How to Handle Criminal Charges if You’re an Innocent Defendant

How to Handle Criminal Charges if You’re an Innocent Defendant

How to Handle Criminal Charges if You’re an Innocent Defendant

Many people mistakenly believe that only guilty people are arrested and charged with crimes. Unfortunately, that’s not even close to true. Innocent people are suspected and accused of crimes all the time. And, many are convicted. It’s been estimated that between 2% and 10% of people in prison in the United States are innocent. With a prison population of nearly 2,000,000, that means there could be between 40,000 and nearly 200,000 people serving time for crimes they didn’t commit. 

If the police want to question you or if you’ve already been arrested or charged with a crime, it’s critical that you know how to protect yourself from the beginning. The best way to accomplish this is to seek representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. 

Attorney Matthew Lufrano has dedicated his legal practice to representing people who have been accused of crimes in Florida. The Florida Bar has recognized him as a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law, and he has tried dozens of criminal cases before Florida juries. That’s just the type of experience you need on your side if you’ve been wrongly accused of a crime. 

Unfortunately, many people believe because they are innocent they have nothing to worry about and as a result significant and unfortunate mistakes may follow.

Mistakes Innocent Defendants Make

While every case is different and in some cases speaking to the police may be helpful, it is always best to speak with an attorney before speaking to members of law enforcement. An attorney can advise you about your rights, can be present for any discussion with the police, and can assist you in ending such a meeting if needed. 

Unfortunately the first and often most significant mistake most innocent defendants make is talking to the police without first consulting with an attorney. In such situations people who know they haven’t done anything wrong, often believe that simply telling their story will clear things up. However, police and prosecutors don’t always interpret things the way one expects them to.  They don’t always believe what they are told.

Think Twice Before Talking to Police

The urge to set the record straight is strong, but it can backfire–even if you’re innocent. Here are just a few reasons you should generally keep quiet until you’ve talked with an attorney:

  • Any and all statements you make can and will be used against you.
  • The stress of the request to talk to the police may impair your attention to their questions as well as your memory of an event.
  • Minor inconsistencies, even accidental ones, can be raised later on to make it look like your word can’t be trusted.
  • Statements you make may be taken out of context and used against you later, or what you said may be paraphrased or misinterpreted
  • Innocent actions may be incriminating in ways you don’t understand

You have a right to remain silent, but if you waive it (explicitly or by talking), then whatever you say can come back to haunt you.

Understand the Police are Not On Your Side

It’s important to understand that while police officers serve a very important role in our society, when investigating any crime they are not on the side of a suspect. This remains true even if the police officer seems friendly.  If you are a suspect in a crime, a police officer may say things to you like, “I can’t help you unless I know the whole story” or “I want to get this wrapped up so you can get out of here.” 

They may also find points of identification, like having gone to the same school or knowing how stressful it is to be a divorced dad or being frustrated with your employer. Never lose sight of the fact that their goal is to gather evidence. And, for many, it’s not to gather evidence objectively. Instead, the “investigation” may be geared entirely toward supporting their theory.

Know Your Rights

When you’re being questioned by the police, it’s not always clear whether you’re free to go. So don’t be afraid to ask. Police may just start asking questions, and you may feel like you’re obligated to stay and talk to them. But simply asking if you’re free to go can clarify things a great deal. If you’re not then you want to speak to someone who has only your best interests in mind and that person is your local criminal defense attorney. 

If you are being detained, let police know that you would like to speak with an attorney, and then stop talking until you’ve received some advice from an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

Don’t Panic

If you’re a suspect in an ongoing investigation or you’ve been arrested, both the prosecution and law enforcement will be very interested in your next moves. Panic responses, such as fleeing, destroying potential evidence, or directly contacting potential witnesses should all be avoided. Such panic responses will not only hurt your pending case, but may also lead to your prosecution for new crimes, like evidence tampering.

When you’re facing criminal charges for something you didn’t do it’s more important than ever to remain calm and think strategically. Calmly and politely assert your rights and then arrange to speak with a local criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

Talk to a Jacksonville Defense Attorney

The best time to talk with a criminal defense lawyer is as soon as you are arrested, find out you’ve been charged with a crime, or learn that you are under investigation. Your attorney will have the best opportunity to fully defend you if you’ve avoided making any missteps before you were represented. 

If you’ve already given a statement, the next best time to contact a seasoned criminal defense lawyer is right now. Your criminal defense lawyer can advise you on your next steps, serve as a buffer between you and law enforcement, assess the strengths and weaknesses in the case against you, and perhaps even suppress your statement and/or other evidence gathered. But, there are no guarantees: not every discussion with police before you’re represented violates your rights, and that evidence may be used against you. So, no matter where you are in the process, it’s best to stop talking until you’ve consulted a lawyer.

We want to make it as easy as possible to take that step. That’s why Matthew Lufrano offers free consultations to people who have been charged with crimes in and around Jacksonville. You can schedule yours right now by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out the contact form on this site.

