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Tampa, Florida Criminal Defense & Family Law Blog

What happens during a criminal trial?

Although it is not as common as it used to be, many criminal cases do proceed all the way to a jury trial. These are complicated, expensive and detail-oriented affairs for all parties involved. From a defendant's standpoint, it is important to understand the necessary steps that occur in a trial. So, what happens during a criminal trial?

The first step is oftentimes the most crucial - selecting a jury. Some of our readers may have actually been called for jury duty before and, therefore, may have had a first-hand encounter with this step in the trial process. Typically, a large number of nominally eligible individuals are called into the court and, through the process of elimination, the number is whittled down until the right number of jurors are in place, who promise to be "unbiased" in their consideration of the evidence that is presented.

The basics elements of a drug possession charge

Most Florida residents probably think that a drug possession charge is relatively straightforward: when a person is caught with illegal drugs, that person will face a drug possession charge. However, oftentimes there is more to these charges than such a simplistic process. In Florida, our readers need to be aware of the basic elements of a drug possession charge.

For starters, the material that is seized by law enforcement officials - which is alleged to be an "illegal" drug - must actually be what the police officers believe it to be. Law enforcement officials receive extensive training in order to be able to identify illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, oftentimes just be looking at it or smelling it. However, that type of identification alone typically will not hold up in court. The material must be tested to verify its authenticity.

Avoiding the significant penalties in a DUI case

Drunk driving arrests are so common that many people probably think that these are relatively minor incidents. But, while such arrests - for first-time offenders - are typically misdemeanors, which means they have a lower level of potential penalties involved, the all-encompassing penalties, beyond just what is involved from a criminal justice standpoint, can be significant.

For instance, some people probably think that serving a year under probation supervision, if convicted of DUI, isn't that big of a deal. However, think of how such a sentence will impact your life: you will be required to report regularly to a probation officer; you will likely be prohibited from visiting locations where alcohol is served, such as bars; and you will likely be required to attend substance abuse or alcohol counseling. These are time consuming obligations, which must be fulfilled to avoid probation violations.

What are the lawful circumstances for an arrest?

Facing criminal accusations is no easy matter to address. From the moment an officer places you under arrest, you may have major concerns about your future. Of course, at that exact moment, your mind may be reeling from a variety of emotions, and you may not feel able to even think straight.

Though feeling overwhelmed during this time is understandable, a clear mind and focus on the details of the arrest may do you many favors later. Doing your best to remember your arrest could prove useful in the event that an officer made a mistake or did not follow proper procedure when taking you into custody.

Law enforcement sweep leads to some questionable arrests

Our readers in Florida probably know that individuals who have been convicted of a crime and who are under court supervision - such as probation - face conditions to their release which they must obey. Sex offenders, however, have even more strict requirements that they must meet than, say, a person who has been arrested and convicted for driving while intoxicated.

As a recent article noted, most sex offenders are required to comply with almost every legal obligation a person could be required to meet. If a sex offender, for example, fails to properly register their vehicles, that could be viewed as a violation of their terms of court supervision. At least, that is the way nearby Polk County has decided to view these requirements and, as noted in a recent news article, convicted sex offenders in that county may have been subjected to questionable arrests in a law enforcement sweep.

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.

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