Posted on Friday, April 1st, 2022 at 2:07 pm
It could be everyone’s worst nightmare: being convicted of a crime you didn’t commit. Being arrested and tried for a crime someone else committed leaves the defendant angry and confused. Being convicted and sentenced to decades or even life in prison leaves them demanding justice. It is difficult to get them that justice.
Burden of Proof: Whose Job Is It?
In the initial trial, the prosecution on behalf of the state must prove that the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That doesn’t mean there can be no doubt, just that it is unlikely that anyone except the defendant committed the crime.
When you need to prove that you were wrongly convicted, it becomes your job to prove that the prosecution got it wrong.
Eyewitnesses, Snitches, and Bad Science
The Innocence Project of Florida handles more than 1,000 claims of wrongful conviction per year. They have found five key factors that led to wrongful convictions that were later exonerated by DNA evidence.
- Mistaken eyewitness testimony. More than half of all convictions, regardless of the nature of the crime, were achieved at least in part through eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony has been known for decades to be the least reliable evidence, yet nothing sways a jury like a witness pointing dramatically across the room and saying, “That’s him! I saw him!”
- False or coerced confessions. Up to 25 percent of convictions rest on false confessions. The reasons for “false” confessions are numerous, ranging from devious interrogation techniques, mental illness, fear, use of force by the interrogators, and confusion on the part of the subject. Despite Fifth Amendment protections that allow a person not to be a witness against themselves and that prohibit the government from forcing a person to sign a confession document, confessions are routinely used in court as proof of guilt.
- Perjury or false accusation by informants. As many as 50 percent of all murder convictions are obtained using jailhouse snitches. These people may be “incentivized” to testify by exchanging reductions in sentences for their testimony. Although some jailhouse informants are passing along reliable information, others may provide false information or change their stories once their incentive is within their grasp.
- Improper forensic science. This is the second most common factor in wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project. Sometimes called the “CSI effect,” jurors love scientists who talk about bite impressions, shoe print inclusions, and other exotic markers. Unfortunately, many of these scientific techniques have been disproven or should only be used to exclude, not include, a subject. Other science of this sort may be presented as evidence before the method of testing has been sufficiently validated, which should invalidate the findings for the purposes of evidence.
- Official misconduct. Th misconduct is not always malicious or directed at the defendant personally, but it can be devastating to the defendant’s case. Some types of this misconduct include coercing false confessions, law enforcement failing to turn over exculpatory evidence to prosecutors or prosecutors fail to turn that evidence over to the defense, using suggestion when managing line-ups or other identification procedures, allowing witnesses whose testimony will be false to testify, and making arguments that overstate the actual probative value of some testimony.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of this type of misconduct, proving your case can be difficult but not impossible. You need legal assistance at every level.
When You Need a Lawyer
Proving your innocence is not as easy as calling the Innocence Project of Florida or the national Innocence Project. Those organizations only accept clients who have exhausted their direct appeal process through the state courts.
If you’re still working through the appellate process, or you haven’t started yet, that’s when you need us. Filing your own appeals is never a good idea. The deadlines are strict, and the responses are complicated. More than that, you need to start developing a record for your wrongful conviction case.
This will be different from your appeal. Instead of focusing on the errors of law in the first trial, you’ll need to find the mistakes in your interrogation, points at which the prosecutor knew of misapplied science, or investigate to discover whether an informant was given information only the perpetrator should have known by the police.
If you need to prove that you or a loved one were wrongfully convicted, call the aggressive Pensacola criminal defense attorneys of The Morris Firm at (850) 503-2626 right away. The process may take time, so we should start immediately. Let us work to get you the justice you were denied in your trial.
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 at 1:10 pm
When people are arrested and placed in jail, usually their top priority is getting out of jail and back home where they belong. Often, this is accomplished by posting bail or cash bond and promising that in return for being released on bail, the defendant promises to appear at all future hearings and court dates.
If the defendant keeps their promise and appears in court as instructed, the bail is returned. However, if the person doesn’t show up, what typically follows is the court keeps the bail, a bench warrant can be issued, and the person most likely ends up back in jail. When someone is arrested in this scenario, they may be held in jail and denied bond.
