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Violation of Probation

Violation of Probation

Florida Criminal Law

What Happens if I Violate Probation?

Violation of probation proceedings are expedited.  Nevertheless, there are several there are several stages to a violation of probation proceeding. The proceedings typically go in the following order:

1) Charges & Report;
2) Custody and Terms of Release;
3) Discovery;
4) Hearing and Disposition.

What is a Violation of Probation?

If you were placed on probation, the sentencing court gave you a set of rules. Those rules are the terms of probation. There are certain standard rules, but the judge can customize the terms for your particular case.  You do not have to break the law to violate probation. All you have to do is break the rules. For example, the terms of probation for your case might give you a curfew of 10 o’clock. It is not illegal to be out past 10 PM, but it would be a violation of your probation, this is the reason why you always be in contact with Smith & White, Best Criminal Defense Attorney in Tacoma to make sure to stay out of trouble.

I. Charges & Report

Affidavit of Violation of Probation

Your probation officer will file an affidavit of violation of probation if he has probable cause to believe that you violated the terms of your probation. If this is a felony violation of probation, the affidavit is called the “Florida Department of Correction Affidavit of Violation of Probation.”  The affidavit will contain the allegations stating how you violated the terms of probation. The affidavit will typically be filed with the same judge that presided over the original sentencing.

Violations of probation are either technical or substantial.

What is a technical violation of probation?  Breaking the rules.  Examples would include a positive drug test, failure to pay costs of supervision or any failure to abide by the rules.

What is a substantial violation of probation? A new criminal charge.

Violation of Probation Report

Your probation officer will also file a report with the affidavit of violation. The report can request that the court issue a warrant for your arrest or that the court issue a notice to appear. The violation report will also contain significant information such as any statement that you made regarding the alleged violation.  The violation report will also contain your history of supervision, the facts and circumstances surrounding the underlying case. Most importantly, the report contains the probation officer’s recommendation concerning the disposition of your case.

II. Custody and Terms of Release

The violation report filed by your probation officer will request that a warrant be issued for your arrest or that you be given a notice to appear.  The judge will typically issue a “no bond” warrant if a warrant is requested.  It is not uncommon for defendants to stay in jail for two(2) or three(3) months waiting for their violation of probation hearing.  Quite often the fear of having no bond drives individuals to abscond or hide in order to avoid going to jail. This just makes the problem worse.  Contacting a private attorney immediately is your best option as there are ways to minimize or eliminate the amount of time you spend in jail waiting for your final hearing.

III.  Discovery

Discovery is typically limited in violation of probation cases.  More often than not your attorney will have most of what they need to know based after reading the violation report.  If the violation is a technical violation of probation, i.e., breaking the rules, then there is typically no need for extensive discovery.  If the violation is a substantial violation, i.e., a new criminal charge, your attorney will get the discovery in the new case.

IV. Hearing & Disposition

In a violation of probation proceeding, you do not enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Rather, you either admit responsibility or deny responsibility. If you deny responsibility, there is a hearing. A violation of probation hearing is heard by a judge. You do not have a right to a jury trial. The rules of evidence are relaxed. Hearsay is generally permitted. Also, the burden of proof is lower.  The state does not have to prove the violation “beyond a reasonable doubt,” rather, the state must present evidence “sufficient to satisfy the conscious of the court.” That is a long way of saying “by the preponderance of the evidence.” If the state meets the burden of proof the judge will find you responsible for the violation of probation.

Sentencing

The judge has three options when faced with a violation of probation. The judge can revoke probation and sentence you to any sentence which could have been legally imposed on the original criminal charges.  For example, if you are on probation for a third degree felony, the judge can sentence you to five(5) years for a violation of probation. The judge can modify the terms of probation.   The court can add conditions such as drug rehab, counseling or an ankle monitor.  Alternatively, the judge can reinstate your probation on the exact same terms as before.

