Articles Posted in Criminal Records

As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defnese lawyers know, being arrested for and/or charged with a crime can take a toll on your livelihood — and the inconvenience and limitations don’t end when the hearings, fines and probationary meetings stop. You shouldn’t have to pay for a bad decision for the rest of our life, and an experienced law firm like ours can help you make sure you don’t.
Even having a record of an arrest and/or criminal charges, which can be searched and accessed by state and non-state agencies alike, can be seriously harmful to your social life and both your academic and professional career.

There is a solution. In many cases, the State of Florida provides for an expuncation or sealing of criminal records given the fulfillment of certain requirements. Having your record expunged and/or sealed means that you can have an easier time moving ahead with your life.
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You may be familiar with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that DNA may be collected from defendants arrested – though not yet convicted – of serious criminal offenses, mainly felonies.
However, what you may not be aware of is that many local police agencies were already doing this – and much more – in a largely unregulated process that is governed by departments’ own rules and sometimes even involves the collection and storage of DNA by unsuspecting people who have never been arrested for a crime.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys aren’t clear on exactly how many cases are prosecuted using these clandestine samples, but we see ample opportunity for a strong legal challenge in the future – in spite of the recent ruling in Maryland v. King.

Keep in mind that there are both federal and state crime labs that maintain their own DNA databases of potential suspects. Local labs tend to fly under the radar, with DNA collected sometimes with the donor’s knowledge and sometimes without it. In some cases, the DNA belongs to individuals who have been arrested or convicted in relation to serious offenses. In some cases, the DNA belongs to crime victims who have no idea their DNA has been saved for future searches.

To give you an idea of the scope of this issue, we know that New York City has its own database of some 11,000 criminal suspects. Orange County, California has a amassed about 90,000 profiles – most of those from defendants who committed misdemeanor crimes and agreed to submit to a DNA sample in exchange for lesser charges or for having those charges dropped.

In Central Florida, we don’t have an exact count, but we do know that law enforcement agencies have pooled their resources to create a regional database. What that means is that these agencies may not be relying upon only state and federal databases, which are run according to stricter standards.

Police chiefs give various reasons for compiling their own databases. Some of them gripe that it takes too long for the state to test evidence and submit DNA profiles into the larger database. Other police leaders say they don’t want to have to wait until someone is arrested or convicted before gathering their DNA so they can nab them on lower-level offenses. Police say the samples kept in state and local databases belong to people already going to prison – not those with whom they are dealing day in and day out.

The concern is that unregulated databases may violate privacy and Fourth Amendment rights, even if they are used to successfully solve a crime. For someone accused of a crime on the basis of such evidence, an argument might be made on the basis of the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. That is, if police had no right to collect that sample in the first place, any evidence that came about subsequently would become inadmissible in court.
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Fort Lauderdale Tea Party Founder Danita Kilcullen was arrested in October during a rally in Boca Raton for allegedly kicking an officer with three-inch stiletto heels, the Broward Palm Beach New Times reports.

Kilcullen recently pleaded guilty to trespassing and resisting arrest, charges that will keep her out of jail long term.Her embarrassing case shows the importance of a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense firm with the knowledge and ability to fight to keep a charge off your record; mitigate the potential penalties for conviction; and even work to clear or seal a criminal conviction.

According to the New Times, Kilcullen was attending a political event at the Embassy Suites hotel in Boca Raton where she said she tried to use a bathroom in an area of the hotel being used for a private event. After having consumed wine at her event, the New Times reports, she was told to use the main lobby bathroom, to which she objected.

After people attending the private function complained, an officer grabbed her by the wrist and took her out of the bathroom, which caused her to begin yelling at the officer. Police say she was asked to leave several times before being arrested for trespassing. While in a police cruiser, she allegedly kicked an officer with her heels.

She told the New Times she was embarrassed about the incident and had hoped no media would report about it. But in the Internet age where information can travel fast, it is important to fight your case and work toward a resolution that’s in your best interest.

In Florida, felony charges can often be beaten at trial or reduced to misdemeanors with a successful plea agreement. That’s why hiring an aggressive Broward criminal defense firm that includes former prosecutors can help resolve your case in a favorable manner.

