Covid Crime can get you Hard time

Aiken and O’Halloran and Foley SW Fla Criminal Defense Offices: Sarasota 941-366-3506 Ft Myers 239-334-8890 Punta Gorda 941-639-6009 Cape Coral 239-984-4994

August 1 2020

The Covid 19 pandemic has created an economic crisis for a lot of folks.  We are headed into at least a year of really hard times.  Many people in desperation do things they would not otherwise do.  Maybe it is writing a bad check?  Maybe it is stealing or embezzling from an employer?  Maybe it is taking advantage of an elderly relative?    Maybe it is Payroll Protection Program fraud? Fraud cases here in Sarasota are on the rise and with that, fraud arrests and fraud prosecutions are on the rise.  Don’t let hard times create a situation where you end up doing hard time in prison.

If you hear or find out you are under investigation for tax fraud, or a scheme to defraud, don’t wait until the police are at your door to arrest you.  If you are under investigation for sales tax fraud, or some other white collar crime, talk to a lawyer before it is too late, before you get arrested.  Do not wait until you are sitting in jail trying to get bonded out.  Most lawyers do not charge for a free initial consultation.

As a former Special Agent (years ago) and a former Federal prosecutor and most importantly as a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer, I can honestly tell you, if you are contacted, keep your mouth shut and lawyer up.  Do not try and talk your way out of trouble.  You may be providing to the detective the missing link in his prosecution.  You have a right to remain silent.  Exercise that right and politely tell the detective that you do not want to say anything until you speak with a lawyer.

If the cops show up with a search warrant for your busines records, say nothing.  Never voluntarily turn over your computer unless they have a warrant.  Never give a pass code unless they have a court order and you are compelled to do so.  Always seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.  You may thing you can talk your way out of it, but that is a huge mistake.  You may think that if you don’t explain something they will think you are guilty, but, if you open your mouth you may enable them to prove you are guilty.

Shut up and lawyer up

TO SCAN OR NOT TO SCAN, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Aiken and O’Halloran SW Fla Criminal Defense Offices: Sarasota 941-366-3506 Ft Myers 239-334-8890 Punta Gorda 941-366-3506 Cape Coral 239-334-8890

HAVE YOU BEEN ARRESTED FOR PETIT THEFT OR GIVEN A CITATION FOR SHOPLIFTING WHERE THE SCANNER AT THE STORE DID NOT PICK UP THE ITEM?

JUNE 10 2020

No, that is not a quote from Hamlet but it is a question some people ask themselves dozens of times standing in the self checkout lines at Walmart and other stores.  With the Covid crisis and the joblessness, more and more people out of necessity are being charged with petit theft in Bradenton or sometimes grand theft in Sarasota or Lee county for not scanning all of their items in the self checkout line.

As a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer, I have seen several recent cases where people either get arrested or get a notice to appear in Court for not scanning all of their items.  This is often an impulse crime.  Sometimes, it is an actual mistake innocently made.

A petit theft charge in Sarasota Bradenton or Fort Myers, even though it is only a misdemeanor, can come back to haunt you later in life.  An employer, checking your record will find it and move on to someone else who does not have a record.  People on dating sites, now often check a person’s record, before going on a date or beginning a relationship.  For sure, potential employers will check public arrest records.  If you were an employer and had two candidates for a job, and one of them had an arrest for theft, which one would you pick.  You would never get a job handling money. As a Sarasota criminal petit theft defense attorney I handle cases like this all the time.   There are ways to avoid having a record.  Many times I have been able to get cases dropped and expunged by getting a client enrolled in a “diversion program”.  Many times I have been able to get what is known as a “withheld adjudication” which means no “conviction” and no record.  The little bit of money you spend on a defense attorney or defense lawyer may save you tons in the future

Domestic Battery Arrests on the rise in Sarasota

Sarasota and Bradenton Criminal Defense Attorney Peter D Aiken 941-366-3506 Representing the Florida Accused

May 20 2020

The Covid “stay at home” social distancing directive has had collateral consequencesSince people cannot drink at bars, they are drinking at home with their spouses.  Husbands and wives being in a confined space, coupled with economic chaos has created a situation where if you ad alcohol, an explosive situation can result.  Tempers are running short.  Stress it high.  Unemployment and poverty is creating marital stress and discord.  The net result is an increase in simple domestic battery arrests.

