What does it mean when a judge at sentencing finds that a defendant is adjudicated guilty? In real terms it may trigger time in prison, loss of employment as well as future job opportunities combined with the loss of basic rights of American citizenship such as the right to vote, the right to possess a firearm and the right to travel. Yet far too often defendants are cast out of society by those two simple words uttered by the sentencing judge -adjudicated guilty. 

Adjudication of guilty means that the judge upon looking at all of the facts and circumstances of a case has made a finding that there is in fact guilt. It doesn’t always have to be that way. It’s possible for the judge to avoid giving a direct adjudication of guilt in many criminal cases.

Prosecutors will ask the sentencing judge for an adjudication of guilt based on the following factors:

1. The more serious the underlying criminal conduct, the more likely it is that an adjudication of guilt will be ordered. In fact, for many criminal acts Florida statutes specify that a judge must make a finding of guilt. For example, a Clearwater, Florida judge in Pinellas County can not withhold adjudication of guilt in a murder case nor a sexual battery case, yet the judges hands are also tied in some less significant cases when the facts justify it such as theft, battery on a law enforcement officer and DUI. Upon making a determination that there is a statutory requirement for an adjudication of guilt under the charged offense, it may be necessary for defense counsel to negotiate with the prosecutor for a charge which is less severe that allows the court more discretion in granting a withholding of adjudication.
2. The prosecutor and sentencing judge by Florida law must inform the victim of any potential change of plea and allow the victim to be present at the time of sentencing. In practice this means that the victim’s consent is often required for a sentence which does not include an adjudication of guilt.
3. But of even more importance is the prior record of a defendant. If a defendant has any kind of priors even if only a misdemeanor rather than a felony, then the likelihood of an adjudication of guilt in any given case escalates. This is true because most judges view an adjudication of guilt as the standard plea with anything less than that being a gift. And in a sense this is true under Florida law in that once there has been a withholding of adjudication in a prior case the law is framed to make in more difficult for the sentencing judge to again withhold adjudication without justification on the record. After all, the reasoning goes, the defendant was already given one chance, why should he be given another? In these cases it’s important to establish how the defendant has changed and why the previous case should not be counted as a prior for finding an adjudication of guilt.

When possible a withholding of adjudication is always preferable to an adjudication of guilt. It’s even in the best interest of the client to ask the sentencing judge for a more punitive sentence if the court will grant a withholding of adjudication. If the plea bargain called for an adjudication with a period of probation and related requirements, it would be well worth exploring possibly adding community service or extended probation for the opportunity of avoiding an adjudication of guilt in the case. Sometimes this can be tough for a client to swallow, yet it’s part of what good lawyers should be doing – finding the best possible outcome for their client by persuading the prosecutor and judge during plea negotiations that everyone benefits from a second chance.


Prisons in the United States are disproportionately filled with people suffering from mental illneess whom the criminal justice system treats as criminals. One exasperated Florida judge named Steve Leifman even declared that he’d unwittingly bcome the gatekeeper of Florida’s largest pschiatric facility.

But Miami Judge Leifman is helping solve the problem by creating special mental health courts that will stop treating mental illness as a crime. 

Everyone in the criminal justice system is aware of the problem. Yet few have had the courage to do anything about it. Here’s an example from years ago when I was a prosector. An elderly lady took a pair of sunglasses from a pharmacy without paying. After her arrest for theft I was assigned to be her prosector. At her first pretrial her lawyer gave me hundreds of pages of documents with her medical and psychiatric reports detailing her dementia with a firm diagnosis of alzheimers. But this was not enough to set the case aside based on her mental comptency.

The Pinellas State Attorney at the time, James Russell, as moribund and lazy as a poisoned mouse, did what elected officials often do. He passed the buck, yet the judge didn’t want to simply dismiss the case either. Ultimately no one in the legal system had the courage to simply do the right thing and dismiss the case, which like a long gray winter dragged on until the lady died. 

It’s refreshing to find on the horizon a courageus fair Miami judge who wants to help the twenty percent of Floridians with mental illness who are not in a posistion to help themselves. 

Is there a similar judge in Tampa Bay, Florida willing to stand up with Judge Leifman to make our criminal justice system more effective?


Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney suggests you’ll watch your wallet with greater care after reading a recent riveting profile in the New Yorker about America’s best pickpocket whose excellent technique is being studied by scientists and the military, because he not only uses slight of hand but rides the weaknesses of human character in a dangerous dance. 

in Florida pickpockets are often charged with grand theft or petty theft depending on the value of what was taken.
The Department of Defense recently endowed a training facility at Yale where the pickpocket will teach and consult for useful applications of his services in espionage pickpocketing, con games and behavioral influence.

Here are some sharp observations from the master thief and pickpocket, Apollo Robbins, as excerpted from the New Yorker profile of his spectacular thefts on how he charms, beguiles, cajoles and undermines his target’s resistance. 

“When I shake someone’s hand, I apply the lightest pressure on their wrist with my index and middle fingers and lead them across my body to my left,” he said, showing me. “The cross-body lead is actually a move from salsa dancing. I’m finding out what kind of a partner they’re going to be, and I know that if they follow my lead I can do whatever I want with them.” 

