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Debunking Four Myths About Domestic Violence in Florida

By | Domestic Violence

When it comes to the prosecution of domestic violence in Florida, there are a lot of myths swirling around.

Many people erroneously believe that domestic violence charges are completely in the hands of the victim, a personal matter that can be erased and forgotten easily if the victim forgives the perpetrator – this is not the case. It is also not the case that all crimes have only one ‘victim’ – issues of domestic violence can be multilayered and complex. Are you confused about the intricacies of Florida domestic violence charges? Read ahead for valuable clarifying information.

Here are four myths about the crime of domestic violence in the state of Florida 

1. We made up/ got back together, so everything is forgotten – While you and your significant other may have patched things up and moved on from this incident, the law does not work so simply. If law enforcement agents were involved in any way, the state may choose to prosecute the perpetrator. This decision is complex, and you will need a skilled and experienced Florida domestic violence lawyer in order to help you navigate these charges.

2. My partner does not want to move forward with charges, so I am in the clear – As with point number one above, once law enforcement agents have gotten involved, your partner’s opinions about pressing charges may no longer matter. If the police officers and district attorney feel that there is enough evidence to convict you, they may move ahead without your partner’s cooperation. Your lawyer may be able to have the case thrown out – consult with Ms. Boan about your specific circumstances.

3. What happens in our relationship is our business alone – While your individual disputes, arguments and relationship ups and downs are certainly your own business, the minute they cross over into the criminal sphere this is no longer the case. This can include domestic violence in all forms, sexual assault, kidnapping (holding your partner against their will), verbal threats, stalking and the abuse of pets.

4. I am always entitled to enter my own home – Even if your partner or the state have not sought to press charges against you, you may be served with a restraining order (also known as a domestic violence injunction). If this is the case, you will be required to stay away from your partner at all times, and this will include your shared residence. If you are served with a domestic violence injunction, an officer will accompany you to your home to pick up supplies, but you will be required to maintain a minimum distance for the duration of the order.

Have you been accused of domestic violence? You need skilled, professional representation – call or email Whitney S. Boan to learn more about and how she can help you with your case.

 Plea Bargains 101 – What do you need to know?

By | Criminal Defense

Plea bargains make a regular appearance in Hollywood films and as plot devices in crime shows on television, but do you know actually know what a plea bargain entails? Read ahead to learn everything you need to know about plea bargains and what they can mean for you.

What is a plea bargain?

If you are charged with a crime, in many instances the prosecutor will offer you a plea bargain. This is defined as an agreement between a prosecutor and defendant in a criminal case in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty. In return, the prosecutor will make a concession that benefits the defendant; in many cases they will dismiss some of the charges, ensure that they are less serious than the original charges, or recommend a more lenient punishment from the judge. 

3 Kinds of Plea Bargains

Charge bargaining – Of all of the plea bargains, this is the most common in Florida. In exchange for a guilty plea, this will drop some of your charges or reduce your charge in different ways. A good example of charge bargaining would be with a murder charge; if you agree to plead guilty, the prosecutor will reduce the charge to manslaughter rather than Murder Two.

Sentence bargaining – If you accept a sentence bargain, you will plead guilty to the original charge in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Fact bargaining – This is the least common type of plea bargain, and not all of the Florida courts allow it. With a fact bargain you will admit to specific aspects of the crime in exchange for the prosecutor agreeing not to enter other facts and the judge agreeing to the bargain. This can lead to a lesser sentence.

Benefits of a plea bargain 

While you will still have a criminal record if you accept a plea bargain, there can be many benefits of this kind of arrangement. You will avoid the embarrassment and potential press coverage of a trial, and you can often negotiate a shorter sentence and get back to your real life as soon as possible. Even though you will still have a record, it will be for a lesser charge that may have less negative repercussions in your life.

Should you accept a plea bargain?

