Call Us 24 hours / 7 days a week

You have heard the phrase a million times: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Why, then, does it seem that any time gun control ideas are tossed about is it the legally-carrying, responsible owners who are targeted? Instead of taking rights away from these owners, perhaps it is time to concentrate on the people who kill people.

Here are some ideas that 22-year-old Aurora movie theater survivor, Stephen Barton, has come up with. Though not copied in its entirety, the list does include several examples that are not frequently discussed and do not involve removing weapons from the hands of the responsible.

Mental Health Availability
While gun ownership in America is rising, mental health services are declining. In fact, services across the country have been slashed due to budget cuts. Barton offers the opinion that people should not only have easier access to mental health services, but that we should be supporting friends and loved ones who need help.

Trauma Reduction
The idea is to reduce children’s exposure to violence. Even though technology has made it increasingly difficult to control what our children are exposed to, we should be making efforts to reduce their exposure to violence on the news, on television shows, in movies, and on the Internet. Studies have shown that being exposed to violence on a consistent basis can desensitize children to violent behavior.

Ask for Recommendations
Young people have ideas that adults do not ask to hear. Often victims of violence, including that which includes guns, young people may be the first step in controlling gun crime. The time has come to ask this group of people for their ideas. Input from teenagers and young adults may be vital in creating a culture of safety and security.

Public Health
According to statistics, gun violence is the leading cause of death that is considered preventable. In spite of this, gun violence is not considered a public health issue. If it were, the CDC would be able to develop methods for tracking, studying, and assessing such violence. Furthermore, the entity could develop strategies for reducing gun violence in the country.

Gun violence is all too common in the United States. No person should be affected by another who is in illegal possession of a weapon, or any person who is using a weapon in an irresponsible way. In that vein, no responsible person who owns a gun legally should have their rights infringed upon. These ideas, provided by a young person who has been victimized are not the typical. Perhaps they bear further contemplation.

Photo Credit

You are pulled over by the police who claim they can smell marijuana in your vehicle. You are asked to exit the car so that the police can perform a search of its interior. Is this legal? In many cases, the answer is “yes.”

The case of State v. Betz has answered the question that has been on the minds of many, particularly as the legalization of marijuana has become the norm in several states. What the Second District Court of Appeal said in this case is that the smell of marijuana coming from a vehicle gives the police probable cause to conduct a search. Not only of the person but of the vehicle as well.

The ruling went on to say, however, that probably cause from the smell of marijuana does not extend to any containers in the vehicle or its trunk. The police can conduct a search of the interior of a vehicle but are not permitted to open any container they find therein. They are also not permitted to ask the driver to pop the trunk.

The ruling was appealed and made its way to the Supreme Court of Florida. The court agreed. They also went on to say that a person’s behavior at the time of the traffic stop could give the police the additional probably cause necessary to search the rest of the vehicle. So what does that tell us?

If you are pulled over by the police, remain as calm as possible. Should you act guilty, expect to be treated as such. And don’t expect a court to automatically throw out evidence against you. Courts more often than not rule in favor of the police in cases such as this. This is evidenced by State v. Betz. Your best option is to remain calm and cooperative and let your attorney sort out the details.

If you are dealing with a drug arrest in Orlando, contact our offices today. A member of our team will review the details of your arrest and advise you as to your best next steps. Let us provide you with a free initial case evaluation now.

Photo Credit

You went out with some friends after work and enjoyed a couple adult beverages. You thought you were okay to drive home, but you have found yourself pulled over and being told that the officer suspects you of driving under the influence. Your stomach sinks as the handcuffs are placed around your wrists and you are taken to the station.

There is no doubt that being arrested for DUI is frightening and stressful. It doesn’t mean, though, that the rest of your life is ruined or you do not have a right to fight your case. There are serious consequences that come along with a DUI charge, but there are also several myths and misconceptions. When you believe these myths, you may be more anxious than necessary. The situation you find yourself in may not be as hopeless as you have been led to believe.

Myth 1: I am going to be harshly punished.

It’s not unusual for people to believe that they are going to get the maximum sentence when they are charged with a DUI. In many cases, this is not true, especially when the person charged hires an experienced attorney. Typically, a prosecutor will be willing to enter into a plea bargain with the defendant, to avoid going to trial.

