Criminal Defense Attorney

The Nuts and Bolts of Hearsay in the Tampa Criminal Courts

What Is Hearsay? How is Hearsay Defined in the Tampa Criminal Courts?

In Tampa, Florida criminal trials, the Florida Rules of Evidence apply.  The Florida Rules of Evidence are laid out in Chapter 90 of the Florida Statutes.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Chapter 90 of the Florida Statutes sets out the rules of evidence which apply in Tampa criminal trials.

One of the most important of Florida’s evidentiary rules deals with hearsay.  Hearsay in court statements can be a deciding factor in a Tampa jury’s decision to acquit or convict a defendant.

Florida law defines hearsay as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”  However, that definition is not so easy to understand.  Think of it like this – if a witness in court testifies about something that they heard another person say, there could be a hearsay problem.

What Is An Example of Hearsay?

There are plenty of hearsay examples that help explain the subject. Let’s say that Mr. Snoopy is walking near the park, when he sees an ambulance headed toward the hospital with its lights and sirens activated.  When Mr. Snoopy approaches Mr. Woodstock and asks him what happened, Mr. Woodstock answers: “That monster Lucy Van Pelt pulled a football away from poor Charlie Brown as he was trying to kick it, and Charlie Brown flew through the air and hurt his back.”

If Mr. Snoopy were called to testify at trial as to the cause of Mr. Brown’s back injury, his testimony would be hearsay, as it was not based on Mr. Snoopy’s personal observations, but rather what he heard Mr. Woodstock say.

Why is Hearsay Generally Inadmissible in the Tampa Criminal Courts?

The general rule is that hearsay evidence is not allowed at trial because the law considers it untrustworthy.  That’s because it is difficult to test the accuracy of a witness’s statement unless that witness can be cross-examined.  For example, using the example above, perhaps Mr. Woodstock previously dated Ms. Van Pelt but she ended the relationship, and Mr. Woodstock is still furious over the breakup.  Mr. Woodstock might be falsely implicating Ms. Van Pelt out of spite and vengeance. If Mr. Snoopy testifies in the place of Mr. Woodstock, then Ms. Van Pelt’s attorney will never get to attack Mr. Woodstock’s statement as the lie of a bitter ex-boyfriend.

Similarly, perhaps Mr. Woodstock had been drinking beer at the park all day, and that all the beer made his vision blurry.  In this case, Mr. Woodstock may think he is telling the truth but might be mistaken due to his drunkenness.  If Mr. Snoopy testifies in the place of Mr. Woodstock, then Ms. Van Pelt’s attorney will never get to attack Mr. Woodstock’s statement as a misperception caused by excessive beer drinking.

What is the Excited Utterance Exception? How is it Applied in the Tampa Criminal Courts?

There are, however, many exceptions to the hearsay rule.  For example, there is an exception to the hearsay rule called the “Excited Utterance Exception.”  The Excited Utterance Exception applies to a statement about a startling event, made while the person making the statement was still under the excitement of the startling event.

The idea behind the Excited Utterance Exception is that when an event is startling, that the person making a statement is so surprised that they don’t have time to think about what they witnessed so that the statement is less likely to be a lie.  The problem with the Excited Utterance Exception is that although the statement may not be a lie, the statement could still be untrue because the person making the statement might be mistaken.

For example, let’s suppose that Mr. Snoopy was present at the park, but that he was sitting on a bench texting on his iPhone.  Suddenly, he hears Mr. Brown scream, then he hears a thump, and then he hears Mr. Woodstock scream out: “That monster Lucy Van Pelt pulled a football away from poor Charlie Brown as he was trying to kick it, and Charlie Brown flew through the air hurt his back.”  When Mr. Snoopy looks up from his iPhone, he sees Mr. Brown lying flat on his back, and Ms. Van Pelt walking away.

If Mr. Brown’s attorney can prove to the judge that the Mr. Van Pelt’s pulling the football away and Mr. Brown flying through the air was a sufficiently startling event to Mr. Woodstock and that Mr. Woodstock was still under the influence of that startling event, then the Judge may allow Mr. Brown to testify as to what he heard Mr. Woodstock say.  The idea is that Mr. Woodstock, even if he hates Ms. Van Pelt, would not have had time to think up a lie about her.

However, as stated above, the Excited Utterance Exception’s weakness is that although Mr. Woodstock might have actually believed that Ms. Van Pelt pulled the football away, it’s possible that Mr. Woodstock was just plain wrong – in our example, perhaps because he was so drunk that he could not tell the difference between Ms. Van Pelt and Ms. Peppermint Patty.

Are You Looking for An Expert Hearsay Attorney In Tampa Florida?

Criminal Defense Attorney

Nationally and Florida Board Certified Tampa Criminal Attorney David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that has extensive experience handling criminal cases.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime such as hearsay in Tampa, Florida, contact Attorney David C. Hardy.

Attorney David Hardy specializes in Tampa criminal defense and is a former prosecutor.  He now represents persons accused of crimes in both Tampa state and Tampa federal courts.  Attorney Hardy is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law.  Fewer that one percent of all Florida attorneys are board certified in criminal trial law.

 

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Federal Criminal Appeals in Tampa Florida

Federal Criminal Appeals in Tampa Florida

Defendants in Tampa federal criminal cases that have pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial have a right to appeal the decisions of the federal district court judge that handled their case.  For example, defendants generally can appeal decisions that a Tampa federal district court judge made before their trial, during their trial, and at their sentencing hearing.

