| 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

False Rape Accusations on the Rise?

Rape and sexual assault are among the most heinous crimes a person may be charged with short of murder. Any type of sex crimes conviction carries serious penalties in Florida. A defendant is facing not only possible jail time, but also a lifetime of legal and public condemnation as a “sex offender.” Rolling Stone Scandal Shows How False Rape Accusations Go Viral Given the gravity of any rape accusation, it is imperative that law enforcement perform their due diligence before charging a suspect. Prosecutors must also be strictly held to their legal burden of proof: guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, in our social media-crazed age, people are quick to rush to judgment. There is an understandable, if legally misguided, view that we should “always believe the victim,” which can end up trampling on the constitutional rights of the accused. At the end of the day, a judge and jury need to see evidence beyond a mere accusation before convicting someone of a felony. And while studies have shown that the majority of rape accusations are credible–or at least, they are not deliberate fabrications, there is increasing anecdotal and scientific evidence that false allegations are on the rise. On the anecdotal side, there was a recent report about a video where a passenger using a popular ride-sharing service verbally threatened to accuse the driver of rape following a disagreement. Heat-of-the-moment exclamations are one thing. But then there are the false rape accusations that “go viral” and are willingly spread by the national news media. Consider the July 2014 report published in Rolling Stone magazine accusing several University of Virginia students of raping an unidentified female accuser. Although none of the accused students were ever charged with a crime, the uncorroborated accusation alone was enough to prompt a wave of stories decrying the purported “rape culture” on the nation’s college campuses. Rolling Stone later retracted the story after acknowledging its reporter and editors never bothered to corroborate the accuser’s story. Cathy Young, a writer for the libertarian magazine Reason, noted in the aftermath of the Rolling Stone scandal that “[t]he willingness to treat uncorroborated narratives of victimization as fact may be partly due to sensationalism,” but also “reflects a climate in which any suggestion that a woman who says she was raped may be lying is often treated as ‘victim-blaming’ or ‘rape apology.’” Have You Been Falsely Accused of Rape? But false rape accusations do happen. A study authored by a group from the University of Massachusetts and Northeastern University in Boston found that “the prevalence of false allegations is between 2 percent and 10 percent.” That may not sound like much, but consider that each false rape accusation represents a potential criminal conviction for an innocent person. This is why if you or a loved one is accused of a sex crime, you need to take it seriously. Do not assume it is a misunderstanding and that the police (and the press) will simply believe your claims of innocence. You need to speak with an Orlando criminal defense attorney who has experience in dealing with these types of cases. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150 if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Self Defense

Can You Swipe Right for a Criminal Background Check?

You meet a girl on a dating website. She seems nice on the first date so you decide to ask her out again. This time things went terribly wrong as she brought three thugs to rob you. Such is the set of circumstances for Adam Hilarie, who in addition to being robbed was also murdered during the robbery. The woman that Mr. Hilarie met on a dating app had always intended to set him up and rob him. In fact, after their first date, she texted him stating that she wanted to meet up with him again. It was at this point that she showed up to his home with her co-defendants. They robbed him and according to the police report “Hilarie was begging for his life, he was not putting up any kind of fight, and was telling them that he had a 5-year-old daughter.” Tinder, match.com, and Plenty of Fish. All fairly mainstream online dating websites and apps. And all, at least according to their marketing material, very successful at making a match. Success might be measure differently on Tinder than on Christian Mingle, but that’s beside the point. BUT, how do you know that the person you are speaking with, texting, or meeting is truly looking for that special someone. The reality is that in today’s online dating atmosphere people truly need to protect themselves, and unlike in past generations that requires more than a pack of Trojans. So what should you do to protect yourself? Well, I suppose the easiest thing is to google the person that you are meeting up with. See if there is any information on them and if so, does the information match the info you are seeing on their profile. Check social media. Everyone seems to at least have a Facebook account these days. Again, see if the information in their dating profile matches up to their social media account. Check to see if you have any mutual friends. Before inviting them back to your place for dinner or post-date romance, you may consider running a background check. In Florida this can be done at on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website and it costs $24.00. There are also a number of private companies that can do national checks for a fee. It may seem like common sense, but don’t give out your address when you are first meeting the person. Meet at a public place or restaurant. As an attorney, I also think that the companies offering these dating services need to do a better job of protecting their clients. I think that the lack of verification could subject them to liability in the event they knew or should have known of an individual’s prior violent criminal history. The clients enrolling the various website should have to go through some verification process in order to prove they are who they say they are. Verify accounts through email or other social media. Be careful out there in the online dating world. Meeting someone online has become such a part of life as we know it, but everyone must make sure that they are protected.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Tavares Mayor Accused of Fraud

