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What Should I Expect Where Legal Fees Are Concerned

By | Criminal Defense

Life is complicated and frustrating enough when you’re charged with a crime without having to worry about all the costs. When you add in the unknown of what legal fees you’ll be responsible for covering, it can be extremely stressful.

It doesn’t have to be, however. If you understand the difference between different types of lawyers and their fees, it’ll help lift a good amount of weight off your shoulders. No need to worry if you don’t have the time to figure it all out on your own! We’ve done the work for you.

First, you need to understand that getting the most expensive lawyer you can find won’t necessarily mean they’re the best lawyer. Likewise, the least expensive lawyer isn’t necessarily the worst. Rather than just focusing on price to choose one, you need to look at their qualities.

It’s important to hire a lawyer who already has experience and who has the time and commitment to handle your case themselves. Look at their work history. They should be aggressive, dedicated to your case, and knowledgeable in their line of work.

It is completely reasonable to want to know how much it will cost to have a lawyer represent you before officially choosing them to take your case. Often, lawyers will offer the option of having you come in for a free consultation to discuss both your case and the cost you would be responsible for should you hire them to take your case.

At the end of the consultation, you’ll not only know if you can afford the lawyer, but you’ll have a better idea of their character and qualities. If you don’t feel comfortable with the lawyer, either because of what they’ll cost you or because of how they act, you won’t be obliged in any way to choose them to represent you.

A consultation is for you to find out if you want to hire them, it’s not an agreement to hire them. In fact, it can be quite helpful to talk to several lawyers. This is especially true if this is your first time hiring one! If you don’t know what to expect from one, you’ll be better prepared to make a decision after you’ve found several options.

If at the end of the consultation you realize you cannot afford to hire the lawyer, it’s always an option to keep looking until you can find a different one who charges less. If you still can’t find one you can afford, it’s possible the court could assign you a lawyer to represent you for free.

Often, the free lawyers are excellent ones who have had a great deal of experience. Unfortunately, they are also usually quite busy and may not have the time you would desire to devote to your case.

If you can afford it, it’s best to hire your own lawyer who will be committed to you and have the time necessary to dedicate to your case. You want a lawyer who is not only skilled but who will also work hard to put your needs first. Take your time and choose the one you feel you can trust!

The Florida Sex Offender Registry Explained

The Florida Sex Offender Registry Explained

By | Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

Are you (or a loved one) facing charges that, if convicted, could land you on the Florida Sex Offender Registry? If so, you already know what a daunting and intimidating prospect this can be – a mandatory lifetime enrolment on this list could truly turn your life upside down and severely limit your goals, dreams and future happiness. Read ahead for everything that you need to know about the Florida Sex Offender Registry – and how you may be able to remove your name.

What is the Florida Sex Offender Registry?

Designed to alert neighbours, locals and colleagues when someone convicted of a sex crime in Florida (defined as a sexual offender or a sexual predator) moves into the neighbourhood, the Sex Offender Registry can be a truly useful safety tool for concerned individuals. That said, if you believe that you are on this list unfairly, it can derail your life permanently and alter your future chances of success.

Utilised in many countries and regions around the world, these registries collect the personal details of those individuals who have been charged and convicted of sexual crimes against children and adults. A Florida law (effective since 7/1/96) requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to maintain a current and regularly updated list of Registered Sexual Predators (as defined by statute Chapter 97-299).

If you have been convicted of one of these crimes, you will be required to regularly register yourself on this list and ensure that all of your personal details (including a photo, home address, date of birth, full name and more) are correct. Long after you have served your time and probation for this crime you will need to remain on this list – for the rest of your life.

