| Read Time: 5 minutes | Criminal Defense

A Legal Guide for Florida Spring Breakers: Know Before You Go

CC image by Ekaterina Vladinakova at Flickr If you’re heading to Florida for spring break in 2019, the sunshine and warm water may not be all that you encounter. In fact, spring breakers are notorious for getting into legal trouble – typically for things like underage drinking. Before you go, here are a few laws and safety tips that you should review to reduce the risk of an accident and keep you out of legal trouble– Staying Safe – Avoiding the Four Ds As a mnemonic device to help you remember safety and the law when you’re on spring break, consider the four Ds that you should always avoid: Drunk driving Drugged driving Distracted driving Drowsy driving All four of the above are, first and foremost, extremely unsafe. When you drive drunk, drugged, drowsy, or distracted, you significantly increase your risk of causing a motor vehicle accident. You may also have legal consequences if you are apprehended for drunk or drugged driving, and even texting while driving is against the law in the Sunshine State. Alcohol For those who are traveling for spring break, alcohol typically presents the biggest temptation, and of the biggest health, safety, and legal risks, too. While our law firm does not condone underage drinking, we do want to remind you that if you do drink–whether of the legal drinking age or not–to never get behind the wheel after you’ve consumed an alcoholic beverage. CC image by Image Catalog at Flickr In addition to staying clear of drunk driving, remember that it is also illegal to have an open container of alcohol within the car, as found in Florida Statutes Section 316.1936. Remind your passengers that if they want to drink, they can’t do it while your vehicle is in operation. Find a Designated Driver Avoiding the four Ds means finding a designated driver if people in your group have been drinking or using drugs. You should also find another driver if those in your group are overly-fatigued; studies show that fatigued driving has the potential to be just as dangerous as drunk driving. When you’re assigning a designated driver in your group, do so smartly. Characteristics of a designated driver that are important include that the driver has/is: A valid driver’s license and auto insurance; Responsible; and Able to resist the temptation not to drink, even when hanging out with friends. It’s always a good idea to select a designated driver before you hit the bars or are exposed to alcohol. If there is no one in your group who makes for a safe designated driver, take a cab, use a rideshare, or find another way home. Know Your Limits If you will be drinking on this spring break, make sure you do so safely – which means more than just avoiding the driver’s seat. It’s also important that you set and know your limits – how much can you personally consume safely? Don’t drink more than you can handle, and try to stick to the general rule of no more than one drink per hour, coupled with a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. (Note that depending on who you are, the one-drink-per-hour rule may be very inaccurate.) When drinking, be sure to always pair your alcohol consumption with plenty of food and water, too. It’s also important that you familiarize yourself with the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and keep an eye out for anyone in your group who may be suffering from alcohol poisoning. The American Addictions Centers lists a few of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning as vomiting, hypothermia, seizure, loss of bowel or bladder control, irregular pulse, and blue-tinged skin. If you suspect that anyone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, you should seek emergency medical care/dial 911 immediately. Alcohol Ban on Beaches The car is not the only place that you can’t have an open container of alcohol in Florida; alcohol is also prohibited on many of the beaches, too. Refer to the Orlando Weekly for a list of beaches in Florida where you can legally drink alcohol, and note that Panama City Beach has banned alcohol on the beach as an “emergency measure” for this year’s spring break. Other Important Laws It’s also important that, in addition to alcohol-specific laws, you also review the rules regarding using a fake ID and public intoxication. As an added safety tip, we also recommend getting vaccinated before coming to Florida, which may offer protection from bacteria and viruses that are often rampant in large gatherings, like those that are found during spring break. Be Smart About Sexual Assault, Rape, and Other Violent Crimes CC image by freestocks.org at Flickr Spring break is no longer just an opportunity for young people to celebrate a reprieve from the grind of university life and get in a little sunshine; it is also a time where many people, spring breakers and otherwise, commit serious crimes, including rape, sexual assault, theft, and assault. During spring break, adhere to the following safety tips: Don’t leave a drink unattended – date rape drugs, including GHB and Rohypnol, could be placed in your drink while you’re distracted; Travel with a buddy – don’t go to unfamiliar places alone, especially in areas where drugs and alcohol are present; Have a plan, including knowing where you’re going and when, and how to get there; Don’t give out your information, including where you’re staying while on spring break, to strangers; Tell someone where you’re going before you leave and when you plan to be back; Keep your belongings close to avoid pickpocketing and theft; and If things get heated between you and another spring breaker, walk away – an assault can be dangerous, and could result in criminal charges if you’re involved. Dos and Don’ts of Interacting with the Police CC image by Alex Smith at Flickr If you are pulled over or otherwise stopped by police while on spring break this year, it’s important that you know how to respond to protect...