After the Arrest: Setting Bail
After someone is arrested, they’ll want to find out what the bail amount is as soon as possible. If the defendant is not able to see the judge immediately, they can end up sitting in jail, usually over a Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes, someone will be arrested on a Friday and the earliest bail can be set is on the following Monday. However, some jurisdictions have standard bail amounts for common crimes and getting out of jail comes down to paying the fixed amount on the bail schedule.
Under the Eight Amendment, no one is supposed to face an excessive amount of bail and bail cannot be used by governments to punish arrestees or raise money. The sole purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant appears in court when they’re supposed to, but even still, judges have been known to set such high bail amounts that the defendant cannot get out of jail. It’s common for excessive bail to be set when someone is facing murder charges or when they’re perceived to be a flight risk.
Ways someone can post bail:
- Paying cash
- Paying by check
- Signing over the ownership rights to their property
- Using a bail bondsmen
- Being released on their own recognizance
Of the above options, being released on your own recognizance (OR) is the most ideal, but no everyone gets that option. If you ever find yourself in jail, you’ll want to get out as fast as possible, especially if you have a family relying on your financial support. To fully explore your options for getting out of jail, contact our firm for the high-caliber representation you deserve.
For more information about bond money, you can visit Escambia County Clerk’s website by clicking here.
Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 at 1:09 pm
When you’re facing criminal charges, you’ll probably hear your defense attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge say, “Don’t go too far” or something to that effect. In other words, they’re implying that you should probably stay in the area and avoid traveling out of state, let alone out of the country. If you’re placed on probation, community supervision, or parole for any reason during a criminal case, the court may even order you to stay in a certain area – this is common.
But what if your criminal case is complete? What if you have served your sentence and are no longer under the court’s close supervision? If you were convicted of a felony, can you travel abroad, to a foreign country? Or, does a felony conviction bar you from international travel?
Applying for a U.S. Passport
Suppose you’re a convicted felon who’s completed their sentence. You want to travel out of the country, so in that case, your first step is to apply for a U.S. passport. Will you be denied a U.S. passport? You should not have any issues obtaining a U.S. passport with a felony on your record because a passport simply proves your citizenship to the United States. However, you could be denied a U.S. passport under the following circumstances:
- You owe $2,500 or more in back child support;
- You’ve been convicted of drug trafficking;
- You’ve been charged with a felony;
- You’ve been charged with a federal crime;
- A court order has forbidden you from traveling abroad;
- As a condition of probation or parole, you’ve been barred from traveling outside the U.S.;
- You’re currently under a supervised release program for a felony, or possession or distribution of a controlled substance on the state or federal level.
If you’re a convicted felon and none of the above exceptions apply, you should not have any problem obtaining a U.S. passport. As long as you’ve completed your sentence and no court has barred you from traveling abroad, you should be able to travel overseas. However, some countries do not let convicted felons in.
Canada, for example, frowns heavily on DUIs, even misdemeanor DUIs, and it will block foreigners from entering with DUIs on their record. If you plan to travel overseas with a felony on your record, make sure the country you plan to visit will let you in.
Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Most people have been pulled over by law enforcement at least once in their life, whether it was for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), a speeding ticket, not wearing their seatbelt, or driving with expired registration. Usually, people get nervous when they see the red and blue lights flashing in their rear-view mirror. Their heart will race and they feel a rush of adrenaline, which can trigger the body’s “fight or flight response.”
While fleeing may feel like a natural reaction it’s downright illegal. Whether a driver is being pulled over for running a red light, weaving, driving without their headlights on, speeding, blowing through a stop sign, or another traffic offense, they are required to obey the law enforcement officer and stop under Florida law.
What the Law Says
Fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer is covered under Section 316.1935 of the Florida Statutes. Under the law, it’s illegal for a driver, having knowledge that he or she is being pulled over by a law enforcement officer, to refuse to stop their vehicle. It’s also unlawful for a driver to willfully flee in an attempt to escape the officer.
For example, suppose you were stopped on suspicion of drunk driving. The officer walks over to your driver’s side window and asks for your license and registration. Instead of handing it to him, you slam your foot on the gas and speed away so you can get a head start before he can run back to his patrol car and chase you. In this scenario, you would most likely be charged under Sec. 316.1935, and you’d face felony charges.