Florida Sex Offender Registry FAQs

  • What kinds of crimes can land me on the Florida Sex Offender Registry?
    The list includes sexual assault, rape, molestation, incest and other sexually motivated crimes against adults and children. Under recent changes to Florida sex crime laws, this can now also include the posting of ‘revenge porn’ photos or information online.
  • What is the difference between a sexual offender and a sexual predator?
    While both are required to register with the Florida Sex Offender Registry, but the police must actively inform the public when an individual designated as a sexual predator moves into the area. From the Florida Department of Law Enforcement:
    There is a subcategory of sexual offenders who are considered sexual predators. They have been convicted of (1) committing a forcible sexual battery upon an adult; (2) kidnapping a child under the age of 13; (3) engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 12; or (4) selling or buying a person under the age of 18 for sex. Florida Statute 775.21(4)(a).
  • How long will I be required to remain on the Registry?
    Currently, the law stipulates that you will be required to remain on the registry for the rest of your life; that said, in some rare cases you can indeed petition the court for the removal of your name (see below).
  • How far will I have to stay away from schools?
    Under Florida law, sex offenders are not allowed to come within 1,000 feetof a school, daycare or park.
  • What will happen if I fail to register as a sex offender?
    Under federal law, if you fail to register as a sex offender when you move or travel, you can face up to ten years in a maximum security federal prison.
  • Will this affect my job prospects?
    The short answer is: yes. If your career requires you to work with (or near) children, you are unlikely to be able to find steady work in your field. Even if you are employed in a completely different industry, you will be required to disclose this information to your employer. You will also not be permitted to work near places where children gather (even if your office or worksite has nothing to do with them).
  • Who can access the Florida Sex Offenders Registry?
    The Registry is open and available to anyone living in Florida – they can inquire at their local police station or search that database online.

How can you remove your name from the Florida Sex Offender Registry?

Finding yourself condemned to the Florida Sex Offender Registry can have serious repercussions on your personal and professional life. Your mandatory enrolment on this list can dictate where you must reside, the kinds of jobs that you are permitted to do and the kinds of company that you are allowed to keep. It can even bar you from attending family events, social gatherings and the milestone achievements (such as graduations, birthday parties and weddings) of your loved ones. It is understandable that many individuals who are on this registry are keen to be removed from it as soon as possible.

That said, when it comes to getting yourself removed from the Florida Sex Offender Registry, there is no quick and easy fix. While you may have undergone complete rehabilitation (or been charged and convicted with a minor crime that you believe should not have landed you on the list), it can be tough to convince those in charge that you deserve to be removed. If is has been more than 25 years since your conviction (and you have not been indicted for any felonies since), you can petition the court for the removal of your name.

The most important first step that anyone should take when seeking to be removed from the registry is to consult with a skilled sex crimes lawyer with expertise in this area. Whitney S. Boan has extensive experience defending individuals in sex crime related cases, and she can be a valuable resource when it comes to being removed from the Florida Sex Offender Registry.

 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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

What To Do If You’ve Been Arrested In The State Of Florida

By | Criminal Defense

Sometimes unfortunate things happen in your life. Have you or someone you love been arrested in Florida? Getting arrested can be very traumatic, and it can be difficult to think clearly following an arrest. When you’re being arrested the arresting officer should have provided you with your Miranda rights.

There are a lot of consequences and social stigmas you’ll begin to face, however it’s important not to think about that and instead focus on the next steps you need to take. In this post we’re going to look at the steps you should take following an arrest in Florida.

1. Communicate With The Police

One of the most commonly recited Miranda Rights is the right to remain silent. Essentially, this protects the person being arrested from being a witness against themselves.

You should identify yourself to the police. Which usually includes providing your name, a valid form of license, and your address. However, you’re not required to answer any more questions than that. You have the right to stop answering questions until you have an attorney present, but it’s still a good idea to be polite and understanding to the police.

When you are under arrest you are required by law to remain in their custody until you have been released with the help of your lawyer, or have met the bail that’s been established by the judge. Do not try to escape their custody as this will only result in added charges for you.

2. Try To Remember The Details Of Your Arrest

Even though the event of being arrested can be incredibly stressful, it’s important that you try to remember the events surrounding your arrest. Sometimes your rights may be violated throughout the duration of your arrest. These can be very important details for your defense.

If possible, write down, or communicate the details of your arrest to your lawyer, as soon as possible so the details are fresh in your mind. You might be able to recall witnesses that can be helpful and can testify about any misconduct that could have occurred.

In some cases your arrest could have taken place where surveillance cameras were in effect. This can be another crucial detail to remember, as this can also aid in your defense.

3. Use Your Right To Be Represented By Council

Your criminal defense lawyer can be very helpful throughout many steps of the arrest process. You are not obligated to speak to the police after you’ve provided the relevant identification information until your lawyer is present.

If you’re not able to afford an attorney you will be appointed a public defender by the court. You should get in touch with your lawyer as soon as you possibly can following your arrest. Your attorney will be able to help you throughout the interrogation process, when bail is set, and any other aspects of your trial that might arise.

Through out the duration of your arrest do your best to remain calm. Be polite and cooperative, but know your rights. Remember what you can, and communicate your knowledge as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one is seeking legal counsel, then reach out to Whitney S. Boan today.