Myth 2: My blood alcohol content is all the evidence needed.

Even if you chose to take a chemical test, your score may not be all the evidence that is needed to convict you. Two people can have the exact same blood alcohol content and have different levels of impairment.

Myth 3: Because I submitted to testing, I cannot challenge the results.

There are many factors that affect the readings of a chemical test. Issues may arise with the maintenance of the machine, the time the person was tested, or even how the test was administered.

Myth 4: I have to go to trial to challenge my charges.

Less than 10 percent of DUI cases end up in front of a judge in Florida. Again, this is because experienced attorneys understand how to work with prosecutors and negotiate favorable outcomes before a trial is necessary.

Myth 5: Any criminal defense attorney will do.

This is simply not true. If you are charged with a DUI, you want a criminal defense attorney who specializes in these types of cases. Each type of criminal law has its own nuances, making finding an attorney experienced in defending DUI charges important. It is easy to find a lawyer — it takes a bit more time to find a lawyer who has the knowledge and experience you need to fight a DUI charge.

If you have been charged with DUI in Orlando or the surrounding area, you need an experienced attorney standing by your side as you work to defend your rights. Call our team today for a free case evaluation. We will review the details of your charges and arrest and help you make the best legal decisions for your unique situation. Call today or browse our website for more information about our firm and the types of cases we handle.

You are pulled over and asked to perform a field sobriety test. You fail. But…wait! You really haven’t been drinking. Is it possible to fail a field sobriety test when you are perfectly sober? You bet it is.

Field sobriety tests are unreliable. It is that simple. Yet law enforcement agencies around the country continue to use them to aid in the determination if someone is driving under the influence. Police use the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn test to help decide if someone is impaired. There are other tests utilized as well, but these are the three that are most common.

These tests are meant to exhibit your coordination, motor skills, and balance after you have consumed alcohol. While they do test coordination, there are any number of reasons why a sober person could fail one or all of them.

Nerves. When you see a police car, does your heart race a little bit faster? Imagine the stress and anxiety of being not only pulled over, but asked to perform these tests on the side of the road. The anxiety you feel can make it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.

Inner ear problems. Ear problems and other health ailments can have an effect on your ability to maintain proper balance. Try explaining to a police officer that your earache has caused you to fail a field sobriety test.

Age and weight. Older persons and those carrying excess weight may find it difficult to perform field sobriety tests in such a way that they are considered to have passed them. Knee and lower back pain may make it difficult to perform the one-leg stand for example.

Exhaustion. While it is not illegal to drive when you are overly tired, it can be dangerous to do so. Your judgment is impaired and your reaction time is slower. You state of exhaustion could also affect how well you perform a field sobriety test.

Officer interpretation. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to a field sobriety test. Whether you pass or not can be based upon the officer’s interpretation of your performance. This is one of the main reasons why these tests are considered to be so flawed.

If you have been arrested for DUI, whether or not you have participated in field sobriety tests, we are here for you. Contact our offices immediately so that we may begin representing you today.

Photo Credit

A mother left her three children alone in a car while she went into a cellphone repair shop. Sadly, the children did not sit quietly and wait for their mother to return. Instead, the 6-year-old beat his infant sister to death. The mother has been charged with aggravated manslaughter.

According to reports, Kathleen Marie Steele, 62, left her 6-year-old, 3-year-old and infant in the car. She was gone for approximately 30 minutes or more. While she was inside the store, the baby began to cry inside the car. The 6-year-old beat the child in an attempt to make her stop crying. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gulatieri said that the young boy was tossing the infant around the car like a rag doll.

The boy will not be held accountable for his actions, but his mother will be. The remaining two children have been placed in foster care, and a no contact order has been asked for.

Gulatieri said that Steele’s husband passed away in 2011, and Steele was artificially inseminated with her husband’s frozen sperm to conceive her two youngest children. Despite friends and family saying that the woman was struggling to raise the young children, Steele said she hoped to have more.

The sheriff also said that numerous witness accounts depict Steele as an inattentive mother. He said that the 6-year-old has aggression and behavior issues. Child protective services had responded to the Steele home in recent months due to injuries sustained by the baby. Those visits resulted in findings of accidental injury.