 “If I come at you head-on, like this,” he said, stepping forward, “I’m going to run into that bubble of your personal space very quickly, and that’s going to make you uncomfortable.” He took a step back. “So, what I do is I give you a point of focus, say a coin. Then I break eye contact by looking down, and I pivot around till I’m in your space… under your radar with access to all your pockets.…If I lean my face close in to someone’s…it’s like a closeup. All their attention is on my face, and their pockets, especially the ones on their lower body, are out of the frame.  

“It’s stepping outside yourself and seeing through the other person’s eyes, thinking through the other person’s mind, but it’s happening on a subconscious level.” 

Who’d have thought that a theft is like the dancing of a salsa. Apollo Robbins first became famous when he took the badges and Presidential schedule of a Secret Service Presidential Protection Team in Las Vegas. Understandably unamused they did not arrest him, yet were befuddled that their secrets could be so easily breeched.  
More than just the theft there is in pickpocketing the indignity of being singled out as a vulnerable target and fleeced. By the way, have you seen my wallet?
If you’ve inadvertently ‘found’ my wallet and now need a solid defense for a theft charge contact as Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer


Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Forger is a new memoir from Florida’s master art forger, Ken Perenyl. In the memoir the author almost admits to a series of crimes which could constitute a criminal conspiracy of grand theft and scheming to defraud. The painter believes that he is immune from prosecution because of the statute of limitations; it’s hoped he vetted all of his admissions before publication not with a priest but with a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

KEN PERENYI the artist and forger in Tampa Bay Florida hopes the statute of limitations has passed for scheme to defraud
The Artist working in Madeira Beach, Florida

But is the master forger really free from the threat of prosecution? A defense argument can be made that the forgeries are not forgeries at all in that he copied the style, formula and subject matter for secondary artists rather than copy known paintings and let others jump to conclusions and that any evidence of wrongdoing is circumstantial. 
But what about the money? Press accounts of the memoir indicate that the expert art forger made a significant amount of money from the crimes. How he accounted for the money could directly affect how the statute of limitations would apply in his case. Further, it appears that he is still painting fakes, but listing them as fakes in a wonderfully worded convoluted waiver in his sales slips, which might not be sufficient to stop fraud allegations if the prices he sells the paintings are enhanced because of high resale value as genuine paintings especially if a reasonable person would believe that the paintings would later be sold as genuine. But even if he were prosecuted and punished would jail really be appropriate for his crimes.
Here are some excerpts from the Gaurdian Newspaper’s account. 

An extraordinary memoir reveals how a gifted artist managed to forge his way to riches by conning high-profile auctioneers, dealers and collectors over four decades tells the story of Ken Perenyi, an American who lived in London for 30 years. The revelations within it are likely to spark embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic as “a bombshell for the major international auction houses and galleries.”
Perenyi’s specialities included British sporting and marine paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries. He concentrated on the work of well-known but second-rank artists, believing that the output of the greatest masters is too fully documented. Dealers were often told he had found a picture in a relative’s attic or spotted it in a car boot sale.
Perhaps Perenyi’s proudest moment came when a forgery of Ruby Throats with Apple Blossoms, by the American 19th-century artist Martin Johnson Heade, made the front page of a national newspaper and was heralded as a major “discovery”selling for nearly $100,000 at auction in New York.
Perenyi believes he is free finally to publish his story because, although he was investigated by the FBI, the case was closed in 2003 and is subject to the statute of limitations. He said he has never discovered why the case was dropped, but he suspects the art world may have been keen to prevent the exposure of the serial forgeries. 

His love of painting and the old masters remains undimmed and today he owns a studio in Madeira Beach, Florida. Asked if he regrets not finding recognition as an artist in his own right, he said: “I’ve often pondered that myself. But to have equalled the hand of such artists as Herring and Buttersworth and many others is for me a tremendous satisfaction.”

If you’ve been forging great works of art while the FBI is looking over your shoulder, call  Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers who will paint a picture of your innocent nature for the Judge and Jury.


There are apparently two types of citizens in Tampa Bay and Pinellas, Florida – police officers and the rest of us. According to a recent news article which notes that police officers are not being charged with  red light traffic citations. Running a red light caught on one of those ubiquitous cameras sitting like frozen yellow-eyed eagles atop our red lights will bring a warning to an officer but a hefty ticket fine for the rest of us, which isn’t sitting well with citizens and at least one Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney sitting with arms crossed at a red light somewhere in Largo.
Bay News Nine has reported that in St. Petersburg not only police but anyone driving a city vehicle who blows thru a red light is not being ticketed. 
There is rarely, if ever, a good reason to run a light even for law enforcement officers. In a high speed chase blowing thru a red light risks not only the lives of officers but of other vehicles, bike riders and pedestrians who happen to be near the intersection. 

ever present eagle eye of a red light camera in pinellas and tampa bay
Ohara Shoson (1899)

But we’re not talking about high speed chases as most of the tickets are being given to police officers who are running late for some free coffee and donuts or just feeling in the mood to break the law. If the law applies to us, it must to them. The punishment must be the same, otherwise officers develop the unfortunate and too often true attitude that they are above the law. 

Law enforcement officers in non-emergency situations should have to appear before a Judge to explain their reasons for running the light just as you would have to do, without your favorite Largo Criminal Defense Lawyer who would rather spend a day in hell than spend time arguing over traffic tickets. And by the way shouldn’t officers also be paying for the ‘free’ coffee and donuts or face theft charges, as good officers should be taking and receiving nothing but their paychecks.