Ray Rice and Pre Trial Intervention

Everyone is talking about the knockout punch Ray Rice delivered to his then-fiancee (now wife) in an elevator, which has resulted in Rice being cut from the Ravens and indefinitely suspended from the NFL. According to news reports, Rice was charged with a third-degree felony of aggravated assault, and he reportedly entered a pretrial intervention program.

If Rice had been prosecuted in Florida for an aggravated assault charge, he would have been prosecuted under Florida Statute 784.021, which defines aggravated assault as an assault with a deadly weapon, made without the intent to kill. Anyone who commits an aggravated assault in Florida can be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine. However, in the case of a first time offense that is either a misdemeanor or a third degree felony, a defendant in Florida may be statutorily eligible to enter a pretrial intervention program.

Many people are vilifying Rice and complaining that he “got off easy” by entering into a diversion program instead of being sentenced to jail time. However, if he had been charged in Florida with the same charges, he likely would have received the same treatment, regardless of his social status. Pretrial Intervention Programs (PTI) in Florida are common resolutions in cases of first time offenders charged with misdemeanors or third degree felonies (depending on the charge) who have no prior criminal history when both the victim and the State Attorney agree to the program.

PTI

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

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Palm Beach Battery on Person Older than 65

In Palm Beach County, a woman was arrested today for allegedly committing a battery on a bus driver who was over the age of 65.

While a simple battery charge in Florida is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, Florida Statute 784.08 reclassifies battery when it involves a victim who is over the age of 65 into a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine. Additionally, adjudication cannot be withheld in battery convictions involving victims over 65 years old, which means that pleading guilty or no contest will require a felony conviction on the defendant’s record. 

Battery occurs when a defendant intentionally touches or strikes another person (against that person’s will), or when a defendant intentionally causes bodily harm to another person. There are many possible defenses in battery cases, including self-defense. However, in battery charges with a victim over the age of 65, the fact that the defendant did not know the age of the victim is not a defense to the enhancement of the charges.

Anyone facing a battery charge in Palm Beach County, Florida should contact a Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss their defense options.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Invoking Rights During Questioning

An interesting case from the 1st DCA was published this week and it provides a good discussion relative to my recent blog “Miranda Warnings – Infographic,” 

In the case of State of Florida v. Parker, the 1st DCA revisited the important issue of constitutional rights during an interrogation of a suspect. In that case, the suspect was being questioned by police in connection with a burglary with battery charge (in addition to other charges). Burglary-battery, or “burg-batt,” is a first degree felony in the State of Florida, punishable by up to life in prison, and found under Florida Statute 810.02.

During the questioning, the following questions and answers (at issue) allegedly took place:

Suspect: “Can you just tell me if I need to get a lawyer or something?”

Officer: “Listen, that’s your right. But what I’m interested in is the truth.”

At this point, the suspect allegedly made incriminating statements. 

 

Suspect “Is there a lawyer in the building?”

Officer: “No, you would have to call one.”

The suspect was ultimately placed under arrest. During his case, the suspect (now defendant) filed a motion to suppress his incriminating statements, arguing that the police officer had violated his constitutional rights by not giving him a straightforward answer. The law regarding this issue requires police officers to stop the interview when a suspect asks a question concerning his or her rights, and make a good-faith effort to give a simple and straightforward answer. Once the officer answers the question, appropriately, the officer can continue the interview unless the suspect invokes his her her rights (such as his or her right to remain silent and right to counsel). However, Florida courts have held that when an officer gives an evasive answer, skips the question, or talks over the suspect, the officer has violated Florida’s Constitution and the US Constitution, and any incriminating statements obtained as a result of the constitutional violations may be suppressed as coerced.

 

In this case, the Court found that the officer had in fact made a good-faith effort to appropriately answer the suspects questions regarding his rights. As a result, the incriminating statements the suspect made about himself were admissible in trial.

Interestingly, the Court also mentioned in its ruling that the suspect’s question about “whether there was a lawyer in the building” was not an unequivocal invocation of his right to an attorney. That is an example of why it is extremely important for anyone being questioned by police to know his or her rights so that he or she can properly invoke them if he/she chooses to do so. Many people do not know their rights or the steps they have to take to invoke them. An unclear question regarding a suspect’s rights will not be sufficient to invoke them. A person who wants to stop the interrogation to speak with a lawyer has to clearly make the request. Anyone who has questions regarding their rights during a police interrogation should contact a criminal defense attorney.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

 

Burglary and Battery

In another interesting Palm Beach Criminal case, a man was recently criminally charged at the end of  a date at a woman’s house that took a turn for the worst. When the woman asked the man to leave her home, instead of leaving, he allegedly hit the woman in the face and then kicked her door, causing damage to the door and frame. The man is now allegedly facing charges of burglary with assault, battery, and criminal mischief.

At first glance, the burglary charge in that case might not make any sense; after all, there is nothing in the story to suggest that the man was stealing anything in the woman’s home – he was there by invitation. However, under Florida law, a person does not have to break into a home and steal something to be charged with committing a burglary. Instead, a person can be charged in Florida with burglary simply by remaining in a home after permission to remain in the home has been withdrawn and by having the intent to or by actually committing a crime therein.

Worse, burglary in Florida is a first degree felony if the burglary also includes an assault or battery, a weapon, or damage in excess of $1,000.00. A person convicted of first degree felony burglary charges in Florida could be facing life in Florida State Prison. If there was no assault, battery, weapon, or damage as described above, burglary could be charged as second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison.

There are many lesser included offenses of burglary charges, such as trespass and criminal mischief. These lesser included offenses, depending on the particular case, could be misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail, or third degree felonies punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison. If the State Attorney’s office cannot prove the crime of burglary, but they are able to prove the elements of the lesser included crimes, a person could be convicted of the lesser included offense. Sometimes, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge from burglary to a lesser included offense, depending on the facts of the case. It is easy to see that there is a big difference between being charged with Burglary/Battery and risking a felony conviction versus a simple misdemeanor trespass.

Anyone facing charges of burglary, battery, trespass, or criminal mischief in the State of Florida should meet with a Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss the case, understand their rights and the potential ramifications of a guilty plea or a conviction, and determine the best defense strategy going forward.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Aggravated Battery

In the State of Florida, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison and a fine of $10,000.00 if convicted. Aggravated battery is codified by Florida Statute 784.045 and is defined as committing a battery (which is touching another person against his or her will) and either (1) purposefully causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the victim, (2) using a deadly weapon, or (3) knowingly committing battery on a pregnant person.

Recently in Palm Beach County, a criminal case made the news when a defendant was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after allegedly hitting her spouse with a glass candle holder. A “deadly weapon” does not have to be a firearm or even a car. Instead, a deadly weapon can be virtually any object that can be threatened to be used to cause death or great bodily harm to another person. Interestingly, if that defendant had used her fists instead of the candle holder, she likely would have only faced charges for simple battery, which is punishable only by up to one year in county jail and fine of $1,000.00.

There may be applicable defenses in an aggravated battery case, including but not limited to self-defense. A Florida criminal defense attorney will be able to review a battery case and the facts surrounding the incident, determine whether there are any applicable defenses, and talk with the State Attorney’s office to attempt to negotiate a favorable plea bargain or a reduction of charges. A felony conviction in Florida is serious and will have severe consequences. Anyone facing battery charges in the State of Florida, including aggravated battery, should discuss their options with a Florida criminal defense attorney.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.