A recent ruling out of New Mexico shows how critical filing and arguing a solid motion to suppress evidence or statements can be for a defendant. Having an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer is key to getting it right in the courtroom.
In United States of America v. Carl Roy Burleson, the issue of interpreting an officer’s fear and whether evidence should have been used against the defendant takes center stage.
A motion to suppress is a common pleading in felony cases, especially cases of murder in West Palm Beach. What it seeks to do is eliminate key evidence or statements by the defendant or witnesses from trial. An attorney will attempt to show police actions were improper and therefore the evidence that was collected shouldn’t be shown to jurors at trial.
This can be a solid strategy, depending on the circumstances of the case and how police acted and whether they followed proper procedures and protocols. But the burden can be difficult. It really comes down to a case-by-case basis.
In this case, Burleson and friends were walking in the middle of the street in a Roswell, New Mexico neighborhood, carrying a Pitt bull without a leash. That aroused an officer’s suspicion, who pulled them over to talk with them.
According to the officer’s testimony, there had been a rash of pet thefts recently and that neighborhood had been ravaged with property crimes and a shooting in recent months. After talking with the people, the officer was satisfied the dog wasn’t stolen and didn’t intend to cite them for walking in the middle of the street, but told them not to do it.
The case comes down to what happened next. According to the court file, the officer then asked for the names and identification of the three people to run a warrants check. Upon hearing back from dispatchers, the officer found that Burleson had an outstanding warrant. When he was being handcuffed, he told the officer he had weapons on him, which he did and which the officer confiscated.
That led to the man facing a charge of a possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. But he and his attorney filed a motion to suppress, saying that the guns and ammunition were unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees that a person can’t be searched without probable cause.
The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence, which essentially wiped out the charge for prosecutors. But they appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, letting back in the evidence.
While the lower court judge had ruled that the officer, by his own admission, had no fear of the suspects but was simply doing his job, the appeals court found that based on officer-safety concerns, he had the right to seek identification and a warrants check.
The case has been sent down with the evidence in play, but it’s unclear what the cases future will be. What the case shows is that a motion to suppress can go a long way toward seeking justice for a defendant. When police overstep their bounds or go too far in peppering a suspect for information or evidence, a motion to suppress can correct that mistake at the court level.
A Fort Lauderdale police officer was recently arrested on charges that he committed perjury and falsified a police report, the Sun Sentinel reports.
While most people in the public want to think police officers are infallible and their word should be taken with 100 percent certainty, that simply isn’t the case. Like lay witnesses who are called in to testify at trial, police officers can make mistakes. In some cases, they intentionally skirt the truth, but by and large they do a good job and it’s usually only a few bad apples who spoil the bunch.
In situations in which a person faces criminal charges in West Palm Beach, he or she must have solid defense representation at every step of the process. And that only comes from hiring an experienced West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer. Whether someone faces drug charges, theft charges or even murder in Fort Lauderdale, the actions of police officers who work on the case must be questioned.
In this case, a 28-year-old patrol officer who has been on the force for the last two years, was arrested and recently released from jail after posting bond. According to the newspaper, the case stems from a 30-year-old man who was arrested in September 2010.
According to the police reports, the man was pulled over for driving with a suspended license after being stopped for driving a vehicle with an expired tag. Three officers worked on the case and the one who was charged is the one who drove him to the jail and filled out the reports that state he saw the man driving.
However, another officer testified in a deposition under oath that he was the officer who pulled the man over and that the other officer couldn’t have seen the man driving because he responded as backup. GPS records confirmed the other officer’s statements and the charges against the man were dropped.
The good news here is that at least the other police officer was honest and sought to do the right thing rather than form a cover-up situation. As previously mentioned, most law enforcement officers seek to do the right thing, whether the case gets solved or not.
Even if there aren’t any allegations of impropriety on the part of the police officers involved in any particular case, it is important for an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney to inspect the case closely and look for possible problems with police procedure.