Getting a private attorney involved early can have a substantial impact on the disposition of your probation case.  Typically, a private attorney can talk to the probation officer, prosecutor and set the hearing on a calendar quickly to get a resolution.  Additionally, a private attorney can file a motion for an in court surrender and/or get a bond hearing quickly.  The advantage of hiring a private attorney over a public defender is that a private attorney can get to work on your case before you are charged with a probation violation.  A public defender can only be appointed and get to work once you have been charged.  It is a matter of being proactive vs reactive.

In addition to the procedural aspects, a private attorney can help you gather the documents and/or evidence necessary to establish your defense in the event that you proceed to a final violation of probation hearing.  It is much easier to obtain evidence before you go into custody.

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney, Michael Dye, has extensive experience handling misdemeanor and felony violations of probation.  For more information concerning probation violation proceedings, please contact us at:

The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 1 East Broward Boulevard #700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954)990-0525 or
The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 2 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131 (305)459-3286

 

 

How Can I Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

How Can I Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

Can I Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

Domestic Violence Charges

This question typically comes up in one of two ways. First, the victim of domestic violence will call to speak with an attorney and say that he or she does not want to press charges, in some cases the victim may use a personal injury law firm. Second, the defendant will call and tell the attorney that his or her significant other does not want to prosecute the case.

It is easy to get jaded after hearing these questions time after time and the individual speaking to you once an explanation for every answer you provide. A domestic violence attorney needs to remember that this is probably the most traumatic incident in that person’s life. Whether you are handling criminal domestic violence charges or civil domestic violence injunctions, these cases require a lot of patience and compassion.

Criminal Domestic Violence | Who it the Victim

The answer that people do not want to hear is that the victim or the alleged victim cannot drop criminal domestic violence charges.  There is hope.  Just keep reading. The reason why is because the “person victim” is not the “legal victim.” In criminal domestic violence cases, the victim is the State of Florida. Hypothetically, let’s assume that the defendant’s name is John Smith. A criminal domestic violence case would be titled “The State of Florida vs. John Smith.” The State of Florida is the party to the case. The “person victim” who suffered or allegedly suffered the abuse is merely a witness.

Domestic Violence Injunctions | Who is the Victim

Civil domestic violence cases are different. In a civil domestic violence case the victim or alleged victim goes to the courthouse and files a Petition for Protection against Domestic Violence. Again, let’s use John Smith as the alleged perpetrator and his wife Jane Smith as the alleged victim. Jane Smith would file the petition and the case would be titled “Jane Smith vs. John Smith.” Jane Smith would be what is called “The Petitioner” in this hypothetical case and John Smith would be called “The Respondent.” The Petitioner is the individual who is requesting a domestic violence restraining order. Notice how the first party in the criminal domestic violence case is “The State of Florida” while the first party in the civil case is the individual “Jane Smith.” Jane is not just a witness in the civil case, Jane is a party to the civil case. According to http://www.boanlaw.com/criminal-defense, Jane can voluntarily dismiss the civil case at any time because she is the prosecuting party. The Office of the State Attorney decides whether to prosecute in the criminal case.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Domestic Violence Charges

Attorneys who defend domestic violence cases hear a lot of the same questions repeated in various forms. Chances are that your idea is not something we haven’t heard before, so ask before you do. Some of the more common questions are:

  • Will the state drop charges if I write a letter to the state attorney?
  • Will the state drop charges if I say it never happened?
  • What will happen if I don’t(or the other party doesn’t) show up for court?
  • What if I just refuse to cooperate?
  • Can’t I just tell the judge that I don’t want to prosecute?

The Answers

Understanding that there are no guarantees either way, I will address these one by one.

