Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyers
There are situations people find themselves in where it’s good to know your rights. Unfortunately, people usually don’t know their rights until after a situation arises. Some examples include when detectives arrive to conduct a search or someone is pulled over and requested to perform standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). Even if an arrest has not been made, legal advice from seasoned Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can help people defend their rights. The decision to retain an attorney when an investigation is pending before formal charges have been filed can result in a better outcome.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense
People who have hired a lawyer for representation at the pre-charge stage of a criminal case usually have an advantage. The defense attorney can expose weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, question the admissibility of evidence or suggest there is a lack of evidence to prove specific charges. Effective negotiation based on these strategies can lead to a decision not to file charges, an agreement to diversion, or fewer and/or less serious charges. Since the initial charges usually set the parameters for a plea agreement in the case, success in influencing the initial charging decision usually will mean the parameters for a plea agreement will be set at a lower level.
Criminal charges can threaten a person’s job, family stability, liberty, reputation, and financial well-being, but our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys with over 150 years of combined experience provide aggressive opposition to the full range of criminal offenses, such as:
- Violent Criminal Offenses
- Federal Crimes
- Boating Under The Influence (BUI)
- Injunctions (Restraining Orders)
- Domestic Violence Injunction
- Stalking Injunction
- Sexual Violence Injunction
- Dating Violence Injunction
- Repeat Violence Injunction
- Narcotics Crimes
- Weapons Crimes
- Domestic Violence Offenses
- Financial Crimes
- DUI Manslaughter
- Sexual Offenses
- Child Pornography
- DUI (Driving Under The Influence)
- Theft Crimes
- Violent Crimes
- Criminal Enterprise Crimes
- Public Corruption
- Juvenile Crimes
- White Collar Crimes
- Domestic Violence
- Resisting Arrest
- Possession of Stolen Property
- Probation Violation
- Obstruction of Justice
- Disorderly Conduct
- Concealed Weapons
- Crimes Against Children
- Traffic Violations
- Other State and Federal Offenses
Sex Crime Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale
While most people probably would be hesitant to condemn a high school senior who engages in consensual sex with his sophomore girlfriend to a lifetime of adverse consequences, Florida’s tough sex crime penalties can have exactly this result. While any misdemeanor or felony offense can result in undesirable forms of punishment, most sex offenses require registration as a sex predator or sex offender. Although pursuing employment, housing, and close personal relationships can always be complicated by a criminal conviction, a registrant will face more than the risk of incarceration, fines, counseling, and probation.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Attorneys – Registered Sex Offender
When a person is convicted of many sex crimes in Florida, they must register as either a sexual predator or sexual offender. The sexual predator designation is reserved for those who engage in violent sexual offenses. Florida law does not provide a process for those designated as sexual predators to be removed from the registry. When the alleged victim of a sex crime is under the age of 16, the registered sex offender usually will not be able to live within a thousand feet of a school, park or playground facility under state law. Many county and city ordinances impose even stricter restrictions that can make it virtually impossible for a registrant to find housing.
Criminal Defense Strategies for Sex Offenses in Fort Lauderdale
No one wants to be accused of an offense like rape, child molestation, sexual assault, child pornography, or another sexual offense. The criminal attorneys in Fort Lauderdale at Musca Law use private investigators and forensic experts to interview witnesses and analyze forensic evidence. Depending on the facts of the case, defenses that might be relevant include:
- Lack of knowledge or specific intent
- Consensual encounter
- Suppression of illegally obtained statements or confessions
- Attacking the credibility of the government’s witnesses
- Tainted testimony of a child skewed by a biased or suggestive interview
Many people think their chances of beating a DUI charge are virtually non-existent because of the “science” of screening procedures like chemical tests of blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, our experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyers have represented hundreds of people facing DUI, so we have the expertise and background to challenge the prosecutor’s case based on Constitutional, administrative, and/or legal grounds. An effective challenge to the basis for the stop of a vehicle, for example, could result in all the evidence against a person being thrown out by the judge.
DUI Laws in Fort Lauderdale and Florida
Driving under the influence (DUI) is defined in Florida Statutes, Section 316.193 as driving a vehicle or exercising actual physical control over a vehicle when your “normal faculties” are diminished by drugs or alcohol or you have a BAC of .08% or more. Conviction under this provision can result in imprisonment, fines, and other penalties. If a person has prior convictions or was transporting a minor in the vehicle, they could face harsher penalties even for a first offense.
Defense Strategies in DUI Cases Used by Florida Criminal Lawyers
Illegal Stop: Police officers cannot pull someone over based on a mere “hunch,” they must have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is committing a traffic offense or “probable cause” someone is committing a crime. This “reasonable suspicion” must be based on articulable facts rather than mere speculation or guesswork. Contesting Field Sobriety Test Results: These “divided attention” tasks must be conducted according to very specific procedures and evaluation guidelines. Many officers lack the required training to administer the tests properly. Even if properly trained, the officer might deviate from these protocols. In other cases, physical disability, illness, or injury might impair a motorist’s ability to perform these tests properly. Challenge Chemical Tests: Breath tests are only admissible if the test complies with strict regulations and mandatory maintenance procedures are followed. The results can be thrown out for noncompliance with these procedural and maintenance requirements. Exclusion of Damaging Statements: When the officer pulls a person over, he or she will likely ask questions like the following:
- Have you been drinking?
