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Tampa Criminal Defense
Florida's Aggressive Criminal Defense Firm

Recent Posts in felony Category

November 20, 2013

George Zimmerman Arrested for Aggravated Assualt

Orlando resident George Zimmerman is in trouble once again – only months after being acquitted for the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in a gated compound near Orlando. This time, Zimmerman is accused of aggravated assault, battery and criminal mischief. The charge relates to an alleged attack against his girlfriend earlier this month. The aggravated assault charge is a third degree felony while the other charges are misdemeanors.

Zimmerman’s brushes with the law have been headline news most of the year, particularly the high profile trial of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman insisted that he shot the teenager in self-defense. His acquittal in July this year was met with strong public criticism from many in the black community who felt that Zimmerman had profiled the teenager by race and that his acquittal was an attack against the black community in general.

Zimmerman’s problems did not stop with the decision in his favor. His wife, who had apparently been loyal to him throughout the lead up to the murder trial, filed for divorce and then accused her husband of punching her father on the nose, destroying her iPad with a knife and attempting to threaten her and her father with a weapon. She rang 911 after the incident, but has not pressed any charges against Zimmerman. The incident is still being investigated by police.

When interviewed by the NBC during a “Today” program, Shellie Zimmerman said that despite still believing George’s innocence in the killing of Martin, she was not as convinced as before and felt that the incident earlier this month was an eye opener.

The current allegations against Zimmerman have been made by his girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe. She has claimed that he locked her out of her own house after a fight. Scheibe rang 911 to say that Zimmerman had pulled a gun on her and smashed a coffee table before forcing her out of the house. Zimmerman was also reported to have rung 911 himself saying that his girlfriend was “acting crazy” and that he did not point a gun at her.

When police arrived on the scene, they were able to enter Scheibe’s rented house with a key which she provided and push past a series of blockades, after which they arrested Zimmerman who apparently did not resist.

The latest incident follows an alleged attempt to choke Samantha Scheibe by Zimmerman a week or so ago. The alleged choking was not reported to the police at the time, but was brought up by the prosecution in Zimmerman’s first court appearance this week.

Zimmerman was released on a $9,000 bail under the condition that he did not carry firearms, did not go anywhere near his girlfriend’s residence and wear a monitoring device. His next court appearance is in January next year.

The murder trial and current violence charges are not George Zimmerman’s only dealings with the law. He has apparently been in trouble in the past for a number of traffic offenses as well as having to take anger management classes after allegedly attacking an undercover police officer who was in the process of arresting his friend.

According to the judge who made the decision to release Zimmerman on bail this week, Judge Fred Schott, none of the other allegations or charges laid against him affected the decision.

Zimmerman’s defense attorneys believe that he will be acquitted of the current charges when the trial takes place next year.

One of the difficulties faced in defending George Zimmerman will be the fact that his previous trial was so controversial and his actions and personality were discussed in the media constantly in the months that led up to the trial. In Zimmerman’s favor will be the fact that domestic violence accusations like the current ones are particularly hard to prove. They often rely heavily on events that go on behind closed doors. Both the accusations by his ex wife and his girlfriend follow acrimonious arguments about separation and with emotions so highly charged it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.

November 28, 2012

Key Differences between Petty Theft and Grand Theft in Sarasota

A criminal taking of the property or services of another without their consent. That legal dictionary definition is the basic crime of theft. Theft occurs when an individual takes another’s property without his or her permission. In reality, theft in Florida is a very broad umbrella term than can include: larceny, stealing, misappropriation, conversion and a number of other offenses.  Depending on the nature of the item and the facts of the case, there are various classifications with varying punishments for theft in Sarasota.

Two types of theft that are commonly charged in Sarasota are petty theft and grand theft. Here’s a look at what each of these entail:

  • Petty Theft: Petty theft in Sarasota occurs when the items taken are valued at $299 or less. Petty theft is often classified as first degree or second degree. Both first and second degree petty theft convictions carry fines and potential jail time. Additionally, those individuals that have previous theft convictions will face enhanced penalties. That’s right, even if you have two second degree petty theft convictions for nominally small items, you will be charged with a third degree felony.
  • Grand Theft: If the item was valued at over $299 then you will likely be seeing a grand theft charge against you. There are three degrees of grand theft in Sarasota depending on the value and type of the items taken and/or whether there was additional property damage (or otherwise) that took place during the theft. All three degrees of grand theft carry heavy fines and come with the potential for some serious jail time if you are convicted. In almost every scenario, a conviction for grand theft is a felony.

Whether you are being charged with petty theft or grand theft in Sarasota, the legal ramifications can be devastating. In fact, a theft conviction is one of the first questions an employer will ask a job applicant. There are, of course many viable defenses to a theft charge in Sarasota. These include: consent given by the owner of the item in question, a good faith belief of ownership and intoxication.