  • The state will probably not drop the charges because you write a letter saying that you do not want to prosecute, as the Attorney Jerry Trevino explains. This has the potential to do much more harm than good.  It could help the state’s case if it is not worded correctly.  If the letter indicates that you have had contact with the defendant, that could lead to additional charges or the defendant’s bond being revoked.  This is an all around bad idea.
  • If you say it never happened, the outcome depends on your initial statement. Pursuant to Florida Statute 117.10, police officers are allowed to administer oaths. So the statement that you made to the police officer in the beginning of this case was probably under penalty of perjury. Even if you aren’t subject to a perjury charge, you can still be charged with making a false report.  You may expose yourself to significant criminal liability by retracting your statement.
  • You are legally required to show up for court if you have been subpoenaed. You may expose yourself to criminal liability if you do not show up for court after being subpoenaed. Furthermore, the court can issue what is called a writ of bodily attachment and have a police officer go pick you up………….. in handcuffs……………. and you might be required to stay in jail for the remainder of the proceedings in order to assure your appearance. Does this happen? Yes. Does it happen frequently? It depends on the jurisdiction, the policies at the state attorney’s office, circumstances surrounding the case and ultimately the individual prosecutor. Furthermore, it is a violation of the rules of professional ethics for any attorney to advise you not to show up after you have been subpoenaed.
  • There are other ways the state can obtain a conviction if you refuse to cooperate or simply do not show up. Under certain circumstances tapes of 911 telephone calls can be introduced to prove an individual’s guilt even if the witness does not appear. Many times there are other witnesses who can testify to the facts.
  • You may want to speak with the judge directly, but the judge is not allowed to discuss the case with out the state attorney and the defense attorney being present. In the event you do get to speak to the judge, you could put yourself or the defendant in a much worse situation. Additionally, judges are very suspect of individuals who suddenly get amnesia or say that it was all “a big misunderstanding.”

How can I Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

If you want to have criminal domestic violence charges dropped, the victim(aka the witness) should have his or her own attorney separate from the defendant’s attorney. Any appearance of impropriety is alleviated by both parties having separate attorneys. The attorneys can work together to lift the criminal no contact order and/or prepare an affidavit of nonprosecution specific to the case. While there are no guarantees, hiring separate attorneys has proven to have the highest rate of success and getting domestic violence charges dropped or dismissed.

For more information on how to get domestic violence charges dismissed, please contact us at:

The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 1 East Broward Boulevard #700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954)990-0525 or
The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 2 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131 (305)459-3286

DUI Manslaughter Defense

DUI Manslaughter Defense

Analysis of Postmortem Specimens

Strict Liability vs Causation

Florida had a strict liability DUI manslaughter statute until 1986.  All the state needed to prove was that the defendant was driving while impaired, was involved in a car accident and somebody died as a result of the car accident. It did not matter if the defendant was at fault for the accident. The legislature amended the DUI manslaughter statute in 1986 to include the element of causation.

Constitutional Issue with Strict Liability

The problem with the strict liability DUI manslaughter statute, in my opinion, was that the criminal culpability for a misdemeanor DUI and the criminal culpability for a DUI manslaughter was equal. A good argument could be made that the strictly at liability DUI manslaughter statute violated the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution as a cruel and unusual punishment. The current DUI manslaughter statute requires the state to prove the following: 1) driving under the influence; 2) an accident resulting in death and 3) and that the defendant was somehow at fault for the accident. The causation element must be proved independent of impairment.

Not My Fault Defense

Defending DUI manslaughter cases is difficult under any circumstances. It is human nature to look for somebody to blame when somebody dies before their time.  It is also human nature to not speak ill of the dead.  However, a legally viable defense to DUI manslaughter is that the decedent was at fault for the accident even though the defendant was driving drunk. The defendant would be guilty of DUI, but not DUI manslaughter in that scenario. The “not my fault defense” is a particularly difficult proposition to sell to a jury. In essence, you are saying to the jury “Yes, my client was driving drunk. Yes, my client was involved in a fatal car accident. However, the car accident was the dead guy’s fault.”

