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Articles Posted in Criminal Procedure

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The Youthful Offender Act was enacted to give lower courts sentencing alternatives for defendants who are under 21-years-old and meet certain eligibility criteria. If you meet these criteria in Miami, it may be possible to ask the court to sentence you as a youthful offender, and these penalties are less harsh than adult sentencing. A skillful Miami criminal defense attorney with knowledge of sentencing alternatives can help you make sense of your options. In a recent Florida case, an appellate court reconsidered an earlier ruling about its sentencing of a defendant previously deemed a youthful offender.

The case arose when a young man was charged with aggravated battery. His sentence was imposed pursuant to the Youthful Offender Act, which permits at most six years of incarceration for those treated as youthful offenders. Accordingly, the defendant’s sentence involved 479 days in prison plus 18 months community control and 18 months of probation. After the community control was revoked for a substantive violation, the lower court sentenced him to a mandatory minimum term of 20 years imprisonment under the 10-20-Life statute, section 775.087(2)(a).

The appellate court affirmed. Later the sentence was amended to state he retained his status as a youthful offender. He filed several challenges to his sentence. Among these challenges was a motion to correct an illegal sentence under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a). He claimed the mandatory minimum term was unlawful since was more than the most the court could impose for a youthful offender’s second-degree felony.

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Are you under the age of eighteen? Have you been charged with a crime? Unlike adults, juveniles are charged in a different court. In Florida, juveniles are tried in the Juvenile Justice System.

In Florida there are several differences between the Juvenile Justice System and the Criminal Justice System that tries adults. Some of these differences are:

  1. Unlike the criminal system that punishes defendants convicted of a crime, the Juvenile Justice System focuses on rehabilitating the defendant.
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Have you been contacted for a federal investigation or accused of committing a federal crime? What many people do not know is that the federal system is very similar to the state system in law and procedure. It is important to understand the differences because they are crucial. Federal crimes can be more complex and time consuming; it is essential to have an attorney that has experience in that area.

There are certain steps you must take if you are contacted for a federal investigation:

  1. Contact a lawyer that has experience in working in the federal system and can represent you in the most significant way
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In a recent announcement, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that it is considering making thousands of federally incarcerated inmates eligible for presidential clemency grants. The tentative action would involve at least six conditions that must be satisfied in order for an inmate to receive a clemency grant from the President.

First, inmates who have verified ties to criminal gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime groups would not be eligible. The proposal is designed to increase the opportunity for early release for non-violent inmates who received long-term sentences pursuant to mandatory minimum sentencing laws in effect at the time of their convictions. Roughly 13 percent of the 216,000 inmates in federal penitentiaries have served over 10 years, but they are not eligible to qualify for consideration, based primarily on the nature of their criminal records. 

Other eligibility requirements include:

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Most people know that your license can be suspended when you are convicted of driving under the influence (“DUI”). Few are also aware that there is a process that must be complied with before the defendant’s driver’s license can be suspended. In Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Canalejo, the defendant sought a formal administrative review after his license was suspended pursuant to a DUI conviction.

The attorney for the defendant attempted to issue a subpoena for each officer who was involved with the defendant’s arrest. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, however, sent modified subpoenas requesting telephonic appearances instead.

During the hearing, the defendant offered a video showing the 20-minute waiting period that he endured following his arrest, but he stated that he could not properly authenticate the video without one of the arresting officers present. The defendant’s attorney refused the court’s offer to continue the hearing until a time that the officer could be present, and the hearing officer issued a decision at the hearing.

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According to Florida Statutes § 948.01, judges are vested with special authority to withhold adjudication of a criminal matter. Under this statute, a defendant who enters a plea of guilty or no contest to a felony charge may not be classified as a convicted felon under Florida’s current laws. Judges typically opt to withhold adjudication when the defendant does not have a significant preexisting criminal history, or when the defendant does not have any prior felony convictions. If the withholding is granted, the defendant retains his or her right to vote, and under current Florida law he or she will not lose the right to possess a firearm after successfully completing probation.

Under existing laws, however, a Florida resident can be prosecuted under Florida Statutes § 922(g), “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” law in federal court even though he or she was granted a withholding of adjudication for a felony committed in Florida.