Fraud is serious. Just ask recently arrested Tavares Mayor, Robert Wolfe. Mayor Wolfe is accused of committing fraud by submitting a false claim to his insurance company for $9,300 worth of damage to his home. It is alleged that Mayor Wolfe submitted a claim to his insurance company that he was forced to move out of his home due to damage from a leaky sink, but the insurance company claims that this never happened. Now, not only has Mayor Wolfe been accused of a serious felony but Governor Scott has removed him from office. Currently, Mayor Wolfe is standing accused of one count of insurance fraud. However, the State Attorney’s Office could add charges depending upon the evidence. Depending upon how the claim was made these additional charges could include perjury and grand theft. Our firm has seen a significant increase in the prosecution of these cases. Not only are local law enforcement agencies investigating these cases, but so are statewide agencies including FDLE and the Department of Financial Services. These statewide agencies are typically investigating fraudulent acts where the government is the victim. Insurance fraud, credit card fraud, tax fraud, and other “white collar” crimes are frequently prosecuted and must be handled by defense attorneys that have knowledge of how these types of cases are handled. The attorney must be prepared to examine the financial documents that are being used as evidence and have the required understanding to determine if the documents can prove the alleged crime. If you are being investigated for fraud do not speak with the investigator. Do not try to clear this up yourself. Do not try to explain the situation. Remember these investigators have a job and that job is to provide evidence of the alleged fraud. If you are contacted by an investigator contact an attorney. Allow the criminal lawyer to contact the detective. Allow the attorney to speak with the Assistant State Attorney or Assistant US Attorney. Trying to this yourself will only lead to problems. Too often I have had clients who try to tell “there side of the story”. If you have been contacted by law enforcement, or have been arrested for fraudulent activity contact a criminal attorney who handles these types of cases. The criminal defense attorneys at Moses and Rooth Attorney at Law are experienced in defending those accused of fraudulent activity. Contact us at 407-377-0150 and set up a free consultation. Let us assist you in making sure that your rights are protected.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Should we Continue to Punish Felons After They Have Completed Their Sentence?

“A man without a vote is a man without protection.” –Lyndon B. Johnson A third Driving on a Suspended License, Possessing more than 20 grams of Marijuana, and Trespassing on a construction site. All felonies. If convicted of any one of these, you would lose your civil rights including the right to vote. These are just a few examples of seemingly minor crimes that, upon a conviction, would trigger a permanent loss of your fundamental right to vote. In Florida, more than 1.6 million citizens cannot vote because of a felony conviction. The Florida Constitution prohibits a person who has been convicted of a felony from voting, serving on a jury, or holding public office until those civil rights are restored. The laws do not differentiate between a person convicted of a robbery or the person convicted of purchasing marijuana. In fact, Florida is only one of three states that has permanent disfranchisement of its citizens for any conviction. As shown on the map the vast majority of states allow for the right to vote be restored upon the completion of a person’s sentence. The debt to society has been paid and the government allows the person to resume their life and hopefully become a productive citizen. This is not the case in Florida. A convicted felon must apply for the restoration of their civil rights including the right to vote. Seems simple enough. Well not really. Here is the process. First, the convicted felon must wait five years after they complete their sentence (includes probation) before they can even apply. If they are arrested for even a misdemeanor the clock resets, even if the case is eventually dismissed.   This application must be approved by the Clemency Board. As of the end of 2015 Gov. Scott had restored the rights of 1866 felons. There is also a backlog of over 20,000 applicants. This has not always been the case in Florida. Under Gov. Bush 72,000 felons had their rights restored and Gov. Crist instituted a nearly automatic restoration of civil rights for non-violent offenders restored the rights of 155,000 felons. As a society we want those who stepped outside the legal system to come back in. We want them to move on from their past and work hard and succeed. The fact that our current administration is delaying this process for many is not right. These people paid their debt to society; let’s welcome them back. The more accepting we are the less likely they are to reoffend. If you agree consider signing this petition to amend the Florida Constitution. The amendment would only allow for the restoration of civil rights once the person completed their sentence including probation or parole. The amendment would not apply to individual who committed murder or sex related offenses. I am normally against amending the constitution by vote, however I think the discrepancies between governors is not fair and a more consistent process is needed to assist people who are trying to reintegrate themselves into our communities.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