Steele has appeared in court to be advised formally of her charges. The date of her next appearance has not been released to the public at this time.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a violent crime in Orlando, call our team of criminal defense attorneys. We will review the details of your case at no cost to you and advise you of your appropriate next steps. Call today or browse our website for more information about our firm.

Photo Credit

Social media. It’s a time waster, a venue for venting, and a way to stay in touch with friends and family on the fly. Unfortunately for some, it is also a wealth of evidence that can be used in a court of law.

Most people have heard the suggestions: don’t talk about being out of town, don’t post pictures you wouldn’t want your mother to see, and don’t air your dirty laundry. Some choose to follow this advice while others post everything from what they had for lunch to the latest drama in an on-going divorce battle.

If you think that your habits on social media can’t hurt you in a court of law, think again. Here’s how it could happen.

Privacy

Understand the meaning of the term “privacy” when it comes to social media. Even if you mark all your social media settings to private, your posts are still considered public in a court of law. You can and will be ordered to provide login information by a judge if it is determined that your social media accounts could be used as evidence.

Employment

Let’s say that you receive your paycheck and believe it to be shorted. You sue your employer. In their defense, your employer can prove that you used company time to keep up with your social media accounts. In other words, you weren’t working. Don’t expect a judge to rule in your favor.

Divorce

Divorce court is a popular medium for social media these days. If you are going through a divorce, be very careful what you post online. Assets, your financial habits, and even a new significant other can all be fodder for your soon-to-be ex.

Workers Compensation

You claim to be so injured at work that you cannot maintain employment. Your social media posts include photos of you running with the kids, playing with the dog, or otherwise engaging in physical activity. Those posts will not bode so well for you in court.

Criminal Activity

If you have done something criminal, bragging about it or posting pictures of your haul will not do anything for your defense. Many a criminal has been caught thanks to their ill-planned social media postings.

What it breaks down to is this: If it can be used against you in a court of law, keep it off the Internet. No matter how private you think your social media settings are, there is no such thing as privacy in the legal world.

If you have been arrested for a crime and need an attorney, we are here for you. Contact our offices today for assistance. Our experienced criminal lawyers will review the facts of your case at no charge to you. Call now.

Photo Credit

Credit: Tiger GirlSome accidents are just that, accidents. One heart-breaking story like this happened in St. Petersburg. A girl about to turn 11 years old the next day was killed while riding her scooter.

The girl was riding with a friend down 58th Avenue Northeast. The victim tried to cross the street, but only looked one way. She did not see the pickup that was rapidly approaching. Darting out in front of the truck, the girl struck the side of the truck, fell, and was ran over by the rear wheel. She was transferred to various area hospitals, but eventually died. The police said that alcohol wasn’t involved and that no charges would be filed as of the report.

Our hearts go out the family of the girl. Sometimes accidents like this happen, and many times the police will decide not to file charges. Other times the prosecutor may decide for whatever reason that a case is not worth pursuing. Having a skilled lawyer on your side early in the process can help sway opinions about whether or not a case is worth pursuing. No one ever expects that they’ll need a defense lawyer, but you should always know where to find one.

If you need criminal or DUI defense in the Tampa or Orlando area, contact the offices of Katz & Phillips. We will do our best to clear your name. Call us at the number at the top of the screen.

If you have been accused of a crime in Orlando and reach out to an attorney, you do so with the reasonable expectation that what you tell your lawyer won’t leave their office. This is a right guaranteed to you, and in most cases there is no issue. Speaking to your lawyer freely is essential for your defense, and your lawyer cannot be forced to divulge what you say. In some cases, however, the right to confidentiality is compromised.

When you speak to your attorney within the walls of their office, there is little chance, if any, that what you say will be discovered. If, on the other hand, you make any of the following mistakes, you can expect a judge or jury to find out what has been said.

1. Talking in Public

Do not be tempted to meet with your attorney for a lunch meeting or in a coffee house. Do not speak to your lawyer about your case in any public space. If you do so, anyone that overhears your conversation can potentially be called by the prosecution to testify against you.

2. In Jail

Keep your thoughts to yourself while you are in jail. Phones are recorded and often monitored. Inmates will use what you say as leverage for a better deal in their own cases. If someone is within earshot, wait to speak until you and your attorney are alone.

