State Attorney Archives - The Law Offices of Travis Koon, PLLC

6th Amendment

Posted by | Attorney, Criminal Defense | No Comments

“We the People, in order to form a more perfect union…” Most of us today know that these are the first words of the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution established America’s government and laws, and it outlined certain basic rights for the citizens of our country.

Prior to the U.S. Constitution, the states operated independently, the goal was to bring together the states and ensure certain alienable rights of the people, not allowing the government to become too strong or powerful. It was signed on September 17, 1787, and was amended in 1789. These first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution includes several provisions protecting those being charged with a crime. It states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Let’s look at each one of these rights.

The Right to a Speedy and Public Trial
The right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State; this part of the amendment means that the defendant must be brought to trial for his/her alleged crime within a reasonable short time after the arrest. The defendant also has the right to be tried by a jury of his peers. This gives the person on trial the chance to stand before an impartial jury that is a representation of his community and declare his innocence.

To Be Confronted with the Witnesses against Him
This gives the accused the right to confront the witness who is testifying against him. Not a physical confrontation, but it does allow his defense attorney to cross-examine the witness. This part of the Constitution ties closely with the idea of “innocent until proven guilty”. If it is found that the witness’s accusations are false, then that person will then be charged with perjury – and could face up to 5 years in prison and fines. The penalties are harsh because it is believed that perjury can erode the foundation of the judicial system.

To Have the Assistance of Counsel for his Defense
We have all head the line in the Miranda Rights that states “if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.” This is not something that is offered by the state because they are being nice, it is a person’s right to have a knowledgeable attorney defend you in a court of law.

Having an Attorney
If you are given a court appointed attorney, be sure to tell him/her all the points of your case, and make sure they understand what happened and what you want from them. But if you can afford a Florida criminal defense attorney, then find one that has a proven track record of negotiations as well as court wins. At the Law Office of Travis Koon, we will take the time to completely discuss your case and the best way to approach your defense. We are defense attorneys located throughout the State of Florida, with offices located in Lake City, Gainesville and Miami. Call us regarding your case and we will work diligently to defend you.

Criminal Mischief

Posted by | Attorney, Criminal Defense | One Comment

Criminal mischief… it is one of those charges that are usually accompanied by other charges.  Since it is a charge that carries defined consequences, it is best to have a top-notch criminal defense attorney help fight to reduce or remove this charge.

The State of Florida defines criminal mischief as: when a person willfully and maliciously injures or damages any real or personal property belong to another, including graffiti and other acts of vandalism.   In fact, the damage doesn’t have to be intentional.  If an individual is arrested for driving while intoxicated, and happens to drive through someone’s fence, beside the DUI charge, they may also be charged with criminal mischief.

Criminal mischief includes real property (home, yard, fence…) but also personal property as well.  If during an argument the accused individual grabs the other person’s cell phone and throws it do the ground, destroying it – they can be charged with criminal mischief for damage to personal property.

In order for the accused to be found guilty of criminal mischief, the prosecutor must show that either real or personal property was damaged, and it was done willfully or maliciously.  There are several ways to defend against this charge, but a criminal defense attorney is the best person to decide which route to take.

A couple defenses to be looked at:  Is the accused the person that actually caused the damage?  Does the victim own the property or does it belong to both parties?   Was it a willful act or an accident that happened during an argument?  And of course… what are all the circumstances of the instance.

Depending on the amount of damage done, a criminal mischief charge can be either a misdemeanor or even a felony.

  • Property damage of less than $200 = 2nd degree misdemeanor = up to 60 days in jail and fines
  • Property damage of $200 – $1000 = 1st degree misdemeanor = up to 1 year in jail and fines
  • Property damage of over $1000 = 3rd degree felony = up to 5 years in jail and fines

And if there are prior convictions of criminal mischief, it can instantly become a 3rd degree felony.    This is not a charge you want to try to fight without the help of an attorney.

Graffiti is also considered criminal mischief, but carries different sentencing.  Besides paying the fines, an individual will usually incur community service to make retribution for the crime.  While it may not seem like much damage is happening at the time, causing graffiti can have expense consequences.

  • 1st conviction of graffiti = $250 fine
  • 2nd conviction of graffiti is $500 fine
  • 3rd conviction of graffiti is $1000 fine

At The Law Office of Travis Koon, we will talk with you to understand the entire situation and how you came to be charged with criminal mischief.  We have successfully fought this charge in the past and will fight for you too.  We are Florida attorneys that understand the laws and defenses that are needed to help you through the maze of the criminal justice system.  Call us today.  We have offices throughout Florida, in Lake City, Gainesville and Miami, and are here to speak with you.

 

 

 

 

Police Stop

Did the Officer Illegally Search or Stop & Frisk you?

Posted by | Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes, DUI, Search, Seizure, Stop & Frisk | No Comments

When Does a Frisk Become a Search and Seizure?

