Articles Tagged with Miami criminal defense lawyer

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s death penalty law, which does not require a unanimous agreement from jurors, is unconstitutional. What this means is that until state lawmakers can rewrite the sentencing procedure in Florida death penalty cases, there is no death penalty in Florida — at least for those awaiting trial. injection

Death penalty opponents applaud the decision, which comes not long after the law was recently-revamped. Previously, Florida did not require juries deciding on death penalty cases to reach a unanimous verdict as to the fate of the defendant. Only a majority was necessary to impose a death sentence. The law was rewritten to require a unanimous verdict. However, legislators decided to require, in a law passed earlier this year, that only 10 out of 12 jurors agree to impose death. That’s because the size of the jury in capital cases (as compared to other criminal matters) expands from 10 to 12.

However, the Florida Supreme Court in Perry v. Florida has now soundly rejected this arrangement. The U.S. Supreme Court had already determined back in January that judges in this state had far too much input in the decision of whether someone should be put to death. In fact, it should be the responsibility of the jury alone to make that call.  Continue reading

The Supreme Court has widened the door when it comes to unlawful police searches, following a divided 5-3 opinion in the case of Utah v. Strieff. policelights1

The outcome is deeply concerning to anyone who supports suppression of evidence gained as a result of an unlawful search, sometimes referred to as “the fruit of the poisonous tree.” As dissenting Justice Sonya Sotomayor passionately wrote, this ruling allows one’s body to be subject to invasion while the courts excuse the violation of rights. It implies, she said, that we are not citizens of a democracy, but rather “subjects of a carceral state.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagen also dissented.

Defendant was suspected of drug activity. After receiving anonymous tips, the officer in this case began staking out his home. On the day in question, officer stopped suspect, who had left his home to walk to a nearby convenience store. The officer requested identification and at that point discovered defendant had an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation. The officer arrested defendant and subsequent to that arrest, conducted a search of his person, at which time he discovered meth and drug paraphernalia.  Continue reading

If your child was arrested, would they know their rights?boy

The fact is, juveniles in Florida can face serious penalties, and in some cases, may even be tried as adults for felony offenses. But it seems in many cases, they do not fully understand the rights they have when they are taken into police custody. Authorities may take advantage of that.

Miranda warnings, also sometimes referred to as Miranda rights, is a notice that is supposed to be offered by law enforcement to criminal suspects in police custody or in custodial interrogation prior to questioning. It warns individuals that they have a right to silence – that they do not have to answer questions by law enforcement. Officers rarely deviate from the legal language of the warning, though varying version are used across the country. But a number of cases have prompted juvenile rights advocates to argue for the wording to be updated in terms that are easy for juveniles to understand. Continue reading

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in favor of a black man on death row in Georgia who alleged prosecutors violated his constitutional rights by ensuring an all-white jury by using their peremptory challenges during jury selection to strike potential jurors of color. jury1

The groundbreaking decision in Foster v. Chatman makes it clear that this kind of discrimination will not stand.

“Two peremptory strikes on the basis of race are two more than the Constitution allows,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Continue reading

Juvenile offenders who are serving sentences so long they essentially amount to life in prison are entitled to a judicial review, the Florida Supreme Court ruled recently. prison6

In Atwell v. Florida, the court ruled that reviews are in order even when the offender technically has a shot at parole.

It was not a decision the court reached easily, as the end vote  was 4-3. The decision by the majority will serve to greatly expand the number of juvenile offenders who now qualify for resentencing. In fact, hundreds of people convicted for crime like murder or rape while they were minors now have a second chance at sentencing. Continue reading

The Florida Supreme Court made it clear in a recent ruling that a criminal suspect’s silence is not to be used against him or her in court. Of course, not using one’s silence as proof of guilt is an established legal principle, but one that was recently expanded in the court’s May 5th decision in Florida v. Horwitzpolice

The court was asked to decide whether, per article I, section 9 of the Florida Constitution and Florida evidentiary law, prosecutors are prohibited from using a defendant’s pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence as some substantive evidence of his or her guilt when defendant chooses not to testify at trial. The 4th District Court of Appeal had ruled the answer was “No,” but certified the question to the state supreme court as one of great public importance.

