Category Archives: Criminal Lawyers Miami

PROBATION: WHAT IS IT AND HOW CAN YOU END IT EARLY IN FLORIDA

What is Probation?

Well, that depends on who you ask.  According to the government and state of Florida, it is a “gift” that they gave you instead of prison.  According to your probation officer, it is a powerful tool to “keep tabs” on you. According to the Court, it is a relatively easy way to get you out of your home and into prison.  If you are on probation, it is more than just a restriction on your freedom.  It is having to disclose to employers and landlords and others your current legal situation.  It is a time consuming matter of constantly reporting to a probation officer who may be friendly or simply looking to violate you andProbation Lawyers Miami recommend a prison sentence.  It is expensive and most importantly, it is fear.  Fear that any violation, intentional or not, could put you into prison.

 

Goal of Probation and Good Relationships

If you are on probation, your primary goal is to successfully complete the terms of probation and get off of it as soon as possible.  Some common conditions of probation include paying restitution, doing community service hours, staying away from certain people or locations and taking drug and alcohol classes and tests.  What many Miami probation lawyers and virtually no Judges will tell you is that a key goal on probation is to have a good relationship with your probation officer.  Many of our clients ask us why this is important.  They say the probation officer is not their friend, they feel disrespected by the probation officer and the officer is always trying to find a way to violate them.  This may all be well and true.

 

The importance of having a good relationship with your probation officer is two-fold.  First, they can violate you based on a single piece of paper, called an affidavit of violation of probation. A violation can lead to a lengthy prison sentence.  Secondly, when the time comes to have your attorney file a motion to terminate probation, the Court will often look directly to the probation officer and ask something along the lines of “how is Mr. X doing ”.  The Court takes recommendation into heavy consideration.  You need that probation officer to tell the Judge you are a model citizen who does not deserve to be on probation any longer.

 

How Do You Get Off Probation?

First, hire a Miami attorney with extensive knowledge of how probation,  violations and early termination works.  This motion should not be a bare bones request we see in Court so often where an inexperienced lawyer simply begs for early termination.  These requests are usually denied in short order. To get off probation in Miami early requires a lot of work on the part of the person on probation and the probation lawyer.  First, your lawyer should speak to your probation officer personally and highlight all the good that you have done on probation.  Proof that all special conditions have been met should be included in a well written motion that is provided to the Judge well before the date of the motion.  A specific list of lost job opportunities because of your probationary status must be included, as well as any missed opportunities on renting a house or apartment.  If you are employed, a letter from your boss and a tax return will be helpful in getting you off probation.  If probation is really ruining your life, letters or live testimony from family members on how it is affecting them can go a long way in ending probation.

 

How you conduct yourself on probation is one step in successfully completing and/or terminating  early. Hiring an experienced law team to do the legal maneuvering to get you off probation is very important.  The probation lawyers at Anderson, O’Sullivan & Associates, Inc. have over 20 years of mastering the probation system and using our vast knowledge of the local laws and customs to terminate your probation.  Give us a call and we will discuss our strategy in terminating early.  The call is free and you will speak with a named partner in the firm, not just a paralegal or secretary.

Questions Surrounding Death Penalty Persist While Executions Resume

Death Penalty MiamiFollowing a botched execution of a death row inmate in Oklahoma earlier this year, some states have placed moratoriums on the death penalty.  However, some states, including Florida, have returned to the death penalty.

Three Executions in 24 Hours

There were three executions in 24 hours during the week of June 16, 2014.  Georgia, Missouri, and Florida each executed a death row inmate in succession.  The executions in Georgia and Missouri were the first since the botched execution in Oklahoma on April 29, 2014, which went awry leading to the convict to die painfully from a heart attack rather than peacefully in his sleep, as the drugs in a lethal injection are intended to do.

Each of the three states used lethal injections, but there appeared to have been no error in their use.  Florida has executed six inmates in 2014, second only to Texas.  In the U.S. as a whole, there have been 23 executions.

A Regional Divide in the Application of the Death Penalty

While 32 states still permit the death penalty, only a handful of them routinely execute prisoners.  Most of those states are in the South.  States in the North and West have either declared moratoriums on the use of the death penalty or have effectively declared “de facto” moratoriums in that the governments in those states simply have not used the death penalty recently and appear reluctant to do so any time in the foreseeable future. For instance, Pennsylvania has not executed anyone since 1999 and Utah has had only one since 2000.

