A recent court case out of Georgia shows that immigration status must be taken into consideration by an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer.
Past court cases have revealed that defendants — whether they are legal citizens or not — must be told about the consequences of entering into a plea deal regarding their immigration status. It’s often assumed that going to trial and losing could subject someone to deportation. But every time a plea agreement is reached, defendants are read these warnings.
In the Moncrieffe case, the defendant entered the country as a permanent resident in 1984 when he was 3 years old. In 2008, he pled guilty to a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute under Georgia law. He was sentenced to five years probation after entering his guilty plea.
After his conviction, the Department of Homeland Security charged him with being removable from the country, according to court records. At an immigration hearing, a copy of the conviction was produced. He appealed the ruling, hoping that an appeals court would overturn.
On appeal, he argued that the Georgia crime shouldn’t be considered an “aggravated felony” under federal law that enables a person to be removed for immigration reasons. He argued that under Georgia law, acts are punished as equivalent to a misdemeanor as related to the Controlled Substances Act.
The document produced in immigration court didn’t show how much marijuana the man possessed at the time he was arrested. Moncrieffe said that because the government wasn’t able to prove he had more than a small amount of marijuana, the conviction should be considered a federal misdemeanor.
The appeals court admitted that other courts are split on how to handle such cases. Courts in the Northeast have considered cases where they don’t know how much of a drug there is to be misdemeanors. Other courts have ruled that it doesn’t matter and they should be considered felonies under federal law that allow for deportation.
This court looked at the facts and ruled that this case should be considered a “drug trafficking crime” and an “aggravated felony.” Because the man didn’t prove how much marijuana was involved, the court wouldn’t be swayed that it should consider the charge a misdemeanor for immigration purposes.
This is the opposite situation that would happen in a criminal case. Defendants have the right not to say anything or present a defense, whereas the prosecution has the great burden of proving the charges beyond all reasonable doubt.
But a defendant who is an immigrant has more on the line than a defendant who is a citizen. They could face deportation, which is why fighting the charges are so important. Whether a minor drug charge, a theft charge or an assault or battery, the charges must be taken seriously.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, people are likely planning their grocery lists, possibly their Black Friday shopping lists and perhaps their travel schedule.
In fact, AAA is estimating that 42.5 million people are expected to take to the roadways this Thanksgiving holiday week in order to celebrate a meal with family members. This large number of travelers will likely congest the roads, which can lead to accidents, so West Palm Beach DUI defense lawyers wish you safe travels if you’re hitting the roads.
But we also warn that the added traffic will increase the number of Florida state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers on the roads. Inevitably, there will be an increase in West Palm Beach DUI arrests this week as well.
Law enforcement will likely set up DUI checkpoints, which require a lot of manpower, but typically produce few meaningful arrests. Occasionally, they will find a person they believe has been driving drunk, but the majority of arrests they make relate to driver’s license issues and car registration or insurance problems.
Yet, departments will use their officers to set up these initiatives with less regard for the results they may get and more from the publicity they will receive and the grant money they must use or risk losing.
They will also likely be out on the road more and have an increased presence for drivers to see. This will likely applying to state troopers on Interstate 95. With the week expected to be busy for travel, especially on Wednesday, Thursday and into the weekend, troopers will likely line the median of key parts of the interstate hoping to spot people they consider to be driving while intoxicated.
But in order to start a DUI investigation, an officer must have what’s called probable cause. Probable cause is a low standard that law enforcement uses to determine if they can arrest someone. In DUI cases, it starts with the traffic stop.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees that people can’t simply be pulled over for no reason. It also applies to police breaking down your door and coming in without a search warrant. They must have a well-founded reason.
In DUI cases, this typically means they have to have witnessed a car making some kind of traffic violation, such as speeding, improper lane change, reckless driving — swerving, following too closely to another vehicle — or another traffic violation before pulling someone over.
Once a driver is pulled over, officers usually use their observations of the driver, including whether their breath smells like alcohol and if their speech is slurred or their eyes are bloodshot or watery, as a reason to continue their investigation for DUI.
Then typically come a request to take a breath test or perform field sobriety tests, such as a one-leg stand, following an object from side to side with the eyes or walking in a straight line, heel to toe. Any “failures” of the field sobriety test can lead to an arrest, but that can be challenged.
Breathalyzers have come under scrutiny for being inaccurate. In fact, prosecutors in the Sarasota area have dropped more than 100 DUI cases because the only approved breath test in Florida, the Intoxilyzer 8000, had inaccurate readings in some cases.
So, attempt to have a safe and fun holiday weekend, but keep your eyes open for police and be aware that you have rights as a driver. One of them is to seek legal representation if you are suspected of a crime. Call a West Palm Beach DUI defense lawyer if you are arrested this holiday season.
The Sun-Sentinel recently reported that a man, woman and dog were spotted on video breaking into city hall in Pembroke Pines to steal computers.
It’s unlikely the dog gets charged criminally, but charges of grand theft in Fort Lauderdale can lead to severe penalties for defendants.
Like any charge, theft charges can range in severity from something minor like shoplifting to something more severe, such as burglary or robbery. In Florida, the charge is also based on what was stolen.
Prosecutors will attempt to prove the value of what was taken while they try to show that the defendant was the one who stole. This is an important element of the crime of theft in Florida. If the value of the goods is very high, the charge can be considered grand theft and can range from a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony.
That’s a difference of five years in prison up to 30 years in prison or life. So, this is a critical element in theft cases that an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer must challenge.