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Is America’s Juvenile Criminal System Broken and Outdated?

Each year, thousands of teens move through Florida’s juvenile criminal justice system. However, questions continue to mount about whether the justice system is failing Florida’s young people. A recent story from ABC News has highlighted many of the problems with juvenile systems around the country, including in Florida. Basics of Juvenile Justice At the center of the juvenile criminal justice system is the belief that minors are capable of rehabilitation. Although the adult justice system is oriented around punishment, the juvenile system focuses on reforming delinquent behaviors. As part of this system, juveniles are kept separate from the adult criminal population, and many offenders enter diversion programs that keep them out of jail. While on probation, the child and his or her family work on action plans for the child. Juvenile records are also sealed so that offenders will not have their youthful errors following them around for years later. As a result, juvenile offenders don’t need to disclose their criminal history when applying for a job or an apartment. However, Florida constantly undermines this juvenile justice system. Trying Juveniles as Adults As part of the “tough on crime” rhetoric that has been ascendant for the past 40 years, Florida passed a law that allows juveniles to be tried as adults in certain situations. The theory underpinning this law is that juveniles should “serve adult time for adult crimes” like homicide. Lionel Tate is one juvenile charged under this law. Tate was 14 when he wrestled a six-year-old, killing him. The prosecutor chose to prosecute Tate as an adult for the crime. Supporters of trying juveniles as adults argue that it is necessary, particularly in Florida. The state’s violent crime rate among juveniles is among the highest in the nation, almost 50% higher than the national average. Supporters also believe treating juveniles as adults will act as a deterrent to other juveniles, persuading them not to commit violent crimes. Counterproductive Response to Violent Crime Critics of the prosecution of Lionel Tate point out that charging juveniles as adults strikes at the very heart of juvenile justice. They also argue that sending juveniles to prisons increases the likelihood that they will reoffend—up to 33% more likely, based on one study. Instead, critics believe that even violent offenders should go through the juvenile system, like all other minors suspected of committing crimes. As critics point out, juveniles are not treated as adults because they have not fully developed emotionally or mentally. Treating them like rational adults is the wrong approach and will not yield the benefits that “tough on crime” advocates pretend. Speak with an Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney How Florida should treat juveniles will continue to be a source of controversy, with each side expressing valid concerns. Parents whose children are charged with crimes must realize that the state could potentially lock their child up for a very long time and must act accordingly. The best thing you can do right now is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Moses & Rooth, our Orlando defense attorneys we represent juveniles accused of crimes. To speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers, please schedule a free initial consultation by calling 407-377-0150.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Steps to Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record in Orlando

When you are convicted of a crime in Florida, not only can you end up paying steep financial penalties and even serving a term of imprisonment, but you can lose many opportunities once you have completed the terms of your sentence. For instance, convictions can prevent individuals from obtaining student loans and other lines of credit, and they can prevent you from being approved for a housing rental application or a job application. To be sure, each time you fill out an application that asks about your criminal background or criminal history, you will need to admit to your conviction. Florida residents with felony convictions also lose their right to vote. A history of conviction can have lifelong implications for many Floridians, regardless of the severity of the conviction. In many cases, Floridians are wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of crimes. Even when there was no wrongful conviction, a person with a history of a criminal conviction can change his or her life yet remain weighed down by that criminal history. There is good news: you may be able to have your criminal record sealed or expunged. What Does It Mean to Seal or Expunge Criminal Convictions? Under Florida law (Fla. Stat. Section 943.053), criminal history records are public for adults unless that record is sealed or expunged. What does it mean to seal or expunge a record? According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), sealing a record places your criminal history record “under highly restricted access.” To be clear, sealing the record does not wipe away your criminal history, but it does make it very difficult to access except under particular circumstances. When a record is sealed, it remains in the criminal record system. Expungement is different, and for most individuals with a criminal history record, expunging the record is preferable to sealing it. The FDLE explains that, when a record is expunged, it is “removed from record systems or files and destroyed.” In other words, there is no longer an official history of your criminal record. How Can I Get My Criminal History Records Sealed or Expunged? There are several ways that criminal records can be sealed or expunged, including but not limited to the following: Wrongful arrest: if your arrest was made “contrary to law or by mistake,” then you can seek an administrative expungement under Florida Statutes Section 943.0581; Lawful self-defense: if you were arrested for and/or charged with a crime for which it is later determined that you acted in lawful self-defense, you can apply for expungement under Florida Statutes Section 943.0585; and Juvenile diversion program: if you were arrested for and charged with certain crime(s) as a juvenile and completed a diversion program, you may be able to have your record expunged under Florida Statutes Section 943.0582 (there is also the possibility of an automatic juvenile expungement given certain other conditions are met). Typically, the court-ordered sealing of criminal records may be possible for certain types of violations under Florida law (Fla. Stat. Section 943.059), but sealing requires that the individual first seek a “Certificate of Eligibility” to seal or expunge the record. This is also a necessary first step for expungement. Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Orlando Do you have questions about cleaning up your criminal record in Orlando? An experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney can speak with you about your case and your options today. Contact Moses & Rooth to learn more about how we can assist you.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Most Popular Legal Drama TV Series