Because there is an intent element that must be proven in a theft case in Sarasota, the State of Florida has a hefty task in front of it. Put simply, the prosecution in a theft case must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you actually intended to steal the item in question. Our firm has seen many examples where there was no intent at all or business scenarios where the case is actually a civil matter rather than a criminal theft.

Acting quick is imperative when it comes to any type of theft charge in Sarasota. This is especially true in those scenarios in which a security tape is available to prove innocence. Get in touch with the attorneys at Finebloom & Haenel P.A. today for a free consultation on your case. We look forward to hearing from you!

November 9, 2012

What Is A Bench Warrant?

You hear the term (or some variation thereof) all the time but do you really know what a bench warrant is or how they are issued? Generally speaking, a bench warrant authorizes the on-site arrest of the individual listed in it. Bench warrants are issued by a judge when an individual violates a court rule. Once a bench warrant is issued in Florida, it is treated like any other arrest warrant, with the primary purpose of bringing the individual listed before the court. In these scenarios, the individual will now be responsible for answering for their original charges and also explain why he or she acted in a manner than necessitated the issuance of a bench warrant.

The two most popular reasons for a judge to issue a bench warrant are: failure to appear and some type of probation violation.

  1. Failure to Appear: When a defendant misses a court appearance, the judge in the case has the option to issue a bench warrant. Whether the court date was forgotten or intentionally missed, the individual may also get hit with additional fines and other penalties for missing their court appearance. The more serious the crime necessitating a pretrial appearance, the more likely that a bench warrant will be issued.
  2. Probation Violation: As many of you already know, there are countless reasons why an individual is placed on some type of probation. Violating the terms of a probation, no matter how short or limited the probation is, can result in the judge issuing a bench warrant. Courts are usually notified of probation violations by the probation officer in the case.

Bench warrants can be issued for both felony and misdemeanor cases in Florida. Although bench warrants are sometimes referred to as arrest warrants, there are actually some important technical distinctions between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant. To begin, the application for an arrest warrant is started by a police officer rather than a judge. The judge ultimately has to sign off on the arrest warrant (if he or she agrees that there is probable cause) but the reasons behind an arrest warrant versus a bench warrant are much wider in range. Either way, an outstanding bench or arrest warrant is an outstanding headache for everyone involved.

Because court and probation documents will have your address listed (in addition to other personal information), it is usually fairly easy for the police to locate and arrest you. In many instances, a bench warrant can be cleared up and save you the hassle and embarrassment of a formal arrest.

The law firm of Finnenbloom & Haenel P.A. can help resolve any issues you may have with an outstanding bench or arrest warrant. Our lawyers can accompany you to court and explain your situation to the judge. If you are dealing with a bench warrant, give us a call to discuss the options available to you. We represent individuals with outstanding bench warrants and would love to hear from you.

November 6, 2012

Hillsborough & Orange County Sheriff’s Departments Take Part in Operation Felon Sweep

962 felons with outstanding warrants were arrested in Orange County. 806 were arrested in Polk County.  And another 30 were arrested in Hillsborough County. These numbers serve to contribute to the almost 12,000 individuals that were arrested across the state of Florida as part of the three-week,  Operation “Felon Sweep”. Comprised of 43 sheriffs’ offices across the state, the operation was an attempt to round up as many violent felons with outstanding warrants as possible.

In both Orange and Hillsborough counties, police got creative in tracking down individuals as some arrests occurred in the early morning hours at homes and apartment buildings, when an individual was exiting public transportation and even at a local bar. Of course, once the police arrested their target, they often found additional contraband. Statewide, police seized more than $400,000 in illegal cash proceeds, 30 pounds of cocaine, 900 pounds of marijuana, 6,000 prescription pills and 400 guns.

Commenting specifically on the Hillsborough County Operation Felon Sweep efforts in this operation, Col. Donna Lusczyniskyi made this statement to 10 News: “All of them in our minds are considered dangerous. One, they’ve committed felonies in the past and two, most of them don’t want to go back to jail.” In an effort to bring greater awareness to the campaign to clean up the streets, the Tampa police department allowed cameras to follow them one morning as they followed their own research to catch various local felons.

One of the obstacles the Tampa police mentioned to cameras was the difficulty in not being discovered as they moved from one address to another. Here’s a look at some more numbers from Hillsborough County:

  • 30 arrests
  • 37 warrants served
  • 50 charges

Of course, just because the operation ended does not mean that those individuals with outstanding warrants are in the clear. Especially when it comes to felonies (the most serious category of crime an individual can commit), police will continue to actively search. Even if the individuals apprehended in the sweep are ultimately found innocent of the charges alleged in the warrant, he or she will still face legal consequences for missing their court appearance or other commands issued in the warrant. Additionally, because many of the individuals are repeat offenders, they will likely deal with additional issues attached to their probation.