In this case, city officials said two computers were stolen at the city building. Video surveillance showed a man wearing black pants and a plaid shirt one recent weekend afternoon when the building was open for a function. He took the elevator to the sixth floor, where commissioners and the mayor share office space, the newspaper reports.
The video also allegedly shows the man taking two desktop computers from that area and down a stairwell, where a woman and a toy breed dog held a back door open. They allegedly drove of in a gold sedan.
At this point, the two haven’t been found and it’s unclear what charges they would face, if convicted. The value of the two computers hasn’t been released. Officials said that the computers were connected to a server with potentially secure information, but once the computers were disconnected from the network, that information wouldn’t be accessible.
They don’t believe the thieves were looking for anything specific, but only the newest computer models in the office. They were recently upgraded.
What could be a key element of the case is whether or not the video surveillance is clear or does a good job showing the faces of the participants. It’s also unclear whether there is outside surveillance that may have caught the car or a license plate number.
Many times in burglary cases, police rely on grainy or unclear video surveillance to seek a search warrant on someone they may recognize or whom they may identify as a suspect. But without a clear shot from the tape, sometimes the identity of the person isn’t clear and can lead to a false arrest.
There are many elements to a theft or burglary case that must be taken into consideration to ensure the defendant gets a fair trial. Investigating the facts and scrutinizing witnesses are only the beginning.
The criminal justice typically isn’t forgiving. Let’s face it: The court system It is designed to punish — not really help — those who are convicted of a crime.
But in Broward County drug cases, the system is a little different. There are opportunities for people charged with drug offenses to be handed help instead of a long sentence behind bars. And as Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, Broward County’s Drug Court is one area where the criminal justice system shines.
Many defendants charged with drug offenses are simply addicted to the drug and can’t find a way to live without it. But instead of locking them up in a prison with violent offenders, it makes a lot of sense to try to help them get over their addiction through accountability, treatment and a support group. Many of these people have no other support or help offered to them. They may be addicted to drugs, and for some, it’s likely they have no family or friends to reach out to them.
Most of them can’t hold down a job because of the drug problem they have been arrested for. But the problem doesn’t go away simply by putting someone in a jail cell. In fact, it’s more expensive to house them long-term in a prison than to provide a way out.
The Sun Sentinel recently wrote about how Broward County Drug Court was turning 20 and still has maintained itself as a model for other programs regionally and statewide. Each year, 1,000 people graduate from drug court having met the requirements of group counseling for nine months, drug testing and other things to keep them clean. It costs $1,000 to put a person through drug court for the $24,000 it costs a person to be housed in jail for the same period.
The program started as a gamble with little money. Many defendants failed out of the program and were re-arrested. But officials pursued it and continued trying to make it work. Eventually, they made the necessary changes and it is a success.
Many people have gone through the program without a conviction for a drug offense, but with the tools to get out from a bad situation. This is one program that works and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys hope that officials can figure out other programs that can help up front rather than simply put people into a cell for years at a time.
The debate is ongoing about whether spending money on the upfront costs of treatment and job skills is more important than spending billions on jails and prisons. Many county jails in Florida have had ongoing expansions to keep up with the rise in inmates. But an alternative would be to invest some of that money into programs to help people improve their lives.
If convicts can learn skills, get education and improve themselves, then they will be less likely to resort to crime. It takes an investment and in many cases, the local community is all that is around to help.
Two Fort Lauderdale police detectives have been accused of stealing cash from drug buyers and sellers, lying about their cases and even kidnapping a man. Now, the Sun Sentinel reports, the state attorney’s office is dropping charges related to those Street Crimes Unit detectives because of it.
There’s no doubt that being a police detective is a difficult job. From Fort Lauderdale drug cases to burglaries and murder cases, investigators are charged with explaining and solving many crimes, regardless of the amount of evidence available.
They get pressure from the media, from their bosses, from the victim’s family and others to make an arrest. And sometimes, they don’t follow the rules. There are rules and laws that are specifically designed to ensure a defendant’s rights are upheld. And while many in public want an arrest at all costs, they wouldn’t if they were in the suspect’s shoes.
It is well documented that innocent people get arrested, convicted and even executed. DNA has exonerated many men charged with sex crimes who spent decades in prison before the truth came out. That’s just wrong.
Despite the many pressures put on detectives to try to make arrests and come to the right conclusion, they must not make a false arrest.
In this situation, the two detectives are listed as witnesses in cases against 112 defendants, 86 of whom face felonies. The Sun Sentinel reports that the details of those crimes weren’t immediately available.
Prosecutors said they will not drop all charges against defendants involving the detectives, only those where they were the main witness. If they played a small role in a case, there are likely other officers who can step in and testify for the state.
The newspaper reports that 19 cases have already been dropped as a result of the allegations against the detectives. There are also two other officers who have been suspended with pay since April 18. The officers came under fire when two suspects were charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute at a hotel.
The two main officers signed an arrest form saying they arrested the driver and passenger and the two other officers showed up later. But hotel video showed that the officers ran up to the vehicle with guns drawn and the driver was in the car, but the “passenger” was in the hotel lobby. The video also showed that all four officers were present at the stop from the start.
Fort Lauderdale defense attorneys quoted by the newspaper believe that police in some specialized units have been abusing powers in minority neighborhoods for decades. It’s possible that with these new allegations, more scrutiny will come down on law enforcement to ensure that suspects’ rights are upheld.
While no one wants crime to run rampant in their community, they should also want the right people arrested. Our criminal justice system is based on a checks-and-balance system that appears to have worked here. But we hope that officers don’t bend and break the rules just to make an arrest.
Florida Criminal Lawyers