Only a skilled defense attorney can help you to make this decision. While accepting a plea bargain can help you to avoid harsh consequences or serve less time in prison, it necessitates admitting your guilt. This will mean that you will have a criminal record for the rest of your life, you may face deportation and you may face difficulties landing a job, a rental property and credit or a mortgage from your bank. The pros and cons need to be weighed carefully, and you need to think clearly about what both options could mean for your future. Your criminal law attorney can also help you to understand the ins and outs of how your sentence will be determined in Florida.

 

Drunk Driving in Florida – What does the law say?

By | DUI

If you are like most people, you enjoy having a drink or two when out with friends or relaxing on a sunny patio – but how do you know when it is still legal to get behind the wheel? It can be difficult to determine when this harmless fun transforms into a crime, but if you plan to consume any amount of alcohol and then drive a vehicle, you need to know what the Florida law says about drinking and driving.

Being pulled over – what can you expect? 

If you are pulled over under suspicion of drinking and driving, the law enforcement officer has a right to ask you to complete a field sobriety test. These tests can involve a variety of actions that are meant to give them an insight into any potential impairment. With that said, these tests are not foolproof, and there is a chance that an individual can fail them without having consumed any alcohol at all.

If you fail these tests for any reason, the officer might ask you a series of questions or ask you to complete a breath test or blood test. You may be required to accompany them to the station, and if they believe that you are severely impaired you may be arrested and your car impounded. If this happens, you will definitely need to seek an experienced DUI lawyer – do not attempt to navigate the criminal justice system on your own.

Florida Blood Alcohol Limits

If a law enforcement officer elects to test your breath or your blood in order to determine how much (if any) alcohol is in your system, you should be aware of the legal blood alcohol limits in Florida.

  • For drivers who are 21 years or over, the limit is .08 %
  • For drivers under the age of 21, the limit is .02 %
  • For commercial drivers, the limit is .04 %

Remember, no matter what anyone tells you, there is no foolproof way to estimate how different alcoholic beverages will affect you and your blood alcohol level. The way that your body metabolizes alcohol will depend on myriad factors, including hormones, the amount you have eaten that day, how you personally react to different spirits etc.

What should you do if you are accused of drunk driving

If you are accused of drunk driving, do not despair. Even if there seems to be insurmountable evidence against you, with the help of a skilled DUI lawyer you can certainly defend yourself against these charges and win your case. They can guide you through the legal system, help you understand the differences between a DUI and a DUI Felony and give you the support that you need. Most importantly, they can ensure that you do not lose your license or pay exorbitant fines. If you have been charged with drinking and driving in Florida, call or email Whitney S. Boan today and take control of your future.

Police Misconduct and Illegal Searches – What YOU need to know

By | Criminal Defense

One of the most common questions that the team here at Whitney S. Boan, P.A. gets asked is “how many police officers commit misconduct and act in a fraudulent way, and can their actions affect my case?” The answer is hard to quantify, but one thing is for certain – the rare few officers who do choose to act in a dishonest way are a threat to the justice system in this country, and they can affect your rights. Read ahead to learn more about police misconduct, illegal searches and how they can affect you and your case.

Most law enforcement officials in the United States are honest, hard working and fair, doing their job to the letter of the law – but it is naïve to deny that there is the rare individual in this profession who does indeed commit misconduct when it comes to the crimes that they are investigating. These outliers are dangerous; not only do they undermine the credibility of other honest police officials, they can completely ruin the lives of the individuals that they wrongfully accuse and frame.

Sadly, some police officers destroy or hide evidence, some detectives do not testify honestly, and other law enforcement officials improperly influence witnesses and even manufacture testimony on the stand according to what they want the outcome to be. This is a shameful miscarriage of justice, but does occur more than most would like to admit.

Can Police Misconduct be a Basis for an Innocent Verdict?
 