This article is simply a brief description; a credible attorney should always be consulted in any situation. For assistance in legal situations call The Law Offices of Travis Koon, our criminal defense attorneys can determine if your rights were unlawfully infringed upon.
It almost seems common knowledge that a law enforcement officer is within their legal rights to frisk (a limited search) a person for weapons (for the safety of themselves and those around them) during temporary detainment – such as a traffic stop. This is a common misconception; law enforcement is only allowed to frisk an individual when they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ of a weapon.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1968 Terry v. Ohio:
Where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, …he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him.
This shows that in order to frisk a suspect, two requirements must be met:
• The suspect must be legally detained, meaning the detention must be based upon reasonable suspicion of a criminal activity.
• There must be reasonable suspicion that the person detained is armed and dangerous. Reasonable suspicion includes the totality of the situation – a bulge in clothing, behavior, the nature of the suspected offense and even the time and location of the stop .
The next question is to what extent is the officer allowed to frisk the detained person. The restraining officer is allowed a limited search of the outer clothing. A ‘limited search’ consists of a pat down of the outer clothing, then if the officer detects what he/she believes to be a weapon may they reach into the clothing to remove the object in question.
But what happens if the object in question is not a weapon, but perhaps an illegal controlled substance? If the officer believes the questionable object may be a weapon but turns out is in not, but still an illegal substance, as long as it was a lawful frisk, the contraband is admissible in evidence. But if the contraband was found by manipulating the outer clothing by squeezing or sliding the contents in the detainee’s pocket, then it is considered an invalid seizure, and any contraband found is invalid as well – as ruled in Perkins v. State .
Many laws are unquestionably confusing, and a person should not be expected to try to figure them out alone. It is in your best interest to hire a strong criminal defense attorney, such as those at The Law Offices of Travis Koon, who will guide you through the court systems and work hard to ensure your legal rights were maintained.

What can happen if you are Arrested for a Misdemeanor?

Posted by | Assault, Battery, Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes, DUI, Petit Theft | No Comments

There Can Still Be Big Consequences for Misdemeanor Charges
Being charged with a misdemeanor is definitely not as dire as being charged with a felony, but it can adversely affect your life and follow you for years to come. For this reason, it is extremely important to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney when charged with a misdemeanor.
Just a few examples of misdemeanors are:
• Speeding,
• Trespassing,
• Vandalism,
• Public intoxication,
• Harassment,
• Theft under a certain monetary amount,
• Loitering,
• Possession of a small amount of an illegal drug,
• Driving While License Suspended,
• DUI,
• Petit Theft,
• Battery,
• Domestic Battery,
• Assault,
• Minor in Possession of Alcohol,
• Reckless Driving.
Of course, this is not an all-encompassing list, but you get the idea of what is considered a misdemeanor.
In order of severity, the least to worst charge is generally as follows: infraction, misdemeanor, and then felony; there may be levels of severity within each. A misdemeanor conviction can cause the same legal ramifications as felonies, but unfortunately, there are fewer ways to expunging them from your criminal record. Some of the consequences of being found guilty of a misdemeanor can be fines, required classes, community service, or even jail time. These are just the immediate consequences, but the life-long hindrances are usually much worse. You cannot have this arrest expunged if you are adjudicated guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
According to Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, “The single most dangerous thing people think is that if they get a conviction and don’t go to jail they won’t face issues… Misdemeanor convictions can have serious impacts.”
Imagine being in jail for a month or two while you await trial for being charged with a small offense because you couldn’t afford to pay the bail money.
Those found guilty of misdemeanor charges often feel they constantly have to prove that they are not the bad guy their record insinuates. You can temporarily lose your driver’s license, be turned down for jobs, lose your professional license, be refused housing… in general some basic abilities to provide for yourself or your family may be lost.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it is vitally important to call a top rated criminal defense attorney such as those at The Law Offices of Travis Koon. The best result that one can hope for is being found not guilty of a crime, and that is not likely to happen without a professional fighter in your corner. Let the lawyers at The Law Offices of Travis Koon fight for you. We are criminal defense attorneys in Florida, know the laws, and can help you maneuver the legal minefield known as the court system.

Drug Crimes & Minimum Mandatory Sentencing Laws

Posted by | Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes | No Comments

Changing Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Charges

As cocaine and other illegal drugs gained popularity in the US during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s the American justice system was faced with growing drug crimes. When a star college basketball player, Len Bias, died of a cocaine overdose in 1986, it shocked the nation and encouraged Congress to pass mandatory sentences for drug charges.

These new, strong laws targeted not only high level drug offenders but also low level offenders such as couriers. Under those laws, multiple convictions for small time crimes handed down long, harsh sentences for many people.

A debate arose that questioned if the severe sentences were necessary for small time multiple drug offenders. Bill Otis, former federal prosecutor felt that “people are in prison for their own bad choices.” While others such as Judge John Gleeson stated “Mandatory minimums, to some degree, sometimes entirely, take judging out of the mix. That’s a bad thing for our system.”

On August 12, 2013 US Attorney General Eric Holder released a memo regarding enhancements on charging mandatory minimum sentences in certain drug cases. He felt there was a need to refine polices for certain non-violent, low-level drug offenders.

The 2013 Alleyne v United States case ruled that for a defendant to be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, prosecutors must conduct an ‘individualized assessment’ to ensure the charges fit the circumstances of the case and must take into account factors such as:
• The defendant’s conduct
• The defendant’s criminal history
• The circumstances relating to the offense
• The needs of the community

Basically, the punishment must fit the crime.

US Attorney General Eric Holder feels that long sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation and severe mandatory minimum sentences must be reserved for serious, high level violent drug crimes.

It is stated that due to the rising prison costs have resulted in reduced spending in areas such as law enforcement agents, prosecutors and prevention programs.

In this memo it is reminds a prosecutor to decline mandatory minimum sentence if:
• The defendant’s conduct does not involve the use of violence, threat of violence, or other factors
• The defendant is not a criminal organization leader
• The defendant does not have significant ties to large scale drug trafficking organizations
• The defendant does not have a significant criminal history

But rather than just stop at new offenders, the Clemency Project 2014 takes past crimes into account and invites prisoners who committed non-violent drug crimes to apply for early release or pardons.

It is scary to try to navigate the ever changing laws of the court system. Having a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side means you are not alone during this time of uncertainty. At The Law Offices of Travis Koon, we know that all persons have the right to a fair trial, and we will work hard to defend you or your loved ones. Call us today to discuss your case.

http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/oip/legacy/2014/07/23/ag-memo-department-policypon-charging-mandatory-minimum-sentences-recidivist-enhancements-in-certain-drugcases.pdf