If you have been arrested for a DUI, you may assume that any attorney will be fit for the job of defending your case or helping negotiate a plea bargain. But, the reality is that the caliber of the attorney you hire can dramatically impact your DUI charges. From reduced sentences to dismissals and diversion programs, hiring the right DUI attorney is critical for your case and your freedom.
Reasons You Need to Hire a Skilled DUI Attorney
Not all attorneys specialize in DUIs or have adequate experience defending these types of cases. If you have been arrested for a DUI, the first call you should make is to an attorney that has years of experience handling DUIs specifically. Just some benefits to doing so include:
- They understand DUI laws in Florida better than you. You may assume that you can research DUI laws and represent yourself, but the reality is that an attorney is constantly studying both the laws and the changes to these laws. An attorney has invested years studying these issues, and understands the recent modifications. Their education and experience has prepared them better for negotiations and trial than you could ever do representing yourself.
- An attorney understands legal procedures. A DUI case will have a large volume of paperwork, legal procedures, court documents and strict deadlines. These items are time-consuming in themselves, but an attorney dedicates their time and has the extra staff to assist them with all of these miniscule tasks.
- Effective defense against DUI charges. DUI cases are extremely technical and require the expertise of a DUI attorney. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) levels may be used in court against you, but an attorney knows how to show whether the machine was calibrated and the overall inaccuracy of these types of chemical tests. The attorney also can look for potential weaknesses and help build a strong defense.
- Saving your driver’s license from suspension. In Florida, you not only face criminal penalties, but you could lose your license in an automatic DUI suspension. An attorney may be able to represent you during your hearing and help you retain your driving privileges.
- Lower penalties and fair plea deals. If the evidence is stacked against you, your attorney can still help negotiate for lower penalties and achieve fair plea deals with the prosecution. An attorney will guide you through the process, explain what is involved in your plea and the deal you are accepting, and ensure that the prosecution holds to their word.
- An attorney can help protect your criminal history. A DUI conviction can be devastating to your professional, social and financial life. By keeping your criminal history clean, you can live a normal life. An experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure your record stays clear, without convictions, or help you expunge or seal the record later.
Speak With a Jacksonville DUI Attorney Now – Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, do not leave your case in the hands of an inexperienced attorney or no attorney at all. Instead, exercise your constitutional right to legal representation and contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. now. Contact us online or call 904-356-8618 to get started with a consultation.Read More
Theft crimes in Florida carry serious consequences – even if you are a first time offender. If convicted, you will have a criminal record that could impact every aspect of your life; including social, professional and financial. This is why it is critical that you hire a criminal defense attorney if you are being accused of any type of theft crime – including misdemeanor offenses.
The Types and Consequences of Theft Crimes
The state of Florida has several specific types of thefts that a person may be charged with. The consequences, regardless of the degree of your charge, are serious and long-lasting. These theft categories include:
- Grand Theft – This is based solely on the value of the property stolen. If the stolen property’s value (how much it is worth) exceeds $300, it is considered grand theft under Florida law. If convicted, you may face a third degree felony that can include up to five years in prison.
- Petit Theft – If the value of the stolen property is less than $300, but the value still exceeds $100, you will be charged with petit theft. While it is less serious than grand theft, it is a misdemeanor that carries a potential of up to one year in prison.
- Retail Theft – This crime, also referred to as “shoplifting,” is when a person knowingly obtains or conceals items from the merchant with the intent of acquiring them without payment. The charges and punishments for retail theft will vary depending on the value of the property stolen. If convicted, you may be required to not only serve jail time, but pay restitution for the property that was stolen.
- Dealing in Stolen Property – A person can also be charged with dealing in stolen property or trafficking stolen goods. This may be charged as a second degree felony or a first degree felony depending on the amount and value of goods being trafficked.
The Importance of Adequate Criminal Representation
Regardless of the theft crime you are being accused of, the penalties and consequences could be severe. Florida law does not tolerate theft and Florida authorities seek maximum consequences for those convicted of these crimes. If you have been arrested or you are under suspicion for theft, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel right away.
Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. for Your Theft Crime
Work with a criminal defense attorney that has successfully crafted defenses for these very types of cases. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. is here to help you with your theft case and mount an aggressive defense against the charges you are facing. Contact our law firm online or call 904-356-8618 to schedule a consultation regarding your arrest now.Read More
For some individuals, it can be a shock to find that their bail is denied and they are ordered to remain in custody until their trial. Because criminal trials can take months or years to complete in the state of Florida, a person can be locked behind bars for an extended period of time – and when they are innocent, that reality becomes even worse.