While some in the public think that the police should use any means to get the evidence that is to be used against a defendant, the courts, fortunately, disagree. Judges have ruled time and time again that there are certain regulations officers must follow in order to ensure a defendant’s rights are upheld. If they violate the rules, evidence they collect can be thrown out and not used against the person at trial.
In Boca Raton recently, a man was arrested after being accused of robbing a landscaper at gunpoint. Two other men are accused of participating in the heist.
According to police, the landscaper was working on a house’s yard when a gold sports utility vehicle pulled up next to his equipment. When he allegedly approached the SUV, a person pulled out a gun and pointed it at him while two others stole the man’s equipment and drove off. Police say the victim wrote down the SUV’s license plate and called police, who tracked the vehicle to one of the men.
Eyewitness testimony can be inherently faulty and unreliable, which is why an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer must be called in to scrutinize the witness and challenge what they said they saw at the scene. This form of evidence from the state is particularly frustrating when dealing with cases of shootings in Broward County. When a shooting takes place, it is rare that someone would get a clear view of the person firing shots because most people would be ducking and hiding as to not get hit.
And sometimes it’s secondhand knowledge that gets passed on to police as rumors circulate in the neighborhood, leading to a person making an identification for police based on someone else’s observations. This is dangerous, as a person’s liberty and freedom is at stake.
New Jersey court officials made a bold step recently, reports The New York Times, by making sweeping changes to the rules that govern how witness testimony should be considered, saying there is a “troubling lack of reliability in eyewitness identifications.”
The New Jersey changes include more scrutiny for eyewitnesses who are presented as possible witnesses in criminal cases. According to the newspaper, whenever a defendant presents evidence that a witness identification of a suspect was influenced, a hearing must be held to consider the lighting, the time that elapsed since the crime or whether the victim felt stress while being identified. This includes pressure from police to make an identification.
When disputed evidence is admitted into trial, the judge must tell jurors about the influences that could heighten the risk of misidentification. In the past, judges held hearings, but they weren’t nearly as specific. Judges will now be able to review a wide range of factors that could pin down how good of an identification the witness made, including the duration of the crime, whether the witness was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, how far away the suspect and witness were and other factors.
The New York Times suspects that while this change will only effect New Jersey cases for now, it could eventually pave the way for other states to take a similar approach. The decision was made after a review of cases and more than 2,000 studies on the topic. New Jersey’s high court has been a trailblazer in other criminal matters as well.
Let’s hope that Florida’s Supreme Court will look at the issue and themselves determine how unreliable witnesses are in criminal cases. There are many times when the police’s main witness is somewhat unsure of who he or she saw commit a crime, but officers nudge them in the direction they want them to go with suggestive words. Other times, they simply aren’t sure, but want to help police make an arrest.
Whatever the reason for a misidentification, it is costly and the wrong way to treat the criminal justice system. If a person is to be convicted of a crime, the state must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, not a guess.
A Boynton Beach woman, who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill her husband in 2009, will be allowed to stay on house arrest while her case is appealed, the Sun Sentinel reports.
The 28-year-old’s appellate attorneys have said that the woman didn’t receive a fair trial because a key witness in the case told them he would be out of the country during the trial, yet was actually in Palm Beach County during the trial and didn’t testify.
Cases of murder or attempted murder in West Palm Beach can be punished by decades to life in prison and, in extreme cases, the death penalty. These are not issues that can be taken up by an attorney fresh out of law school.
Instead, cases like this should be handled by a West Palm Beach criminal defense team that has seen the tactics used by police and prosecutors for years. Without proper representation, the criminal justice system doesn’t work and a defendant’s rights may not be upheld.
In the high-profile trial of Dalia Dippolito, she was convicted in May of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The trial started in April and lasted weeks before a jury found her guilty. Prosecutors alleged she hired an undercover Boynton Beach police officer who posed as a hit man to kill her husband, allegedly for $3,000.
The judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison, though she is now appealing. Leading up to trial, she successfully spent 18 months on house arrest, while abiding by all the rules put in place by the judge. So, while her case is being decided in the appeals courts, her attorneys were able to convince the judge to allow her to stay on house arrest.
The criminal process and appeals process are both crucial to making sure the checks and balances implemented in the criminal justice system are honored and upheld. But, it is much easier if the case is done right the first time.
An experienced West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer will work tediously to form a strong defense to combat what the state and law enforcement alleges happened. Whether through bad eyewitness testimony, overzealous police work, entrapment or just plain wrong identification, these types of charges can be beaten.
But because of the seriousness of charges involving death, attempted murder or solicitation to commit murder, prosecutors will usually take a hard-line stance in plea negotiations and seek top penalties. That also means law enforcement likely brought in as many detectives and officers as possible to work on the case so that the state has plenty of witnesses from which to choose.
That said, while beating a charge isn’t easy, it is possible. But the earlier a defense attorney is hired, the better. A lawyer wants to have as much time as possible to become familiar with the case, the defendant and the facts in order to fight for the rights of the accused. If you are arrested, call today.
Three TSA agents — including two who work at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla. — have been arrested in connection with an alleged scam in which they took bribes and let people smuggle painkillers and cash, The New York Times reports.
Drug cases in West Palm Beach and throughout South Florida can take on extreme penalties, especially if federal prosecutors are involved. Drug cases can be charged either in state or federal court, usually depending on the severity of the allegations and the defendant’s criminal record, if any.
Defendants facing these charges must be well-represented because the possible prison time can increase as prosecutors file more and more charges. That’s why hiring a West Palm Beach Drug Defense Attorney with years of experience both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney can make a big difference.
According to The Times article, the Transportation Security Administration workers now face charges of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone. The officers were among 20 people arrested following a five-month investigation, the newspaper reports.
The pills were carried from Florida — known for its problem with prescription pill distribution — and Connecticut. Two other officers — a Westchester County, N.Y., police officer and Florida Highway Patrol trooper — were also charged in the case.
Prosecutors allege that the TSA officers were paid $500 every time they let couriers travel through a security checkpoint at the West Palm Beach and Westchester County airports. The couriers smuggled as many as 8,000 pills per trip, as well as cash.The Westchester airport is just minutes away from Connecticut.
In one wire-taped conversation between an undercover witness and one of the defendants, one of the TSA officers was asked how best to smuggle a gun through the security checkpoint at the New York airport. In another incident, one of the TSA officers halted the questioning of a man with $100,000 in cash by other officers.
When law enforcement agencies take on huge investigations that end in the arrests of many people, it is often possible that charges against some of the defendants — usually the least involved — are trumped up in order for authorities to have their dog-and-pony-show press conferences for the media.
Often, once the case begins progressing, an experienced West Palm Beach Defense Attorney can weed through the bogus charges to decipher the facts, and then separate them from the fiction provided by the law enforcement agency.
But in these larger-scale cases, there are bound to be opportunities for plea deals. And while most defendants don’t want to discuss the possibility if they believe they are innocent, this may be a strategy worth exploring. Here’s why: When the state charges several people as part of a larger conspiracy, a favorable outcome for the state typically won’t occur with police witnesses alone. To solidify a case against ringleaders, the state must have defendants who agree to testify for the prosecution. And because the state often is so willing to make this happen, its attorneys offer unbeatable plea deals to defendants. In some cases, if a defendant is facing a decade or more in prison if convicted, he or she might agree that spending two years — or about 85 percent of two years based on Florida’s rules for prisoners — is a deal worth taking.
Then again, if there is strong evidence that the person did not commit the alleged crime, perhaps the deal isn’t worthwhile. Or maybe holding out can help the person avoid a felony, have adjudication withheld, or minimize prison time and serve a probation sentence.
An experienced lawyer will be able to get the best deal not by being the first to jump at the state’s offer, but the attorney who presents the most compelling argument that the facts against his or her client do not match up to a conviction.
Florida Criminal Lawyers