A domestic battery arrest has horrific consequences.  For starters, some poor guy now has to bond out, if he is lucky enough to have any money at all.  Then, most times, the judge at first appearance will have set a “no contact order”, keeping the person arrested from returning home.  In these Covid times, most people cannot afford one place to live, much less two.

As a criminal defense lawyer handling these types of family battery cases, my goal is the get the charges reduced or dropped and even more importantly, heal the family relationship.  The first step is getting the “no contact” order set aside.  This is not easy because the Courts are only handling emergency matters.  It is difficult but not impossible.  The next step is to try and convince the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charge and to get all of this done in a timely manner.  If you are under a no contact order, every day counts.

A domestic violence conviction has dire consequences It affects your right to buy a firearm.  It can land you in County jail for a few days.  It can come back to haunt you if you ever have another legal problem.  Getting mattes like this resolved quickly should be a priority.  Sometimes the charge is even more serious if someone was hurt or a weapon like a knife or gun was involved.  Sometimes the State charges “battery by strangulation” and most of the time that sounds much more serious than what really happened.

It costs nothing to initially speak with most lawyers, including me.  I know times are tough economically but hiring a good private lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.  Everyone need to know their options when it comes to a criminal case.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR SARASOTA MANATEE COUNTY CRIMINAL DEFENSE SITE… WE ARE OPEN …941-366-3506

Sarasota Cocaine Arrests on increase

Peter D Aiken Sarasota and Manatee Federal and State Criminal Defense Attorney 941 366 3506

February 11 2020

Here in Sarasota and Manatee County arrests for possession and sale of cocaine seem to be on the rise.  That could be because there is more cocaine in town or because of increased law enforcement efforts.  When the quantity exceeds certain amounts, the State will file trafficking in cocaine which jacks up the penalties.  Another technique the police use is to try and get someone to sell cocaine within a thousand feet of a school also to increase the sentence.  If they are successful in making a “buy”, they will also go back to the seller over and over to run up the charges and increase the sentencing guidelines.  If they can make a cocaine bust and get cocaine and guns to together, sometimes they file armed trafficking, again to run up the penalties

With the new technology, police can install surveillance cameras in high crime areas that can go un-noticed for months to watch for “street dealers” and unusual activity between cars and people walking up to cars.  The most common cocaine arrest is for possession and this generally occurs when the police find cocaine on a person they are arresting for something else.  A person may get arrested for DUI or arrested for driving on a suspended license, and when they go to tow the vehicle and inventory the car, they often find drugs.  As a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer, I have had cases where a woman gets arrested for a small quantity of cocaine found in her purse she has totally forgotten about.  It may have been there from partying weeks or months before.  You know how cluttered women’s purse can be.  The same goes for men.  It may be in a jacket or pants pocket, totally forgotten from months before.  As a Sarasota defense lawyer, I have had cases where a relative or friend borrows a car, a coat or piece of clothing only to get arrested for something they had no idea was in their possession.

What is “Possession’?  You can have actual possession where the drug is on you, and you can get charged with “constructive possession”, when the police find cocaine, pot, or some other drug in an area under your control, such as a car or bedroom.

Do not assume that because you have been arrested you will be found guilty.  The car stop may have been illegal.  The search may have been illegal.  If there was more than one person in the car you may have a good defense.  Before you take drug court or some diversion program of probation, you really need to talk to a good criminal defense lawyer.