Theory vs. Reality

Nobody ever gets screwed by the law in a bar exam essay question.  However, this is not a law school exam question. Defense attorneys need to stop thinking about legal theory and focus on where the rubber meets the road.  Technically, the defense bears no burden of proof, but if this is your defense, you are going to need to show some solid evidence.  The jury is looking to blame somebody and there is a good chance that it is going to be the defendant.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to use this defense if it did not have a strong factual basis.  The risk of alienating the judge and jury by blaming the victim without any serious basis is too great.

Where to Find the Evidence

The autopsy report from the County Medical Examiner’s Office is a valuable source of information for the defense. Please note that the Medical Examiner’s Office may be called something different in another state.  Biological specimens, such as blood and urine, are preserved during the course of an autopsy. Toxicology testing is performed on the specimens. The results of the toxicology tests may show that the was under the influence of some sort of drug or alcohol at the time of the accident.

It should be relatively easy to establish whether the decedent was under the influence of a drug at the time of the accident. The postmortem blood sample will identify the drugs in his or her system at the time of death. Postmortem quantitative analysis of controlled substances in a decedent’s blood is another topic for another time. The biggest problem that defense attorneys run into when trying to evaluate the culpability of the decedent is the quantitative analysis of ethyl alcohol in the decedent’s blood.

No matter what methods are used, using the BAC at the time of autopsy in order to determine the decedent’s impairment at the time of the accident is an educated guess at best and gross speculation at worst.  The reason for the uncertainty is because alcohol can be produced or destroyed in between the time of death in the time of the autopsy. Autolysis is defined as the self digestion or destruction of an organism’s own cells through the action of its own enzymes. This begins to occur within hours of an individual’s death and his present throughout the vast majority of the vascular system within hours. The result is an environment which supports the endogenous production of alcohol. Multiple environmental factors contribute in determining if endogenous alcohol is produced or the extent of the endogenous production. The two most significant are typically time and temperature.

Postmortem BAC Testing is Never Ideal

We obviously want the BAC to be as accurate as possible. In an ideal world we would like to have a blood sample taken from the decedent as soon as possible after the accident and a second blood sample taken 45 minutes to an hour after the first blood sample with both being prior to death. If that is the case, we would probably not need to use the postmortem sample.

If possible, the first thing that the defense attorney should do is check the decedents medical records in order to determine if a BAC screen was ordered by a doctor at the hospital. You may have to request a subpoena duces tecum if the medical evidence from the hospital is not provided in discovery.  Sometimes individuals die on the scene or on their way to the hospital so this is not always available. If there is no antemortem sample, the defense attorney has to be able to assess the reliability of the autopsy sample.

Additional Reading

Postmortem analysis of biological specimens for ethyl alcohol is very complicated.  Try as I might, I cannot say it any better than it is said on this website: BAC Analysis in Postmortem Specimens. Another good website for forensic science in general is The Truth About Forensic Science

Remember that it is the State’s burden to prove that the defendant was at fault for the accident. If you can put on strong evidence that the decedent was impaired it is up to the State to rebut that.  There are simply too many variables for the toxicologist to credibly testify as to a definitive state of impairment at the time of the accident. I always tell anyone involved in a car accident whether it involves a criminal charge or not,
first and by far the smartest move is to contact a few Car accident lawyers near you.

For more information, please contact us at:

The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 1 East Broward Boulevard #700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954)990-0525 or
The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 2 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131 (305)459-3286

Broward DUI Conviction Rate 56%

 

Florida DUI Conviction Statistics

Data Shows that DUI Cases can be Beat

Can I Beat this DUI Charge?

That is a very typical question for dui defense attorneys. Most potential clients feel that it is impossible to win a DUI case. Statistics say otherwise. Your chances of winning your DUI case depend exclusively on the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest. However, some counties seem to be a bit for defense friendly than others. The way I typically approach the situation is to tell the potential client my honest opinion based on the information that has been provided by the client. Keep in mind that sometimes the information provided by a client is not the most accurate. It is simply human nature to try to present your case in a fashion that makes you look the best. I’ve never cited to conviction statistics in a client meeting because I did not know the exact figures. I probably still won’t after today because it can set unrealistic expectations.

