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No one wants to be in a position of standing before a judge seconds before a sentence is handed down. For many, the thing that they are hoping for is community service in lieu of jail time. But what exactly happens when you are given community service? One thing that you absolutely need to understand is that you are still bound by the court to carry out your “sentence.”

When you are ordered to perform community service, the judge will assign you a work site. The assignment is not random. Where you live, your past experience, physical limitations and even school/work schedule will be taken into consideration. By taking these things into consideration, the judge is giving you an added opportunity to make sure that your service is successful.

As part of your assignment, you will be told how many hours you are expected to perform. You will be required to submit time sheets on a weekly basis either to a probation officer or directly to the court. It is always suggested that you complete your hours well ahead of your next court date to be sure that your paperwork is in order.

It is also important to understand that it is not easy to get an extension if you need to more time to complete your hours. If there is something preventing you from completing your hours in a timely basis, it is recommended that you contact the courts as soon as possible. Typically, you will only be awarded an extension if you have fallen ill or injured.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Orlando, you stand a very real chance of being put in jail. Without the right representation, you could be paying for your crime in a way that makes life hard on you and your family. With one of our lawyers on your side, you stand a better chance of securing community service.

Call our offices today if you need a criminal defense lawyer in Orlando. We will review the details of your case at no cost to you and advise you how to best proceed. Call us now.

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The way that you behave during an arrest can have more of an impact that you know. It can actually mean the difference between being convicted and being acquitted. When you are arrested, there is little doubt that you will be riddled with anxiety. It is important that you keep calm and follow three rules.

1. Don’t Make the Situation Worse

It is easy and even understandable to be upset when you are getting arrested, but any outbursts on your part could make the situation worse. No matter what you think of your current circumstances, don’t blurt out the first things that come to your mind. Any utterances can be used against you in court, not to mention anger the officers you are dealing with.

2. Don’t Talk Too Much

Many people try to plead or negotiate with police officers. Doing either of these things will do you no good. If the police have decided to talk to you as a precursor to an arrest, there is very little you can say or do in your favor. In fact, trying to talk yourself out of an arrest may have you charged with further crimes like obstruction or even bribery.

3. Get a Lawyer

Don’t say anything without a lawyer present. If you do not have a lawyer immediately available to you, do not talk to the police until you have secured one or been provided with one. It is your right to have an attorney present as you answer any questions. Remember that anything you say to the police can be used against you down the road. You don’t want to incriminate yourself.

The way you act during an arrest can have an impact on the next several years of your life. Say or do the wrong thing and you can easily make things worse for yourself. Use this article as advice and understand how to behave should you be detained by the police.

If you have been arrested in Orlando, call our team of criminal defense attorneys today. We will review the details of your case and advise you how to best proceed. Call now for a free case evaluation.

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The U.S. constitution and amendments provide people with protection against searches that are considered unreasonable. While you are protected against illegal searches of your person, in many cases it also extends to vehicle searches. It is important to know that if a search was done illegally, any evidence found in the search cannot be used against you by the prosecutor.

Consent to Search

If you are stopped for a traffic violation, the police may ask if you will allow them to search your vehicle. You have the right to refuse to consent to a vehicle search. The police are not required to inform you of your right to refuse. If you do agree to the search it is considered voluntary on your part. This means that you have given permission for the officer to search your car. Keep in mind that you can change your mind and stop the search at any time.

Probable Cause

A member of law enforcement may search your vehicle without your consent if they have probable cause. Probable cause means that the officer has reason to believe that there may be something of an illegal nature in your vehicle. For example, the officer may see something illegal on the seat during a traffic stop. This may be enough for probable cause to search your car.

Search with Arrest

If you are arrested, the police are legally able to search you as well as the immediate area, such as the vehicle where you were sitting. This applies only if you were arrested. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, without an arrest, your vehicle cannot be legally searched without your consent. If arrested, your entire vehicle may be searched.

Was My Search Legal?

Many people wonder if the search of their vehicle was done legally. If evidence was taken in an unlawful vehicle search it may not be used in court. This can have a significant impact on your case. If you have been arrested due to evidence found in a vehicle search it is important to speak with an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will review the case and determine whether the evidence was taken legally. Although the case against you may continue, any illegally obtained evidence cannot be used, so the case may be weak. Contact your lawyer as soon as possible to help you resolve your situation.

Can Police Use Cell Phone Data Against Me?