It may be weeks before a public defender actually has an office visit with you to discuss the specific facts of your case.  Sometimes “Diversion” or “Probation” can be a trap.  This is particularly true if you are a regular “user”.   Talking to a good criminal defense attorney may keep you from making a terrible mistake.

Suncoast news related article

Drug Dealers can face murder charges and stiff minimum sentences

Peter D Aiken – Aiken and O’Halloran – Experienced Criminal Defense Sarasota – 941-366-3506 – Sarasotadefender.com

Drug Dealers can face murder charges and stiff minimum sentences

Here in Sarasota and Manatee County the State is out to reduce the drug overdose rate by cracking down on anyone who sells fentanyl.   No legislator, and few prosecutors, understand how the fentanyl epidemic came about.  This all goes back to the pharmaceutical companies and the opiates their drug reps pushed for years and the doctors that prescribed Oxycontin and Oxycodone in excess.  Thousand of normal people got hooked on opiates.  When the legislature tried to stop that problem with the drug database law, no one anticipated the result. 

The implementation of the law cracking down on doctor shopping, and cutting off the supply of prescription opiates, left the people addicted nowhere to go but to the street level drug dealers to get a substitute, heroin.  As the police cracked down on the heroin supply, the dealers turned to Fentanyl, readily available from China and other Asian countries.

Fentanyl kills people and is much deadlier than heroin and there was a spike in deaths in Bradenton and Sarasota.  The underlying problem is addiction and the true answer is to treat drug addiction as a medical issue.  If you take the money out of it, there would be no drug dealers.  In the meantime, society continues to deal with this in the wrong way.

There are stiff minimum mandatory sentences for trafficking in Heroin and Fentanyl. But for every drug dealer sentenced to twenty years another one will take his place.  Over the years, as a Drug Offense criminal defense lawyer in Sarasota and Manatee, I have represented hundreds of people charged with trafficking, dealing and possession of Opiates like heroin, Fentanyl and other designer drugs.  Drug addiction is a medical issue and the Florida prison system is full of addicts who were selling and dealing to simply support their own habit. The laws need to change, but in the meantime, as a Sarasota and Manatee Criminal Defense Attorney handling Felony drug charges, I will continue to try and help people accused of dealing drugs.  For many, it is the only way they can support their habit.  The answer is a better intervention program where addicts get help not jail.  If you or a friend or relative find yourself in a bad legal situation as a result of drug dependency and what to talk, a free confidential consultation may help you find answers to your problem.  Jail is not the answer for addiction

How much of a prison sentence to you actually serve?

Aiken and O’Halloran of Sarasota Peter D. Aiken 941-366-3506

February 6 2020

How much of a prison sentence to you actually serve?

Currently, if you are sentenced to State prison, you will server 85 per cent of the sentence, less any time you spent in jail on the charges before conviction.  There is a move to reduce the amount of time to 65%, instead of the current 85%.  Sheriff Wells of Manatee County is leading the opposition to this proposed change involving what they call the “Truth in Sentencing” law.

As a State and Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida, In Florida, it is sometimes difficult to know what you are facing in actual prison time under the Florida sentencing guidelines.  In some instances the State can manipulate the guidelines and run your sentence up just by the way they word the charge.  For example, here in Sarasota, in child pornography cases, the State always charges 40 second degree felonies in an attempt to force the courts to impose what in actuality is a life sentence for just looking at pictures or videos.  In other cases, there is a minimum mandatory sentence that leaves the Court no choice in imposing sentence.  It takes a really good experienced criminal lawyer to give you a projection of how much time you will actually serve. As a Sarasota and Manatee criminal defense lawyer, I try and give clients a good estimate of the actual time…but it is just a projection that can change as the law changes.  Sometimes it is more and sometimes it is less.