3. Group Meetings

You may be tempted to take a friend or family member to a meeting with your attorney for a bit of moral support. Don’t make this mistake. Chances are your attorney will tell you that your friend has to sit in the lobby, but they may not. As soon as you invite someone else to hear what you say, you can reasonably expect that that person may soon be testifying against you.

4. Talking to Others

Never tell someone else what occurred between you and your attorney. It can be tempting to speak to a close friend, especially in times of extreme stress. Keep in mind that if you choose to do this, whatever is said is not confidential, even if you are sharing the discussion you had with your attorney.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you need an experienced attorney you can trust. Call our office today for a free initial consultation. We will advise you of your options and explain how we can assist you.

Photo Credit

black and white hands on cuffsBeing investigated for a crime that you have committed is stressful, to say the least. Being investigated for a crime that you didn’t commit can be downright frightening. If you find yourself being investigated for a crime you didn’t commit, you must take steps to protect yourself immediately.

People are mistakenly charged with crimes more often than we would like to think about. In some instances, a witness identifies the wrong person. In other cases, an innocent person can be suspected due to circumstances beyond their control. An investigation may lead to official charges and that is something no one should have to go through. Here are steps to take if you are being investigated or have found yourself charged despite your innocence.

1. Physical Evidence

Gather any physical evidence that you can locate that will prove your innocence. You may have photos that put you somewhere else, videos that show exactly what you were doing when the crime was committed, or other objects that can help prove you had no part in the crime.

2. Witnesses

Witnesses are often one of the best options when it comes to helping prove that you had nothing to do with a crime. You may have been with people when the crime was committed who can attest for your whereabouts. You may know someone who has factual information about the case. Put together a list and give it to your attorney.

3. Do Not Talk to the Victim

If you know the victim, do not speak to them. Nothing good will come out of your trying to talk them out of filing charges or pleading your case. In fact, you may be charged with intimidation and find yourself in deeper waters.

4. Do Not Volunteer to Testing

The police may ask you to submit to DNA or another type of testing. Do not do this without speaking to your lawyer first. It can be tempting to provide the police with anything they want if you think it will help prove your innocence. This is rarely a good idea.

Being falsely accused is something that can cause great hardship. If you find yourself in this position, you need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney immediately. If you have been falsely accused of a crime in Orlando, reach out to our team. We will review the details of the investigation and advise you how to best proceed. Your first consultation is free.

If you work in an office, chances are that you can expect a holiday party this season. While many of these are fun, they can also result in embarrassment if you don’t handle yourself correctly. In the worst cases, they can turn criminal.

Now that the office party season has kicked off, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure the celebrations are both safe and legal.

1. Plus Ones

As an employer, you may have a clear idea of how your employees will behave at an office party. What about their dates? You can’t control the behavior of everyone, so put some rules in place before the party starts. Have a talk with your employees and let them know you reserve the right to ask anyone to leave the party if they begin to pose a hazard.

2. Sexual Harassment

The relaxed atmosphere of a holiday office party can lead to things being said and jokes being told that wouldn’t normally be uttered. Make sure that your employees know that sexual harassment is still a serious violation and that they should act accordingly. If an employee complains to you after the office party of being harassed, take the complain as seriously as you would had the incident occurred during the workday.

3. Decorating

Yes, you can get into hot water over decorating for the holidays. Keep your religious beliefs to yourself in order to make the decor inclusive to everyone. Stick with a neutral theme. Think snowflakes or a color scheme. Avoid any religious undertones in your decorating or your could find yourself named in a complaint, especially in a major corporate office.

4. Skip the Party

If you are worried about how a party will end up, consider skipping it altogether. You need to be able to trust your employees and their behavior before throwing an office party. If you have any thoughts that the party could turn bad, consider giving bonuses instead or buying lunch for everyone.

5. Party Games

Party games are fun in most cases. Party games are typically safe — until they aren’t. One of the more popular games during the holidays is the Egg Nog Chugging game. Unfortunately, this game has sent people to the hospital. Before you plan any games for the party, consider the safety risks associated with those games. If you feel that a game could pose a threat to someone’s health or safety, scrap it.