What do the statistics say?

The statistics actually paint a pretty rosey picture for a DUI defendant in Broward County, Florida. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles keeps records on how many DUI citations were issued in a county and keeps records on how those DUI citations were resolved in court. Much to my surprise, there were significant statistical differences in counties throughout the state. So while your odds might be pretty good in Fort Lauderdale, they might not be as good in Ocala. Visit the FLHSMV Uniform Traffic Citation Report to see the reports for the entire State of Florida.

Please keep the following in mind while reviewing the statistics:

  • There will be a certain number of DUI charges that are unresolved at the end of each year due to continuances and the date of the offense;
  • The data below is from year 2013 in order to allow additional time for cases to be resolved and reflected in the annual data;
  • The data is limited to three counties. Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Marion County;
  • The term “guilty” does not mean guilty of DUI;
  • “Guilty” as used below means a finding of guilt as to DUI, another traffic criminal matter charged with the DUI or a reduced charge from the DUI;
  • For example, if an individual is charged with DUI and he or she takes a plea to reckless driving, that still counts as a guilty.  This inflates the amount of individuals who are found “guilty” without disclosing how often the state reduces the charge.

Broward County DUI Arrest Data 2013
TOTAL ARRESTS:  3974
TOTAL PENDING DISPOSITION: 581
TOTAL DISPOSSED: 3393
TOTAL GUILTY: 1885 (56%)
TOTAL NOT GUILTY: 48 (1%)
ADJUDICATION WITHHELD BY JUDGE: 131 (4%)
TOTAL DISMISS OR NOLLE PROS: 1328 (39%)

Palm Beach County DUI Arrest Data 2013
TOTAL ARRESTS: 3034
TOTAL PENDING DISPOSITION: 969
TOTAL DISPOSSED: 2065
TOTAL GUILTY: 1343 (65%)
TOTAL NOT GUILTY: 31 (2)
ADJUDICATION WITHHELD BY JUDGE: 5 (<1%)
TOTAL DISMISS OR NOLLE PROS: 684 (33%)

Marion County DUI Arrest Data 2013
TOTAL ARRESTS: 915
TOTAL PENDING DISPOSITION: 31
TOTAL DISPOSSED: 884
TOTAL GUILTY: 737 (83%)
TOTAL NOT GUILTY: 10 (1%)
ADJUDICATION WITHHELD BY JUDGE: 6 (1%)
TOTAL DISMISS OR NOLLE PROS: 131 (15%)

Statistical Interpretation

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has this information readily available for the years 2011 through 2014. Over the course of those four years, the annual arrest total by county varies, but not significantly. However, the percentages remain very close to the same in all categories.

Why?

Why does Marion County, Florida have an 83% conviction rate? Why does Broward County, Florida show a conviction rate of 56%? There are several plausible explanations for the variations between counties. Are conviction rates higher in smaller, more conservative, rural areas due to the composition of the jury pool? Are larger counties precluded from devoting substantial resources towards DUI enforcement due to other prosecutorial priorities? The statistics don’t tell us why.

All that we know, based on statistical data alone, is that Broward County has a 56% conviction rate and that includes all of the convictions for lesser offenses such as reckless driving. Marion County has an 83% conviction rate. The statistics above clearly show that DUI’s can be beat and criminal defense attorneys are winning DUI cases on a regular basis. Hiring a criminal attorney with substantial DUI experience can have an enormous impact in the outcome of your case. Make no mistake about it, the odds are still stacked against you, but a good DUI attorney, you can level the playing field.

For more information, please contact us at:

The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 1 East Broward Boulevard #700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954)990-0525 or
The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 2 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131 (305)459-3286

Florida Sentencing Guidelines

Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet

It’s like golf! Less Points = Better!

Am I Going to Prison?

