Florida Law specifically states that domestic violence shall be treated as a criminal act rather than a private matter. As a result, there is a pro-prosecution mentality even if the alleged victim does not want to cooperate in the prosecution. The reasoning behind this position is the State’s public interest in “protecting” the victim of domestic violence. What if the victim does not want to cooperate with the prosecution of the case? Can the State Attorney’s Office proceed with the case? The short answer is yes.

State v. The Defendant
The charging document setting forth the criminal allegations will read that the State of Florida is prosecuting the crime. It is not the victim versus the defendant. Therefore, if the State Attorney’s Office elects to prosecute the crime, often times it is against the wishes of the victim.

Independent Witnesses and Evidence
If the State Attorney’s Office does not receive cooperation from the victim, it can proceed with testimony from other witnesses who may have seen the incident or heard statements of the defendant or victim; or they may use additional independent or corroborative evidence to prosecute the case. Evidence such as 911 tapes, photographs, or other forensic evidence is frequently used.

State Attorneys Office may subpoena the non-cooperating victim to testify against their wishes
Depending on the facts of the case, the State Attorney’s Office may decide that even though the victim doesn’t want to testify, they are going to compel the victim’s testimony through the use of a court ordered subpoena. Once served, if the victim fails to appear or refuses to testify, they could be facing a jail sentence or other sanctions.

Fifth Amendment Privilege to refuse to testify generally doesn’t apply to the victims of domestic violence
As a general rule, if you are the victim of a crime you cannot refuse to testify on the basis of the Fifth Amendment. That privilege is invoked when someone is facing a criminal charge. (There may be exceptions that apply. You should consult a lawyer to discuss them).

Husband-Wife Privilege Does Not Apply
In the State of Florida, Husband-Wife Privilege only applies towards communications which were intended to be made in confidence between the spouses. However, Florida law specifically states that there is NO Husband-Wife Privilege when one spouse is charged with committing a crime against the other spouse. This privilege does NOT apply towards observations made by the victim spouse.

Recanting Victim Testimony
If the non-cooperating victim believes that lying or changing their story is the best course of action, they may want to think twice about that. The victim can very easily go from a situation where they are truly the victim to a situation where they are now a criminal defendant themselves. A victim lying to law enforcement or the State Attorney’s Office can lead to many problems. The victim could be charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, filing a false police report, or be held in contempt of court.

The Defendant and the Recanting Victim or Witness
Another significant problem that could develop is when the defendant encourages the victim or a witness for that matter to testify untruthfully. If this information comes to the attention of law enforcement, the defendant could be charged with additional crimes such as Witness Tampering. The State Attorney’s Office would surely bring this information to the attention of a jury; arguing that it showed the guilty conscience of the defendant.

Conclusion
Domestic violence cases can lead to significant legal issues and problems for both the victim and defendant. You are urged to consult with an attorney to discuss these issues as soon as possible.

DRUG POSSESSION DEFENSES

February 10, 2011

Whenever a person is charged with the crime of illegally possessing a drug or narcotic, by their very nature, these cases give rise to numerous issues relating to whether the evidence was obtained by law enforcement in violation of a person’s 4th Amendment Protections against unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. If law enforcement violates the law with respect to an unreasonable search and seizure contrary to the 4th Amendment, a person accused of a crime can file a Motion to Suppress evidence. If the Court rules that law enforcement seized the evidence illegally; then the evidence is suppressed. It cannot be used against the accused in their trial. In addition to 4th Amendment Search and Seizure issues, a person charged with illegally possessing a drug may also have other legal defenses which, if raised, may make it difficult for the prosecution to gain a conviction. Therefore, just because you are arrested and charged with illegally possessing a drug, it does not mean that you will be found guilty. Your Criminal Defense Attorney will be able to review the facts of your case and determine if you may have certain legal defenses such as:

• Was the initial stop by law enforcement conducted illegally?
• Was the subsequent search of the drugs or paraphernalia conducted illegally?
• Were any statements obtained by law enforcement in violation of your
Miranda Rights?
• Were there drugs or paraphernalia in your constructive possession only?
• Were there any legal defects in the warrant used to search your
home, apartment, or automobile?
• Is there an entrapment defense?
• Is there an alibi defense?
• Is there an identity defense?