For decades, Floridians have been watching legal dramas on television. Whether you grew up watching Perry Mason or more recently have begun watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, television shows that deal with the law are extremely popular. While these shows do not always “get the law right,” so to speak, they have helped to introduced thousands of viewers to some of the complex aspects of criminal law in Florida and throughout the country. What are some of the most popular legal drama programs on television, and what can we learn about the law by watching them? Popular Legal Dramas Get Ranked By Viewers What legal dramas are most popular with viewers? According to a list from Ranker.com, the following shows are among the most commonly watched legal television shows: Law & Order; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; The Practice; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; Boston Legal; Suits; The Good Wife; Perry Mason; L.A. Law; Matlock; and Ally McBeal. What do these shows have in common? In each of them, viewers watch courtroom scenes unfold—some of the legal matters are issues of civil law in which a plaintiff may be seeking damages from a defendant, such as is common in legal dramas like Suits and The Good Wife. In other legal dramas, such as the Law & Order programs, Perry Mason, Matlock, or the various incarnations of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we primarily view criminal trials that follow either the prosecution and police investigations team, or the defense attorney who is working to building a successful defense for the client and to prove that client’s innocence. These shows are compelling, and they routinely receive high ratings, keeping legal dramas on a wide variety of networks. What else should viewers know about these television shows and the information they provide? Learning More About the “CSI Effect” on Juries According to an article from the American Bar Association (ABA), the term “CSI Effect” was coined to refer to a “phenomenon whereby high-tech, forensic evidence dramatized in television crime dramas such as CSI, Law & Order, and Forensic Files theoretically promotes unrealistic expectation among jurors of how apparently clearly and definitely forensic evidence can determine innocence or guilt or, from the perspective of the civil litigator, causation or liability.” In other words, viewers watch these popular legal dramas and assume that courtroom proceedings and investigations work the same way in real life and in real legal practice. The “CSI Effect” seems to be so strong in jury trials, in fact, that jurors often will refuse to convict, according to the article, or to find in favor of a plaintiff in a civil trial, simply because it seems as though there is insufficient forensic evidence. The truth is that high-tech and forensic evidence simply is not as prevalent in real court cases as it is on television, and making assumptions about a real case based on knowledge from legal dramas can be problematic. None of this means, of course, that you should stop watching your favorite legal television dramas. Instead, you might simply shift your expectations in the event that you are involved in a real legal case. Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Do you have questions about how to build a strong defense in your case? An experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can assist you. Contact Moses & Rooth for more information about our services.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Understanding Expungements and Sealed Records

When we are young, we tend to be wild and free. Most youth do not question nor consider the impact of that their actions presently will have on their future. However, youthful bliss and its carefree nature can leave you with life altering consequences. For instance when you are arrested and/or charged with a crime you will have a criminal record. Criminal records follow you a lifetime, and often times are the reason you are turned down from job opportunities, housing, as well as professional licensing. Though you may be frustrated or even feeling like you cannot progress in life because of your criminal record, there may still be hope. If you or a loved one have been unable to progress in life because of your criminal record contact an experienced Florida expungement attorney today to consult about your record. Expungements vs. Sealed Records in Florida Those who have a criminal record know how hard it is to get jobs and even housing and though this can be frustrating, options do exist. In Florida, you have the right to have your criminal record expunged or sealed. Expungements are governed by Florida Statute Section 943.0585 , while sealed records are governed by Florida Statute Section 943.059. Though you may think differently, expungements and sealed records are not the same thing and depending on which one you receive determines who can see your criminal record and who cannot. If your criminal record has been dismissed, if the charges were dropped or if there was no information filed then you may be eligible to get your record expunged, meaning the court will order the clerk, the arresting agency and FDLE to destroy the arrest records. This can be extremely beneficial to you because it should appear that your past actions never happened at all. When your record is sealed, the public, such as landlords and employers, do not have access to your record but governmental agencies will have access to it. It is important to note, that if you have previously had your record expunged or sealed, whether in Florida or another state, you will not be eligible for another expungement or seal. Though expungement and seal laws may seem straightforward, it can become quite complicated; therefore, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice. Need Legal Advice? Having a criminal record could make your life more difficult when you are maturing and progressing in life. Criminal records can keep you from getting a job, obtaining housing, as well as keep you from your inherent rights such as voting or owning a firearm. Frustrating as it may be, you have options. If you or a loved one would like your criminal record expunged or sealed, it is best to speak with an attorney about your case. Contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for an initial consultation.  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Justice

