All About Criminal Court Cases

Criminal court cases go through methodical steps to reach a verdict:
1) the case is assigned to a federal or state court based on the type of crime
2) the defendant obtains a lawyer
3) an arraignment or bail hearing takes place where the charges are read and defendant enters a plea of guilty/not-guilty or no-contest
4) preparation for the trial takes place where the defense and prosecution gather evidence
5) the trial takes place where, in the end, a verdict is delivered and
6) an appeal may be pursued if there is a guilty verdict.

There are countless millions of criminal court cases that take place in America every year; and here are three types of criminal court cases that are, unfortunately, far too pervasive.

Domestic Violence Crimes

Domestic violence can include violent acts or violent threats and can escalate very quickly. Domestic violence prevails in every city in every state in America. Women are usually the victims associated with domestic violence, so much so that the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that 1 out of every 4 women in the United States will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Another disturbing statistic reveals that in 2 out of 3 female homicide cases, women are killed by a family member or intimate partner. Men cannot be discounted, however, since there are nearly 3 million physical assaults on men, every year, who are involved in domestic violence scenarios. Whether a case might involve people who are blood-related, married, cohabitating or have children together, domestic crimes carry immense consequences monetarily, physically, psychologically and even socially when one considers that at least 1/3 of families that are a part of New York City’s family shelter system are homeless due to domestic violence.

A few examples of activities that can be a part of domestic violence could include threats of violence, assault, stalking, protective order violations and interruption of a communication device during the time domestic violence may be taking place. Emotions run high in these types of cases and a conviction, many times, boils down to the credibility of the parties involved. Unfortunately, failure to report this type of abuse to the police for fear of reprisal, for example, and refusal to cooperate with prosecutors (not agreeing to testify against the attacker at trial) makes this type of offense one of the hardest crimes to successfully prosecute.

Controlled Substance Crimes

Again, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, drug and alcohol abuse costs the United States more than a staggering $110 BILLION each year! In federal and state criminal justice systems, most drug abuse cases originate not from the actual use of controlled substances but from possession or distribution of controlled substances including marijuana, cocaine, and anabolic steroids which stimulate muscle growth.

The legal ramifications associated with a conviction for distribution and trafficking of controlled substances can be sentences that range from 3 years in prison to life in prison. In a court of law, a district attorney must prove that the accused person knowingly and intentionally possessed a controlled substance and did not have a valid prescription for the drugs in question. As would be expected, charges for possession, alone, are typically less serious than charges for possession with the willful intent to distribute.

Burglary and Home-Invasion Crimes

A Home invasion is categorized as a type of burglary and is usually punished more severely than other types of burglaries. Burglaries can be treated as felonies though, in some cases, they are relegated as misdemeanors, depending on the offense. Depending on the potential for damage, the legal punishment for a particular burglary is dispersed, correspondingly. For example, if the crime resulted in someone becoming injured or if the intruder used a lethal weapon, the seriousness of the crime would be elevated.

Penalties for a home invasion burglary and trespass will vary by state; but in most cases where burglary is considered a felony, the act can be punishable by more than a year in prison in addition to a fine. It is not uncommon for states to impose terms of life-in-prison for armed home invasions!

Regardless of the type of burglary accusation one might be facing, hiring a good criminal defense attorney is a defendant’s only hope of obtaining the best possible (or least severe) outcome in a court of law.


Survive On Jury Trial

History of The Right To A Trial By Jury

The right to a jury is one of the most common rights next to voting. It is something that is such a normal part of the fabric of our society, and it is a cornerstone of our democracy. Written into the bill of rights, the right to a trial by a jury is a right that allows one to maintain their property, life, and liberty unless a group of their peers decides otherwise using common sense and data provided by lawyers. This right is so powerful, that US citizens are required to do jury duty, which makes the act important and very consequential.

It is often that we see news surrounding a verdict passed down by a jury on a big case that made a national headline. Movies have also been made solely about jury’s. The movie 12 Angry Men, for example, focuses on a jury’s deliberation on a case. We also see juries portrayed on television shows. But how did the notion of a jury and the right to trial by a jury come to pass, that it became such an indelible part of the American way?

According to American Bar, “The American jury system has its origins in medieval England.” The publication goes on to state. “The Anglo-Saxon kings who ruled England from the 6th to the 11th centuries and the Normans who conquered England in 1066 used various legal procedures that provided possible models for the jury.” It seems to make sense then that our roots in right to trial by a jury, originally stems from the country that colonized America. As certain religions followed colonization, it seems that the right to trial by jury also did.

King Henry the second of England was the true innovator, however. He came up with a system to help with land disputes. He instituted a policy where twelve free and lawful men were under oath. These men would state who was the true owner or heir of the property in question. This is the basis on which modern jury’s are based. The only difference is that King Henry’s juries had to come to court with knowledge of what had happened as opposed to today where they Jurors are informed by the lawyers of the facts. Henry did eventually introduce the idea of a presenting jury in which they would hear the facts. This is what we now know today.

The penalties in England were harsh. Records show that most penalties resulted in death. This is where juries became influential. They became seen as protectors of the innocent. Juries would punish serious criminals with death, but other lesser criminals would get whipped or branded, which were much lighter penalties.

Over the next several centuries the role of the jury shifted. It went from having to bring in facts to being presented facts. At these times, juries could bring personal biases and beliefs to the deliberation as well. It was in the colonization of American by the British that juries began to take on bigger roles. The British had a law that stated that any trade done with the colonies had to use British ships. When the law was broken, jurors in the colonies would not punish the accused because they did not think the law was just. Thus, the British started to create special courts that did not use a jury. This would become a major charge in the case for the American Revolution. In the Declaration of Independence, one of the charges is not allowing many cases a jury.

