Uncertain Times May Lead to More Wrongful Convictions

A recent news story out of California reported a 50 percent increase in robberies in Santa Ana. Suspects are taking advantage of public health guidelines requiring the use of a mask or face covering in public places like gas stations, liquor stores, and grocery stores. It’s not the first news story we’ve seen related to an increase in crimes during this pandemic. In fact, we recently covered a story on the wave of domestic violence accusations over the last few months referred to as the second pandemic. 

As we are living during a unique time, there could be an uptick in crimes that occur over the next few months. Naturally, as more crimes occur, more people may be wrongfully accused of a crime. For example, we could see more incidents of eyewitness misidentification. In this article, a criminal defense attorney will discuss this notion. If you have been accused of a violent crime, it’s critical that you retain an experienced aggravated assault attorney in St. Petersburg with The Rickman Law Firm. 

Economic Downturns and Crime Rates

Experts have debated for decades whether or not recessions are related to crime rates; however, sociologists claim that every recession since the 1950’s has experienced an increase in crime. Statistical data from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) also suggests there is a correlation between a struggling economy and a rise in crime. In a study conducted in 2009 during the Great Recession, of the 100 agencies that linked crime rises to the economic crisis, 39 percent said they saw an increase in robberies, 32 percent an increase in burglaries, and 40 percent an increase in thefts from vehicles. PERF acknowledged that of the 100 agencies that participated in the study, on average each agency was planning a 6.24 percent cut in their overall funding. 

The Fallible Nature of Eyewitness Identification

On the surface level, the result of this study makes sense. An economic downturn results in a mass number of layoffs. These individuals need money to feed their families, and some may resort to criminal acts in order to provide. In other cases, stress and emotional turmoil can boil over and a violent act like domestic violence or battery can occur. Arguably the most alarming statistic compiled by PERF is that there is a great reduction in the overall funding of these agencies during a recession. In other words, as crime rates rise, law enforcement experiences budget cuts, resulting in less manpower and resources to investigate these crimes. This can result in a reliance on other means, including eyewitness identification. 

Acting in Self-Defense

Decades of scientific research have proven that eyewitness identification is often fallible. The malleable nature of human memory and visual perception result in eyewitness testimony being among the most unreliable forms of evidence. For example, if you have been accused of a crime like aggravated assault, an eyewitness may have only seen part of the interaction. They may not have seen that the suspect was not the aggressor but was acting in self-defense after they were reasonably put in a position where the attacker was capable of causing deadly harm. 

If you have been accused of a violent crime, never settle for inferior defense. Consult the best aggravated assault attorney in St. Petersburg at The Rickman Law Firm.   

For a free consultation with an aggravated assault attorney in St. Petersburg, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today. 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Domestic Violence

The spread of COVID-19 across the world has led to what some are referring to as a double pandemic, as domestic violence allegations have spiked along with the spread of the virus in the last few months. With mounting stress and many families forced to remain under one roof, domestic violence cases are expected to continue to increase. 

If you have been accused of domestic violence, you need to know what exactly is at stake. 

In this article, a domestic violence defense lawyer in Tampa will answer several frequently asked questions on the topic. As domestic violence crimes are extremely serious in nature, consult an attorney from The Rickman Law Firm today. 

Related: Understanding Domestic Violence Crimes

How serious of a penalty is a domestic violence conviction?

In Florida, domestic battery is a first-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 12 months in prison or a probation period of one year. Depending on the nature of the crime, the penalty will increase if the severity of the charges increase. For example, some crimes can lead to a felony conviction and are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  

What types of crimes are considered domestic violence crimes?

Under Florida law, domestic violence means “assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” As you can see from the state’s description, domestic violence crimes involve a variety of very serious offenses. 

Are there any additional penalties associated with domestic violence crimes?

Yes. If you are convicted of a domestic violence crime, you can receive a fine of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the severity of the crime. Domestic violence cases often require the guilty party to attend mandatory counseling classes for several months. There are other federal restrictions put in place if you are found guilty of domestic violence, including prevention from owning or using a firearm.

Are there federal laws related to domestic violence?

Yes. Along with felony charges for some of the most serious domestic violence cases, federal laws can be associated with a domestic violence case. Although the vast majority of domestic violence cases are handled by state and local courts, some federal crimes are covered under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or the Gun Control Act. Specifically, crossing state lines in a case involving domestic violence can be a federal crime. Furthermore, possession of a firearm after a domestic violence conviction is another federal violation. If you are accused of a federal domestic violence crime, consult a federal criminal defense attorney in Tampa

Related: What to Do if Accused of Domestic Violence

What is a domestic violence injunction?