Understanding Bond Hearings in the State of Florida
Under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a person cannot be held in jail awaiting trial if the courts require an excessive amount of bail. However, the constitution and state statutes do not define what “excessive” is nor do they list what is considered a “reasonable” amount of bail. Florida law does recognize that the “reasonable” amount of bail will vary depending on the crime a person is being accused of as well as the criminal history of that individual – and other factors specific to the case. That is why a bond hearing is used to help discover what a reasonable amount of bail is in a particular defendant’s case.
A judge overseeing the bail hearing is guided by two separate principles:
- The bail issued should be enough to ensure that the defendant will appear in court.
- The bail amount required will protect the community from the defendant.
Excessive bail is considered unconstitutional, but too little bail does not give a defendant reason to return to court or avoid harming the community again while they are out on bond. Therefore, judges look for the appropriate and reasonable amount that will not only give the defendant incentive to attend their own hearing, but also ensure they do not commit other crimes while out on bail.
How Bail is Determined by a Judge
Florida law does provide overseeing judges with some guidance as to how they can determine a reasonable amount of bail. During the bond hearing, a judge will consider several factors to help determine bond, which include:
- The nature of the crime;
- The strength of evidence against the defendant;
- The defendant’s ties to the community – such as being employed, having a family, etc.;
- Any previous convictions on record or failure to appear in court in the past;
- The risks of danger to the community if the defendant was released on bail;
- How the defendant will pay for bail;
- If the defendant is currently on parole or probation;
- Other relevant factors presented by the defense and prosecution.
Judges are given wide discretion when determining bail amounts, and if a person’s bail is denied, it often means that the facts of the case were either presented too weakly by the defense, or else very strongly by the prosecutors.
Contact an Attorney for Your Bond Hearing – Call The Armstrong Law Group, P.A.
Having a criminal defense attorney present during your bail hearing is critical. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. has represented numerous clients through each stage of the criminal process – including bond hearings. Schedule your case evaluation now by contacting an attorney online or by calling 904-356-8618.Read More
No one likes to be pulled over by the police – whether it is for a traffic ticket or something else. Being pulled over is a highly stressful time and often inconvenient as well. For some, a traffic stop can lead to more serious issues, especially if the officer finds drugs in the vehicle. Traffic stops cannot be done at an officer’s whim and if you are pulled over by law enforcement, it is important to remember that you have rights.
When Can Police Legally Pull You Over in Florida?
To stop a vehicle, it is considered a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, to stop a person’s vehicle, there must be a reasonable explanation for doing so – otherwise the police have violated a very basic constitutional right.
Police are required to have “reasonable suspicion” when pulling over a vehicle. For example, the police officer witnessed the vehicle committing a traffic infraction – such as speeding or driving with an expired license registration. This is considered reasonable suspicion under the law and gives a police officer the right to conduct a traffic stop.
If there is no traffic violation present, the officer must show that they had reasonable suspicion regarding yourself or the vehicle. Officers cannot stop a vehicle based on a feeling or hunch and instead must have facts that can be presented in court.
What if I Suspect the Officer Pulled Me Over Just to Look for Something Illegal?
If you suspect the police have pulled you over with ulterior motives, it is important to realize that a traffic infraction does not prevent an officer from searching your vehicle for evidence of other crimes committed. But, the officer is required under the law to have reasonable suspicion that you have committed other crimes. So, an officer cannot pull you over for speeding and then search your vehicle for no reason – instead, they must have proof or reasonable suspicion that you are guilty of another crime as well.
For example, you are pulled over for running a red light and the officer decides that you appear to be under the influence. They may search the vehicle, legally, for evidence of drugs or alcohol to explain your impairment.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
There are numerous instances where law enforcement will pull over a vehicle and they do not have reasonable suspicion. An aggressive, skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to have any evidence found in the illegal traffic stop suppressed in court. If that evidence is the only evidence prosecutors have for the criminal charge, your case may be dismissed. Even if your case is not dismissed, the right attorney can help get the charges reduced – and possibly go from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. Now
If you were pulled over and you feel the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion to do so, contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. now to schedule a case evaluation. We will conduct a thorough investigation to help determine the officer’s reasoning behind your traffic stop and we will aggressively protect your rights. Contact our law office online or call 904-356-8618 to schedule a consultation appointment.Read More
Some individuals feel that a misdemeanor is nothing to worry about. They know the penalties are not as harsh and they assume the chances of going to jail are small, especially if they are a first-time offender. Misdemeanors, however, are still crimes – and some carry harsh penalties that individuals may not realize. Also, there are situations that can turn a simple misdemeanor into a felony charge – which is why, regardless of the charge, it is imperative a person have legal counsel.