That’s One Expensive…

You’re out one night at the bar looking for “friend”. You buy a girl a drink but she’s not interested. Strike one. You try Tinder, same result. Strike two. Not wanting to strike out that night, you decide to look for a “sure thing”. Maybe you decide to drive in the seedier part of town, or check out the lovely ladies of backpage.com. Either way you know that you aren’t going to strike out. The problem is that after you attempt to negotiate for her services, you are placed under arrest because the nice girl that you were soliciting was a police officer. You think to yourself, “how bad could this be?” You have never been in trouble, it’s a misdemeanor charge, and aside from the embarrassment of explaining the situation to your friend who bonded you out, this is no big deal. That was probably the same thought process as Nelson Vachon. Mr. Vachon was arrested after making a deal with a prostitute for $20. Unfortunately, the prostitute was an undercover cop working a sting operation. He entered a plea and the government asked the Judge to impose the mandatory $5000.00 civil fine. The County Court found that the $5000.00 fine was unconstitutional and excessive. However, the Fourth District Court of Appeals did not agree. They reversed the trial court’s order and required the sentence to include the $5000.00 civil penalty. So the moral of the story is, first stay away from police acting as prostitutes in an undercover operation. Second, stay away from prostitutes. Third and perhaps most importantly should you ignore the first and second points, hire an attorney who is experienced with the criminal justice system. The attorneys at Moses and Rooth can assist in examining your case and representing you in court. Call 407-377-0150 to schedule an appointment.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Threats

Recently, a bill passed in Florida’s House that would help to get rid of some of the negative consequences associated with Florida’s 10-20-Life Law. The proposed law aims at eliminating Florida’s 10-20-Life policy as a penalty for aggravated assault cases. These cases involve threatening a person with a firearm. When a person is convicted of this crime in Florida, they are subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence. Florida’s Current 10-20-Life Law Under §775.087 of the Florida criminal code, a person who is charged with a felony and uses a firearm, except where the firearms is an essential element of the crime, the person will be charged with aggravated battery. This winds up causing the felony to be elevated. For instance if a person is charged with a crime in the second degree but uses a weapon, then the person will be charged with a first-degree felony. Under this 10-20-Life Law, a person will be subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence. The law’s name reflects possible sentence lengths. Under this law the prosecutor is the only person with the discretion to waive a mandatory minimum sentence. However, a judge can waive a mandatory minimum sentence for youthful offenders. Under the current law, a man who allegedly shot a gun inside a home in self-defense was subjected to a 20-year sentence even though the only destruction was to his own home. Future of Florida’s 10-20-life Law If the proposed bill ends up becoming law, it would get rid of the 10-20-Life penalty for aggravated assault cases. This law was introduced in the past but did not get enough votes to become law. The hope is that the new law will help prevent a first-time offender from having to go to jail for an extremely long sentence. It would provide a judge with the power to choose the length of an appropriate sentence for an individual based on important things such as whether the person has a prior record, whether anyone was injured, and other necessary factors that would help determine a sentence. For those that oppose the bill because they feel that it does not punish those who have committed a crime and deserve to serve time, this is not the case. The law will still punish those who have been proven guilty. However, a person will not be sentenced to 20 years in jail for committing a crime like shooting a wall that did not end up injuring anyone. If the bill becomes a law, it would take effect immediately. It is up for discussion whether this law will be retroactive and help those who are already serving out their sentence. Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney If you are currently facing state or federal charges in Orlando, you should contact Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law. Our experienced attorneys are available to prepare a criminal defense on your behalf. You should not allow a criminal charge to dictate your future. Do not hesitate to contact our firm at 407-377-0150 for your free consultation.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Understanding Your Probation Term in Florida