In the recent case of USA v. Clarke, et al., for example, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated that federal courts have held in the past that the withholding of adjudication does not preclude federal prosecutors from prosecuting a defendant for violating § 922(g). In reconsidering past decisions dealing with withholdings of adjudication, the Eleventh Circuit has certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court to provide an opinion on the issue. A certified question means that the federal court is asking the state’s high court to provide guidance to the federal court on interpreting and applying the state rule in issue.

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In a recent case, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals considered Florida’s rule that a change of address during a parole period can constitute a violation of parole. In Mullins v. State, the defendant was convicted of parole violations on two separate grounds. First, the court concluded that the defendant failed to obtain his probation officer’s consent prior to changing his place of residence. Second, the court concluded that the defendant provided his probation officer with false information about the place where he actually lived. Both violations stemmed from the same event:  the defendant’s relocation.

The probation officer found out that the defendant had changed his address during a routine surprise home visit. When the probation officer showed up at the address listed for the defendant, the defendant was not at home. Although this is not a violation of parole, the owner of the home informed the parole officer that the defendant had moved out. 

During the parole violation hearing, the probation officer testified to the exchange she had with the home owner, which the court failed to exclude on the basis of hearsay testimony. Hearsay is a statement made out of court that is offered for the truth of the matter asserted. In this instance, the parole officer’s conversation with the home owner was hearsay because it was offered to prove that the defendant no longer lived at the address–information about which the parole officer had no independent, personal knowledge.

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Both Florida and U.S. laws provide protections for people who are either accused or suspected of committing a crime from any improper or illegal activities on the part of government officials like police officers. Some of these rights are well known, like the right to not incriminate yourself and the right to have an attorney present during questioning. One of the lesser known rights afforded to criminal suspects and defendants is the right to have the matter brought to trial within a certain period of time.

Recently, the Florida Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a case based on the prosecution’s failure to bring the case to trial within a reasonable timeframe. In Norton v. State, the defendant was suspected of violating Florida’s laws against so-called doctor shopping. More specifically, the law prohibits an individual who has been prescribed a controlled substance during the last 30 days from providing information about or withholding information about that prescription from another health care provider when that person is attempting to obtain a second similar or identical prescription from the other health care provider. Violations of this statute constitute third-degree felonies.

According to the information filed by the prosecution, the defendant allegedly committed a doctor shopping offense sometime between June 2009 and March 2010. The prosecution issued a capias, which is a document ordering the arrest of a specific person, on the same day that it filed the information, during late July 2010. The defendant was eventually arrested on July 30, 2014–four years later.

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With a bustling nightlife scene and miles of beautiful white sandy beaches, South Florida has many opportunities for relaxation and leisure. In many situations, these activities involve enjoying alcoholic beverages, creating ample opportunities for drivers to find themselves being taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence. Not every arrest for DUI is a valid one, and many defendants end up facing criminal charges because they did not understand the full scope of their rights.

Knowing when you may be at risk of being arrested for a DUI is the first step to protecting your rights. According to Florida’ DUI statutes, the police have the power to arrest someone on suspicion of driving under the influence even when the defendant is not driving. According to Florida law, as long as the defendant has actual, physical control of the car while also under the influence, the officer may arrest him or her on suspicion of DUI. 

Courts have interpreted the “actual, physical control” standard as having two elements. First, the defendant must be in the vehicle. Second, the defendant must have the ability to make the car move. Under this test, a police officer would probably be able to arrest an intoxicated person if he or she is sleeping in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, even if the vehicle is not running. In this scenario, it is possible for the intoxicated person to wake up and begin driving the vehicle.

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In a recent case, the Florida Second District Court of Appeal considered the admissibility of confessions and searches in criminal drug cases.

In Thompson v. State, multiple officers traced evidence from the scene of a burglary to a house belonging to the suspect’s sister. At trial, the prosecution and defense offered competing evidence regarding the events that unfolded at the home. According to the officers involved with the arrest, the defendant’s sister permitted the officers to enter the home, but the sister testified that the officers forced their way into the home after she denied their entrance. 

Once inside the house, the police officers asked the defendant if he consented to a search of the room in which he had been staying. Although the defendant refused, he stated that the room contained needles with methamphetamine. After obtaining a search warrant based in part on the defendant’s admission, the police officers conducted a search of the room, during which they found illegal drugs, stolen property, and other related items.

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