Operation Felon Sweep has received a considerable amount of press following the release of the numbers. That being said, law enforcement agencies often come together in small and large-scale operations to try to make a dent in specific types of crime. Perhaps it’s working. The statewide crime rate in Florida is at a 40-year low.

Getting charged with a felony offense is a very serious charge. If you have been charged with one, it is in your best interest to speak with a reputable Florida criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Finebloom & Haenel P.A. can help inform you of the options available to you. Call today for a consultation!

November 5, 2012

Operation Felon Sweep Ends In Almost 12,000 Arrests

With the holiday season upon us, it looks like the Florida police were doing some end of the year housekeeping. Operation “Felon Sweep” was a three-week operation by the Florida Sheriffs Task Force that resulted in the arrest of 11,875 felons throughout the state of Florida. The purpose of the successful operation was to target those violent felons believed to be residing in the state with an outstanding warrant. In addition to focusing on violent felons in general, the sweep specifically hoped to find as many sexual offenders and predators as possible.

The task force behind Operation Felon Sweep was comprised of 43 sheriffs’ offices working in conjunction with each other. In addition to locating felons with outstanding warrants, the sweep also hoped the combined efforts among offices would serve to enhance law enforcement presence in certain high crime areas, provide additional patrols and resources to combat violent crime and locate contraband many of the felons were suspected of having with them.

Although the actual felony charges that the individuals targeted in the sweep varied, the presence of an outstanding warrant gave the police, in these instances, the authority to immediately arrest the individuals and take him or her in for further questioning.

The arrest is only the beginning. “Once we arrest these individuals, we bring them back here to be interviewed, we’ve solved homicides in the past and other crimes by talking to them. They’re on the streets, they know what’s going on and sometimes they can provide information that is extremely helpful to us.” News 10 quotes, Col. Donna Lusczynski from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office.

Felonies are considered the most serious type of crime an individual commit. Some examples of a felony include: murder, rape, kidnapping and sexual abuse. Not all felonies are violent in nature and white collar crimes involving large sums of money can also fall into the felony category. With the serious nature of a felony, many of the individuals picked up in Operation Felon Sweep, if convicted, could face substantial jail time as well as heavy fines, a lengthy probation and other punishments.

Just because the men and women of this sweep were wanted on an outstanding warrant (which will certainly be used against them) and now arrested, does not mean that their chance to fight the charges against them is over. At this point in the process, the individuals arrested will face legal repercussions relating to the warrant but they remain innocent until proven guilty for the crimes listed on the warrant. Because many of the men and women apprehended in the sweep are repeat offenders, they would also face legal consequences for violating any terms of a previous probation.

If you are being charged with a felony offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a reputable Florida criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Finebloom & Haenel P.A. can evaluate your case and inform you of your options. Get in touch with us today.

November 2, 2012

What Information Shows Up On A Background Check?

Background checks are becoming an increasingly common step in employment, housing and other applications. Because of this growing trend, everyone should familiarize themselves with the information that is complied in these reports and what you can do to fix inaccuracies or clean up some of your mistakes when possible.

So what exactly shows up on a background check? There are roughly twenty different types of information included in a background report, with some background checks being more comprehensive than others. A lot of the information is fairly basic, such as education history, driving records and even your vehicle registration. Some of the more comprehensive reports may also include detailed information about prior employment as well as interviews with neighbors and former or current co-workers.

Both misdemeanors and felonies are also fair game for inclusion in a background report and can be very damaging to an applicant.  Additionally, when it comes to criminal charges, many applications do not even need to run a full-scale background check to find this potentially incriminating information. The question “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” or something to that effect pops up on initial applications all the time and can limit you as an applicant before ever getting a real chance to show your candidacy.

In Florida, an employer has to prove that there is some relevance to the job an individual is applying for and their criminal conviction (or charge) in order to deny the individual the job. This safeguard is, of course, a beneficial protection for those of you with less-than-perfect records but can nevertheless pose obvious problems.

Here’s some helpful advice to everyone reading this blog post: before you have to submit to a background check, get one of your own to go over. Many individuals have found major inaccuracies (i.e. a false felony conviction) that have caused personal and professional issues they had no idea about. If there are inaccuracies, work with the appropriate agencies to correct the information. Have the information in your background check reflect your actual background! For those of you dealing with criminal charges and other blemishes on your background report, finding out what exactly is on there and how it reads is a powerful first step. It gives you a chance to prepare answers to questions surrounding your history and place your past in the best light for future employers.