It is also difficult to know how much time you will actually serve in County jail.  The most you can get in County jail is one year.  How much of that your actually serve varies from County to County.  It depends on the various “programs” in each individual county.  For example, you will serve more of your sentence in Manatee County than you will in Sarasota County.  It also makes a difference if you are sentenced in Federal Court.  As a former Federal prosecutor, I can tell you, generally the Federal time is “softer” than State prison.  The conditions are more civilized.  For example, if you end up in a Federal “Camp” you may do 85% of your sentence but be eligible for half way house as you get closer to the end of your sentence.  In the Federal system, if you get a “camp”, it is a lot like being in the military.  Most of the Federal “camps” are converted military bases and the conditions are way better than State prison.

As a State and Federal defense lawyer, I would rather have a client serve the sentence in Federal prison than in State prison.  Many of the criminal defense lawyers have little experience in Federal matters and not all criminal defense lawyers practice in both State and Federal Courts.  I recently had a client who was facing 8 years in State prison end up with 15 months in Federal “prison camp”.  That is a huge difference for the exact same conduct.  It makes a huge difference as to whether or not you are in the State or Federal system.

If you are under investigation and have not been charged yet, now, not later, is the time to hire a defense lawyer.  The lawyer may be able to get you prosecuted in a Court where you will do less time under better conditions.  This is particularly true when it comes to sex crimes like child pornography or Internet solicitation of a minor.  If a search warrant for kiddie porn has been executed on your house and you have not yet been arrested, you need to get the best lawyer who really knows the system immediately.  It may make a huge difference down the road.  If you are under investigation and want to have a confidential conversation about what your future may hold, give us a call

Probation Violations

More people get arrested in Sarasota and Manatee County for a violation of probation than any other reason.  The County jail is full of people being held without bond for a violation of probation.  Probation, sometimes is a trap for the unwary.  You may have taken a plea deal to avoid trial or have simply followed the Public Defender’s advice and set yourself up for failure.

Technical Violation

You do not have to commit a new crime to get arrested.  If you do not pay your court costs, if you do not pay the fees for supervision imposed by the Court, if you do not pay restitution or if you simply miss an appointment with your probation officer a warrant will be issued for your arrest.  Simply not having money to pay can get you arrested and thrown back in jail.  Our Sarasota and Bradenton criminal defense firm has been defending probation violations for years.  Do not wait to be arrested.  If you have a problem with your probation officer, call today and we may be able to work it out before you are picked up for a violation.New Crime Violations. If you get arrested on a new charge while you are on probation, your probation officer will have you rearrested for a probation violation and you will sit in jail waiting for a hearing.  The new offense may be incredibly minor but if it occurred while you were on supervision, you have huge problem.  We may be able to convince the judge to release you while you wait for a probation violation hearing.  Any conviction for a new offense violates your probation and subjects you to time in either County jail or State prison.  Your sentencing guidelines may have been computed incorrectly or you simply may have not committed the new crime or violation.  Do not wait until your hearing.  Call us now for a free consultation.

Sex Offender Probation Violations

A violation of sex offender probation can land you in State prison.  Often, electronic monitors malfunction and register a false report.  Often, a probation officer fails to write down the details of your request or report to him.  Often the officer is simply out to get you and is searching for any reason to violate you.  You may have missed a deadline or appointment or forgotten to call in or come in past curfew.  You may have been forced to move suddenly and not had time to report the new address.  The probation officers generally are not there to help you and some simply look for some excuse to violate you put you back in jail.  A violation must be willful and substantial and we can many times convince the Court that your situation was accidental or unintentional.  If a loved one is in jail or if you have been arrested on a violation of probation call today. 

Our Sarasota office is on Ringling across from the jail, next to the Courthouse and steps from the probation office.  Call today at 941-366-3506

Don’t take a sleigh ride to Jail

Arrests are always up here in Sarasota during the holidaysDui arrests spike because of the holiday parties but many more people get arrested for “petit theft”, shoplifting.  Some people simply act out of impulse and do something that they would never do if they actually thought about it.  The most common theft arrest now is for people who do not scan some of their items at checkout, often at Home Depot, Walmart  or Publix.  The temptation simply overcomes common sense and a few of the expensive items slip by.  Many people put their finger or hand over the barcode and make it appear the item was scanned when actually the item was not.  A petit theft arrest is embarrassing and can be humiliating when your photo shows up on “Mugshots.com”.