Fighting Your DUI Charge: Rising Blood Alcohol Defense

Fighting Your DUI Charge: Rising Blood Alcohol Defense

Fighting Your DUI Charge: Rising Blood Alcohol Defense

You probably know that blood alcohol content (BAC) plays a critical role in many DUI cases. Furthermore, the law as it stands in Florida may make it seem like the deck is stacked against the driver. Specifically, here in Florida if your BAC is .08 or higher, that alone may be sufficient to support a conviction for the charge of DUI. However, even if your BAC is below .08, you may still be charged with and even convicted of driving under the influence. But an experienced DUI attorney may be able to challenge that BAC reading. For example, the reading may be challenged on the basis of:

  • Improper procedures or administration by an officer or other person who wasn’t properly trained to administer and read the test
  • Faulty or unreliable machinery
  • Machinery that hasn’t been properly calibrated or maintained
  • An artificially high reading due to some sort of medication, such as toothache gel or some cough medicines
  • An artificially high reading due to a medical condition

These are just a few examples of ways your Jacksonville DUI attorney may be able to call blood alcohol and breath alcohol testing into question. But, did you know that there may be a way to fight BAC-based DUI charges even if the machine was working properly and none of these potential flaws in the process apply?

Here’s why: for at least some period of time after a person consumes alcohol their blood alcohol level continues to increase.

Blood Alcohol Levels Over Time

The general assumption many make–and the one prosecutors hope juries will make–is that the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood is dropping from the time they stopped drinking. By that reasoning, a driver’s BAC thirty minutes after an arrest for suspected drunk driving would always be lower than it was when they were operating the vehicle. But, science says otherwise.

Like most substances, alcohol takes time to work its way through your system. When you stop drinking, the alcohol in your stomach and intestines continues to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Typically, that process continues for somewhere between 30 minutes and two hours. That means the average person reaches “peak BAL” at some point 30 minutes or more after drinking. But, in some cases, it can take much longer.

Here’s an extreme example to illustrate how it works.

Imagine that Erin, a 125-pound woman who hasn’t had any other alcohol downs two shots of liquor, then gets immediately into her car to drive home. Now based upon her weight and the amount of alcohol consumed, her peak BAC, or the highest it should reach will likely be about .085, which is just over the legal limit in Florida. However, since it’s only been a few minutes since she drank the alcohol, she won’t yet have reached that peak level. 

Then imagine that a police officer sees when she slightly crosses the center line. She’s pulled over and admits to having had two shots. The police take her to the station and administers a breathalyzer test. The trip to the station and administrative steps take about 30 minutes, and then they have to wait another 20 minutes as part of the test, before a sample can be provided.  

At this point, it’s been 50 minutes since Erin operated her vehicle. In other words, she may just be reaching peak BAC. 

The breathalyzer test reads .083. Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or greater is a crime in Florida, even with no signs of impairment. But, Erin may not be guilty of that crime, since there’s good reason to believe her BAC was lower than .08 when she was operating a motor vehicle. 

Its also worth pointing out that the process of absorbing and metabolizing alcohol isn’t necessarily consistent from person to person, nor from one situation to another. Some of the factors that can impact how long it takes to reach peak BAC include:

  • Whether and how much the person has recently eaten
  • Health factors, including liver and digestive health
  • How quickly the alcohol was consumed

For example, when you drink alcohol on a full stomach, that alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly. That’s because one way alcohol is absorbed is through the stomach lining. When there’s food in the stomach, that process slows down. That means if Erin had those two shots in a restaurant after eating a large meal, her BAC might not reach peak levels until significantly more time had passed.

Drinking pace matters, too, because a healthy liver can only break down about one drink per hour. So, if you consume one drink per hour across three hours, your BAC won’t ever reach the same peak as you would consuming three drinks in one hour.

Of course, breathalyzer machines and blood tests don’t always give you a complete picture. They only give a blood alcohol level at a specific point in time: the point when the test was conducted or the blood was drawn. But it’s important to consider how the process of alcohol absorption and metabolism work when dealing with a charge of DUI, and an experienced DUI defense attorney can help with that.

Using the Rising Blood Alcohol Defense

There’s no quick and easy way to determine whether the rising BAC defense may be applicable in your case. Because there are so many variables in play, establishing that a BAC reading does not accurately reflect the actual alcohol in your blood while you were operating a vehicle requires expert analysis and testimony. If you’ve been charged with DUI and you believe that you may have a rising blood alcohol defense, it’s important to work with a seasoned local criminal devense attorney that specializes in DUI convictions and knows how to assemble the type of evidence necessary to effectively present this defense.

Jacksonville DUI attorney Matthew Lufrano has devoted his career to helping people who have been charged with crimes in Florida. Mr. Lufrano is a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law, and knows from experience how important it is for you to find the best DUI lawyer for your situation. That’s why he offers free consultations to people facing DUI charges and other criminal charges in and around Jacksonville.

Schedule yours now. Just call 904-513-3905.