A felony charge in Florida is defined as a criminal act for which a judge may give probation, house arrest or a prison term of more than one year; whereas for a misdemeanor a judge may give probation or jail only up to one year. When officers conduct any criminal investigation or make an arrest for any type of criminal charge one’s reputation, freedom and future are always at risk.
When a felony is charged the risks become much graver, yet even a felony need not ruinsomeone’s life if the charge is handled in an effective manner.
Here are the best ways a clever criminal defense lawyer can work with you so that even a felony charge need not ruin your life.
- Attempt to have the charged felony dismissed. The facts of the case should be filtered thru any laws that may prosecution of the case impossible. For example, one defense to a felony aggravated battery charge would be self defense, which if successfully deployed could result in complete dismissal of the criminal charge. In an aggravated assault case a successful defense could in dismissal of the charges if facts establish that the victim was not in actual fear of immediate bodily harm from the alleged misconduct.
- Make every effort to have the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. If the charge can be reduced then the criminal justice system is limited to control of a defendant’s life for a maximum time of one year. For example, in an aggravated battery the charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor battery if the victim’s injuries are not severe. In a felony grand theft case the charge could be reduced if the amount were proven to be under the felony threshold in Florida of $300.
- Make certain that if you plead to a felony charge you’re given a withholding of adjudication. In some felonies, such as third degree felonies or cases involving a juvenile, the judge may have the discretion to literally withhold adjudication of guilt, meaning that a defendant may later honestly claim to a future employer that he was not adjudicated for the felony.
- Reduce punishment so that you do not serve time in prison. When a criminal case is unlikely to be won because of significant evidence of guilt, then it may be necessary to reduce the punishment by persuading prosecutors that there is no justification for prison time. For example, it’s important to remind prosecutors that in most nonviolent crimes serving prison time for someone who has no prior record is unlikely to prevent further crime and in fact may have the opposite effect of making the person a hardened criminal.
- Help you articulate why the felony happened and why it will never happen again so that you can become a functional member of the community. If you can demonstrably understand the underlying causes that triggered the crime you’ll be much more effective in living a full life again. For example, in job interviews someone convicted of a felony can help assure a prospective employer by showing what was learned from the felony charge and punishment and why going thru that has made you a better person – a person more fit for the job than others who didn’t have that learning experience.
If you and your criminal defense lawyer work hard to reduce the consequences of any felony charges, then the criminal justice system in Tampa Bay, Florida need not ruin your life.
Millions of lives have been ruined by unforgiving federal and state minimum mandatory sentences that have taken discretion away from judges. Minimum mandatory sentences created an imbalance of power between judges and prosecutors in which prosecutors grew more powerful than judges because it was the prosecutors who determined how to file crimes in such a way that mandatory minimum sentences were triggered.
By threatening to artfully charge crimes in which the judge would have limited discretion, prosecutors routinely force defendants to plead guilty or risk going to trial and possibly losing without hope of a reasonable sentence. Often prosecutors will have no qualms about filing additional criminal counts even when the additional charges are unmerited by the facts and circumstances of the case. This gives prosecutors a unique and powerful strategic advantage in negotiations toward a plea bargain that may be difficult to overcome even when a defendant clearly should not be charged with a crime that triggers a mandatory minimum sentence.
In federal drug trafficking cases for cocaine, methamphetamine, hydrocodone or marijuana defense counsel looking for the best sentencing outcomes must avoid harsh mandatory minimums, which is often a difficult task due to the strict federal sentencing guidelines. It’s always important for defense counsel to look for Federal or Florida laws that may undercut the application of the mandatory minimum in drug or aggravated battery cases. In Florida the youthful offender act may allow a judge to sentence far under the threshold mandatory minimum sentence that would ordinarily apply.
The best reason to abolish mandatory minimum sentences is that the laws thwart the goals of fairness, justice and equality before the law, since some people will be charged with the mandatory minimum while others aren’t for the same set of facts. When facing a possible minimum mandatory sentence every defendant must make the stark choice of pleading to one crime or going to trial on a far riskier crime.