Depending on the facts of the case, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer is prosecuted as a felony of the first, second, or third degree. Generally, if the person fleeing the officer injured another person or if they caused property damage, then they can be charged with a second or first-degree felony. As a felony of the third degree, the offense is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and by a fine not to exceed $5,000.
Facing felony charges for fleeing a law enforcement officer? Contact The Morris Firm at once for a hard-hitting legal defense.
Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2020 at 1:02 pm
Have you been arrested for disorderly conduct, also known as “breach of the peace” in Florida? If so, you want to do whatever you can to avoid a conviction because a criminal record will haunt you for years to come.
Even though disorderly conduct is technically a misdemeanor offense, a conviction can have a negative impact on educational, employment, and housing opportunities. A conviction can even affect family law cases involving child custody disputes.
What is disorderly conduct exactly? Under Section 877.03 of the Florida Statutes, disorderly conduct includes:
- Acts that by their nature, corrupt the public morals
- Acts that outrage the sense of public decency
- Acts that affect the peace and quiet of those who witness them
- Acts that engage in brawling or fighting
Breach of the peace or disorderly conduct under Sec. 877.03 is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
Examples of Disorderly Conduct
Most states have some sort of a law on the books that makes disorderly conduct a crime. Typically, someone can be charged with “disorderly conduct” if they are drunk in public when they blast their car stereo knowing they are upsetting the people around them when they make a lot of noise and fail to stop after being asked to, when they engage in a loud fight in public, or when they get into a physical brawl around people.
Disorderly conduct is one of those nonspecific “catchall crimes” that police charge people with who have been behaving in a disruptive or offensive manner. Often, people are slapped with disorderly conduct when they’re disturbing the peace but are not presenting any actual danger to others around them.
If you’re facing disorderly conduct charges, you don’t want to ignore them. If you were to be convicted, not only would you face fines and possibly incarceration, but you would acquire a criminal record, which will have a negative impact on your future. To explore your legal defenses, contact The Morris Firm 24/7 for a case evaluation.
Posted on Monday, January 6th, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is the one crime that is commonly committed by non-criminals. Meaning, people who don’t have a previous criminal history or who don’t typically engage in criminal behavior. As such, we often see normal people get arrested for DUI, including mothers and fathers, teachers, doctors, retail associates, salespeople, and other average folks. We also see Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents) arrested for DUI.
For the purposes of this article, we discuss what happens when a permanent resident is convicted of DUI in Florida, and whether a DUI conviction can lead to removal proceedings, which used to be called “deportation.”
Criminal Convictions & Removal Proceedings
When immigrants come to the United States to live for an extended period of time or to eventually become U.S. citizens, they are expected to be responsible members of our communities. When a Green Card holder violates U.S. state or federal laws, it can jeopardize their lawful permanent resident status. Since most Green Card holders are well-aware of this fact, it’s natural for them to wonder if a DUI will lead to deportation.
Does a DUI conviction automatically lead to removal proceedings? No, not necessarily but it depends on the facts of the case. Generally, a first-time DUI offense under Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes will not trigger removal proceedings. However, that is not guaranteed. It can happen.
Under the following circumstances, a Florida DUI can be viewed negatively by an immigration judge and initiate removal proceedings:
- It was a felony DUI offense;
- It was a drug-related DUI, for example, the Green Card holder was driving under the influence of marijuana, methamphetamines, or another controlled substance;
- The Green Cardholder was previously convicted for a drug-related offense;
- The Green Cardholder has previous DUI convictions on their record; OR
- The Green Cardholder has a criminal history and this DUI is the final straw.
To learn more about deportable offenses under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), click here.
As a general rule, if the Green Card holder has no criminal history, it was a first DUI offense (not drug-related), and there were no aggravated circumstances (no children in the vehicle and no one was hurt), the DUI should not trigger removal proceedings.
On the other hand, if the Green Card holder is charged with felony DUI, or if it’s a drug-related DUI, or if the defendant has a criminal history, the DUI could lead to deportation. It’s fact-specific and handled on a case-by-case basis.
We hope this article cleared up any questions that you have. If you’re looking for DUI defense representation, don’t hesitate to contact the Morris Firm for a case evaluation by calling (850) 503-2626.