A thorough analysis of the facts is needed to determine whether any of the above defenses or others may be viable in your case. Contact the Law Office of Joseph Montrone, Jr. for a free consultation 727-538-4155.

The short answer is as soon as possible. Why? In the words of Benjamin Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The earlier you seek and follow the advice of a criminal defense attorney; the less likely it is that you say or do something that will compromise your defense in the future. Often, when meeting with a client for the first time, we are able to educate them on the criminal process; both in court and with what law enforcement may be trying to do to gather evidence against you.

Case in point: recently the local fire chief for the Clearwater Fire Department, Jamie Geer, was arrested for the crime of Capital Sexual Battery. This crime carries a mandatory life sentence. In Florida life means life. Good bye. Thanks for playing. If convicted you are spending the remainder of your days in prison. It is alleged that Mr. Geer was having an ongoing sexual relationship with a girl under the age of 12 beginning in 2004. The alleged criminal activity was brought to the attention of law enforcement. Law enforcement began an investigation which included a controlled phone call (police have victim or witness contact suspect to make incriminating statements which are captured on tape). Now Mr. Geer is sitting in the Pinellas County Jail with a $500,000.00 bond, and the very real prospect of spending the remainder of his life in prison. Although I have no personal knowledge; I’m going to assume that Mr. Geer elected not to speak with an attorney before the police cuffed him and took him to jail.

Admittedly Mr. Geer’s case is an extreme example to illustrate the point. The vast majority of criminal cases do not end up with the suspect sitting in a jail cell facing life in prison. In Mr. Geer’s case, it is alleged the victim was taped on the phone asking him about their ongoing sexual relationship. During their conversation Mr. Geer made numerous comments that to him at that time may not have seemed incriminating. But to a criminal defense attorney, or a prosecutor; his statements may end up being the nail in his coffin. As his arrest warrant pointed out, Geer never denied having sex with the victim during the phone call. Those of us who practice criminal law call that an admission.

Could the advice of a criminal defense attorney have helped Mr. Geer avoid these charges? I think without question the answer is yes. I’m sure that if Mr. Geer thought that it was too expensive or too early to hire an attorney for this matter; his previous opinions have now changed.

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.

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.

 

 

 

You look up into the rear view mirror and you know it is going to happen, but there is nothing you can do about it. You are about to be rear-ended. And then it happens. In a split second your life can be altered in a drastic way because of an auto accident. Now what? The answer to that question will depend on whether you are injured and if so, the severity of your injury. Here are some tips:

If Possible Safely Exit Your Vehicle

Get Medical Assistance If You Are Injured  If you need emergency medical assistance call as soon as possible at the scene of the accident. I often speak with victims of automobile who may feel minor pain or not feel any pain at the initial scene of the accident. However, the next day they start to feel pain. If that is the case, get medical help as soon as possible.

Follow The Treatment Plan Of Your Medical Provider  If you are injured and seek medical treatment, follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Down the road an insurance adjuster or a defense attorney for the other party will be reading your medical records. If your records are replete with missed appointments, failure to follow the advice of your doctor, failure to get recommended diagnostic tests, etc, you can rest assured that you will hear about this later from the other side’s insurance adjuster or defense attorney.

Call The Police At The Scene Of The Accident  You want to police to respond and document what happened. They will help determine who was at fault and they will be able to get statements from witnesses.

Take Pictures Yourself  Assuming your physical condition allows it, take pictures of all of the cars involved – inside and outside; take pictures of any injuries you may have, cuts, bruises, lacerations, etc. take pictures of skid marks; take pictures of anything that appears relevant – the beer cans sitting in the at fault driver’s front seat for instance.