The Criminal Side of Online Dating

Love. Soulmate. Companionship. At some point we all want to experience it. We search high and low for someone who we can call our own and when we find him or her, most of us try to hold on tight. With the increase of technology and different paths available to find love, such as online dating, meeting people has become considerably convenient. However, crime has also increased due to the convenience of “love” and technology. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime associated with online dating, it is important for you to seek legal advice. Contact an experienced Florida criminal law attorney to help you with your case. Crimes and Online Dating: What You Should Know Though online dating has been around for a while, in recent years online dating has become a trend and although there have been some very successful relationships resulting from online dating, there has also been an increase in crime. For instance, recently in Florida, a woman who moved from Alabama to Florida to be with a man she met online vanished. This is not the first time nor the last time that online dating has led to a potential crime. In 2010 Carol Markin went on a date with a man she met online, and after he asked to use her bathroom, he raped her. Though online dating is a booming industry, it can also be a scary one. Online dating crimes in recent years have consisted of sexual offenses, money laundering, and extortion scams. Targeting women over 40, who are divorced or widowed, money laundering has become significantly easy for those who have joined dating sites. According to the AARP, the FBI says that Americans lost approximately $82 million to online dating fraud in only six months in the year of 2014, and that number is only for those who chose to report the problem. Because online dating crimes have increased and most dating sites do not make their users submit background checks, Florida has proposed bills that would require a dating service to notify their consumers on whether or not they have conducted background checks. Need Legal Advice? Being charged with any crime can be overwhelming, however, this is definitely the case when the crime is considered to be a crime associated to online dating. If convicted, you can face imprisonment, fines, registering as a sex offender, as well as probation and community service. Because of this, it is invaluable to seek legal advice. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime associated with online dating, contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law  at (407) 377-0150  to help you strategize about the best possible outcomes for your case. Contact our office today for a free consultation.  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Crimes that Result in Deportation

For many, the United States is a country that represents freedom and opportunity. This is especially so for those who are from developing countries trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Though your intentions may be good, in Florida, you can potentially get involved in situations that are considered crimes. Though these crimes vary, when you are an immigrant and commit certain crimes, you have more to lose than those born in the United States. For those unfortunate instances, it is important to seek legal advice. If you or a loved one face potential deportation due to a crime, it is invaluable to contact an experienced Florida criminal law attorney to help you with your case. What Crimes Can Lead to Deportation? The truth of the matter is, all immigrants, including those who have been issued green cards, can be deported if they are found to have violated the laws of the United States. It is unfortunate, but when you commit a crime as an immigrant your punishment may be harsher than when a citizen of the United States commits a crime. Even for misdemeanor charges or instances when you do not have to serve jail time, you could face deportation if you are convicted of a crime. In the case of drugs, you can be deported for almost any form of drug conviction under federal law.   Crimes that can result in deportation include: Aggravated felonies; Firearms conviction; Crimes of domestic violence; Crimes of moral turpitude. Though firearm convictions and domestic violence convictions are more straightforward, aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude are not. According to 8 U.S.C. Section 1101(a)(43), aggravated felonies are the most serious crimes in immigration law and include, but are not limited to: Murder, Drug trafficking, Money laundering over $10,000; Crimes of violence where the sentence is at least one year imprisonment; Rape or sexual abuse. Crimes pertaining to moral turpitude include, but are not limited to: Fraud; Larceny; and Intent to harm persons or property. Lastly, it is important to note that a formal guilty verdict is not the only disposition that may result in deportation, you can also plea nolo contender and receive some form of punishment such as probation or house arrest, as well as deferred adjudication that can lead to deportation. Need Legal Advice? When you have committed a crime, you face several consequences that can result in fines, imprisonment, probation, as well as suspension of licenses. However, when you are an immigrant and commit a crime, the consequences are a lot stricter and oftentimes can lead to you being deported. Though you may feel like there are no other options, seeking legal advice and representation can change your view. If you or a loved one face potential deportation due to the committing of a crime, contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for a free consultation. As former prosecutors, we will not miss details when defending you. Contact our office today!  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Do You Have a Defense to Your Robbery Charge?

Criminal records harm you wherever you go. You are automatically looked at in society with a stigma of dishonesty or as a violent person. However, when you have been accused of robbery, you do not get to choose which stigma follows you. Usually you are liable as both untrustworthy and violent. What happens when you have been falsely accused or the level of taking was not as serious a crime as robbery itself? If you or a loved one have been charged with robbery, no matter the degree, it is beyond beneficial to seek legal representation. Contact an experienced Florida criminal law attorney today for an initial consultation. Robbery: The Crime and Possible Defenses According to Florida Statute Section 812.13, robbery means the taking of money or other property from a person, with the intent to either permanently deprive the person of their money or other property with the use of force, violence, assault, or putting the person in fear. In simpler terms, if you are charged with robbery, a prosecutor must show that there was a taking of property, that force was used to take that property, and that you had the intent to take that property and to never give it back to the owner. If these elements can be established then you may be convicted of robbery. If convicted of robbery, the consequences can be steep. In Florida a robbery charge can get you imprisoned for 15-30 years as well as fines, depending on if you had a weapon when the robbery was committed or if you are a felon. Though overwhelming, you may have possible defenses. Defenses can be in the form of consent; a claim of right defense where the taker believed in good faith that he or she was the owner of the property, or if no force or weapon was used or if there was no taking from the person then the robbery charge can be considered a lesser offense charge. Because of the many defenses you may have available to you as well as the severity of a robbery charge and conviction, it is invaluable to seek legal advice. Need Legal Advice? Being charged with robbery is a serious offense that has several serious consequences that follow if you are convicted of robbery. Though you may feel hopeless, contacting the right attorney could possibly get your case dismissed or mitigate your punishment, though each case is different. That is why it is important, that if you or a loved one have been charged with robbery, contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for a free consultation. As former prosecutors, we will not miss details when defending you.  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Have You Been Charged with Drug Trafficking?