One might argue that the mandatory minimum sentences could be made fairer by taking this discretion away from prosecutors. Although it might at first seem much better to have a fair-minded judge not a career prosecutor making this important decision, in time many judges would also abuse this power just as prosecutors have done. Too often judges, just like prosecutors, have been known to twist arms to force a change of plea. Further, traditionally it is prosecutors who determine the appropriate charge that they believe they can prove at trial, because it is the prosecutors who will be stuck trying the case if it’s not filed in a reasonable way.
No, the problem is not who decides which cases should trigger a mandatory minimum sentence; the problem is the mandatory minimum sentences themselves. The very application of such strict sentencing is destructive not only to those unfortunately imprisoned but also corrupts those who enforce and prosecute the laws. This is especially true in nonviolent criminal cases such as drug cases where mandatory minimum sentences are routinely abused by prosecutors to force defendants to serve long sentences instead of receiving help for their drug addictions.
In Florida criminal laws now make mandatory minimums required for some forms of aggravated assault and other crimes if a firearm was allegedly used though the victim was never harmed. Because every case is different, every sentence should be based on the facts and circumstances of that case, with some leeway based on the defendant’s prior record and the harm, if any, to the victim. Yet too often only the harsh minimum mandatory sentence is all that really matters and that’s why as a civilized society we must abolish all mandatory minimum sentences.
Here in Florida the summer heat can bake your parked car’s inside temperature to over 120 degrees in ten minutes. No wonder the hot cities of Florida often rank in surveys as the worst places for road rage incidents.
|Road Rage Coyote & Road Runner
All of us occasionally make mistakes while driving. When you see someone make a stupid driving mistake don’t rub it in their face nor even their hood. And if another driver accuses you of making a driving mistake, remember that the best rule of the road when confronted is not to let the finger pointing escalate to name calling or yelling. After all this if Florida where a retired police officer recently was accused of shooing an unarmed man at a theater for texting on his phone.
Here are five rules to help you avoid being involved in a road rage incident where you may be arrested for an alleged criminal act no matter who is really at fault.
1. You should assume that the other driver is armed with guns, knives and other weapons and act accordingly. If you think the other driver is armed then it makes sense to stay as far from his vehicle as possible.
2. You should assume that everything you say or do is being recorded in video and audio. Not only will other vehicles will have plenty of occupants with cell phone cameras ready, there are also cameras along many roads, at intersections and along the businesses by the road.
3. You should never pull your car over to have it out with the other driver. If the other driver pulls over in hopes of fighting it out, use the opportunity to get far away. Nothing is going to be accomplished other than risking the safety of everyone in both vehicles.
4. If the other driver is using his vehicle as a weapon in an aggravated assault by driving too close to you in a threatening manner, call 911 while trying to drive to the nearest police station or other area of apparent safety.
5. As soon as an incident occurs do your best to de-escalete the situation.
What are the possible criminal charges awaiting drivers involved in road rage? Criminal charges begin with any threat to the other driver using any weapon used during the coarse of the incident. Under Florida law the legal definition of weapon may include the vehicle itself if the car is used to threaten someone; for example, by pulling away just before a collision with the purpose of scaring the other driver which would constitute an aggravated assault.
If a car actually does touch or strike the other car, then depending upon the damage and injury to the passengers and driver, Tampa Bay police could charge either battery or aggravated battery. Clearly a weapon fired or thrown from a moving vehicle could also result in battery or aggravated battery charges as well as throwing a deadly missile charge. If there is a collision and the driver fails to remain at the scene to render possible aid charges of hit and run will likely be filed. Further, police and prosecutors have will bring charges of vehicular homicide if a death results or murder charges if there was heat of passion or sufficient time for premeditation before the death.
The problem in many of these cases is that both drivers may be viewed by law enforcement as being at fault for allowing a bad situation to escalated into something far worse where people end up being injured. Because of the significance of the aggravated felony charges, even someone without any criminal history could find himself not only arrested but also facing a possible long term of prison if criminal charges are filed. Therefore it’s always important to avoid road rage situations that could easily escalate ruining the lives of everyone in both cars.