or driving privilege has been canceled, suspended, or revoked. He pleaded no contest to the charges but then filed a motion to dismiss them. The defendant argued that he could not be convicted because he never had a driver’s license. In other words, the defendant said his driving privileges had never been canceled, suspended, or revoked. A trial judge denied that motion, finding that the defendant could have had his driving privileges revoked even if he never had a license in Florida. But the judge also invited the First District to weigh in.

The appeals court eventually sided with the defendant. The First District said the law was ambiguous on this particular question because the state legislature didn’t define the term “driving privilege.” It noted, however, that a separate law requires anyone operating a motor vehicle in the Sunshine State to have “a valid license issued by the State of Florida or fall under an exception to licensure.” As a result, the court said the term driving privilege referred to anyone who can lawfully operate a vehicle in Florida, even if they don’t have a driver’s license. Since the defendant didn’t have a license and didn’t fall under one of the exceptions to the license requirement, the court said he should have been charged with driving without a license rather than driving with a revoked license.

A criminal record can make life complicated, including by making it tough to find or keep a job. Past criminal convictions can in some cases also come back to haunt you if you’re ever charged with a new crime. Although there are important limits on the use of prior criminal acts – old crimes can’t generally be used to prove that you committed new crimes – there are also some exceptions. That includes when a criminal defendant testifies on his own behalf at trial. Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently explained how criminal records can be used to try to impeach the testimony of a defendant in a Florida criminal case.

Legal News GavelA defendant was charged with aggravated assault on a pregnant person. When he took the witness stand in his own defense at trial, prosecutors attempted to discredit him by introducing evidence of three previous convictions for burglary of a dwelling, grand theft, and petit theft. The prosecutor asked him if he had been previously convicted of a felony, and he answered that he had been convicted twice. He also responded to a separate question that he had two convictions for crimes involving dishonesty.

The court said the defendant’s answers were accurate. The burglary and grand theft convictions were for felony offenses. The grand theft and petit theft convictions were for crimes involving dishonesty. But after the defendant was convicted on the aggravated assault charge, he appealed the decision. He said the prosecutors asked the questions in a way that wrongly made it seem to the jury like he was lying about his previous convictions. The Fifth District disagreed.

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Florida law includes a number of protections for minor children. That includes a broadly worded statute that makes it a crime to interfere with the custody of a minor. As Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently explained, that statute may apply to a wide range of behavior.

Legal News GavelA defendant was charged with interfering with the custody of a minor, stemming from an incident involving a 14-year-old boy. The boy was riding his bike in his neighborhood when he noticed that the defendant was following him in a car, according to the court. He drove up next to the boy and asked to use his phone, which the boy was holding in his hand.

The defendant continued to follow the boy in the car, including when he turned on to a different street. He pulled closely next to the boy, forcing him to the edge of the street. When the boy stopped and got off his bike, he again asked to use his phone. He said he needed to call a friend and offered to allow the boy to hold some cash while he used the phone. “You can get in and hold the money,” he allegedly told the boy. The defendant eventually drove off when the boy declined. He was later convicted and sentenced to five years of probation.

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Florida drug crime cases involving a defendant with mental and emotional conditions can raise a number of complicated legal issues. In some cases, a judge will hold a competency hearing to determine whether the person is mentally capable to stand trial. A recent decision out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal offers some insight into when a judge must hold a competency hearing.

Legal News GavelA defendant was arrested and charged with various crimes related to his alleged involvement in a prescription drug trafficking ring. He eventually agreed to plead guilty to eight criminal offenses. In a hearing, however, he told the judge that he was under the influence of various prescription drugs to treat mental issues after being involved in some sort of accident. He told the judge that he often had trouble concentrating, but he said he was able to understand everything the judge and his lawyer were telling him. The judge eventually sentenced him to 25 years beyond bars.

The defendant’s doctor testified at the sentencing hearing that the defendant suffered from neurological problems that left him “simple” and “confused.” The doctor said he wasn’t capable of operating a multimillion dollar criminal enterprise like the prescription drug ring in which he was accused of being involved. Investigators, however, said the defendant was clear about the facts of the alleged crimes in several hours of police interviews. His ex-wife also said the defendant stopped going to doctor visits and continued to run the criminal operation, including by considering expanding it to Puerto Rico. As a result, the judge denied his request to reduce his sentence.