In some Southern states, there is arguably political will in the legislature and a willingness in the judiciary to allow the death penalty to be applied despite recent criticisms that it may either violate the Bill of Rights as “cruel and unusual punishment” if it is unduly painful, such as in the case of the Oklahoma man who died painfully when the lethal injection did not work properly, or that it simply is not an effective deterrent for future crime.

Florida Man Convicted of Double Murder in 1985

John Ruthell Henry was the Florida man who was put to death on June 18.  He was convicted of the December 1985 murder of his estranged wife and her five-year-old son from another relationship.  In addition to the controversy surrounding the safety and efficacy of the drugs used by the states for lethal injections, there was question as to Mr. Henry’s mental abilities.  He has received a score of 78 on an I.Q. test, which is above the standard of 70 that Florida has been using for years to determine a defendant’s mental aptitude for standing for trial and sentencing.  However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently found that Florida’s hard and fast rule of relying on the 70 I.Q. benchmark was too rigid and that scores near 70 along with other factors should be considered in determining mental aptitude.  While his score of a 78 was close, it was determined that it was sufficiently high enough and that it was very unlikely that his score would vary so much as to drop near or below 70.

Contact Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Should you find yourself facing criminal charges in Miami, you will need experienced attorneys to represent you in court.  Contact Anderson O’Sullivan & Associates for legal advice now.

Possible Jury Bias in DUI Case Shows Need for Good Defense Counsel

On March 26, 2014, Ft. Lauderdale insurance agent, Mario Careaga, was found guilty in the 2010 death of Nancy Lopez-Ruiz, a 20 year old college student. He faces 15 years in prison for hitting her while driving drunk when she was stopped on a motorcycle.  However, rumors of anti-gay basis against Mr. Careaga, the defendant, have called the verdict into question. Mr. Careaga was identified as gay when his long-time partner took the stand in his defense.

 

Anti-Gay Bias in the Jury?

After the verdict was read and the jury was dismissed, the alternate juror (who is a backup in case one of the other jurors cannot continue until the end of the trial), told the defendant’s lawyer that at least one juror made homophobic remarks which may have indicated anti-gay bias that may have affected the outcome of the trial.

The defendant’s lawyer notified that judge of this issue. The judge then ordered each juror to speak with the judge to determine if there was any anti-gay basis in the jury’s decision. Allegedly, one juror made two anti-gay remarks during the trial. The juror allegedly mocked the defendant’s voice after he testified.The same juror allegedly used an expletive to describe the defendant’s partner. When speaking with the judge, the juror stated that he did not make any such statements.

Following the allegations of bias against the defendant, defense counsel motioned for a mistrial, which would throw out the verdict against the defendant and require the prosecution to stage a new trial.

The possibility that there was bias against the defendant in the jury is particularly problematic in major criminal cases such as a DUI case. In this case, the jury was presented with conflicted evidence. On one hand, the police recorded Mr. Creaga with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .24 percent, which is far above the legal limit. On the other hand, there was video evidence of Mr. Careaga walking towards his car shortly before the accident showing him walking without any issue, which would be highly unlikely with a BAC of .24. Additionally, his partner testified that they had been at a party in which they had both consumed a small amount of alcohol, but not nearly enough to make the defendant that impaired. Given conflicting evidence, the jury’s alleged anti-gay basis could have been crucial in the guilty verdict.

The judge planned on holding a hearing relating to the alleged anti-gay bias. After which she anticipated either declaring a mistrial or to issue the defendant’s sentence.

 

Good Defense Attorneys Can Protect Against Mistakes During Trial

The defendant’s attorney in this case is wisely taking these anti-gay bias allegations very seriously. It is his duty to make sure that his client received a fair trial. Good attorneys can protect clients from biased juries in different ways. The attorney can screen for bias in the jury pool (the group of people that could potentially make up the jury) by asking good questions to vet the potential jurors for any bias. Also, a lawyer can quickly respond to an perceived bias, as in this DUI case, to alert the judge of any problems and then to also request a mistrial if necessary.

Contact Anderson O’Sullivan & Associates to speak with a skilled Miami DUI attorney who can protect your legal rights.

Grand Theft Auto- Not a Game in Miami

Grand Theft Auto- Not a Game in Miami

 

This is South Florida and we live in our cars.  We depend on our automobiles.  The public transportation in South Florida is mediocre at best so a higher percentage of people in Miami own cars as opposed to some areas of the country.  With our dependence on automobiles comes an increased amount of law enforcement.  In South Florida, and especially Miami, there are several state and federal law enforcement agencies that are devoted exclusively to the investigation of stolen cars and the arrest of individuals whom they believe are guilty of stealing those cars.

