The Florida Statute Section 322.64 designates Habitual Traffic Offenders as persons with specified convictions within a 5 year period. Convictions for such offenses as involuntary manslaughter, DUI, Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License, Leaving the Scene of an Accident resulting in Death or Personal Injury, or any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used will result in the designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender. Once the convictions occur, the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles will send you a notice that your license is suspended for 5 years.

People frequently get a civil citation for Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License Without Knowledge. They then simply just pay the ticket without realizing that it is considered a conviction under the statute designating someone as a Habitual Traffic Offender. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney before entering any type of plea or disposition to any criminal traffic offenses or civil infractions involving the suspension or revocation of your license. How your case is resolved can have a significant impact on whether you are designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender.

If you have resolved your case without the assistance of an attorney and you have received your notice of suspension from the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles; you may still have legal remedies available to you.

Contact CLEARWATER FLORIDA HABITUAL TRAFFIC OFFENDER Attorney Joseph Montrone, Jr. for a free consultation.

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People often say to me that, “it is my word against theirs. Can they arrest me for that?” Well the short answer is yes they can. For the police to make an arrest, they only need probable cause. Probable cause is defined as a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime. That’s it. And probable cause can be supported by the mere testimony of one person.

However once an arrest is made, a prosecutor will then get involved and decide weather to file a formal charge either by information or indictment in the state of Florida. According to the rules regulating members of the Florida Bar, a prosecutor has the responsibility to do what is just. He is not simply an advocate. Therefore, the prosecutor will review the facts of the case and will decide whether to file a charge if there is a reasonable likelihood of a successful prosecution. What does that mean? The prosecutor ultimately must ask themselves, if they file this charge will they be able to obtain a guilty verdict if they go to trial. Will they be able to ultimately prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt which is the highest burden of proof in our legal justice system. The prosecutor must evaluate each case and determine if there is sufficient evidence. Sometimes the prosecutor will file a charge based on one witness’s testimony; if they believe that person is credible and what they are saying is credible. It happens. That is why you should take any arrest seriously. Even if you think it is just a he said, she said situation.

On the other hand, while the case is being evaluated by the prosecutor; your CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY may have a window of opportunity to point out weaknesses or deficiencies in the prosecutor’s case before the formal charge is filed. Your attorney may be able to highlight weakness or deficiencies which if the case were present to a jury would create a reasonable doubt. Your attorney may be able to show that this lone witness may have some bias or interest in the outcome of the case; or that there is contradictory evidence or witness testimony that the prosecutor does not know about?

Conclusion

People are frequently arrested and charged with crimes for he said, she said offenses. You should take any criminal arrest seriously and take appropriate measures to protect your rights, interests, and liberties.

Please call CLEARWATER DEFENSE ATTORNEY Joseph Montrone, Jr. for a free consultation.

As a former prosecutor and a private attorney that has represented petitioners seeking a domestic violence injunction, I appreciate their need. For someone who is truly the victim of violence, a domestic violence injunction is a necessary step in seeking protection. However, it is becoming all too common in my practice to find people on the receiving end of a domestic violence injunction when it is clear that the petitioner is improperly using the injunction process to intimidate and harass the respondent; or to gain a tactical advantage in a custody dispute.

Improper Use of Domestic Violence Injunctions During Child Custody Disputes

One of the more frequent improper uses of the domestic violence injunction process that I have seen occurs when the parties are arguing over the custody of their children. Whether already divorced or going through a divorce, parties are all too willing to file a petition for domestic violence injunction against their spouse when the allegations are frivolous at best, or as I have personally seen in my practice, outright lies. I recently represented a female client who was the respondent in a domestic violence injunction petition where the parties were also involved in a child custody dispute. After a two day hearing, it became apparent that the male petitioner was committing perjury on the stand with respect to his allegations in support of the domestic violence injunction. In denying the petition for the domestic violence injunction; the Judge commented that he was troubled by the lack of truthfulness of the male petitioner’s testimony.