As defense attorneys, the team at Whitney S. Boan, P.A. has an important job to do. We must raise reasonable doubt in the minds of each member of the jury, and once we have achieved this task we can exonerate our client. When we are handling a case in which the law enforcement officials tasked with the case have acting in a dishonest or criminally negligent way, we are able to raise this information with the jury. This can help to build sufficient reasonable doubt in their minds, resulting in a hung jury or, in the best case, an acquittal.

Police Misconduct as the reasons for an appeal

Even if you have been found guilty of a criminal offense, the chance to raise the possibility of police misconduct has not passed. Criminal convictions are subject to appellate review, and during this process we are able to bring this miscarriage of justice to light. We can highlight the possibility that:

  • The police gave false testimony during trial
  • The police improperly handled evidence during the investigation of your case
  • The police coerced witnesses during or before your trial
  • The police suppressed evidence that could have proved your innocence or cast doubt on your guilt

If any of these are a possibility, the team at Whitney S. Boan, P.A. are able to uncover the truth and help you to overturn your conviction. Don’t delay – call or contact us today.

Explore Just How Dangerous Social Media Can Be to Your Car Accident Case

By | Guest Posts

With social media being as prevalent as it is today, it makes sense that many people end up flocking to social media to share the details of their car accident case. However, that could end up being one of the worst mistakes you ever make. As your Phoenix car accident lawyer will strongly tell you, spreading the details of your case all over Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook could come back on you and ruin your chances of getting the settlement you deserve. Before running to social media and saying something about your case, such as how your recovery is coming along, how severely you were injured or anything else, you need to stop and think about what the insurance company might think if they were to read your posts.

When seeking compensation for your accident claim, you do not want to make it seem like you are lying about your injuries or anything that happened. Adjusters are always looking for some way or another to discount your damages and make it seem less serious than it is. With everything being posted on social media today, you can bet the insurance company is going to look and see what all you have to say about your case before paying you.

How Insurers Can Turn Social Media Against You

If you are someone who is always on social media, you might be inclined to head over to social media and start updating your friends and family members about what happened and letting them know that you are okay. While you might think that you are helping to alleviate any concerns your friends and family members have, you are also making the insurance company wonder just how extensive your injuries really are to begin with.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Even something from years ago could come back to hurt your case.
  • Insurance companies are not always looking at all of the specifics of your posts.
  • A picture from a trip you took last year when you hiked through the mountains could be used to show that you are healthy and do not need to be off work. They will say that you are fine to return to work and your fractured pelvis must not be as bad as you are making it out to be. They are not looking at dates, just what you are doing in the pictures.
  • The adjuster is looking for a way to show that you are lying about your injuries and do not need the compensation you are asking for.

If any of this happens, it could end up causing you to lose out on your claim. Next thing you know you are having to appeal the claim and provide proof that all of those pictures were from years ago and not something that happened recently. You are the one stuck having to prove your injuries and fight for compensation that you deserve.

Using Social Media Safely When Injured

The best thing you can do when it comes to using social media accounts when injured is to simply refrain from using them whatsoever. This way there is nothing on your account that can be used against you. If you absolutely must post, make sure any information posted is brief and purely factual. Avoid letting your emotions step in and get the best of your situation. You do not want to go on a rant about what happened or the way the insurance company is behaving.

Here are a few tips to follow with your social media account:

  • Change your security options to only friends and family members.
  • Do not accept any weird requests from people you do not know. An insurance agent could be posing as someone else in an attempt to get into your personal information.
  • Avoid accepting requests from someone you know to be the adjuster, even though they might seem friendly and concerned. They are often just out there to gain access to your information and use it against you.

Since the relationship you have with the adjuster should be strictly professional, there is no reason for them to get your information and start sending you requests through social media. They should only be contacting you through phone, email or communication with car accident lawyers. There is no reason to get personal and take it to social media.

The main thing to remember is that social media should not be considered a main resource to discuss all of the specifics surrounding your accident claim. You are better off keeping the details of your injuries, accident, the progress you are making and so on to yourself. No one needs to know all of the intricate details of what is going on in your life. Even after you have settled your claim, you do not want to go around bragging about the money you received. You are better off saying the least amount of information possible.

