Three Quick Defenses in Violent Crime Prosecutions
Premeditated violent crimes, such as hate crime assaults and arranged murders, usually dominate the headlines. But most assault cases in St. Lucie County are verbal arguments which got out of control. That’s especially true of ordinary assault, which is probably the most commonly-charged violent crime in Florida.
Such combustion assault cases are also relatively easy for Port St. Lucie criminal lawyers to defend. Jurors usually understand the situation, so as long as things did not get completely out of control, they are usually willing to embrace one of several defenses.
That’s assuming the case even gets to trial. Since assault cases have many moving parts, many of them do not make it that far, largely because of procedural errors.
Frequently, officers do not timely Mirandize assault defendants. The law requires police officers to inform defendants of certain Constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent, when custodial interrogation begins.
“Custody” means reasonable people do not feel free to leave. “Interrogation” means any questions designed to extract relevant information. Most people do not feel free to leave when officers approach them. And, such encounters almost always include questions. Yet officers rarely read defendants their rights at this juncture.
Other procedural errors occur during police investigations. Faulty lineups are a good example. Photo or live lineups are rarely double-blind. In most cases, the administering officer knows the suspect’s identity. Such lineups are not always inaccurate, but they are often inaccurate.
On a related note, the aforementioned Fifth Amendment right to remain silent includes more than the right to keep one’s mouth closed. Under this provision, defendants may also refuse to pose for pictures or stand in lineups.
Many criminal cases, such as DUI prosecutions, are single-witness cases. Police officers provide all the testimony. Veteran police officers have usually testified in hundreds or thousands of trials and hearings. They are, in effect, professional witnesses.
Not so for the lay witnesses in assault cases. Since these individuals are not trained to observe human behavior, their observations are often incorrect or biased. And, during cross-examination, they often change their stories on seemingly minor points. These inconsistencies are often enough to destroy a witness’ credibility in the mind of a juror.
That’s assuming such testimony is available at all. Frequently, between the arrest and the trial, lay witnesses relocate beyond the court’s subpoena power or forget so many details that their testimony is unconvincing.
Florida has very broad self-defense laws. For example, Florida is a stand-your-ground state. Defendants do not have a duty to retreat before they use force, even deadly force, to defend themselves, their property, or other people.
Additionally, Florida has a proportional force rule. For example, assume Steve threatened Tom, and to defend himself, Tom grabbed an empty beer bottle. If Steve was physically larger than Tom, Tom might have a legitimate self-defense argument.
Generally, self-defense can be considered both in the guilt-innocence portion of a trial and during the penalty phase.
Connect with an Aggressive Lawyer
Assault charges do not always hold up in court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.