 

In Florida, there is not a dedicated statute for “Grand Theft Auto”.  That term is really made famous by the popular video game.  Grand Theft auto is simply a theft where the item stolen is a car or automobile.  Boats, trailers, motorcycles, mopeds, jet ski’s and even golf carts fall under this statute. The severity of the penalty depends of the value of the item stolen.  The state will prosecute an individual for grand theft auto if they believe that a person knowingly uses or tries to use the car or auto of another, and they did so with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner of that property.

Grand Theft Auto Miami

 

In Miami, there are several distinct fact patterns that involve grand theft auto.  First, someone lends you a car and you have no reason to believe it is stolen.  This happens all the time and the person who may just be innocently driving the car gets arrested and is suddenly facing prison, a felony conviction and potential loss of driving privileges.  A second common fact pattern is the rental car not returned on time.  Many rental car companies will call the police if their rental car is not returned on time.  I have had clients who unknowingly kept their rental car too long, and were suddenly being arrested and in addition to looking at prison time, they were also looking at substantial fines to the rental car company.  Another common, and tragic, scenario arises when an individual buys a car in good faith and does not have any reason to believe it’s stolen.  Sometime down the road an aggressive law enforcement officer will arrest that person, even if they have proof of title and receipts.

 

The good news is that all of the scenarios are defendable.  I have had success in getting these types of cases either out right dismissed, or dismissed after a short diversion program. Grand Theft Auto is a crime that can be sealed, assuming other conditions are met, such as no prior criminal history and no other applications to seal and/or expunge a crime.

 

Call the criminal defense lawyers at Anderson, O’Sullivan & Associates, Inc. to discuss your case at no cost and no obligation to you.

Probation Violation Attorney Miami

Questions Asked About Probation and Probation Violations in Miami

Probation and Probation Violations in Miami, Florida

When you are placed on probation in Florida your first feeling is usually relief because you are not going to spend time or more time in jail. However it is important to understand how your probation works and the rules so you do not violate probation. Below are some common question about probation.

Probation Violation Attorney Miami

Why is Someone Placed on Probation?

 

If you are being placed on probation in Florida it is because you have been convicted, pled guilty or made a plea bargain for a crime. Chances are probation is being offered instead of or in conjunction with jail time.  Probation is usually offered in lower-level felonies or misdemeanor cases or in cases when the offender has no criminal record.

 

What is Probation?

 

Probation is court supervised and monitored release for a period of time set by the court. This probation period may take effect after jail time or instead of jail time.  Probation is usually offered with a suspended sentence, which in most Florida cases will be the length of the probation.  In Miami and as well as the rest of Florida, court supervision is usually conducted by a probation officer.  The judge will decide the terms of your probation and the probation office will see that you follow those terms.  If your probation officer believes you are not following the terms and have completed a probation violation, the court could place your previously suspended sentence into effect and send you to jail.

 

What are the Rules of Probation?

 

The rules of your probation will be decided by the judge and will vary from case to case.  Probation most of the time involves supervision by a probation officer, but in some cases there is unsupervised probation.  Conditions of your probation sentence will be in the court’s judgment form in a case or in a separate document called a probation contract.  Common probation conditions include reporting to your probation officer at scheduled times, not committing any crimes, and paying any fines and court costs on time.

 

 

What is a Probation Violation?

 

In Florida a probation violation is when a term or rule of your probation is broken.  When the court or probation officer believes you have violated your probation they will issue a probation violation warrant, a judge will review and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

What is the Punishment Probation Violation?

 

If a judge finds that you have violated your probation, the punishments will vary.  Worst case, you could go to jail for the full term of your probation.  Lesser punishments could be short jail time then continued probation, extended probation, court fines, or even house arrest.

 

Call an Experienced Miami Probation Violation Attorney

If you have been accused of violating probation you should contact an experienced Miami probation violation lawyer.  Probation violations are taken very seriously by the courts and the probation officers word it sometimes enough to have your probation revoked.  A Miami probation attorney will review the violation and fight for your rights as well as your freedom.

Chris Brown: A Case Study in Probation Violations

Chris Brown’s case is unique in that he is famous and has money. He can afford excellent legal representation and is probably less likely to be treated unfairly and more likely to given the benefit of the doubt compared to an “Average Joe,” due to his celebrity and the media spotlight. Aside from that, though, hisfast-growing list of legal troubles is not exceptionallydifferent from those of many other young men struggling with the transition to adulthood. Without making any judgments as to Chris Brown’s case or behavior, his well-publicized legal struggles provide an interesting look at the entanglements of probation violations.