Once the revolution was over, the battle over juries still existed. In writing the Constitution, it only guaranteed the right to trial by jury for criminal cases. However, there was no mention of the right to trial for civil cases. There would be those who argued that such a right should be added to the Constitution. They were known as Anti-Federalist. The Constitution was eventually ratified with a demand from the states that citizens receive the right to trial in civil and criminal cases. This was assured with the sixth and seventh amendments to the Constitution.

By no means was the idea of an equal jury realized until the 1970s when women were given the right to be on trials. Until then, blacks were initially excluded from juries, which consisted of all white men. Eventually, blacks were allowed on a jury with no restrictions or proof that they were fit to serve during the civil rights movement.

The juries we know today were formed through innovation as a way to solve disputes, colonization, revolution, and civil rights movements. With such a long and winding history, the next time you are asked to serve jury duty, feel proud that you are a part of a continuing history and legacy that allows people due process, which without, penalties may be most certainly death.


Tips For Criminal Defense

There is a common myth that your DWI arrest will be reduced to a lesser charge if you refuse to take the breath test or perform the field sobriety tests. This simply isn’t so. In many instances there is additional evidence that the police can rely upon to support a conviction even when you refuse these tests. For starters, the police will have the traffic infraction that they can rely upon for coming into contact with you. Here, they will argue that your manner of driving was so erratic that once could only conclude that you were impaired. Secondly it is very common for police officers to describe their interactions with you in a manner suggesting your impairment. For example, the police will claim they could smell the odor of alcohol on your breath; your eyes are red or glassy; and that your speech was slurred. These observations are independent upon whether or not you took any of the field sobriety tests or the breathalyzer test. Thirdly, should the police officer observe any open containers or drugs in your car that too will be documented and used as evidence to support a conviction even when you do not take any tests. Lastly, the typical DWI arrest require the police to engage the driver in their standardized questionnaire. Unfortunately, many individuals that have refused to take any of the DWI tests still answer these questions and, in doing so, admit drinking and specify the type and quantity of alcohol consumed. This is evidence that you are driving under the influence of alcohol.

It is important to keep in mind that the police are trained evidence collectors. As you can see, the police are building a drunk driving case against you the moment you were pulled over until the time you are booked into the jail. You may not have taken any tests but, unbeknownst to you, every action and question posed by the policeman is designed for you to incriminate yourself. The driver’s taking and failing the DWI tests is simply icing on the cake. So, is there any hope in beating a drunk driving arrest? Yes.

The best defense available is relying upon the police officer’s video of your arrest if it exists. This is the closest way of making the judge or jury eye witnesses to your case. Many police dash camera’s begin recording once the police car’s lights and sirens are activated and some programs track back a minute or so beforehand allowing the view to see what the officer saw when he decided to make the traffic stop. Amazingly, the erratic driving isn’t has bad a reported by the officer and, in some instances, do not show a traffic violation at all. If the traffic stop can be challenged, the entire case can be dismissed for a lack of evidence. Also, the video allows the court to observe your actions as you approached the police officer. Did you need your car for balance? Were you swaying? Was your speech slurred? Could you engage the officer in an articulate conversation? In other words, use the video to contradict the police officer’s conclusions that you actions were consistent with someone who was drunk. Show the court that your actions were normal. In essence, use the video to win the credibility war between your profession of innocence and the cop’s conclusion of your guilt.

If the video is helpful and you refused to take any of the DWI tests, you place yourself into the best position to obtain either a charge reduction or an acquittal of your DWI arrest.


How To Get Away Penalties for Your First DUI

Being charged with a DUI is pretty much bad news in any part of the country, but in Florida things can be a bit worse. One reason is because if you are convicted of a DUI in Florida, the DUI will stay on your record for 75 years. – Or pretty much for a lifetime. Unlike some other states, there is absolutely no chance of having a DUI expunged or sealed in the state of Florida. For smart people, this knowledge is a great deterrent and reminder that catching a ride or calling a cab is a really good idea after having a few drinks. Below is a breakdown of possible penalties that come with a first-offense DUI conviction in the sunshine state.

Possible Penalties for a First DUI Conviction in Florida

The penalties of being convicted of drunk driving for the first time in Florida will depend on the facts of the case. Every case is of course different, so not everyone will face the same penalties.

In Florida, driving under the influence and getting busted will earn you a license suspension of 180 days to a year depending on the details of your case. In Alabama it’s just 90 days. However, if you refuse to take the blood alcohol test at the time of arrest, because of Florida’s implied consent law, you will automatically lose your license for a solid year. Think about how this can impact your work, family and just everyday life.

Penalties don’t stop with license suspension however. Other than losing the ability to simply drive yourself to the grocery story, you could also be forced to catch a ride to your probation officer’s office. That’s right, you could end up on probation depending on the circumstances of your case.

So what about jail time? In Florida, you could serve up to 6 months in jail just for your first offense. – But here’s another kicker, if your blood alcohol concentration is.15 at the time of your arrest, a sentence of no more than 9 months in the big house will be issued.

You could also do a little community service and get a chance to go back to school… DUI school that is. Your car will be impounded for a minimum of ten days. You may have an interlocking device installed on your car and you will fork over plenty of cash for the fines you will have to pay for your first DUI in Florida.

Fines for being convicted of drunk driving for the first time in Florida range from $500 to $1000. Whereas in states like Virginia you may pay as little as $250.

When all is said and done, the state of Florida hopes to see the 61,852 arrests in 2015 drop dramatically in 2016. This could keep lots of people from being injured or killed.