Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Be The Difference Between Your Freedom and Incarceration
You often hear the phrase you pay for what you get. That could never be more truthful then when hiring a lawyer. When hiring a lawyer, make sure you understand that you can ask questions like; how many criminal cases have you had in your career? How many times have you actually gone to trial? Have you written appellate briefs? These questions are important because it shows whether or not you are hiring experience and this experience pays off. Take for example the difference between a properly written motion to suppress and State of Florida v. Christine Christmas.
In State v. Christmas, the defendant was stopped for traffic violations for faulty equipment in Broward County, Florida. While the law enforcement officer was writing the traffic citations, the officer called for backup and a police narcotics dog and handler showed up on scene. The narcotics dog did a “free air” sniff around the automobile, while the defendant, Christmas, was in the automobile waiting for her citations to be written. The narcotics dog alerted the handler to “drugs” a “hit” and Christmas was asked to step out of the vehicle. A subsequent search of the automobile found marijuana in the car and then Christmas took out a “pill” from under her bra and handed it to officers.
Christmas’s lawyer argued in her motion to suppress that the stop was pretextual, the defendant was seized without reasonable suspicion, the defendant was unlawfully questioned and the warrantless search of the defendant’s car and person were done improperly and unlawfully. The lawyer did not put any argument into the filed motion about the qualifications of the “dog.” At hearing, the lawyer questioned the “dog handling” officer about his and the dog’s qualifications. It is unclear whether or not the State objected to this line of questioning as being outside the scope of the motion, but what is clear, is that no argument was made within the four corners of the motion to suppress filed by the lawyer and on behalf of the defendant about the “dog’s qualifications.” So what had happened is that the criminal defense lawyer began questioning and making arguments in the live hearing, on the motion to suppress, that was not articulated in the written motion.
The Broward County Judge, in a surprising move, granted the motion to suppress and dismissed the criminal case against Ms. Christmas. But the State of Florida appealed the decision to the Fourth District Court of Appeals. The 4th DCA in their very friendly “Prosecution” fashion reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case back for further proceedings. In the end, Ms. Christmas is back in Circuit Criminal Court where she started and the reasons are as follows.
Because the defendant’s lawyer “did not specifically state” the reasons why the motion should be suppressed the state or prosecution is not required to prove the reliability of the dog in the suppression hearing. Remember the criminal lawyer did not put into writing in the motion to suppress why the “dog” should be excluded as reliable evidence but argued in at the live hearing and because the Judge based her decision on evidence not contained within the written motion the trial court committed err and must be reversed.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals went on to say that much too frequently, we observe that in motions to suppress brought pursuant to 3.190, practitioners imprudently utilize the catch-all phrase: “Other grounds to be argued ore tenus.” (Ore tenus, which just means to be argued orally at the hearing or matter.) The use of these words, ore tenus, in the context of a 3.190 motion to suppress is meaningless because it is the antithesis of the specificity required by the rule and serves no useful purpose. Without more, the movant is prohibited from relying upon the phrase as one of the “clear” reasons for seeking suppression. Certainly the trial court and the state are not required to engage in a game of “20 questions” to decipher its intended meaning. The phrase has no legitimate place in 3.190 jurisprudence and is a legal misnomer.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals is putting the public and all criminal defense practitioners on notice that when you bring a motion to suppress you are responsible for clearly and concisely spelling out in the written motion, exactly what the violation of the Constitution or Statute is. Because if you argue an issue during the motion to suppress, which was not articulated in the written motion; and even though it is a winning argument, as it violates the Constitution or a Florida Statute, the Fourth District Court of Appeals will still deny your Constitutional and Statutory protection, because they put procedure over substance in South Florida.
The difference between a properly written motion to suppress and a poorly written motion to suppress is the difference standing between your freedom and your incarceration. Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been practicing law and defending people in the trial courtrooms, appellate courtrooms and in the administrative law courtrooms since 2001. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal prosecution or criminal investigation call Palm Beach County’s People’s Lawyer Andrew D. Stine. Criminal Defense Lawyering is Andrew D. Stine passion. Allowed Attorney Stine’s passion to shine through for you or a loved one, when you or a loved one is in need of a lawyer in Palm Beach County or anywhere throughout the State of Florida. Hire Stine or Do the Time.