A domestic violence injunction is a no contact or restraining order. This injunction is filed by a victim of domestic violence to protect them from the defendant. Under Florida law, if you have received a domestic violence injunction, you cannot communicate with a victim of domestic violence in any way. This includes visiting the victim’s home or workplace, speaking to the victim in-person or over the phone, or texting or messaging the victim on social media. You also cannot possess a firearm or ammunition if you have received an injunction.

What happens if a domestic violence injunction is violated?

Whether willful or not, violating a no contact order will result in a first-degree misdemeanor. It’s critical that any person that is issued a domestic violence injunction complies with the requirements of their order. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in both an additional charge and hurt your case. 

Can a domestic violence injunction be lifted?

Yes. In some cases the victim may request to have the injunction lifted. In other cases, a defendant may have the order lifted or modified to more favorable conditions with the assistance of a federal criminal defense lawyer in Tampa. To learn more about this process, consult a criminal defense law firm.

Are there defense strategies against domestic violence allegations?

Yes. There are a variety of effective defense strategies against domestic violence accusations. In some cases, the defendant was not the aggressor and was acting in self defense. In other cases, the allegations are entirely false. This is common in divorce or child custody cases where the alleged victim is hoping for more favorable proceedings after accusing the defendant of domestic violence. In some cases, the police are called during a dispute, but the defendant never committed a violent act against the victim. There are a variety of circumstances that can lead to a defendant being wrongfully charged with a domestic violence crime. 

If you have been accused of a domestic violence crime, it’s critical that you take these charges seriously. If you have received a no contact order, it’s equally important that you comply with the restrictions set forth in this order. The attorneys at The Rickman Law Firm can assess your case, provide you with accurate legal counsel, and do everything in their power to have your charges reduced or removed entirely from your record. Do not hesitate, contact a domestic violence defense attorney in Tampa.

For a free consultation with a domestic violence defense attorney in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

Have You Been Charged With Racketeering?

In February 2019, Brooklyn rapper Daniel Hernandez, better known by his stage name Tekashi 6ix9ine, pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including weapon possession, armed robbery, and dealing narcotics. However, it was the initial charge of racketeering that finally saw the famous rapper arrested after multiple acts of violence. But what is a racketeering charge? Why is it so effective at bringing people to justice? And what should someone do if they are charged with this crime? These are the questions we will be answering in this article. 

Hernandez spent less than two years in prison for his crimes, due in large to the fact that he obtained a strong legal defense, cooperated with authorities, and pleaded guilty. Unfortunately, many people reading this simply don’t have access to the wealth and resources on display in that case. If you’ve been charged with racketeering, we urge you to contact a federal criminal defense lawyer in St. Petersburg who can assist you in clearing your name. 

What Is Racketeering? 

Racketeering has a very broad definition and can include crimes both at the state and federal level. Examples include bribery, extortion, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, arson, and gambling. Most often, racketeering is running “racket” or illegal business like prostitution, human trafficking, or drug trafficking. 

Related: Types of Fraud Cases

Why Should Racketeering Charges Be Taken Seriously? 

Racketeering charges should be taken seriously because the laws pertaining to this crime have some serious teeth. Passed in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was originally designed to take down mob bosses and allows prosecutors to go after not only people who committed a crime but those who planned the crime. Essentially, the RICO act allows prosecutors to cast a wide net when pursuing criminal charges. Defendants who aren’t careful can be caught in that net and charged for crimes they had no connection to. 

Related: Breaking Down the RICO Act 

What Should I Do If Charged With Racketeering?

As mentioned, racketeering charges are usually followed by a slew of other charges, which is why it’s so important to obtain the services of a federal criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg before things get worse. Being found guilty of racketeering alone can result in a prison sentence, forfeiture of property, and treble damages. And even if you obtain the best possible outcome in your case, you could still have the entire course of your life altered forever. That is exactly what happened with Hernandez, who continues to face security threats even after his release from prison.  

By the very nature of a racketeering charge, it is very likely that you are being accused of another person’s crime. For this reason, it’s imperative that you work with a federal criminal defense lawyer in St. Petersburg from the very beginning. Our team can work with you to build a strong defense and ensure the best possible outcome for your case. If you’ve been charged with racketeering, consult an attorney from The Rickman Law Firm and let’s begin the process of clearing your name. 

For a free consultation with a federal criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

Identity Theft: What You Should Know if You’ve Been Accused of Stealing Someone’s Identity

It seems like every month we’re hearing about a new data breach where millions of people’s private information is being stolen. Just such a data breach happened this January to Wawa, and it was reported that customers’ credit card information had been stolen and was being sold over the internet. This is just one of the many ways an individual’s identity can be stolen and used against them. 

