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Tampa, Florida Criminal Defense & Family Law Blog

Don't let overzealous DUI charges haunt your life

The summer season is primetime for fun in the sun with family and friends. Between beach outings, barbecues, reunions and many more activities, this can seem like an idyllic time. Many adults also enjoy drinking a few alcoholic beverages during such outings. It's when these beverages spill over into the road, however, that the fun situation can turn into an extremely serious criminal situation.

Being charged with DUI is an extremely serious matter. Penalties are stiff, typically resulting in a license revocation, significant fines, increases in insurance premiums and possibly time in prison. Depending upon your case, you may also have to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car or attend courses, both at your expense.

We question field sobriety tests in our DWI cases

A previous post on this blog discussed how field sobriety tests, which many in the Tampa metro area now see as part of the police's standard routine when they are stopping a Florida motorist on suspicion of drunk driving, can in fact be an unreliable indicator of whether a person is intoxicated.

Both the police and the prosecutors who work closely with them put a great deal of stock in these tests and often rely on them to justify their detention of a person so that they can obtain an official breath or blood test, which then can be used to secure a conviction for DWI. Although we recognize that these tests have to be dealt with in almost any DWI defense, our office takes a more skeptical approach to these tests.

Drug trafficking is not treated lightly in Florida

The transportation of illegal drugs through the state has been a major issue in Florida for a long time. Those caught allegedly participating in this type of activity could face significant consequences if convicted in criminal court. Facing a drug trafficking charge? Let an attorney help you navigate your case.

It is normal to have questions after one has charged you with a crime. A few common questions following a trafficking charge are: What are the potential penalties of a trafficking and/or distribution charge? How can I fight trafficking charges? Does it matter if controlled substances or prescription medications are at the heart of the case?

Can a plea negotiation keep me from going to jail?

When a Florida resident is arrested for committing a crime, they will generally be arraigned in court. During their arraignment, the court will inquire as to what plea the individual will offer and although there can be alternate pleas offered individuals generally either claim to be guilty or not guilty. While an outright admission of guilt may preclude the need for a trial and may send a person to the punishment phase of their criminal processing, a not guilty plea may set them up for a longer endeavor into the criminal justice system.

When a person claims to be not guilty, they force the prosecutors on their case to prove the elements of their alleged crimes. Only after proving a case may a person who has pled not guilty be convicted. Before arriving at this outcome, though, some individuals may consider changing their pleas to avoid the more serious consequences that may attach if they complete the entire trial process.

Field sobriety tests are imperfect and lead to erroneous arrests

Field sobriety tests are assessments of drivers' balance and coordination. Florida law enforcement officials administer them when those officers believe that drivers may be operating their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. Such tests generally require individuals to stand on one leg, walk in a straight line and follow a moving point with their eyes.

While alcohol can affect a driver's performance on these assessments, there are a number of other factors that can play into how well a driver does when asked to step out of their vehicle. A driver's level of exhaustion may influence their ability to balance and focus on a coordination assessment, as might any medical conditions.

Legislature debates minimum sentences for drug convictions

A mandatory minimum sentence is a criminal punishment that a judge must apply in a case where the defendant is found guilty of the underlying crime. For many crimes in Florida, judges have the discretion to consider the crime, the defendant and the extenuating circumstances of the case, when handing down a sentence. Many drug crimes may be punished under the somewhat subjective ruling of the court.

However, recently, the state senators of Florida entertained the idea of imposing a mandatory minimum sentence on individuals convicted of selling Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Allegedly, it has caused a number of overdose deaths in Florida and other states, due to its potential strength and its mixture with other drugs.

Enhanced protections for "stand your ground"

Not every state permits the use of deadly force as a means of self- defense. Florida residents are fortunate to have a statute permitting you to "stand your ground." Since the law is relatively new, it is still evolving, and lawmakers are presently considering a bill that will make a profound change in the way the law plays out in the courtroom.

If you recently faced an intruder or resorted to deadly force to protect yourself or your family, you may be concerned about having to prove that your actions were justified by the "stand your ground" statute. If the pending bill passes, the burden of proof will shift.

Protect your legal rights when facing drug charges

A conviction on drug charges can derail a Florida resident's life plans and throw into question the possibilities for their future. Whether they are arrested and then convicted on possession charges, manufacturing charges, distribution charges or others, there is little a person can do after prosecutors have proven their cases and successfully secured verdicts in their favor. However, it is possible to defend oneself against drug charges, and in some cases, criminal defendants can overcome their charges by examining deficiencies and problems in their prosecutors' cases.

For example, many drug cases are built on the seizure of allegedly illegal substances from those who are then arrested. But, the law enforcement officials who execute those seizures are mandated to follow certain procedural rules to ensure that the arrested parties' rights are protected. Whether a person is subjected to a search and seizure process due to a traffic stop, search warrant or other means, it is imperative that law enforcement officials abide by the rules for any future convictions based on the evidence they collect to hold up in court.

Is there a criminal defense to an assault charge?

A number of defenses exist that may mitigate or overcome an assault or battery charge. However, the availability of each defense will turn on whether the facts of the case support its assertion. If a Florida resident fails to prove a defense and support it with evidence, then it may not serve to protect the individual from a criminal conviction. As such, readers who wish to learn how these and other defenses may support their cases are advised to speak with their criminal defense lawyers.

One of the most commonly used defenses to assault charges and battery charges is self-defense. To successfully use this defense, a defendant must prove that they were threatened in such a way that they feared bodily harm, which they did not provoke their alleged attacker and they did not have any other means of stopping the attack. Similarly, a person may claim that they were defending another person if instead of fearing self-harm, the defendant feared that another party was going to be harmed.

Defenses may be available to drunk driving charges

A drunk driving charge such as DUI or DWI can leave a Florida resident with a difficult legal burden to bear. Even if they are able to pay any fines associated with conviction on their charges they may see their license revoked, their insurance premiums increase, and extra scrutiny placed on them when they are allowed back behind the wheel of a car.

As such, DUI and other drunk driving charges should be taken very seriously by those who must confront and overcome them. While in some cases a person may have little to offer in the way of an explanation to the circumstances that gave rise to a drunk driving charge, in others individuals may be able to explain away or refute the claims of drunk driving made against them. When a person can justify or refute a criminal charge the explanation is called a defense to the outstanding legal matter.

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