Every criminal defense attorney gets asked this question. From DUI cases to murder cases, every defendant is concerned with their exposure to a prison sentence. In felony cases, if you are found guilty, the length of your prison sentence is typically determined by a simple mathematical calculation.  I will use algebra to explain thereby making this unnecessarily complicated and creating job security.  P = Total Sentence Points.  If P > or = 44 then your recommended prison sentence is calculated as follows, .75(P – 28) .

Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet

The form for the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet is found in Florida Rule of Criminal  Procedure 3.992. The assistant state attorney handling the prosecution of a felony matter is required to complete a Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet. The Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet is also known as the sentencing scoresheet. The purpose of the criminal punishment code scoresheet is to provide the court with a “recommended” sentence.

How is it Scored?

Think of sentencing points like a golf score.  The less points you have, the better off you will be.  The sentencing scoresheet assigns a point value to all criminal offenses currently before the court. All felonies are divided into various “offense levels.” The various offense levels can be found in Florida Statute 921.0022. Section 1 is called the primary offense. The primary offense carries the most sentence points out of all charges on the scoresheet. I use a felony DUI in the example below. A fourth(4th) DUI conviction, and all subsequent DUI convictions, are 3rd degree felonies pursuant to Florida Law. Looking at section 1, you can see that a fifth(5th) DUI conviction is a third-degree felony, the statute is 316.193 and the offense level is six. A level VI primary offense earns 36 sentence points. However, a level VI additional offense is only 18 points.

Additional points are added for certain aggravating factors and prior convictions. The assistant state attorney will calculate the total amount of sentence points.  However, the defense attorney needs to check to make sure it is correct.  If the total amount of sentence points is less than 44, the lowest permissible sense is a non-state prison sanction. A non-state prison sanction can include some jail time, probation, community control or a combination of all of the above.

Calculating a Hypothetical Scoresheet

Primary and Additional Offenses: In the example that I use below, John Smith has been arrested for a fifth DUI and possession of cocaine. Both crimes are felonies. The fifth DUI is the primary offense because it is a level VI offense. The possession of cocaine is an additional offense because it is a level III offense. Accordingly, Mr. Smith is assessed 36 sentence points for the DUI and 2.4 sentence points for the possession of cocaine.

Victim Injury: Section 3 deals with victim injury. This area of the scoresheet is a bit more subjective and there is room for a criminal defense attorney to attempt to get less sentencing points, so you may end up looking for a personal injury attorney specialized in this cases. In this example, there was a victim injury and the injury was described as moderate. An additional 18 sentence points are added due to the degree of the injury of the victim.

Prior Criminal Record: Section 4 assigns points based on the defendant’s prior criminal record. In this section, you will find yourself going back to Florida statute 921.0022 in order to find the offense levels for any prior convictions. In the example below I simply put four prior DUIs for the sake of simplicity.

Legal Status: Section 5 assigns points for legal status violations. A legal status is when an individual can be classified as an escapee, and absconder or, amongst others, already incarcerated. Section 6 assigns points for violating terms of pretrial release or probation.

Community Sanction Violation: Section 6 is used quite often because of high recidivism levels. So if an individual is on probation when he or she gets convicted for a new charge,  it will enhance the length of the sentence for the new charge.

Sections 7, 8 and 9 are fairly self explanatory.  These sections are not used as often because they typically apply to much more serious criminal offenses.

If the total sentencing points is greater than 44, you subtract 44 from the total score and multiply times .75 which gives you the minimum amount of prison time. A judge is authorized to sentence a defendant to consecutive maximum terms of imprisonment.  The guidelines are merely suggestions. A Judge may be required to provide a written explanation concerning a deviation from the guidelines under certain circumstances In the example below, the maximum sentence would be 10 years. However, the recommended sentence would be 29.55 months.

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For more information, please contact us at:

The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 1 East Broward Boulevard #700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954)990-0525 or
The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA, 2 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131 (305)459-3286