Reasons You Want an Attorney
Whether it is a misdemeanor or you plan to plead guilty to a lesser charge, you still need an attorney to help you. If you think skipping the costs of hiring a defense attorney are worth it, here are a few reasons to reconsider:
- Protect Your Rights – You have the constitutional right to hire an attorney or have one provided for you. You also have the right to an attorney while you are being questioned by the police. Criminal defense attorneys protect your rights and they can possibly spot Fourth Amendment violations regarding the search and seizure of your property; which means your case may be dismissed.
- Protect You From Self-Incrimination – When speaking with the police, you may accidentally say or do something that incriminates you – without knowing it. By having a criminal defense attorney present, you can protect yourself from self-incrimination and your attorney will ensure you do not say anything that can later be used negatively against you in court.
- Case Analysis – An attorney can look at the evidence in your case and see if you have a viable defense strategy. For example, if you were pulled over and the police had no probable cause to do so, any evidence found after the pullover could be suppressed in court. Even if the case is not dismissed, having an attorney there strengthens your negotiating power with the prosecution.
- Better Plea Deals – Most importantly, an attorney knows how to negotiate plea deals and possibly reduce or eliminate jail time altogether. Attorneys can consider the offers made by prosecutors and counteroffer or reject them and wait for a better deal.
- Diversion Program Options – An attorney knows about diversion programs and may help you avoid conviction as long as your crime meets specific circumstances.
- Enforcing the Plea Deal – If you intend to plead guilty, an attorney will file the right paperwork and help enforce that plea deal – ensuring prosecutors do not go back on their word and that everything agreed to orally is officially entered with the courts.
Hire a Skilled Defense Attorney – Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A.
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor, contact a criminal defense attorney regardless of how “minor” you think your charge is. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. offers aggressive, experienced defense services that can help reduce charges or even help you avoid jail time altogether. Contact us online or call 904-356-8618 to schedule a case evaluation now.Read More
The Florida criminal justice system is one of the harshest in the country. Not only does Florida employ some of the toughest penalties for drug-related offenses, but they have equally harsh penalties for crimes that involve weapons. To control an alarming number of gun-related crimes in the state, Florida enacted the 10-20-Life Law. This law allows Florida to use a zero-tolerance approach toward anyone in possession of a firearm while committing a crime – even if that crime was unsuccessful.
10-20-Life Law is Defined by Statute 775.087
Under Florida Statute 775.087, any possession or use of a firearm during a felony can result in an automatic reclassification of that offense and minimum, mandatory sentences. If you are arrested for a crime during which you displayed, used, or threatened to use your firearm during a felony, you could face reclassification as follows:
- A first-degree felony becomes a life felony.
- A second-degree felony becomes a first-degree felony.
- A third-degree felony becomes a second-degree felony.
Possession Without a Crime
Under the statute, a felon caught in possession of a firearm or other weapon can be sentenced to a mandatory minimum three years in prison – regardless of whether or not they had committed a crime with that weapon.
Brandishing a Weapon
If a weapon is brandished during the commission of the following offenses, a judge may impose the maximum sentence possible:
- Aggravated battery
- Aggravated child abuse
- Aggravated elder abuse
- Assault or aggravated assault
- Drug possession or trafficking
- Sexual battery
- Aggravated piracy
- Home invasion
The Mandatory Minimum Sentences Under 10-20-Life
Under the statute, the law imposes the following mandatory, minimum sentences for offenders:
- Possession of a Firearm by a Felon – 3 years
- Brandishing a Weapon During the Commission of a Crime – 10 years
- Committing a Crime While In Possession of a Weapon – 15 years
- Discharging a Weapon During the Commission of a Crime – 20 years
- Discharging a Weapon and Injuring or Killing a Person During the Commission of a Crime – 25 years to life
Consult With an Attorney Regarding a Potential 10-20-Life Charge
It is important to consult with an attorney that fully understands the complexities associated with a conviction under the 10-20-Life Law. The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. can aggressively challenge those charges and counter attempts to force you into harsh penalties. For more information about the 10-20-Life Law, or if you are facing a potential conviction under this law, contact us for an initial consultation at 904-356-8618 or fill out an online contact form.Read More
Life after a criminal conviction is not easy. Your criminal record makes it more difficult to gain employment, get into school, and may even make finding adequate housing difficult – even though housing is one of the most basic necessities for survival. Because of this risk, you may be tempted to hide the fact that you are a convicted criminal when filling out a housing application.