For various reasons, once you are in the criminal justice system, it is increasingly difficult to get out of it. That’s generally true whether or not you break a law or even have ill intent. The point is that probation violations are very common, they are easy to prove, and it’s challenging to fulfill your terms of probation without being violated even in the best of circumstances.

Timeline of Chris Brown’s Legal Troubles

2009:Brown famously assaults girlfriend Rihanna while en route to perform at the Grammy Awards,pleads guilty to felony domestic violence and gets five years of probation and 1,440 hours of community service.

March, 2011:Chris Brown “explodes” and breaks a window on the set of ‘Good Morning America’ in New York.

June, 2012:Chris Brown and his entourage under investigation by New York City police following a bottle-throwing bar fight with Drake and his entourage.

January, 2013: Chris Brown clashed” with (allegedly punching) openly gay singer Frank Ocean in West Hollywood.

June, 2013: Brown receives two misdemeanor charges for driving without a license and hit and run, after rear-ending another driver. Brown could have faced up to four years behind bars for these charges.

June, 2013: Brown is facing a civil lawsuit over allegations that he injured a woman by shoving her to the ground following a concert in Anaheim, CA. (Brown is countersuing for defamation).

August, 2013:After inconsistencies were found in the community service records submitted by Brown, his probation was reinstated with 1,000 additional hours of community service.

October 27, 2013: Brown and his bodyguard were both arrested in Washington D.C. on felony assault charges after getting into a physical altercation which allegedly left a man with a broken nose.After spending 36 hours in jail, he was taken to court in shackles Monday afternoon, after which he was released and ordered to check in with his probation officer in California within 48 hours. The next day Brown’s attorney announced he was voluntarily entering a rehab facility. The felony assault charges have since been reduced to misdemeanors. According to CNN, Brown allegedly said “I’m not down with that gay s—t,” and “I feel like boxing,” which is not the first time his anger has been allegedly laced with homophobia. If convicted in this case, it could constitute a violation of his probation terms and require him to spend up to four years in prison.

November 10th, 2013: Following a family counseling session at his rehab treatment program, Chris Brown throws a rock through his mother’s car window.

November 20th, 2013: Brown was ordered by a judge to return to rehab for 90 days, complete 24 hours per week of community labor, and undergo periodic, random drug testing stemming from his 5-year probation for assault on Rihanna.

Telling Poll Results from Online Teen Celeb Magazine J-14
dsfds

Special Considerations in Probation Violations:

Probation violations are a significant risk to your freedom. Aside from committing a crime, probationers may also violate the terms of their probation by such things as:

  • Failing to show up for a court appearance
  • Failing to report to a probation officer
  • Failing to pay fines or restitution
  • Associating with known felons
  • Traveling out of the state without prior approval
  • Possessing guns or drugs
  • Special terms and requirements of probation

The burden of proof differs for probation violation hearings and criminal trials. In a criminal trial, a crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In a probation hearing, the violation need only be proven by a 50% likelihood. Probationers are also subject to more severe penalties. For more information about parole and probation violation trends, see this study from pewtrusts.org.

Recommendations to Avoid Probation Violations:

  • Take it seriously. Take it more seriously than seriously.
  • Observe appointments and obligations faithfully and timely.
  • Keep detailed records of all your probation paperwork and communications and bring it to appointments and court dates.
  • Communicate and document financial problems that may interfere with your ability to pay fines or restitution.
  • Your probation officer holds the cards; don’t forget it!

If you or someone you love is facing a parole or probation violation, contact an experienced criminal law attorneyfor a free consultation today.

Vindictive Sentencing

Throughout my career I have had many clients approach me about their sentence.  Specifically, they believe their sentence is too long.  This has often been called “vindictive sentencing”.  The law is fairly clear on what “vindictive sentencing is. This article discusses a Judge’s responsibility when it comes to sentencing, especially if the Judge got involved in plea negotiations. This is applicable to trials, open pleas and probation violations.

In a recent case coming out of the 4th District Court of Appeal, the Defendant was offered seventeen years in prison by the state.  The Judge had the following discussion with the Defendant in open Court: ( summarized )

You have three options.
1) Go to trial, make the State prove the case, if you lose you face up to sixty years prison.
2) Accept the State’s offer of twenty years.
3) Plead guilty to the Court.  I know nothing about you or your case at this point.

The Defendant exercised his right to go to trial. A jury convicted him and the Court sentenced him to 25 years.  Is this legal?  Why did the Judge go above the State’s offer of twenty years (which was reduced to seventeen years right before trial)?