A recent report from USA Today indicates that it’s not just the National Security Agency that collects data from people’s phones. The state and local law enforcement agencies are also able to gather this type of data. In fact, new technology has improved the ways in which data can be gathered, making it easier than ever to get information. There are several reasons why law enforcement may want to get this type of data. The information can be used as evidence for major crimes (such as terrorism) or for minor infractions (like texting while driving).

What Methods are Used to Obtain Records?

One of the most common ways to obtain these records is by a method known as a tower dump. This allows police to gather data about every phone within a specific targeted area. A tower dump will usually involve multiple towers and includes many wireless providers, which will provide law enforcement with information from thousands of cell phones.

Another method law enforcement may use is called a Stingray. This is a small suitcase-sized unit that is used as a “fake” cell tower. Police set up the Stingray in a vehicle which is then utilized in a specific target neighborhood. All local cell traffic the uses this point of connection rather than a standard cell tower. The Stingray unit is quite pricey, so not many police departments currently own one.

What About My Fourth Amendment Rights?

As more and more cell phone data is collected by law enforcement agencies there is a growing concern for the protection of the rights of citizens. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable search and seizure. So far, police agencies have been able to justify the use of these methods because they are useful in the fight against terrorism. Some organizations including EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) have taken a stand to try to protect the rights of citizens. However, more and more local police agencies have been utilizing cell records.

How to Defend Cell Phone Evidence

If you have been charged with a crime the police may have obtained cell phone records as part of the evidence against you. The first step to take is to choose a criminal attorney who is experienced with this type of situation. Your lawyer will gain access to the evidence that is being used against you so he can develop the best possible defense strategy. Your lawyer will work to try to suppress any data that was gathered in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.

In some cases, the evidence may be unusable if your lawyer can successfully prove that it was gained improperly. If evidence is not able to be used, the case against you may be weakened and the prosecution may reduce charges or even drop them completely. If you’ve been charged with a crime, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible as this gives you the best chance of a positive outcome.

SF_Police_search_the_carYou are driving down any street in Florida. All of a sudden the familiar lights on top of a police cruiser are switched on and start whirling behind you. You have found yourself part of a traffic stop. But can the police legally search your car? Maybe and maybe not.

Here’s what to know.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens of the United States from unlawful search and seizure. This generally means that just because an officer feels like searching your car does not mean it can be done. There are, however, a number of circumstances when it is legal for the police to search your property, including your car, whether you have given consent or not.

When Can a Warrantless Search Be Completed?

So, the question becomes: When can a police officer, or officers, search my car? Speaking only in generalities, the police can search your car when:

1. You have given your verbal consent.

2. There is probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime or your participation in a crime inside the vehicle.

3. The officer involved believes that a search of your car is necessary to protect the officer’s safety.

4. You are placed under arrest and searching your car is related to the arrest.

If you are pulled over for, say, running a red light, you don’t normally have to worry about the police searching your vehicle. If, on the other hand, you are pulled over for running a red light and start jumping around the inside of your vehicle and acting suspicious, a search of your vehicle and anything it turns up will typically be admissible in court.

It is also important to note that if your car is impounded, it can be searched without your permission. The reason for the tow does not matter in the least. Whether your vehicle is seized and impounded because you are trafficking drugs or you parked in an unauthorized area, it can be searched. Keep in mind that your car will be searched thoroughly, including inside any locked compartments.

What police cannot do is tow your car simply for the purpose of searching it. They must be able to articulate a very clear and reasonable explanation for the towing of your vehicle and its subsequent search.

If you have been arrested for a crime in Florida, our experienced attorneys are here to defend you. Call our offices today and let us review the facts of your case. First consultations are always free. Call now.

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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.


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.


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 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.

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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.

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If you’ve been stopped for a traffic violation, you may have been asked if you will allow your car to be searched. Many people wonder if this is a violation of their rights – after all, your car is an extension of your home. In Florida, as in other states, law enforcement has the right to search your vehicle under certain circumstances. It is helpful to know your rights before you are stopped. When stopped, you should listen to the police officer and obey any commands they give. After you have been pulled over, the officer will approach your car. You’ll be asked for your driver’s license as well as registration and proof of insurance. Provide these items when requested.

Traffic Stop

If the police officer feels that you may be driving under the influence he may ask you to step out of the vehicle. Your passengers may also be asked to leave the car. The officer will likely pat you down to ensure that you don’t have any type of weapon. At this time, he may ask you to take a field sobriety test. These tests are the common roadside tests you may be familiar with such as walking a straight line, standing on one leg, or reciting the alphabet. These perfunctory tests are used by the officer to further determine if you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If law enforcement feels you may be DUI (driving under the influence) you may be asked to submit to a blood alcohol test. This will often be a breathalyzer test but may be a blood or urine test. The legal limit in Florida for DUI is 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC).