Disclosing Your Criminal History
Despite the fear your application will be denied, it is better that you disclose your criminal record than let a landlord discover it during a criminal background check without any explanation from you. Landlords can access the central repository via the Federal Department of Law Enforcement to search for any potential criminal history by name; therefore, even if you do not disclose it, they can still discover a criminal record.
By taking responsibility for your criminal past and being honest, you increase the likelihood that a landlord will approve you despite your history.
Applying for Public Housing
Federal and state public housing authorities cannot discriminate against race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. when choosing their housing applicants. They can, however, consider an individual’s criminal record when renting out public housing. They are also permitted under the law to consider new criminal convictions as grounds for eviction.
After incarceration, you will have four main options for long-term housing. If you do not qualify for any of these, you may want to consider short-term housing, such as a halfway house or staying with family until you can qualify.
- Rentals Offered by Management Companies – Management companies typically have policies against renting to those with criminal convictions or even arrest records. There may be exceptions to this policy if you have proof of a completed probation or proof your crime was not violent or drug-related.
- Rentals Offered by Smaller Private Landlords – You may have more opportunities with a small, private landlord because they can use their own discretion when selecting their tenants. You should explain your criminal history before they conduct a criminal background check to improve your credibility.
- Rentals Offered for Past Convicts – Local landlords may be part of a program that offers rental properties to convicted criminals. You often will need to enclose a letter explaining your crime and future goals, and the landlord will select based on preference.
- Rentals Offered by Public or Affordable Housing Programs –Affordable housing programs may deny applicants based on criminal background checks; however, you may be able to appeal the decision with the local housing authority.
A solution to having to disclose your criminal history is to have your criminal record expunged. The rules for expungement in Florida are strict and not all crimes or arrest records may qualify. However, if you successfully expunge your criminal record, a landlord will not find your criminal past on the central repository, and you are not required to disclose your past to them.
Get Answers to Your Legal Questions – Contact the Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. Now
If you have questions regarding a conviction or you would like to learn more about expunging your criminal record, The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. can help. Call us at 904-356-8618 or complete an online contact form to get started.
Police officers are naturally intimidating to some; therefore, it is not uncommon to see individuals say something inappropriate or admit to something due to that intimidation. Whether you are being questioned by the police or you have been arrested under suspicion of a crime, there are certain things that you should never say to a police officer. These statements not only give officers probable cause for arrest, but could lead to criminal charges for a crime you did not commit.
Statements to Never Make to a Police Officer
These statements can provoke police or give them ample cause to arrest you. Therefore, avoid such statements during any encounter with police officers.
Insulting the Police – Regardless of the situation, never insult a police officer. There may be tensions present already, but insulting a police officer can give an officer grounds to arrest you – even if there were not any before. Also, police have discretion in the upcoming charges brought against you and how it will develop. They can add charges too, which could change a misdemeanor offense into a felony charge.
Do Not Admit to Anything, Including Minor Details – Police officers may question you about a potential crime. They may even skirt around the obvious questions and ask for minor details, such as your whereabouts, your relationship to a crime victim, etc. Do not admit to anything or answer any questions without an attorney present – even minor details. Admitting to small things can still result in an official arrest, even if you are innocent.
Do Not Give Permission to Search – If an officer does not have a warrant, they must get your verbal permission to search your home or vehicle. Do not allow the police to intimidate you into giving them permission. You have the right to refuse a search and request that the officers return with a warrant.
Do Not Give Police Permission to Re-Enter Your Home With You – If you have been arrested outside of your home, the police officer may offer you an opportunity to go inside your home to freshen up or grab something you have left behind. They do this because they can escort you inside and then search the premises. Do not allow police to re-enter the home; instead, say that you would prefer to go straight to the police station.
Do Not Use Force – It is against the law to use force to resist an arrest, even if the officer is arresting you without cause. Using force can result in a resisting arrest charge or possibly battery of a police officer. Your attorney can help if you are arrested without cause, but not if you resist forcefully.
The most important statement you can make to an arresting police officer is invoking your right to counsel. State that you will not answer their questions until you have an attorney present. It is your right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney – use it. Once you have invoked your rights, do not speak unless it is to answer basic information such as your name, address, date of birth, etc.
Invoke Your Right to Counsel – Contact The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A.
Police are trained to coax out incriminating information. Whether you are being questioned or you have been arrested, do not give them more information than necessary. Instead, contact a criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. Call 904-356-8618 or fill out an online contact form and an attorney will be in touch with you shortly.Read More
Being arrested or even pulled over for a DUI can be daunting. If you do not know the law, you may not understand your rights; therefore, you could inadvertently do or say things that make your case more difficult for a defense attorney. These mistakes increase the penalties a person potentially receives for their DUI – and are often avoidable. Whether you are a first-time offender or multiple offender, there are options you have to lessen the penalties you may face for your DUI case. In order to take these steps, you must first understand what mistakes others make and how you can avoid them.