Some people out of desperation steal, but for many more, it is simply an impulse and they do it without thinking.  Some people however do it for a living targeting expensive items they later sell on the Internet or on FacebookWhen the item exceeds a certain amount, the arrest results in a felony charge for Grand Theft.  When you have prior convictions for petit theft, sometimes the charge gets increased to Grand Theft.  You can actually end up doing time in County Jail for simply doing something stupid.

As a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer, I can’t tell you how many times I have represented housewives,  grandmothers and other “normal” people who make a mistake and give in to temptation.  Most of the time, if the person has not prior arrest or conviction the case can result in “Diversion” taking the case out of the criminal court system if the person takes an “anti-theft” class.  Even though petit theft is a minor offense it really helps to have a good experience lawyer.  If your case is not handled properly you may end up with a conviction that will haunt you later in life when and employer runs your record before hiring you.  Many times, if it is a first arrest, you can get it expunged if you don’t end up with a conviction.

It is worth a call to a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer to know your options.  Most lawyers do not charge for an initial free consultation and your really should make an informed decision before simply pleading guilty.  You may have a good defense.  You may be totally innocent.  Your arrest or your stop and search may have been illegal.  Most people do not actually know their “rights”.  Good people sometimes do bad things.  Don’t let a simple mistake ruin your reputation.

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Aiken and O’Halloran SW Fla Criminal Defense Offices: Sarasota 941366-3506 Ft Myers 239-334-8890 Punta Gorda 941-639-6009

Are “Battery” charges serious?

Aiken and O’Halloran Fla Criminal Defense Offices: Sarasota 941-366-3506 Ft Myers 239-334-8890

If you have been charged with a battery in Sarasota or Manatee County it can have serious consequences.  The most common charge is what is referred to as “Simple Battery”.  Quite simply it is a non-consensual touching.  These mostly occur in the context of a domestic situation between and husband and wife, a boyfriend and girlfriend of relatives that live together.  When 911 is called over a domestic disturbance, generally, someone is going to jail.  The police are afraid that if they do not arrest someone and the argument later gets violent and someone gets killed or hurt they will be sued.  The battery does not have to be violent.  I once defended a man for throwing cold water on his spouse who was berating him and arguing with him.  Sometimes, the man simply tries to restrain a wife or girlfriend who is attacking him.  The police generally side with the woman and hear her side of the story first.  The reality is that many times, it is the woman who started the disturbance and the woman who attacked the man.  A domestic battery conviction has serious consequences, including the right to carry a firearm, buy a firearm and sometimes possess a firearm if you end up on probation.  Most times, if the battery does not result in injury, there is no jail time but the person who pleads ends up with 26 weeks of anger management compelled attendance.

Aggravated battery is serious however.  It is a felony and can result in State prison of County Jail time.  An aggravated battery occurs when a weapon is used.  If someone gets hit with a stick, a plate or some other object, the police can arrest the person for aggravated battery.  It can occur in the context of road rage where one person attacks the other after stopping or uses the vehicle as a weapon.  Ramming the other driver’s car can result in an aggravated battery charge.  If the weapon used is a gun or firearm, it takes it to another level.  If a firearm is discharged it can result in mandatory prison.  If a firearm or gun is pointed it can result  in an aggravated assault charge.  Threatening a person with a gun or knife, if it creates a well founded fear of harm is all it takes to get charged with a felony.  Pointing a gun at another driver will get you arrested and charged.  Shooting into a vehicle can land you in State prison.