Vehicle Search

Once your vehicle has been stopped the officer may ask for your permission to search your vehicle. This isn’t done every time a vehicle is stopped by police. It’s usually only done when the officer has reason to believe there could be illegal drugs, weapons, or alcohol in the vehicle. It is important to note that your vehicle cannot be searched without your consent or a search warrant. The police will ask you if you will consent to a vehicle search. If you consent, the police can search every part of the car including the inside and the trunk. If you don’t allow a search, the police will have to go to the trouble of getting a search warrant from a court.

Illegal Vehicle Search

In most cases, it can be difficult to fight charges that stem from a vehicle search. While you can deny a search be done, if the police have reason to believe that there is something illegal in the car they will get a warrant and search it. By denying them immediate access it may only strengthen their belief that you’re trying to hide something. What if the vehicle is towed? Sometimes your vehicle may be towed to a police lot. If this happens, the police have a right to search the vehicle. If something is found in your vehicle the driver will most likely be charged with possession. For example, the police search your vehicle and find a small bag of marijuana under the passenger seat. If you were the driver, you can still be charged with possession, even though the drugs were under another seat.

Help for a Vehicle Search

A vehicle search is typically done as part of a routine traffic stop. As a result, you may receive a ticket for a traffic violation and a criminal charge, for example, if drugs were found. Every case is different so you’ll need to talk to an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will review every aspect of the situation and will help to ensure that your rights weren’t violated. Once all the facts have been gathered and evaluated, your lawyer will assist in your defense in order to get the charges reduced or eliminated, depending on the case.

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.

Can I Represent Myself At an Arraignment?

An arraignment is the legal procedure, also called a hearing, which begins the criminal process of your case. The arraignment takes place quickly after the arrest, usually within 48 hours not including weekends and holidays. If you are not being held in jail the arraignment will usually happen a few weeks after the arrest. This can change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The arraignment must be held as soon as possible in order to adhere to the defendant’s right to a speedy legal process. While some people choose to represent themselves at the arraignment, it may not be in your best interest to do so. Seeking representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney will almost always offer you the best possible options at your first hearing.

What Happens at an Arraignment?

There are several things that happen as part of the arraignment or first hearing process.

  • The judge provides a written statement of charges, prepared by the prosecutor.
  • The judge will determine whether bail is appropriate (if you are being held).
  • The amount of bail will be decided.
  • The defendant is allowed to respond to the charges.
  • The defendant may request defense counsel if unable to pay for his own.
  • The next court dates are set (pretrial conference, preliminary hearing, and trial).

If you have an attorney present for this proceeding he will represent you throughout. When possible, he will discuss the charges with the prosecutor and in some cases may be able to have your charges lowered. Also, your attorney will fight to have you released from jail either with no bail or with as low a bail as possible. All too often, a defendant simply allows the process to proceed without an attorney, which can sometimes be detrimental to your overall case.

How does an Arraignment Differ from a Trial?

An arraignment is a preliminary legal hearing that is faster and less formal than a trial. The arraignment process is usually a quick one with a hectic courtroom filled with activity. Many times attorneys and judges will refer to statute numbers and other cases when talking about your case. If you are unfamiliar with these procedures it may sound like the judge and attorneys are speaking a foreign language. This is another reason why having your attorney present will help you. However, if you are unclear about what is going on it is best to ask for assistance. A full understanding of the procedures is essential for a defendant to move forward in the process. The judge will ask you to plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest. Most defendants should plead not guilty at this point in the process. Once the arraignment is complete, the case will proceed at the specified dates. If bail has been set you can post it to be released.

How an Attorney Helps at an Arraignment

Having your attorney present to represent you at your arraignment is very helpful and can often offer immediate positive results. For example, your lawyer may be able to discuss your case briefly with the prosecutor before it goes in front of the judge. In cases where there are several charges or when the evidence is not sufficient, your lawyer will work with the prosecutor to try to have some charges eliminated or reduced. Another way your attorney can help is with bail. Your lawyer will represent you by presenting why your bail should be lowered or even eliminated. This can prove to be quite beneficial because if you are out of jail you can more easily try to resolve your case. Keep in mind that your lawyer will always do what is in your best interest and will offer you all of your options so that you can make the ultimate decisions in your own case.