D. Scott Rieth Criminal Defense Attorney
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Sarasota County Criminal Law Blog

How does robbery differ from theft?

While many Florida residents may use the terms theft, robbery and burglary interchangeably, legally the terms have different meanings and consequences. Burglary differs from the other two in that it almost always requires that there be a victim who is threatened with bodily harm. If the weapon in question is a gun or an injury is in fact suffered, the crime may be elevated to an armed one or an aggravated one.

To prove robbery though, there are certain elements that must be proven. First of all, it must involve a taking of someone else's property, with the intent to steal and it should be in the owner's presence or from them. It must be against their will and be done with either the threat of violence or actual violence. The element of force is central to the crime of robbery.

Protect your reputation after criminal charges taint it

It is an unfortunate reality that even though the law is supposed to view someone charged with committing a crime innocent until proven guilty, this is not always the case. Not only does it seem the whole system is set up in a way to make an accused guilty from the onset, neighbors and colleagues also begin to doubt someone's innocence right after an arrest. This means an arrested individual's reputation, relationship and image can all become tarnished in an instant, even if the charges are later dropped or someone is found not guilty of committing the crimes he or she has been charged with.

When Florida residents are facing felony charges, it may seem like everyone has left their side and it might be easier to accept the charges and plead guilty to something one has not done to make it stop. However, this does not always have to be the case-whether one realizes it or not, everyone has the right to defend themselves against criminal charges.

Important facts about points on a driving record

The rules of the road are in place to ensure the safety of all parties in transit. However, it is quite common for parties to bend the rules at times.

When law enforcement catches drivers committing traffic offenses, it may lead to points on their records. For those drivers, it is important to understand a few key facts.

Are breath test results always accurate?

A breath alcohol test is used to measure how much alcohol is in the air that is breathed out by an individual that is suspected of driving while intoxicated. Given this figure, the device then estimates how much alcohol is in one's blood. That number, the blood alcohol content or the BAC, is the number upon which most drunk driving convictions are based. In Florida, as in the rest of the country, a driver over the age of 21 cannot have a BAC higher than 0.08 percent.

There can be different types of tests for measuring blood alcohol level, both electronic and manual. Most law enforcement officials carry an electronic device-suspected drunk drivers breathe into the mouthpiece and the device gives an immediate reading. Generally, the person is asked to breathe into the device a couple of times to get an average reading.

Plea bargain basics are important to understand

Though most procedural television shows revolve around two lawyers arguing the finer points of law in a criminal court, the reality is that most criminal cases end in a plea bargain between the accused and the public prosecutor. Florida residents may know that a plea bargain is an agreement reached between the prosecutor and the defendant where the latter pleads guilty to either reduced charges or the associated sentence.

Plea bargains are generally of three types. Charge bargaining is the most common, in which the defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges in exchange for the higher charges getting dropped. For example, someone would plead guilty to manslaughter rather than murder. Sentence bargaining is another form of plea bargaining, whereby the defendant gets a lighter sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to the stated charge. This type of plea bargain is a tightly controlled one, and some states do not allow it. The least common type of plea bargaining is known as fact bargaining, in which a defendant agrees to stipulate to some facts in return for other facts not being introduced into evidence.

What is drug paraphernalia?

While most Florida residents are probably aware that possessing or distributing controlled substances such as cocaine and heroin are illegal, they may not be aware that it is illegal to own or possess items related to drugs. This means someone can be prosecuted for owning and possessing related items even if they do not possess actual drugs.

Drug paraphernalia is any equipment that can be used to hide, create or consume illicit drugs. As per federal law, it is illegal to offer to sell or sell drug paraphernalia, import or export it, or mail or transport it through interstate commerce. Federal law provides specific examples of paraphernalia, such as miniature spoons, bongs, roach clips and pipes made of glass, plastic, stone or ceramic. While federal law may not be violated by simply possessing these items, state law may be. Additionally, law enforcement officials routinely check these items for drug residue and, if any is found, related federal charges may follow.

Man arrested on battery charges and fleeing police in stolen car

People in Sarasota and across Florida can find themselves facing criminal charges for a variety of offenses. In many instances, one incident might lead to another and result in a slew of allegations that can lead to long-term consequences and penalties if there is a conviction. Some might be related to an act of violence followed by a theft. Then the person might be accused of fleeing law enforcement. When placed under arrest in these circumstances, the accused must make sure there is a strong defense with help from an experienced criminal attorney.

A man, 31, was arrested on a series of charges. He had an incident with his girlfriend in which he was accused of domestic battery. Law enforcement was searching for him with a warrant for his arrest when he fled in a stolen vehicle. He was also said to have taken his girlfriend's cellphone. When law enforcement initially found the man, he drove away in a vehicle that his girlfriend had rented. He ran over spikes and one of the tires started deflating, yet he continued to flee. Finally, he ran through the fence of a residence and ended up in his mother's backyard. He ran out of the car, but was caught and placed under arrest.

Man faces serious consequences after Sarasota drug arrest

Although drug penalties are significant in Florida, people will still get involved in their sale at various levels. That could be as a lower level drug dealer, a middleman or a person who is handling drug trafficking. Law enforcement will seek out people who they believe to be behaving in ways consistent with drug involvement, make a traffic stop and arrest them on drug offenses. There are serious consequences for a drug conviction, especially if there are large quantities and other offenses along with the drug charges. Those placed under arrest must have legal help from the beginning.

A 31-year-old man was arrested in Sarasota after a traffic stop. He was driving. The incident happened in the late evening when officers stopped the vehicle. They stated they smelled marijuana emanating from the car and saw a marijuana cigarette inside. The man exited the vehicle and tried to flee. He was caught and arrested. There were two others in the vehicle. They too exited after being told they should remain inside. A 26-year-old woman was charged with resisting arrest. It is a misdemeanor because it was done without violence. In the vehicle, the officers found a firearm and ammunition. Since the man is a convicted felon, this is another felony. In addition, there was cocaine, MDMA, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He is also charged with resisting without violence.

What are the penalties for drug trafficking in cannabis?

The words "drug trafficking" have severely negative implications. These allegations go beyond simple possession or even the sale of low level drugs like cannabis. While the debate is ongoing as to whether cannabis should be legalized, Florida has yet to make it legal and people continue to be accused of violating the law in relation to it. Despite arguments for legalization and the number of states across the nation that have legalized it or are taking steps to do so, it can still warrant major penalties in Florida. A defense is critical when charged.

When there are allegations that a person has been drug trafficking with cannabis or cannabis plants, it is imperative to understand the law, the amounts that warrant various penalties and how to mount a successful defense. With cannabis or cannabis plants, 25 pounds of more or 300 or more of these plants being manufactured, delivered, sold or brought into the state will lead to a first-degree felony charge. This will be referred to as trafficking in cannabis.


D. Scott Rieth
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Bradenton, FL 34202

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