• Get Names, Addresses, Phone Numbers Of Any Witnesses  Even though you have called the police, you want to make sure that you have this information. You don’t want to be in a position later where you would have liked to have had a witness’ information; but now it is gone forever.

Don’t Make Statements To The Other Driver’s Or Witnesses  Florida Law requires that you provide information to law enforcement when they are investigating a crash. This information is privileged by law and cannot be used in a subsequent civil or criminal proceeding. However, if you admit liability to other driver’s or witnesses, these statements can be used in a subsequent civil or criminal proceeding.

Call An Attorney  Before you make any statements or sign any documents, it is important to consult an attorney about you claim. They will be able to advise you about any rights or obligations that you may have under your own insurance policy. The insurance companies (the other driver(s)’ and yours) will be investigating your claim as soon as possible. You attorney will also be able to investigate your claim and act in YOUR best interest. Your CLEARWATER PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER will be able to investigate who is at fault and determine whether there is additional insurance coverage which may cover your damages for personal property and personal injuries.

Notify Your Insurance Company About The Accident  Usually as a condition of your insurance policy providing coverage for your claim, you will be required to notify the insurance company.

Finally, although this is closing the barn door after the horse has left, it is important to be proactive with your insurance coverage. Make sure you have proper coverage BEFORE you get into an auto accident. If you have any questions about your policy contact your insurance agent or contact an attorney. For more information please see my blog posts, Uninsured Motorist Insurance in Florida: Are You “Fully Covered?” dated February 25, 2010, and Automobile Insurance Definitions dated February 26, 2010.

During my six years as a prosecutor in Pinellas County, I investigated, prosecuted, and tried numerous cases involving child sex crimes and related offenses.  During that time, I received specialized training and practical experience in interviewing child witnesses and witnesses of child sex crimes; and in gathering evidence for the purpose of building a case to present to a jury.  I learned from the ground up how law enforcement and the prosecution build their cases against criminal defendants.  As a criminal defense attorney, I am able to use that knowledge and experience to help defend people charged with SEX OFFENSES WITH MINORS.

Sex Crimes Are Difficult to Prosecute

Victim Testimony

The prosecution of child sex crimes is often a difficult task for various reasons. First, once a case is initially brought to the attention of law enforcement, just getting the testimony from the alleged victim can be a difficult task.  Often times, the alleged victim is either unwilling to come forward with information perhaps because the alleged suspect is a family member or if in the case of a very young minor, they may be unable to testify because if their age.  From the prosecutor’s perspective, child witnesses must be questioned in a way that cannot later leave them open to suggestions and arguments from the defense that words were put into their mouth.  Another concern that the prosecutor may have is the fact that frequently, the alleged victim’s version of what happened is not consistent over time as told to different people.  Once there are inconsistent statements, this makes the task of the prosecutor that much more difficult.  A good defense attorney will be able to point out and/or highlight these inconsistencies to the prosecutor and/or ultimately to a jury.  Another difficulty in building a child sex case is the fact that many times the alleged victim may have a motive to lie or some bias against the alleged suspect.  For example, I have dealt with cases which involve alleged victims in the middle of a contested divorce or perhaps the alleged victim is not happy with the fact that the alleged suspect is dating their parent.  Motives to lie or not give truthful testimony can often pose huge road blocks for the prosecutor and end up being used by the defense to ague that there is reasonable doubt.