Illegal Searches and the Suppression of Evidence – What do you need to know?

By | Criminal Defense

If you have watched much television in your life, you have probably seen a procedural legal drama or gritty crime film in which law enforcement agents must impatiently wait for a search warrant before being able to search a suspect’s home or office. Sometimes the plot even revolves around evidence collected from an illegal search performed without a warrant being thrown out of a court case (referred to as suppression of evidence).

From these pop culture representations it certainly seems like the police need a warrant 100% of the time in order to search your residence, but this is not the case.

When is a search warrant issued?

A search warrant will only be issued in the event that law enforcement agents can demonstrate that they have probable cause (defined as “reasonable grounds to believe that a particular person has committed a crime”). Search warrant request records are usually sealed (so as to not compromise future investigation efforts), so it is impossible to estimate how often these requests are denied. Anecdotally, most are approved; investigators usually only request them when they know that they have grounds for issuance of a search warrant to satisfy a judge’s concerns.

When is a warrant NOT needed?

There are four conditions under which police officers do not need a warrant in order to search your residence. Any evidence collected under these circumstances is admissible in court.

  1. The search was consented to – A consent search refers to when an individual allows an officer to search their home or car. This must not be the landlord or owner, but the person who legally inhabits the space.
  2. The items were in plain view – The plain view doctrine covers instances in which the law enforcement officer unintentionally sees a weapon or other evidence from a legal vantage point.
  3. Incidental searches – An officer can search an individual and their vicinity immediately after an arrest in order to ensure that the space is safe and free from weapons.
  4. An emergency may be occurring – If officers believe that a crime is in progress or an individual is in immediate danger, they can enter a home or vehicle without a warrant.

What should you do if you do not consent to a search?

If police officers arrive at your residence and inform you they are about to conduct a search, he first thing you should do is ask to see the search warrant. If they do not have one, or refuse to provide the document – remember: they may be planning to conduct a warrantless search based on one of the four above criteria. Because of this, you should always stay out of the way of law enforcement agents – never try to get in their way or prevent them from conducting a search.

You should, however, make it clear (verbally) that you do not consent to the search; remember, if they do not meet the above criteria and they do not have a warrant, any evidence collected will not be admissible.

Most importantly, you need to immediately contact a reliable and skilled criminal defense lawyer who can help you navigate the legal system – your representation can be the difference between a conviction and having your case thrown out.

What does it mean to have your criminal record expunged?

By | Criminal Defense

If you have a criminal record, you may have heard about the possibility of having it ‘expunged’ – but what exactly does this mean? This can be a life changing procedure, and this post will help you learn all about it and find out whether or not you qualify to have your own criminal record expunged.

What is expungement?

Simply put, an expungement allows your previous criminal record to be sealed. In order to obtain an expungement, a first time offender needs to undergo a sort of lawsuit that seeks to seal their earlier records about their criminal conviction. If successful, this then makes their record unavailable to state or Federal officials (unless you commit a similar crime in the future).

Every state has different rules and laws about expungement, and will only allow certain types of crimes to be expunged from your record. Consult with a reputable and reliable criminal defense lawyer in order to ascertain if this is an option for you or your loved ones.

What are the benefits of having your record expunged?

The benefits of having your record expunged can hardly be overstated. If your petition is successful, your criminal record will be completely forgotten. This will allow you to move on with your life unencumbered by your past mistakes. You will be able to sigh with relief when dealing with law enforcement, applying for employment and meeting with potential landlords.

Is expungement the same as a pardon? 

No. Think of a pardon as being forgiven and expungement as being forgotten. Once expunged, your criminal record can only be used against you in the rare circumstances detailed below.

Could your record ever be unsealed?