I have found that generally, there are two sides to every story, and often the police make a snap decision and believe the first person they talk to.  Generally, that is the woman.  The decision should not be based on gender, but often it is.

Over the years, I have defended hundreds of domestic battery cases.  An arrest for domestic battery generally results in the judge at first appearance issuing a no contact order.  This can spell disaster for the typical family.  Often the family member did not want the other family member arrested.  The no contact order often creates an enormous financial hardship because most families cannot afford two places to live.  As a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer, often my role is to reunite the family and bring an end to the nightmare as quickly as possible.  Most domestic arguments are the result of alcohol and a fit of anger.  The State attorney often will want to go forward even if the parties have reconciled.  Good representation is critical.

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Do Internet Sex Stings Catch Real Predators?

Every time an Internet sex sting is run, like the latest one here in Sarasota, elected officials, usually the Sheriff, make press releases making it appear the community is being saved from sex predators.  The simple truth is that the police are creating a crime and most of the time arresting a man who was not looking for a child, or for that matter sex.  Now that Craigslist Casual Encounters has been shut down by the Feds, local law enforcement, to keep the arrest statistics up, has started trolling the regular social media dating sites like Meetme.com. or Scout.com.  The pattern is always the same.  First, the detective creates a profile as an adult.  The application may randomly match that profile with an unsuspecting man.  Generally, a photograph is posted with the profile.  Lonely, socially shy men respond and engage in texting and chat.  Eventually, the detective will say something like “I lied, I am really 14” or something like “I am too young to drive”.  Simply chatting with a minor can lead to an arrest.  No adult man should even chat or text with a minor, much less ever discuss sex.  The best way to not get arrested is to never chat with a minor about anything.

News flash guys….There are no teenage girls that are even remotely interested in having an older man teach them anything about sex.  If you are on some dating site and someone mentions or hints that they are underage…terminate the conversation and block them.  It is always an undercover cop.  Some people mistakenly believe that if they ask “are you a cop?” the detectives have to respond truthfully.  That is a total misconception.  Police do not have to acknowledge they are law enforcement.  The Internet sex stings in Sarasota, Manatee and Ft. Myers are not going to stop.  ICAC, the Internet Crimes against Children entity,  funds some local law enforcement activities and the locals have to produce results (arrests).  Naïve young socially inept men are prime targets.  I have defended over forty of these cases, including men with autism and other psychological weaknesses.  The police target the weak lonely men that are rarely real predators.  Never under any circumstances send a naked pic or a dick pic to anyone, even an adult.  The Internet is a dangerous place.

There is now running an Internet scam where the scammer engages a man in chat and sends a naked pic of a teenager.  Shortly thereafter, there is more contact by a person pretending to be law enforcement, threatening an arrest unless money is sent in the guise of some type of “Diversion” program.  Another common scam is when a text or email is sent from what purports to be a parent who has “discovered” his or her child’s chat.  The person will claim that they took the child’s phone or computer and destroyed it.  They will hit you up for money.  The police never, no never, ask for money.  It is always a scam.  Internet sex stings are not going to stop.  It creates arrests and convictions and drives up crime statistics for law enforcement.  A single sex sting can result in 20 to 30 arrests and convictions that render people sex offenders for life.  What we need here in Florida is prevention.  The police need to be in the middle schools warning young boys and girls of the danger of the Internet.  Kids need to be warned that “sexting” with other kids can get them arrested.  Our kids live in a dangerous Internet world and crime prevention should be a priority.  In the average sting, 20 to 30 officers are involved with hundreds of man hours.  That time could be better spent on educating our children, but that does not make for headlines.  What a waste?  The general public is in most instances misled about what really happens in these stings.  There are hundreds of men in Florida prisons who fell for this entrapment ploy.  The Internet Sex Stings need to stop.

Sarasota and Bradenton Criminal Defense Attorney Peter D Aiken 941-366-3506 Representing the Florida Accused
https://youtu.be/d7TLbP7ksv8