Common Mistakes in DUI Cases
These mistakes start from the moment the police officer pulls you over and continue on until you are officially charged.
- Admitting to Drinking and Driving – Police must have probable cause to pull you over and to order a field sobriety test. However, there are numerous instances where police will pull over a vehicle leaving a bar or other area without probable cause. As a driver, it is important to understand that you do not have to answer the police officer’s questions – especially those pertaining to whether or not you have been drinking. Note that it is not illegal to drink and drive; it is only illegal to drive while legally intoxicated. If the officer inquires about your activities for the night or whether or not you have been drinking, you are not required to admit to anything.
- Accepting the Field Sobriety Test – If an officer suspects that you are drinking and driving, they may request a field sobriety test, which involves testing your balance and coordination. You are not required under the law to take this test. While Florida’s implied consent law requires that you take a chemical test (breathalyzer, urine analysis, etc.) you are not required to consent to a field sobriety test – a test that is misleading and can cause a sober individual to fail.
- Refusing the Chemical Test – Refusing a chemical test in Florida will not help you. Under the implied consent law, if you are arrested for a DUI, you must submit to a chemical test. Refusal to take the test will likely result in an automatic one-year license suspension (18 months if this is your second or third offense). While the officers cannot physically force you to take the test, you will face harsh penalties if you do not, and you may still be charged with a DUI.
- Not Consulting an Attorney – You have the right to an attorney. If you are arrested for a DUI, you do not have to answer the police officers’ questions; instead, you can request an attorney present before any questioning commences. Use this right, for it may not only protect you from DUI charges, but could protect your right to drive a vehicle in the future.
Consult with the Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, do not commit one of these costly mistakes. Admitting to having drinks gives a police officer probable cause to arrest you and, therefore, force a chemical test. You have rights, and an attorney can help you exercise those rights under the law. Contact us at 904-356-8618 or fill out an online contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.Read More
Florida law does allow you to expunge your criminal record, but there are specific requirements that must be met. Not all crimes or cases are eligible for expungement, and a specific process must be followed to successfully expunge your criminal record.
What is an Expungement?
An expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit where a first-time offender of a past crime seeks for their earlier criminal record to be sealed, making the records unavailable through government repositories. Expungement does not eliminate the record entirely; instead, it makes the record move from public to non-public. The FDLE and FBI will still have access to all criminal databases – including expunged records.
When a record is successfully expunged, it means that:
- Your record is removed from government offices – including the County Clerk’s Office and local law enforcement, as well as the State Attorney’s office.
- Your record is no longer considered a public record under Florida law.
- The state of Florida cannot use the expunged record in future criminal proceedings.
- You can legally deny the arrest exists – such as when filling out a job application.
Starting the Process
Before starting, you must first decide the type of expungement you need. There are three main types of record expungement:
- Correction of a Criminal Record – If you have not been arrested for a crime, but a criminal arrest appears on a background check by mistake or due to inaccurate case information, then you can petition to have your criminal record corrected.
- Administrative Expungement – If your arrest was a mistake – such as being arrested on a warrant for a person with the same name – you can request an Administrative Expungement. Administrative Expungements are only acceptable if the arrest was a legitimate mistake, not because you feel it was a mistake.
- Juvenile Seal or Expungement – As a juvenile (under the age of 18), you can seal or expunge your record as long as you are in or have completed a pretrial diversion program.
Florida Statutes §943.058 and §943.059 state specific criteria that must be met in order to successfully expunge a record. These statutes also state that you must make an application to the FDLE for a Certificate of Eligibility before you can have your criminal history sealed or expunged. Even with a Certificate of Eligibility you may not qualify for an expungement – it simply implicates that you are eligible for the type of relief you are requesting.
Certain crimes may not be sealed regardless of whether or not adjudication has been withheld. These include crimes in the categories of:
- Sexual misconduct
- Sexual crimes with a minor or child
- Drug trafficking
- Aggravated assault or battery
- Human trafficking
- Child abuse
- Elder abuse
- Manslaughter or homicide
Also, an individual cannot receive an expungement if they have been convicted of a criminal offense or have already had a criminal record expunged in the state of Florida.
Consult With a Criminal Defense Attorney Regarding Your Expungement
Florida has strict rules regarding record expungement. It is important to speak with a criminal attorney that has experience in this area to ensure that your case not only qualifies, but that your expungement is successful. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. can answer your questions and assist you with your record expungement. Call 904-356-8618 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.Read More