The appellate court allowed this 25 year sentence to stand.  The rationale was that the Court’s actions were minimal and a neutral effort to help facilitate plea negotiations. This seems alarming because the plea offer and the actual sentence have a 75% disparity ( or 8 additional years ).

The appeals court affirmed this decision because the trial judge knew nothing about the case before it went to trial.  During trial, the trial court heard “horrendous and disturbing details” about the facts of the case.  These facts were relied upon to impose a sentence greater than that offered by the State.

No one should ever go to Court without an experienced criminal attorney.  Of course, no one should make the decision to plea or go to trial without the counsel of an experienced attorney.  Brook Anderson and Terrence O’Sullivan have vast knowledge and experience in helping clients decide which route is best for them.

Help! My Child was Arrested!

Receiving a telephone call from your child asking for help because he or she has been arrested is a parent’s worst nightmare. Even if you know your child is not perfect, nobody expects to hear their child is in jail. Most parents want to do all they can to support their child and protect their freedom. If your child has been arrested you should take the following action:

Tell your child to say and do a little as possible. He or she is likely scared and unsure what to do. Encourage a calm, respectful attitude, but also make it clear he or she should not give information to the police until further notice.

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your child might be innocent, but he or she has been accused of a crime. A lawyer can provide guidance and support throughout the entire process. If your child has information about a crime, he or she should share it with the police to help them bring the case to a conclusion, but it is important to wait until a legal expert is present before doing so.

Take the arrest seriously and realize your child’s freedom and future is on the line. Parents dealing with difficult children might be tempted to leave the child hanging and let the police deal with the problem. Sometimes parents see an arrest as an opportunity to teach their problem child “a good lesson.” Unfortunately, this is done at the risk of your child’s future. It is better you deal with issues personally than put your child at risk any more than necessary. If your child is found guilty of a serious crime there is little you can do, but do not throw your child in harm’s way just because you think it will do him some good.

Your child’s attorney will likely ask for character statements and information that will prove your child is an upstanding citizen in the community. Gather as much information as possible that highlights your child’s achievements and accomplishments. This can include statements from teachers, report cards, work history, participation in religious and social events, and information about volunteer work, sports participation, and community organizations. These things might seem small in light of your child’s arrest, but a judge and/or jury will take your child’s past accomplishments into account. This is especially true if the arrest is your child’s first offense.

If your child has been arrested, he or she needs experienced legal representation. Contact the Law Offices of Anderson and O’Sullivan for guidance during this frightening experience.

What Should You Do if You are Arrested in Miami?

An arrest is one of the most frightening experiences of a person’s life. Most people assume it will never happen to them, but if it does, there are several things you need to know. Remember, even if you are arrested, you still have some control of your situation. There are things you can do following the arrest to protect your future freedom.

If arrested, it is important that you do not panic. Anything you say or write on paper for the police can be used against you in a courtroom, so it is best to say as little as possible to police. If a police officer invites you to sign something or say something, or if you feel threatened to sign anything, ask to speak to an attorney. Police officers are trying to do their job and collect evidence as quickly as possible, but this can put you at risk. Your first priority is to protect yourself, even if you believe you are innocent and that you could help the police. If arrested, you must protect yourself first. Wait to speak to a experienced Miami criminal lawyer before sharing any information with the police.

What Should I Expect if Arrested?

If you are arrested you will be transported to the police station. Upon arrival, you will either be placed in a jail cell or a room for further questioning. Police officers will explain the charges against you, though these can change in the coming hours and days. If officers are free to question you, they might ask you to participate in a lineup, provide a sample of your DNA, speak, or provide a writing sample. Fingerprinting and photographing will likely be part of the process.

You should wait until your attorney is available before doing any of these things. You have a right to legal representation if you are arrested. No matter your situation, it is important you have the guidance of a legal professional before working with police. Even if you are innocent and choose to cooperate with police, it is best to have legal representation.

After the initial questioning and intake process, you will be arraigned in court. You and your attorney will prepare a plea, which can be “not guilty”, “guilty” or “no contest”. If your plea is “not guilty”, a future court date will be set. If you plead “no contest” or “guilty”, a date is set for your sentencing, when you will be assigned jail or probation time.

Remember, if you have been arrested, you have the following rights:

  • The right to know the crime(s) for which you are being charged
  • The right to contact an attorney or personal contact by telephone
  • The right to not say or do anything that can be used against you in court
  • The right to representation by a legal professional

If you have been arrested, you need experienced legal representation. Contact the Law Offices of Anderson O”Sullivan & Associates to help you through this difficult and confusing time.