Domestic Violence Injunctions Filed Because of Department of Children and Families Services Investigations

Another troubling trend that I have seen in my practice is when people are being investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services. I have actually seen petitions that state that they were urged by DCF to file a domestic violence or sexual violence injunction. I have also had petitioners tell me that they do not truly believe the allegations that they are bringing forward. However, they fear that if they don’t file the injunction, DCF will take their children away from them.

Limited Sanctions for the Filing of Frivolous Domestic Violence Injunctions

Although I cannot say that it never happens, it is very rare for the State Attorneys Office to file criminal charges against those who bring false allegations or who provide perjured testimony during domestic violence injunction hearings. Additionally, a respondent falsely accused, who is actually successful in getting a judge to deny the injunction is prohibited by law from seeking attorney’s fees. It may be possible to bring a defamation lawsuit against the petitioner; however, that type of law suit may be too expensive to litigate.

Conclusion

More and more people are using the process of seeking an injunction for protection against domestic violence as a sword instead of its intended purpose of a being used as a shield. The legislature should enact a provision in the statute which at the very least provides for respondents to seek attorney’s fees once it is established that the allegations contained in the petition for domestic violence injunction are frivolous or false.

Please call DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INJUNCTION ATTORNEY Joseph Montrone, Jr. for a free consultaion.

The majority of criminal cases are resolved with a disposition which places people on probation. Probation terms and conditions vary depending on the nature of the crime charged. Usually a person is place on probation for a term of months or years and they must complete certain conditions such as alcohol treatment, anger management, or making restitution. In Florida, most courts will allow for the Defendant to file a Motion for Early Termination of Probation once half of the probation is completed. If you are on probation, you should make every effort to get off of probation as soon as you can so as to avoid a Violation of Probation (VOP).

1. You are likely facing a Jail or Prison Sentence if You VOP
Depending on your judge, the facts of the case, and your criminal history; if you VOP, the judge may likely take the position that you are no longer a candidate for supervision and the only viable alternative is now to incarcerate you. Under Florida Law you are facing the possibility of being sentenced to the maximum penalties under the law.

2. Increased Sentencing Points on a Felony Case in Florida
In Florida, felony sentences are determined based on the Criminal Punishment Code. You may have scored a “non-state prison” sentence on your initial open case; however, when you VOP, your sentencing points will increase. You may have been initially eligible for a probation or county jail sentence; however, you may now be facing a mandatory prison sentence under the Criminal Punishment Code.

3. You May Now Be Facing a Criminal Conviction if You VOP
One of the most important considerations my clients have when resolving their cases is that they are not actually convicted. While there are exceptions, usually when you are sentenced to a “Withhold of Adjudication” there is not a formal finding of guilt. Consequently, you may be able to seal your case; not lose your drivers license, or be able to write down on a job application that you have not been “convicted” of a crime. However, Florida Statute Section 948.06(2) (b) requires the court to “adjudge the probationer or offender guilty of the offense charged . . .” In other words, you are now convicted and you will lose the status of the “Withhold of Adjudication.”

4. You are Not Entitled to a Bond while Your VOP is Pending
Most people are shocked when a VOP is filed and they find out that the law does not require them to have a bond while their VOP is pending. As a result, you may have to sit in jail for an extended period of time (sometimes weeks or months) while your case is pending. If you had a job at the time of the VOP; it has highly likely that you will lose it while you are waiting in jail.

5. Exposure to Searches and Seizures While on Probation
While on probation your ability to assert your rights to searches and seizures are greatly impacted. You may be subjected to testing for drugs or alcohol. You are likely subjected to unannounced visits and searches from your probation officer. This greatly enhances the possibility of a VOP.

6. Costs of Being on Probation
Just being supervised by the court system costs you money. Depending on your jurisdiction and type of probation, it is very likely that you are paying a minimum of $40 per month.