While having your record expunged will certainly go a long way when it comes to protecting your reputation and helping your future, having your record expunged is not a completely clean slate. Your past criminal record could be used against you in the future in these cases:

  • You are convicted of another crime – Your otherwise expunged record could be brought up and used against you in the event that you commit another similar crime.
  • You seek certain types of employment or licenses – While every state is different, some will insist on taking your expunged crimes into account if you apply for certain kinds of jobs and/ or licenses. The state of Florida allows expunged crimes to be disclosed to the Florida Bar, the Department of Children and Families, the Board of Education and other law enforcement agencies.
  • You face deportation or immigration violations – Even if you have had your entire record expunged, this information can be brought up again if you face deportation or encounter any other immigration violations.

If you are hoping to have your own criminal record expunged or would like more information, remember – it is always of vital importance that you hire the right criminal defense attorney to help you with your case.

 

Miranda Rights 101

By | Criminal Defense

If you have ever watched a television show or movie about the criminal justice system, undoubtedly you have heard these famous lines: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…” These words – detailing your Miranda Rights – are uttered so often in entertainment media that they can easily lose their meaning.

But what do the Miranda Rights actually mean, how will they apply to you if you are arrested in Central Florida? Read ahead for a brief and easy to understand explanation of these oft-quoted words.

Where does the name ‘Miranda’ come from?

These rights are named after a famous Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona, but as a concept they originate far earlier (this court case just cemented when and how the rights need to be explained and provided).

What are Miranda rights or Miranda warnings?

What are the Miranda Rights?

The constitutional rights often referred to as the Miranda rights include:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to avoid self-incrimination
  • The right to an attorney during any police questioning
  • The right to an attorney when in court

Do police officers have to say the Miranda Rights the same way, every time?

The answer is no – and yes. Many police departments do require their officers to quote the same script verbatim when arresting an individual, but the Supreme Court did not specify that any particular wording be used when a suspect is given their constitutional rights. However, the Supreme Court did require that the information be conveyed in an easily understandable and comprehensive way.

Does a suspect have to agree to the Miranda Rights?

One of the stipulations of the Miranda ruling is that a suspect must communicate that they do indeed understand their rights before any questioning can proceed. Simply put – an individual must say “yes” when asked if they understand before any questioning can occur.

Who Do the Miranda Rights Apply To, and When?

The Supreme Court ruling states that everyone has Miranda Rights, but they come into effect as soon as a law enforcement official begins to question their suspect about the crime at hand. Note that these rights do not have to be communicated immediately at the time of arrest (unlike what is shown in most television shows) – only before questioning begins. That said, most officers will state these rights when arresting an individual in order to simply the process and ensure that this step is never missed.

‘Stop and Identify’ Laws

In 2004, the Supreme Court did uphold certain state ‘stop and identify’ laws – this means that police officers can ask personal information about an individual without providing the Miranda Rights statements.

How can you ensure your rights are protected?

As you can see, these rights are pivotal and deeply important in the American criminal justice system. Are you unsure if your Miranda Rights were protected during a recent arrest? Are you looking for legal counsel for questioning or trial? A skilled, professional and top rated criminal lawyer is a must whenever your rights are in play – do not hesitate. Hire the best criminal lawyer in Orlando and make sure your freedom is protected.

 

Changes to Florida Sex Crime laws – What do you need to know?

By | Sex Crimes

When it comes to sex (in any way, shape or form), consent is key – not only when it comes to personal morality and individual codes of conduct, but also according to Florida’s laws.

On October 1, 2015 new Florida laws came into effect, specifically prohibiting people from posting “revenge porn” in order to get back at ex-lovers. This law criminalizes the posting of sexually explicit videos or photo images of any other person, without that person’s explicit consent. That said, many defendants who are accused of this crime can attempt to flout the laws by claiming that their victim did indeed consent to the act. For many people, consent is a confusing legal construct that they could not actually define if needed – so we will attempt to answer the question – “what does consent mean in Florida?”