Holiday office parties can be fun for all involved. They can also be dangerous. Follow the tips above if you will be planning a party this year and keep everyone safe. You don’t want to face a civil lawsuit or be forced to defend yourself in criminal court in the New Year.

If you are arrested for a crime in Orlando, call our office. A member of our team will help you schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation at which time we will advise you of your options. Call today or browse our website for more information about our firm and the types of cases we have successfully handled.

There are strange crimes that occur throughout the year, but the crimes that happen around the holidays take the cake. For some reason, this time of year brings out a creative streak in some people that choose not to follow the law. Here are some of the strangest holiday crimes recorded in recent history.

  1. Black Friday Stampede

If you have braved a Black Friday shopping event, you know how crazy it can get. In 2008, a throng of shoppers lined the Walmart building, waiting for them to open. Minutes before the doors opened, the crowd turned unruly, using their bodies to get past the locked-doors and into the store. Not only were workers injured, but one was trampled to death by the massive stampede.

  1. Stolen Trees

It is not as common today as it was several years ago in the midst of the recession, but stealing Christmas trees is a sad holiday occurrence. Should you see what appears to be an apparent theft from a tree lot, due your duty and call the local authorities.

  1. Death of a Snowman

Some of us enjoy lawns filled with decorations. Others of us loathe the idea. No matter your opinion, it is never considered in good taste to put an inflatable out of its misery. Teenagers of late have found it an enjoyable activity to puncture inflatable lawn decorations. They haven’t found it so enjoyable to be charged with vandalism.

  1. Bad Santa

Children and adults alike love to see Santa at the local shopping center. Tell him your secret wish and you just may get what you have been hoping for this year. Just hope that Santa doesn’t tell off-color jokes on the job or you may not be seeing him any time soon.

  1. Santa Turns Thief

Each year, there is someone out there that thinks dressing like Santa while in the commission of a crime will keep them from being caught. It rarely does. Even though there are hundreds of Santas milling about this time of year, police have other ways to identify criminals than looks alone.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact our criminal defense team today. Our lawyers will provide you with a free case evaluation and help you determine how to proceed. Call us today and let us begin building your defense.

Photo Credit

 

According to Florida’s criminal statute of limitations, a prosecutor only has so much time to file charges against a person. In the case of serious crimes like murder, there is no time limit. In other crimes, particularly misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, a statute of limitations kicks in from the commission of the alleged crime. Here are the basic provisions as set forth by the state of Florida.

First-Degree Felony: In the case of a felony of the first degree, a prosecutor can file charges up to four years after the crime has been committed.

Other Felonies: When the crime committed is a felony other than one of the first degree, there is a statute of limitations of three years from the date the crime was committed.

First-Degree Misdemeanor: When a misdemeanor of the first degree is committed, the prosecutor has two years after the crime to file charges against the alleged perpetrator.

Second-Degree Misdemeanor: There is a statute of limitations of one year after the crime is committed in these cases.

Noncriminal Violation: When a violation is committed that is not of a criminal nature, a prosecutor has up to one year to file charges.

It should be noted that there is no statute of limitations for some crimes. This means that a prosecutor can file charges whenever they deem fit. These crimes include those that result in someone’s death, any death penalty felonies, those felonies that are punishable by life in prison, and perjury that occurs in a proceeding that is associated with a capital felony.

There are also some offenses that have special statutes of limitations. These include:

  • First degree and second degree felonies for abuse or neglect of an aged or disabled adult. The statute of limitations is five years.
  • Violation of securities transaction. Five year statute of limitations.
  • Violation of environmental control. There is a five year statute of limitations from the date of discovery.
  • Fraud or breech of fiduciary obligation. Three year statute of limitations.
  • Misconduct in public office. Statute of limitations is two years of leaving office or above limit.
  • Sexual offenses with persons under the age of 18.

There is an exception for any statute of limitations when the alleged perpetrator has no identifiable place of work or home within the state. The statute of limitations is extended for no longer than three years in these cases.

Any person who commits a crime may assume that they are in the clear if they are not arrested quickly. This is not the case in Florida where prosecutors have the right to file charges for a year or more after the crime is committed.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Orlando or the surrounding area, reach out to our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys for assistance. We will review the details of your case and advise you of your options at no cost to you. Call today an schedule an appointment for your consultation.