Corroboration of Victim Testimony through Physical Evidence

Unlike what you see on television regarding DNA, child sex crimes cases frequently lack physical evidence.  The reasons for a lack of physical evidence may vary.  The alleged crime may have occurred years ago.  The alleged act itself may not lend itself to yielding physical evidence such as if the alleged suspect was fondling the breasts of the alleged victim.  As a result, more often then not, these types of crimes are a “he said, she said.”  Once the case is brought to the attention of law enforcement, and it is apparent that there is no physical evidence, in order to build a case, the prosecutor and law enforcement may attempt to obtain additional evidence to corroborate the crime.  This type of evidence may be obtained through investigative tools such as a search warrant.  Perhaps the alleged victim and the alleged suspect were strangers to each other and the alleged victim can describe the bed spread in the alleged suspect’s bedroom.  Perhaps the alleged suspect has some sort of unique markings, scars, or tattoos on their body.  Another very useful tool used by law enforcement is the controlled phone call.  The investigation may have started with law enforcement and the alleged suspect may have no idea that he is being investigated.  The alleged victim or a family member may call the alleged suspect in an attempt to elicit some type of admission to the crime while law enforcement is taping it.  This type of evidence is particularly useful especially in the case of a crime that is alleged to have occurred many years ago.  If the alleged suspect admits he did something wrong to the alleged victim, this is powerful evidence.  In this day modern day of communication technology, law enforcement may attempt to gather corroborative evidence in the form of text messages, emails, or Facebook posts.  Finally, it is not unusual for law enforcement to simply contact the alleged suspect himself and interview him to obtain admissions or a confession (Please see my blog post November 19, 2009, You Have the Right to Remain Silent . . . USE IT!)  Interviews of a criminal suspect are areas where a criminal defense attorney can attack the prosecution’s case in the form of a motion to suppress because the criminal suspect’s rights were violated by law enforcement; or there was some other type of procedural defect in the interview process.  These types of investigative tools used by law enforcement are the exact reason why it is imperative for someone that believes they are or may be investigated for a sex crime to seek legal counsel as early as possible.  One wrong move on the part of an alleged suspect can give law enforcement all the evidence they need to gain a conviction.

You Find Out You Are a Suspect in a Child Sex Crime:  What Do You Do?

You should seek out you legal counsel as soon as you are aware that you are being investigated.  I cannot stress how important it is to seek legal counsel as early as possible in any criminal case.  However, the stakes can be extremely high if you are going to be charged in a child sex crime.  I understand that legal fees can be expensive.  I have also heard people say that they would just wait and see what would happen first before they hire a lawyer.  But usually that strategy ultimately makes your attorney’s job much more difficult.  By the time an attorney is retained; a great deal of damage may have already been done to potential defenses you may have to the crime charged.  

Sentencing and Sex Crimes

The majority of sex crimes charges encompass a variety of possible sentences depending on the ages of the alleged offender and victim and the alleged conduct involved.  Under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, charges involving sex crimes usually involve the imposition of prison sentences ranging from a term of years in prison up to life.  In addition to the possibility of incarceration, Florida Law mandates that certain sex crimes sentences carry very stringent statutory conditions, restrictions and designations such as a sex offender or a sex predator.  Of course every criminal case is unique unto itself.  However, it may be possible to defend and/or resolve your case without a prison sentence or without the imposition of the harsh sex crimes designations.  Your attorney will evaluate your case and may look to some of the issues discussed above regarding problems that the State’s case may have.  Other issues that your attorney may be able to address are whether there is a basis to depart below the Florida Sentencing Guidelines in order to avoid a prison sentence.  Based on a weakness in the State’s case are they willing to negotiate a plea?  Do the victim’s parents not want their child to go through the litigation process?  Does the alleged offender qualify under the Romeo & Juliet Law in Florida (Please see my blog post January 28, 2010, Florida’s Romeo & Juliet Law). 

Conclusion

My time as a prosecutor prepared me to defend clients charged with sex crimes.  My experience taught me that these cases are frequently very difficult to prosecute.  Retaining counsel as early as possible is imperative if you are a suspect in a criminal sex crimes case.  Difficulties and deficiencies experienced by the prosecutor and law enforcement can be used to the benefit of the criminal defendant in both the determination of guilt and sentencing phases of the criminal prosecution.