Florida law also allows for certain types of crimes to be sealed and expunged from your record. That means future employers, state agencies and the public wouldn’t know about the charges.
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criminal_record.jpgNational unemployment rates are around 10%, but here in Florida, unemployment has reached 11.5%, the highest it’s been since the mid-seventies. As a result, our Palm Beach criminal defense law firm is seeing a record number of clients who want their criminal records expunged or sealed.

In fact, more than 14,000 Florida residents had their records sealed or obliterated in 2008 (which is the last year complete records are available at this time). That’s double the number from 2007, which is not surprising given the current job climate.

Of course, one issue remains unresolved, and that is the data mining companies who compile information from courthouse records and sell that data for a fee. Unfortunately, there is no legal precedent for forcing these private companies to remove outdated information, if a judge approves sealing or expunging someone’s record.

Source: Florida Criminals Expunging Records, LiveShots, January 5, 2010 Continue reading

Florida_criminal_record.jpgWhile the laws in 41 states allow those accused or convicted of crimes to have their criminal records expunged, that right is being challenged by the proliferation of large commercial databases. Records that were once only available only to law enforcement agencies, courts, and corrections departments are now being digitized and sold in bulk to the private sector.

The trouble is that these databases are not always updated when someone’s criminal record is expunged, so those arrests or convictions can still show up in criminal background checks requested by employers or landlords. While these database companies claim that they are careful about updating records to reflect expungements, lawyers and other legal experts say that people do lose housing or jobs because of information that should have not expunged and was not.

In fact, a few lawsuits have illuminated this problem. One suit filed in federal court in 2006 involved a 33-year-old man who was convicted of disorderly conduct ten years prior and had a job offer rescinded because of misinformation in his background check.

Source: Expunged Criminal Records Live to Tell Tales, New York Times, October 17, 2006 Continue reading

FL_Criminal_Record.JPGOur South Florida criminal defense lawyers recently read a Wall Street Journal article that discusses the impact of criminal records on job seekers. Because of increased competition for jobs and the relative ease with which employers can conduct background searches, more and more job applicants are looking for ways to legally clear up their criminal records so they can compete for job openings. According to the article, 80% of companies performed background checks in 2006, while less than half performed background checks just eight years earlier.

Here in Florida, the state has sealed or expunged close to 15,000 criminal records in the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of 43% over the previous year. The laws vary by state, but generally felonies like armed robbery or sexual assault cannot removed from one’s criminal record, while lesser crimes like shoplifting, petit theft or possessing a small amount of marijuana can be sealed or expunged depending on the details of the case.

When a criminal record is sealed, it means that the public does not have access to it, but certain governmental or law enforcement agencies may view the information. Expunging a record means that the details cannot be accessed without a court order, but those entities would be informed the person’s criminal information has been expunged from their record.

Source: More Job Seekers Scramble To Erase Their Criminal Past, Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2009 Continue reading

Last Friday, we gave some background information on criminal records, so this blog post will cover more specifics on managing a criminal record. The good news is that criminal records only include information on crimes or arrests for crimes, not traffic violations. If you’ve paid all your traffic tickets, you won’t have a criminal record unless there are other incidents in your past such as DUI arrests or other crimes.

Many clients are also reliever to hear that it is sometimes possible to have your criminal record sealed or expunged. Once your record has been expunged, you can legally state that you do not have a criminal record, although the information is still accessible to law enforcement or government officials.

The rules for having a criminal record expunged vary by state, but a judge is most likely to grant an expungement if the record consists of a minor first offense. The judge also considers the type of crime committed, the length of time that has elapsed since the arrest or conviction, and whether the person has been arrested or convicted since that incident.

Managing a Criminal Record, Continue reading

Florida_record.jpgMany of the clients in our South Florida law practice have questions about criminal records and how this can impact their futures. This blog post will give some basic background on criminal records.

A criminal record contains information about a person’s arrests and convictions. Local police stations used to keep this information in handwritten or typed files, but now with more sophisticated computer databases, it is much easier for police agencies to track suspected criminals and share information about a person’s criminal activity.

Your criminal record begins when you are arrested for a crime. Usually, the person is fingerprinted and photographed along with information about the circumstances surrounding the arrest. If you are convicted of a crime, then that information gets added to your record.

An estimated 6.5% of the United States’ population has a felony record, so criminal records are much more common than many people believe. In a future post, we plan to discuss the different forms of criminal records and how the records are stored.

How U.S. Criminal Records Work, Continue reading

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