State and federal lawmakers have enacted strict laws to curb cases of identity theft. In this article, we will discuss the severity of this crime and the penalties that can be passed down if a defendant is found guilty of identity theft. If you’ve been accused of identity theft, we encourage you to consult a fraud defense attorney in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm to begin the process of building a strong defense for your case. 

Florida Identity Theft Laws 

Most cases of identity theft are tried at the state level, so we’ll be focusing on Florida laws. Identity theft is discussed in Chapter 817 of the Florida Statutes. Although numerous provisions are described, the general takeaway is that “Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning another person without first obtaining that person’s consent” is committing a felony. 

Related: Credit Card Fraud: How One Swipe Can Lead to a Felony 

The severity of the crime determines the severity of the punishment. They are as follows:

  • Fraud perpetrated is $5,000 or more, or the identity of 10 or more people is stolen: minimum three-year mandatory prison sentence
  • Fraud perpetrated is $50,000 or more, or the identity of 20 or more people is stolen: minimum five-year mandatory prison sentence
  • Fraud perpetrated is $100,000 or more, or the identity of 30 or more people is stolen: minimum 10-year prison sentence. 

Chapter 817 of the Florida Statutes continues to define various identity theft laws and their respective penalties. For example, it is a second-degree felony to steal the identity of a deceased individual or dissolved business entity — a first-degree felony in some cases. And it is a third-degree felony to create or use a fictitious person’s identification information. This illustrates that Florida law is not only interested in whether or not the crime involved a victim; it’s interested in punishing those who commit identity theft in all forms. 

Related: Types of Fraud Cases 

Consult a Fraud Defense Lawyer in Tampa 

By stealing the identities of just a handful of people, a person could easily be sentenced to prison and receive a large fine. That’s why it’s so important to consult a fraud defense attorney in Tampa if you’ve been accused of identity theft. At The Rickman Law Firm, our attorneys can work to prove your innocence. We will keep you informed every step of the way and always do what is in your best interest. If you’ve been accused of identity theft, consult an experienced, aggressive attorney from The Rickman Law Firm today. 

For a free consultation with a fraud defense attorney in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm toda

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

The Penalties for Drug Trafficking in Florida

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment describes a changing landscape as illicit drugs like opioids and cocaine continue to affect large portions of the population while states continue to legalize recreational and medical marijuana. Here in Florida, medical marijuana has been legalized, but the penalties for marijuana trafficking remain as strict as ever. The penalties for trafficking other illicit drugs are even more severe. 

In this article, we will discuss the varying penalties for drug trafficking in the state of Florida. If you or someone you know has been accused of this serious crime, it is imperative that you consult a drug trafficking defense lawyer in Tampa as soon as possible. 

“Trafficking in Cannabis”

Under Florida law, “Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, in excess of 25 pounds of cannabis, or 300 or more cannabis plants, commits a felony of the first degree …” If found guilty, a defendant faces a minimum prison sentence of three years and a fine of $25,000. Penalties only increase as the amount of marijuana found increases — a minimum seven-year prison sentence and $50,000 fine for 2,000 pounds or 2,000 plants, and a minimum 15-year prison sentence and $200,000 fine for 10,000 pounds or 10,000 cannabis plants. 

Related: Fighting a Drug Trafficking Charge

“Trafficking in Cocaine”

“Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 28 grams or more of cocaine … commits a felony of the first degree.”  If found guilty, a defendant faces a minimum prison sentence of three years and a $50,000 fine. Again, the penalties sharply increase with larger amounts of the illicit substance. 200 grams of cocaine can result in a minimum seven-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine, and 400 grams can result in a minimum 15-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. Although it would take a large amount of marijuana to justify a drug trafficking charge, it takes less than a pound of cocaine to justify a charge of “trafficking in cocaine.” 

Related: The Grey Area of Drug Trafficking Laws 

“Trafficking in Illegal Drugs”

This drug charge pertains to morphine, opium, hydromorphone, heroin, and other illicit substances detailed in 893.03(1)(b), (2)(a), (3)(c)3., or (3)(c)4. Only four grams of one of these substances can result in a three-year mandatory prison sentence and a fine of $50,000. 14 grams can result in a 15-year mandatory prison sentence and a fine of $100,000. And 28 grams can result in a 25-year mandatory prison sentence and a fine of $500,000. Considering that Florida, along with the rest of the country, is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, it’s no wonder that these laws are so severe. This only further argues why the services of a drug trafficking defense attorney in Tampa are so important in drug trafficking cases. 

For a free consultation with a drug trafficking defense lawyer in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

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