Most crimes are considered serious crimes, however, amongst the most serious crimes such as murder or rape, are drug crimes. Drug crimes can result in serious consequences and without the right legal representation, you can be sent to prison for decades depending on the drug you possessed or were alleged to have possessed. Even if the drugs were not yours, if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may be charged with the drugs if the true owner does not come forth. That is why it is invaluable to seek legal representation. If you or a loved one have been charged with drug trafficking, contact an experienced Florida criminal law attorney to help you with your case. Drug Trafficking and Possible Legal Defenses Though there have been stiffer laws implemented to keep drugs off of the streets, the truth of the matter is, drugs are still trafficked into Florida every day at an alarming rate. In the United States, as a whole, drugs bring into the black market up to $750 billion a year. Drug trafficking involves the cultivation, manufacturing, and distributing and selling of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Some of the most common drugs charged in drug trafficking include: cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, oxycontin, ecstasy (MDMA), Gamma-hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB), Marijuana, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), and Methamphetamine. In Florida, these laws revolve around the amount of drugs you are trafficking. Florida drug trafficking laws are governed by Florida Statute Section 893.135 and can land you with three to 15 years in prison as well as fines unless your case is governed by the Three Strikes Law. Though these numbers may be overwhelming for you, you may have possible defenses that you can offer on behalf of your case. These defenses consist of: the controlled substance was possessed for personal use and not for distribution or sale; entrapment; whether the drugs were yours; the amount of drugs in possession—which can reduce your drug trafficking charge to simple drug possession; as well as search and seizure violations of the Fourth Amendment. Though these defenses may seem straightforward, they can be complicated. Because of this, it is beyond beneficial to seek legal advice and representation. Need Legal Advice? If you have been charged with drug trafficking, chances are you are looking at some serious time and may be looking at fines as well. Not only is your freedom restricted drastically, but you also, if imprisoned, will lose your job and suffer a strain on your familial relations. We may be able to minimize those consequences or even get some of your charges dismissed. If you or a loved one have been charged with drug trafficking, contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for an initial consultation. Contact our office today.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Self Defense

Self Defense: A Legal Defense in Florida

We all hope for the best for our loved ones and for ourselves. We hope that we are prosperous, fruitful, healthy, and protected throughout our days. What happens when throughout our day, danger sets upon us? What happens when someone is unreasonably forceful? For these matters, you are expected to protect yourself from any unreasonable harm and for those in Florida, you are protected if someone harms or threatens to bring harm to you or your family or property. This justification is called self-defense. If you or a loved one are charged with a crime, however, and you were only protecting yourself, you may be justified in your actions. It is in your best interest to seek legal advice from an experienced Florida criminal law attorney. What is Self Defense and How Does it Work? In Florida, self-defense is an affirmative legal defense that is used to cancel the accusation of a violent act, which would generally subject you to criminal liability. A self-defense claim acknowledges that a violent act occurred but that the act was justified because you were reasonably defending yourself from harm from another. According to Florida Statute Section 776.012, a person is justified to use or threaten to use non deadly force against another person when that person reasonably believes that the conduct is necessary to defend himself against another’s immediate use of unlawful force. Deadly force may be justified when a person reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent immediate death or great bodily injury. Though in some states there is a duty to retreat before such force is used, in Florida, it is not necessary. For property purposes, Florida Statute Section 776.013 states that it is presumed that a person held a reasonable fear of immediate peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or another to use force if another person was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle. However, there is no presumption if the person against whom defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be there. Also, it is important to note that self-defense is not available to a person who is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of a forcible felony such as treason, murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, home invasion, arson, kidnapping, and aggravated battery and assault, to name a few. In addition to not being able to use self-defense as a defense for forcible felonies, it is also not available where evidence proves that the defendant initially provoked the violence. If you have been put into any of the above situations, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice so that your rights can be determined. Need Legal Advice? Defending yourself against potential harm should not a second thought for you and you should not be held criminally responsible. That is why it is important that you seek legal representation and advice if you have found yourself in this predicament. Contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 531-8694 for an initial consultation. Let us help you figure out the best strategies for your case so that you may be able to be successful in your self-defense claim. Contact our office today.

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