A high-profile murder suspect, Donna Horwitz was accused and ultimately convicted of fatally shooting her ex-husband, Lanny.  Continue reading

The son of a man serving nearly three decades behind bars following his conviction for methamphetamine distribution has now himself been sentenced to more than three years after a judge found he was guilty of retaliation against a witness. socialmediakeyboard

According to the U.S. Justice Department, defendant was charged with obstruction of justice after the man sent threatening Facebook messages and memes to a witness who testified in his father’s drug trafficking trial. The fact that the son’s alleged missives were delivered via social media didn’t matter. Although the judge misstated the exact form of the messages at sentencing, referring to them as “emails,” he made it clear that witness tampering and intimidation is a crime no matter the method of delivery.

“This is obstruction of justice. It is what it is,” the U.S. District judge told the defendant at sentencing. “…You must not interfere with the judicial process. It’s a serious crime.”

And with that, the judge sentenced defendant to 37 months in prison.  Continue reading

On Jan. 7, 2016, a man named Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. was executed by the state for the murders of three South Florida women in the mid-1980s. The U.S. Supreme Court had declined to hear his final appeal in a final effort to save his life. Among the arguments his lawyers had made: The court’s pending decision in Hurst v. Florida, weighing the constitutionality of Florida’s death penalty scheme. needle1

Five days after Bolin was put to death, the Hurst decision was released. The high court declared Florida’s jury-recommended death penalty system unconstitutional. It didn’t come in time to save Bolin, but it may just be the beginning of the end for the death penalty.

In 2015, there were 28 prisoners in the U.S. put to death. That was the lowest number of prisoners executed since 1991, and evidence from the Death Penalty Information Center suggests this is part of a larger trend involving a sharp decline of death penalty cases.  Continue reading

The U.S. Constitution protects those accused of criminal acts from being tried repeatedly for the same crimes.  You may have heard this before referred to as the “Double Jeopardy” clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.gavel1

However, there is a controversial exception to this rule that is sometimes referred to as “dual sovereignty” or “dual and successive prosecution.”  Offices of the U.S. Attorneys refer to this policy in their own manual, under section 9-2.031, as the “Petite Policy.”  The name derives from the 1960 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Petite v. U.S.  Essentially, the policy allows the federal government to initiate a separate, federal prosecution of the same acts for which defendant is being charged or has been acquitted in state-level courts.  There is actually no constitutional bar for this action because, the reasoning goes, prosecution by different sovereigns are not considered prosecutions for the same offense under the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The policy does stipulate that the U.S. Justice Department should avoid a federal prosecution for the same actions from which a state-level prosecution arose, unless there is a “compelling federal interest.”  But that interpretation is left open to federal prosecutors, who have long held a reputation for being overzealous. Continue reading

An essential right within the criminal justice system is that when a person is accused of a crime, he has the right to directly confront his accusers and any evidence against him.  This right is guaranteed by the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it applies to witness testimony as well as other forms of evidence. computer

However, several courts in at least four states – including Florida – have reportedly been using DNA evidence processed by a computer coding program, but refusing to turn that coding information over to defense lawyers.  These states are arguably denying critical evidence to individuals accused of serious crimes in violation of their constitutional rights.

Specifically at issue is the source coding.  The courts who have denied access to this information say they have released the underlying mathematical model and methodology, and the company did provide defense experts an opportunity to observe the process.  That might sound fair, but here’s the problem: We know that coding errors have increased the likelihood of a false DNA match, which could undoubtedly lead to an erroneous criminal conviction.  And even when audits of the technology are conducted by defense experts, if those experts don’t have access to the real source coding, the only thing they will be able to determine is how those results bear out in controlled lab environments. Continue reading