If you have been charged with a crime, one of the best outcomes you can hope for is a term of probation in lieu of jail time. Unfortunately, the terms of your probation may be complicated and one misstep may compromise your eligibility to remain on probation. Understanding your responsibilities during a probationary period as well as what to do if you think you may lose your probationary status is critical to ensuring compliance with your probation requirements in Florida. Eligibility and Terms of Probation Not everyone is eligible for probation. First-time offenders, offenders convicted of misdemeanors and lower-level non-violent felonies may be eligible for probation. Once a probationary sentence is determined, the specific terms are decided by the court. The terms will vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the crime, the offender’s criminal history, and other considerations including family, employment, and residency. Probation-eligible offenders will be assigned a probation officer, with whom the offender will likely be required to meet with frequently. Some additional conditions for probation may include: Reporting to family agencies or social services; Victim restitution; Substance abuse or mental health treatment programs; Residency requirements; Curfew; Staying away from alcohol/drug consumption (even if the offender is not participating); Relinquishing firearms or certain other weapons; and Submitting to drug/alcohol testing. Reporting requirements will vary, but some programs will require daily reporting for the first part of a probationary sentence, though the frequency may lessen over time. Missing even one meeting with your probation officer may cause you to lose your probation status or increase the frequency of meetings. Losing Probation Status The easiest way to lose your probation status is to fail to comply with routine meetings with probation officers or to commit another crime. Missing a probationary meeting or a new law criminal offense may result in a formal violation of probation warrant being issued. If an officer believes an offender has violated probation, the offender can be arrested without warrant. The offender has a right at the first court hearing to be informed of the alleged violations, but may be held or released on bail depending on the circumstances. The termination of a probationary period may affect the disposition of the underlying crime and will almost certainly affect the offender’s ability to qualify for probation for any subsequent offenses. Orlando Probation Criminal Defense Attorneys Probation is a privilege, not a right. Making sure that you remain in compliance with the terms of your probation is instrumental in ensuring you remain eligible for probation. If you or anyone you know is having your probation sentence threatened, or if you are faced with a criminal charge where probation is an option, you need experienced probation criminal defense attorneys on your side. At Moses & Rooth, our attorneys have seen both sides of the criminal justice system; as former prosecutors, we know how to work with prosecutors to ensure the most favorable outcome for our clients. If you have any questions about your rights or responsibilities while under probation, contact our Orlando office today.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Criminal Defense

Tracing the Steps of a Florida Criminal Case

Being arrested, especially a first arrest, can be a terrifying process. The worry of what will happen next can be overwhelming. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can not only provide needed legal representation, but also ease your mind when you know your case is in capable hands. If you have been arrested on drug charges, assault and battery, or any other crime the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Moses & Rooth can help guide you through this difficult time. Steps in a Criminal Case Arrest/Notice to Appear: An arrest can be made or a notice to appear can be issued to start the criminal process. If arrested, you will likely be taken to a police station where you will be booked. At this time, you may be fingerprinted, have a mug shot taken, take part in a line up or other things that may be used to gather evidence against you for use at trial later. It is important to know that you have a right to an attorney and you have the right to remain silent during this process. Under Florida statute, a notice to appear may be issued for misdemeanors or ordinance violations with a specific date and time to appear in court to face the criminal charges that have been alleged against you. If you receive a notice to appear, you should contact an attorney immediately so you are properly represented when appearing in court. First Appearance/Bond: You will appear within 24 hours of arrest and booking in front of a judge who will set the amount of bond required to make bail. Bond is an assurance that the defendant will appear in court. A licensed bail bondsman can be used to post the bond. Usually a bail bondsman will require 10% of the total bond. Under Florida statute, a judge may consider the nature and circumstances of the offense, weight of evidence, defendant’s family ties, length of residency, employment history, financial resources, and mental condition in determining the amount of required bail. Arraignment: At arraignment, the formal charges will be read and you will enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. If you plead guilty or no contest, then the next step will be sentencing. If you plead not guilty, then your case will proceed to trial if a plea bargain is not reached before trial. Pretrial Hearing: the pretrial hearing is basically a status hearing so the judge can determine if the parties need more time or are ready for trial. Judge may also address discovery issues or set case for more formal evidentiary hearings. The judge may decide to allow or disallow some evidence or may dismiss the case altogether. Plea Bargaining: After the pretrial, a plea bargain for a lesser charge or a plea of guilty can be entered into in consideration of a more lenient sentence. A plea can be entered any time between the pretrial hearing and before judgment is passed at a trial. Trial: Trial can happen by judge or jury. If it is by judge, then both sides will present their case to the judge and the judge will assign guilt or innocence. If by jury, then a jury will be selected, opening statements will be given, each side will present their case, closing statements will be made, and a verdict given. If a guilty verdict is entered then sentencing will occur at a later date. Sentencing Hearing: If you are found guilty, there may be a separate sentencing hearing, where fines, incarceration time, or other punitive measures are issued against you. Being charged with a crime is a scary experience. If you have been charged with a crime contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Moses & Rooth for representation and guidance throughout the process.

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