Valid Consent Requirements in Florida

Florida’s consent laws are clear – under the 2015 statutes, consent must be “intelligent, knowing, and voluntary.” What exactly does this mean?

  • Intelligent – All parties must be in full possession of their mental faculties, and if they are intoxicated (drunk or high), or of a lower than standard IQ they are not capable of giving their intelligent capacity.
  • Knowing – All individuals must know exactly what they are consenting to, and consent to one sexual act is not automatically consenting to any other acts.
  • Voluntary – All sexual contact must be of the victim’s free choice, and no outside influences should affect their decisions.

Remember – these new Florida laws state that victims of sexual crime do not have needed to fight back or attempt to ‘fight back’ or resist their perpetrator.

Consent immediately becomes invalid in any cases when the individual is:

  • under duress, being threatened or is the victim of fraud;
  • gave consent to a different (even if similar) act from the actual act performed (this includes someone consenting to a passionate kiss – this does not mean they automatically then consent to genital contact), or;
  • intoxicated, drugged, or in some other way not in their right mind.

What should you do if you have been accused of a sex crime in Florida?

If you feel like you have been wrongfully accused of a sex crime and you know that you did indeed ensure that you obtained intelligent, knowing and voluntary consent, you need to obtain competent legal representation as soon as possible.

Florida has countless lawyers; most of these are known to advertise online in order to attract clients who have been accused of sex crimes. Choosing an Orlando sex crimes lawyer can be a difficult task, but as long as you obtain positive reviews from others who have used their services, you can be assured that you are hiring winning representation.

 

The Importance of Hiring the Right Criminal Lawyer

By | Criminal Defense

In Orlando, thousands of people are arrested on criminal charges each month. We turn to lawyers when we are the most vulnerable. We need them to help us navigate the criminal law system and fight tirelessly on our behalf in order to ensure that justice is served. When you have been falsely accused of a crime – or have had charges trumped up an unrecognizable amount – you need a lawyer that is dedicated, intelligent and creative.

That said, these attributes can be difficult to assess when you stand accused of a crime – as mentioned above, you are often at your most vulnerable and confused when you are selecting your legal counsel. This lack of mental clarity could leave you with an inexperienced or poorly reviewed attorney. Worse, you could be financially unable to hire the right lawyer for your case, depending instead on harried court-appointed counsel.

Bad lawyers lead to wrongful convictions

The evidence is clear – overburdened, uneducated or poorly performing lawyers are the reason why many people are wrongly convicted each year. Some studies estimate that a full twenty five percent of the people behind bars in the United States are incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit. This shocking statistic is even more chilling when you are facing a criminal court trial – you do not want to end up a victim of this horrible (and preventable) fate.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims on Appeal

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel is a common reason for people to appeal their conviction. The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that individuals have the right to effective and qualified legal counsel, and if an individual can show that their lawyer was incapable of providing a reasonable defense strategy they can appeal their conviction.

The Innocence Project has presented evidence that,a review of convictions overturned by DNA testing reveals a trail of sleeping, drunk, incompetent and overburdened defense attorneys, at the trial level and on appeal.” Drunk? Sleeping? Overburdened? This could happen to you – never forget that there is a lot on the line.

How can you find a reliable lawyer?

If you are seeking an Orlando criminal law firm to defend you in your upcoming criminal trial, you need to keep a few things in mind during the selection process.

  • Spend as much as you can afford – If you want the best of the best, it is important to choose carefully and dig deep into your pocketbook – your freedom could depend on your choice.
  • Ask for recommendations from people you trust – Ask your colleagues, family and friends for any recommendations that they can provide. First hand experience is always preferable to reviews online.
  • Check the lawyer referral agency – The American Bar Association operates a fantastic resource with their lawyer referral agency. Check this to ensure the counsel you are considering is in good standing with the bar.
  • Interview more than one option – Remember, your instinct and first impressions can go a long way when it comes to the selection process – don’t be too hasty to go with your first option.