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Tampa, Florida Criminal Defense & Family Law Blog

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

These days many people may think that they have a firm grasp on what occurs during the criminal justice process based on what they have seen in movies or on television. However, reality can be quite a bit different, which why it is so important for a criminal suspect in Florida to understand some of the basics of the criminal justice process. For example - what is the difference between a felony charge and a misdemeanor charge?

Well, for starters, a misdemeanor charge is typically referred to a less severe category of charge. But that is just based on the severity of the potential punishment that can be doled out be a judge, not on the effect such a charge can have on a person's life. Yes, the potential sentence upon conviction for a misdemeanor - such as drunk driving, for example - may be limited, but any type of arrest and conviction can have a tremendous impact on a person's employment or family life.

How can you choose the right strategy for your DUI defense?

When facing charges of drunk driving, you probably feel overwhelmed. It's critical to take action to protect your future and your long-term interests, even if it is your first offense, but where should you begin? Appropriately defending yourself starts with choosing the right strategy for your defense plan.

One of the most significant steps in the defense process is to carefully evaluate your case. The right approach for your defense depends on the details of your individual situation, but you have the right to challenge the officer's actions, the results of a chemical test or even the validity of the original traffic stop. Before you move forward, it may be helpful to consider all of the defense options available to you.

Constitutional rights are at jeopardy in drug charge cases

Most criminal defendants understand that they have constitutional rights that need to be protected as they face their initial hearing and go through their case, perhaps all the way to a jury trial. However, there is perhaps no area of criminal law where constitutional rights are threatened more than in drug charge cases. Why? Well, for the most part, it is because Fourth Amendment rights can be particularly important in drug cases, due to searches and seizures that necessarily occur to uncover illegal drugs.

Fourth Amendment law can seem like an ever-changing realm, but the main point of these constitutional protections is that no one should be subject to a search or seizure of their property unless a warrant is obtained first. A search warrant, for instance, must specifically detail the following: what law enforcement officials are looking for; where they are looking; and why they believe the illegal items are where they think they are.

Are you considering all of your options for criminal defense?

Many of our readers in Florida may know that the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved with a plea agreement. There are many different ways these types of agreements can play out, such as agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge, or perhaps agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for a less severe sentence. However, there are some cases in which other options need to be considered.

Are you considering all of your options when it comes to the criminal defense strategy for your case? To do so, the first step is to consider the evidence that will be used by the prosecution to attempt to prove each element of the charge you face. And, on top of that, consider if the evidence is enough to prove each element of the charge "beyond a reasonable doubt." Prosecutors are held to a high standard when a person's freedom is on the line.

21-year-old suspect held after shooting at Florida bank

Florida was again in the center of the national news spotlight recently in the aftermath of a horrible situation in Sebring, in which a man reportedly blockaded himself inside a bank after shooting five people. The five victims died from their wounds. When the crisis ended, a 21-year-old man was arrested as the alleged suspect who was responsible for the violence.

The reports indicate that the alleged shooter was ordered to be held in police custody without bond. The suspect will obviously be facing a range of serious charges, including murder charges, among others. He will also be facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Will Florida follow states that lower the legal limit to .05?

Whether you anticipate attending a raucous party for the football championship game or you are already dealing with the legal consequences of a holiday party, you would benefit from an understanding of Florida's drunk driving laws. Like most other states, Florida takes DUI seriously, tallying statistics of the injuries and fatalities that result from accidents involving impaired drivers, and tightening the laws related to drunk driving arrests.

Currently, the law in most states sets the legal limit from a driver's blood alcohol concentration at .08, and if your BAC reaches that percentage or higher, law enforcement will likely arrest you even if your driving does not seem impaired. However, another state recently lowered its BAC limit, and you may be wondering if Florida will do the same.

The consequences of refusing a breath test during a DUI stop

By now many of our readers in Florida probably know that one of the basic elements of a DUI traffic stop is for the investigating police officer to ask the suspect driver to submit to a breath test using a device commonly known as a breathalyzer. Such a request is just part of the DUI investigation, along with asking questions of the suspect and asking the suspect to take part in field sobriety tests. While most people understand that it is usually best to cooperate with law enforcement officials when legal and constitutionally valid requests are made, some may think that it is best to not cooperate in order to avoid incriminating themselves. Under Florida law, there are consequences for refusing a breath test during a DUI stop.

Our readers may not know that by the very act of getting a driver's license, the law states that individuals have given "implied consent" to submit to a breath test when asked. Thus, drivers have already agreed to give a breath test by way of getting their driver's licenses. So, when a driver refuses to submit to a breath test during a DUI stop, the driver will be warned by the investigating police officer about the consequences of doing so.

What is drug paraphernalia?

Most of our readers in Florida know that there are many different drug charges that people could face when it comes to the possession, manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs. Despite the leniency that some other states are beginning to show when it comes to these issues, particularly with marijuana, Florida maintains a strict stance on illegal drugs. But, there are other items related to illegal drugs that a person could possess that might lead to criminal charges as well, such as drug "paraphernalia."

So, what is drug paraphernalia? Well, in essence, it is any type of item that a person might possess for the use or distribution of illegal drugs, but it may depend on the context of the possession in question. For example, people who use marijuana might typically smoke it by using rolling papers or pipes. When those items are found in a person's possession when that same person is also found to be in possession of marijuana, that individual could face a drug paraphernalia charge as well.

Shouldn't your defense strategy include your own investigation?

Many criminal defendants in Florida are presented with a set of facts and some basic evidence that the prosecution will use to attempt to prove the case and may think that they have no chance at presenting a sound criminal defense. But, in many cases, that simply isn't true. Shouldn't your defense strategy include an investigation of your own into the alleged facts behind the purported crime?

At our law firm, we know that any given case could have multiple versions of the alleged events that occurred. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors are more likely to present those facts and the evidence they will use in a light that makes it hard for a criminal defendant to justify the time and effort it might take to push the case all the way to a jury trial. However, those facts and the evidence must be evaluated with a critical eye - one that is looking out for the criminal defendant's rights.

Watch out for these police DUI questioning tactics

Getting stopped by a Florida police officer while driving  is often nerve wracking. Many people immediately feel their palms begin to sweat and their heart rates increase as they stop their vehicles and officers approach. In this situation, you may run through the possible reasons for why police may have stopped you.

Though you may initially believe that the officer will tell you that you have a tail light out or that you missed a stop sign, you may feel shocked when the officer begins acting like you have something to hide. Before you know it, the officer may be asking you questions about drinking and driving.

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