Wednesday, March 30, 2016


It's best to take action now
so you won't be arrested later.

It's the gift that keeps on giving, that old arrest warrant you may have forgotten about but that somehow never forgets you. Even if the alleged misconduct embodied in the warrant was years ago that warrant is in the database of every major police agency in the United States. If you're stopped for a ticket or hit in an accident or report a crime the police officer who talks to you has access to the fact that there's a Judge in Pinellas County, Florida waiting to see you. And that police officer is apt to take immediate action by arresting you, in fact depending on the alleged misconduct in some jurisdictions the officer could be punished for not arresting you.

Before this era of fast information computing it may have occasionally been possible for a misdemeanor or even a nonviolent felony warrant to casually slip thru the mountainous warrant paperwork. Not any more. Today that incident from a barely remembered Florida vacation will eventually have to be faced. The question is will you choose the moment to face it or will there be a random arrest when you least expect it at the worst possible time.

You may be wondering what is an arrest warrant? An arrest warrant is the written manifestation that there exists probable cause to believe you have committed a crime and that you must answer for it. The underlying truth of the alleged criminal act is not at issue. The only attributes of the warrant that can be attacked are the validity of the warrant and the underlying identification of you as the target of the warrant. 

In practice this means that if there is an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor simple battery charge or a felony possession of drugs charge it's not possible to attack the facts and circumstances of the underlying battery or possession of drugs until after you turn yourself in on the arrest warrant. That's because a hearing of the facts of the case can not begin until every party in the case including the defendant are actually before the judge. One way to think of an arrest warrant is that it's an unavoidable invitation to become a party to a criminal case. But if your name, date of birth or other identifying characteristics are wrong then a judge may look to the warrant to see if it is actually for you. Further, a warrant may be attacked directly or prosecutors may withdraw an arrest warrant if it can be established that law enforcement officers made no reasonable effort over an extended amount of time to actually enforce the warrant.

What should you do if there is a warrant for your arrest from Pinellas County, Florida? As a criminal defense lawyer I look to the following factors in accessing what to do next: the severity of the charged offense, the length of time since the offense and the integrity of all of the identifying information on the warrant. If the charge is not too serious or nonviolent it's likely possible to schedule a time for you to turn yourself into the authorities and later attend a hearing where the judge and prosecutor formally attend to the merits of the case. Once you've become a party to the case then the case will end either in dismissal, plea or trial by jury. My goals for you will be to find the best possible solution not only in disposing of the warrant but also in finding the best solution to the underlying allegations of criminal misconduct.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


When confronted with a federal investigation it's vitally important for defense lawyers and their clients to fully understand the various factors used by prosecutors in making indictment decisions. Not every case referred to federal prosecutors finds it's way to the grand jury. There is in fact a natural process of deliberation, decision making and evidence gathering based on each district's prosecutorial priorities. Each district is guided not only by the prevailing priorities of the federal government but by local priorities.

Grand Jurors
Deliberating in The Middle District of Florida
In the Middle District of Florida the decision making process for seeking indictments is short circuited, by which I mean the process almost always leads to the seeking of indictments no matter how soft or hard the quality of evidence, in certain types of cases. There are four types of cases prioritized to the extent that there's very limited prosecutorial discretion in taking the case to the grand jury for an indictment. These are Trafficking in Drugs, Identity Theft with tax refund fraud, child pornography and firearm violations. Each of these cases arrive at a prosecutor's desk amped up, glowing and especially weighted toward seeking the harshest possible indictable offense with the longest sentences. 

America's war on drugs means that trafficking in drugs is both a local and national priority especially in that the Middle District of Florida is designated as one of the few venues for trials of the Central American drug war involving the United States Coast Guard taking down of go-fast vessels and drug carrying submarines with huge quantities of cocaine. Identity Theft is a local priority because it's so rampant in the Tampa Bay Area that even local law enforcement agents who used driver's license information for identity theft have been indicted. Child pornography and firearm violations are national federal priorities. 

In essence there is much less ability for the defense to influence indictment decisions in these four types of cases, because the prosecutor will have limited discretion. Further, in these four groups the FBI, ATF or DEA agent will be more knowledgeable as to strengths and weaknesses of each case than the assigned prosecutor. 

Other cases will gain or lose urgency based on the significance of the alleged crime, any possible threat to the community and media exposure. In these cases only the statute of limitations or staleness of evidence limit a prosecutor's ability to more thoroughly investigate possible criminal conduct before seeking an indictment.

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Before the dust settles here's a few words about Justice Scalia's odd passing while at a very wealthy man's luxurious Texas hunting lodge. Odd because the Supreme Court Justice though a lover of the second amendment and every literal word of the constitution was not a hunter nor was this solid family man among his family as he died. 
Bring out another for our favorite Judge!

The owner of the ranch said he'd only just met the judge - it was a mutual friend who snagged the justice an invitation. Yet how unusual and unfortunate that the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a business owned by that ranch owner last year. What a small world it is. Yes, all of us I suppose, routinely entertain folks whom we don't know with extended stays at our ranches. Perhaps the good judge made it a habit to seek shelter for a few nights among random American citizens to better comprehend life as lived by typical folks to fuse this knowledge with ever better legal opinions, lifting us out of the dark mire of our dismal days toward the light of his constitutional analysis.

One wonders how the judge happened to find himself among people so rich, so different from those with whom he must have enjoyed spending his time. Yet when away from his family and his true friends - folks just like you and me - he chose to be with the very wealthy. What was he doing there? 

Perhaps with his famous wit he was enjoying the role of making these very rich men smile. The judge known for his brilliant, witty opinions used his interpretation of American law as a powerful shield protecting the wealthy, the powerful, the polluters, and the election riggers from civil and criminal liability. But these rich folks could not be expected to understand his opinions much less to actually read them, so at their leisure he came to them as humble as any court jester just to bring them happiness.

This was a courageous judge, isn't that what they're calling him, this man who destroyed the weak and helped the powerful gain ever greater strength. He must have gone to the rich rancher's large estate to guide these wealthy men. Perhaps in his righteous zeal he spent his last day on earth with the very rich only to be a thorn to them: "Again I tell you. It is easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God…

Maybe he said it with a mirthful wink while downing his final bottle of 1982 vintage Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild, after all, to us he was a Supreme Court Justice, but to those whom he served so well, he was just another obedient court jester.