7. Inconvenience and Stigma of Being on Probation
The mere fact that you have to report to a probation officer or possibly have to go to court monthly in the case of a Drug Court Case can put a strain on your job and household. Missing work to report to your probation officer can lead to your being fired. It may also be difficult to coordinate with your spouse if child care needs must be met. Also, having to notify prospective employers or friends or acquaintances that you are on probation can be difficult or awkward.

Contact CLEARWATER PROBATION VIOLATION LAWYER Joseph Montrone, Jr. for a free initial consultation.

I confess.  I love Facebook.  It is a great way to reconnect with old friends and keep in touch with current ones.  However, the use of social media networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter can lead to serious criminal problems.

Cyberstalking

In October of 2003, the Cyberstalking Law in Florida was passed.  Cyberstalking means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or though the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.  One can see how this law can be effectively used by prosecutors in this modern age of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.  Several scenarios that I have seen in my practice that either has or could trigger the use of this statute may be the ex-significant other sending disparaging, rude, vulgar, mean spirited texts, Facebook emails, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, etc., to their ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.  Or maybe the new significant other is on the receiving end of the abuse from the previous significant other.  Once law enforcement gets involved, there is very likely an easy trail of evidence in the form of posts, texts, emails, etc., which lead right to the suspect.

Internet Solicitation of a Child and Child Pornography

 Using the internet or a social media network to lure or entice a child to commit illegal sexual acts can lead to serious criminal charges and penalties that can impact a person for the rest of their lives.   It is easy to see how someone can use Facebook or MySpace to meet underage children and attempt to communicate with them in an illegal way or send pornographic images to them.  The statutes in Florida regarding these offenses specifically state that it is not a defense to the prosecution if the person was in fact an undercover officer and not really a child or minor.

Domestic or Dating Violence Injunctions

In my practice it is becoming much more common to show up to an injunction hearing and see that the complaining party is attempting to introduce text messages, emails, Twitter posts, Facebook emails, and Facebook posts into evidence.  Granted, the issuance of an Injunction for Domestic or Dating Violence is civil and not criminal.  However, the subsequent violation of a Domestic or Dating Violence Injunction is a crime.  It is becoming more prevalent to see that the basis for a the criminal charge of Violation of a Domestic or Dating Violence Injunction is through the use of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Admissions and Evidence in Open Criminal Cases

Your friends are not the only ones reading what you post on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.  Prosecutors, probation officers, your own attorneys, and attorneys on the other side if you are in civil litigation are reading them as well.  To protect my clients from themselves, I look on Facebook to see if my clients are making posts that can be used against them (See Roger Clemens or Lance Armstrong).  It is entirely possible for a prosecutor to use your Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter posts against you in a pending criminal case.  Your statements in court could be compared to what you have said in the past on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter.  You better hope that they are consistent with what you have said in court.  There is a well known case in Pinellas County where a prosecutor used Facebook to find the whereabouts of a defendant that fled the country while his case was pending.  His flight from the jurisdiction was used against him as consciousness of guilt during his pending case.

Bond Revocation and/or Bond Increases While Your Case is Pending

Usually people charged with a crime are out on bail pending the resolution of their case.  However, if the case involves a victim, a condition of the bond is usually that the defendant cannot have contact with the victim.  Any contact through Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter can lead a defendant back in court where the prosecutor can request the judge to increase the bond or in some cases, hold the defendant in jail without bond pending the resolution of their case.

Violations of Probation

Once a person is placed on probation, oftentimes there are conditions attached to the probation such as no contact with the victim or no contact with minors.  Simply sending a message or contacting a victim or minor through Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter can lead to a Violation of Probation.

Conclusion

Social media networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are great ways to keep connected to friends both old and new.  However, if you are not careful, their use can lead to unwanted and unexpected dealings with the criminal justice system.   Please contact CLEARWATER CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY for a free initial consultation.