Whether you agree with the process or not, knowing the potential for this request should inspire many of you to check your report before an employer does and work to clean up your report when possible. Protect your rights. If you have charges in your record, you should get in touch with an attorney to see if there is any possibility for cleaning up your record. Putting your best foot forward may start with cleaning up what people can learn about your past. Get in touch with the attorneys at Finebloom & Haenel P.A. for a free consultation today!

April 17, 2012

What are the different types of felonies?

There are several categories of felonies:

  • Capital Felonies – are felonies punishable by death. The most common capital crimes are first degree murder and sexual battery on a person under 12 years of age.
  • Life Felonies – are felonies punishable by life in prison. A person must serve at least 30 years of a life sentence. Life felonies include sexual battery of a person over 12 years of age and felonies in which a firearm is discharged (such as robbery with a firearm).
  • First Degree Felonies – are punishable by up to 30 years in prison. A common first degree crime in burglary with an assault or battery. Robbery with a weapon other than a firearm is also a first degree felony.
  • Second Degree Felonies – are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Dealing in stolen property is an example of a second degree felony.
  • Third Degree Felonies – are punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The most common third degree felonies are grand theft and driving on a suspended license as an habitual offender.

No matter which felony you have been accused of, the penalty is serious. There are also unforeseen consequences such as fines, loss of your voting rights, registration penalties and possibly even the loss of a job or home. If you have been arrested for a felony contact a criminal lawyer now! An attorney will act in your best interest and protect your rights. Don’t wait! Call an attorney today!

April 11, 2012

How to beat a felony

The best way to beat a felony is not to get arrested. However, should you be arrested for a felony there are two very important things you must do:

#1 – DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CASE WITH ANYONE EXCEPT AN ATTORNEY!! All calls in the jail are recorded, and your “cellmate” will rat you out if it means getting a better deal. Only discuss your case with your attorney. If you tell anyone else anything the State will try to use what you said as evidence against you.

#2 – Hire an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney!! If you have been charged with a felony, you need a good lawyer to represent your interests. Here are some of the things an experienced lawyer will do to help you beat your charge:

  1. Once you hire an attorney, the lawyer will ask to view all of the evidence against you. The lawyer will also take statements of any and all witnesses. By doing this a good attorney can find weaknesses in the State’s case that may help you either beat the charge or get the charge reduced.
  2. The attorney will talk with your witnesses. If they have helpful information the attorney will list them in your case. That way they will be able to testify on your behalf.
  3. Make all of your necessary court appearances. If you fail to appear at a mandatory court date, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest.
  4. Stay under the radar! Don’t do things that violate the terms of your release and don’t do anything that could result in more charges being brought against you. Don’t return to the location where the crime supposedly occurred and do not associate with co-defendants until the conclusion of the case.
  5. Be honest and up front with your attorney! If you lie to your attorney they can’t help you. It is very important you tell them EVERYTHING! The attorney can not reveal anything you tell them to the Court. But if you don’t tell them and it comes out later in trial it may hurt your case. So make sure you tell them everything that happened.

No lawyer can ever guarantee an outcome in a criminal case. But by following the steps above you can put yourself in the best position to get the most favorable outcome for your situation.

 

April 5, 2012

How long does a felony stay on your record?

A felony stays on your record forever unless you are eligible to have the record sealed or expunged. Even if the record is sealed or expunged, law enforcement can access the record. But the general public can’t.

Most applications for jobs, housing or licenses ask the question “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” If you say yes, they ask what year. This means even if the background check they perform does not go back as far as your arrest, they may still find out about your charge.

If you are convicted of a felony, you can petition to have your civil rights restored after 10 years. But this does not erase the felony from your record.

If you have been arrested for a felony, make sure you hire an attorney to help protect your rights. A conviction can result in the loss of a job, voting rights, the right to own a firearm and can ever result in eviction from housing or homeowner associations. If you think you qualify for an expungement contact an attorney immediately to start the process. The sooner you can seal the record the better off you will be.

March 30, 2012

Does a felony show up on a background check?

Yes. Felony arrests show up on a background check. These are usually the charges the agency is looking for when they perform the check as they are considered to be very serious. Felony charges can affect an employer’s insurance or bond rates. This means if you have a felony, the employer may not hire you. If you are applying for housing the association may disqualify you for a felony conviction. If you are applying for a professional license, the felony may disqualify you from obtaining the license.

Most applications for jobs, housing or licenses ask the question “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” If you say yes, they ask what year. This means even if the background check they perform does not go back as far as your arrest, they may still find out about your charge.

If you have been arrested for a felony, hire a lawyer immediately! Protect your rights. If you have a felony on your record, contact an attorney to see if you qualify for expungement. In either case, speak to an attorney to see what you can do to protect your good name in the event you must get a background check.

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