- How much have you had to drink?
- Where are you coming from?
Because Florida law does not require motorists to answer these questions, a person should politely indicate they want legal advice before answering any questions. The officer will not allow a person to call a lawyer, but this provides a convenient rationale for refusal. If a person did answer those questions, their responses may still be subject to suppression if the officer violated the Miranda rights or compelled an “involuntary” confession.
Criminal Lawyers for Domestic Violence in Fort Lauderdale
The national attention focused on domestic violence allegations has never been more intense. Despite the good intentions of those applying pressure to “believe victims” and “punish abusers,” domestic violence allegations can be a devastating tool in the hands of those with improper motives. A person might already know this if they are a party to a divorce and child custody proceedings. Allegations by the partner can get a person removed from the shared home with virtually no notice. The judge also might temporarily bar the person from seeing the children or require a third-party supervisor to be present. The issuing of a domestic violence restraining order also might damage a person’s career by limiting their ability to pass a background check, obtain a security clearance, and own or carry a concealed weapon.
Domestic Violence Battery Laws in Fort Lauderdale
Domestic violence refers to a category of crimes under Florida law that generally involves threats or acts of violence between parties in certain designated relationships under Florida Statutes Section 741.28. The relevant relationships include:
- Married or formally married partners
- Parties related by either marriage or blood
- Parties who live or have lived together as a family
- Parents of a child
The statutory provision provides a non-exclusive list of offenses that merit a domestic violence charge:
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Battery
- False Imprisonment
- Aggravated Stalking
- Other crimes resulting in injury between parties in the relationships indicated above
Criminal Defense and Domestic Violence Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale
Criminal defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale at Musca Law have experience handling domestic violence cases. We conduct a thorough evaluation of medical records, law enforcement records, witness statements, and other evidence to determine the best defense strategy, such as fabricated allegations or self-defense.
Statutory Penalties for Misdemeanor Crimes
Misdemeanor crimes are criminal offenses that are punishable by as long as one year in county jail. As long as the defendant has not been charged with additional felony offenses, misdemeanors will be managed by a county judge and are deemed a less severe class of crimes than felony offenses. Misdemeanors are classified as either first-degree or second-degree misdemeanors.
Second Degree Misdemeanor
A second-degree misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by as long as sixty days in county jail, six months of supervised probation, and a fine of as much as $500.
First Degree Misdemeanor
A first-degree misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by as long as one year in jail, one year of supervised probation, and a fine of as much as $1,000.
Statutory Penalties for Felony Crimes
Felony crimes are overseen by judges in circuit court and can be punished with a sentence of longer than one year in state prison. Felony crimes are sentenced according to guidelines that are given in Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. Under the Criminal Punishment Code, also known as a “scoresheet”, every felony is assigned a particular number of points that are derived from a legal ranking of the seriousness of each crime. This legal ranking is calculated by the Florida state government and does not take into account a crime’s statutory degree. The higher a given felony is ranked, the more points that will be tallied on your Criminal Punishment Code “scoresheet.” If you total a score of higher than 44 points, you will be susceptible to a minimum term of incarceration. If you total a score of fewer than 44 points, the presiding judge is not obligated to sentence you to prison but does retain the option to do so.
Third Degree Felony
A third-degree felony is a crime that is punishable by as long as five years in state prison, five years of supervised probation, and a fine of as much as $5,000.
Second Degree Felony
A second-degree felony is a crime that is punishable by as long as fifteen years in state prison, fifteen years of supervised probation, and a fine of as much as $10,000.
First Degree Felony
A first-degree felony is a crime that is punishable by as long as thirty years in state prison, thirty years of supervised probation, and a fine of as much as $10,000.
A life felony is a crime that is punishable by life in state prison without the possibility of parole, or probation for the rest of your life, and a $15,000 fine.
A capital felony is a crime that is punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Clearing Your Criminal Record
Contingent on the outcome of your criminal case, Florida state law enables you to have your criminal record either expunged or sealed. If an expungement of your criminal record is granted, it will result in the physical elimination of all but a single copy of your criminal record, which is maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A sealed record is one that is hidden from public records and unobtainable for public review but still physically obtainable by law enforcement officials. Neither an expunged criminal record nor a sealed criminal record is made accessible to any private employer, landlord or discoverable via any type of background search.
You could be qualified to have your criminal record sealed if:
- You plead guilty or no contest to the charges
- The judge granted you a withhold of adjudication
- You have never been found guilty of committing any other crime
When a criminal record is sealed, law enforcement officials and courts are both forbidden to acknowledge the record’s existence or disclosing its details to the public.
You may be eligible to have your criminal record expunged if:
- Charges were dismissed and
- You have never been adjudicated guilty of any other crime.
When a record is expunged, courts and law enforcement agencies physically destroy the records related to your arrest. This makes it impossible for the allegations to be accidentally divulged. However, one copy is confidentiality maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement forever. If you or a loved one face any of the above charges, it is in your best interest to contact the Fort Lauderdale Musca Law firm, in order to schedule a free, no-obligation, and confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.