When a defendant in a Tampa federal criminal case files an appeal, federal appellate judges from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, decide the appeal. If the appellate court finds that the Tampa district court judge made a mistake during the course of the case, it can order the district court judge to conduct a new new trial or sentencing hearing that may result in a more favorable result for the defendant.

How Does the Tampa Federal Appellate Process Begin?

The Tampa federal appellate process begins when a defendant or his attorney files a notice of appeal with the federal district court clerk.  The notice of appeal must be filed within 14 days the entry of the final judgment.  Then, the appellate court will set a deadline for the defendant’s initial appellate brief.  An inital appellate brief is a legal document that summarizes the history of the case, and lists the errors that the defense attorney alleges were made by the district court.

Writing an effective appellate brief requires time, skill, patience, and attention to detail.

After the attorney for defendant files the initial appellate brief, the attorney for the Government will then have the opportunity to file a brief in response.  The Government’s attorney will also summarize the history of the case, and make arguments as to why the Government believes that the district court did not make any mistakes on the defendant’s case.  After the Government files this brief, the attorney for the defendant gets can write a response to the Government’s brief.

What is a Federal Appellate Oral Argument?

A panel of three appellate judges then review all the briefs and court records in order to decide if the district court judge made any errors during the case, and if so, how those errors should be remedied.   Sometimes, in order to help them make their decision, the appellate judges will require that the attorney for the defendant and the attorney for the Government appear before them for an oral argument.  Oral argument can be a vital part of the appellate process, because it allows the appellate judges to learn important aspects of the case.

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

What is a Writ of Certiorari?

A defendant that loses an appeal in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case.  To get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, a defense attorney will request that the U.S. Supreme Court grant a writ of certiorari.

The word certiorari comes from Latin and means “to be more fully informed.”  When the U.S. Supreme Court issues a writ of certiorari in a case that was originally decided in the Tampa federal district court, it is ordering the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals  to deliver all of  its records on the case to the Supreme Court so that the Supreme Court justices may review it.

In order for a case to get to the U.S. Supreme Court, at least four of the nine Supreme Court  justices must vote to grant the petition for a writ of certiorari.  The U.S. Supreme Court accepts only 100-150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review each year.

What Type of Attorney Handles Tampa Federal Criminal Appeals?

Criminal Defense Attorney

Nationally and Florida Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney David C. Hardy is a former Tampa prosecutor that has extensive experience handling federal criminal appeals.

Tampa federal criminal appeals can be extremely complex, and should be handled by an experienced Tampa federal criminal appellate attorney.  Attorney David C. Hardy is a federal criminal attorney with offices in Tampa Florida that has handled Tampa federal criminal appeals involving many types of cases, including fraud, conspiracy, drug offenses, and immigration offenses.  Further, Attorney Hardy has appeared at oral argument before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

If you or a loved when is in need of a Tampa federal criminal appellate lawyer, contact the Hardy Law Firm, P.A.

 

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Tampa police investigations

If You Are Under Investigation, Should You Talk To The Police Without A Criminal Defense Attorney?

As a Tampa criminal defense lawyer, I get a lot of questions from people concerning the criminal justice system here in the Tampa Bay area.

One of the most common questions I get from people that are under investigation by law enforcement is whether or not they should speak to Tampa Police, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies, or federal agents about their case without the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer.

The investigation might involve a Tampa federal case, or it could involve a Tampa state charge like drug posession, theft, or battery.

Tampa police investigations

If Tampa law enforcement officers suspect you committed a crime and want to question you, you don’t have to speak to them.

If a Tampa Police Detective, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Detective, or a Tampa DEA or FBI federal agent wants to question you concerning your involvement in a crime, you need to contact an experienced Tampa criminal lawyer immediately. Don’t speak to law enforcement on your own.

You may be tempted to think that because you are completely innocent, that you have nothing to lose by consenting to an interview with law enforcement – right? You would be wrong. If you consent to a police interrogation outside the presence of an attorney, misunderstandings can occur, which potentially could land you in a Hillsborough County criminal courtroom or a Tampa federal criminal courtroom.

Sometimes, persons under investigations think that as long as the police don’t read them their Miranda Rights, that nothing they say can be used against them. In most cases, that’s not true. That’s because an experienced Tampa Police or Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Detective knows how to get around having to read a suspect their Miranda Rights.

What Protections Can A Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Provide You During A Meeting With Law Enforcement Officers?

Tampa police officers will try to get a suspect to make a statement

The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case. However, if you decide to voluntarily speak to the police without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you are giving up that very important right.

If a Tampa Police Detective, a Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office Detective, a Tampa FBI agent, or a Tampa DEA agent contacts you and asks to question you about a criminal investigation, get help from an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer.

In many cases, after speaking with you regarding the facts of the case, a criminal defense attorney may advise you not to speak with law enforcement investigators. However, if you decide it’s in your best interests to speak with investigators, here are just a few protections that a Tampa criminal defense attorney can provide:

  • A criminal defense attorney can make sure that police don’t try to bully or trick you into making an admission.
  • A criminal defense attorney can guide and advise you during the meeting with police, so that you don’t make admissions that are against your interests.
  • If the police try to make false promises in order to get you to make an admission, a criminal defense lawyer can step in and end the interrogation.
  • A criminal defense attorney can make sure any statement that you make is accurately recorded.
  • A criminal defense lawyer can assure that there are no miscommunications during the interview that could lead to the officer thinking that a suspect has confessed when in fact he has not.
  • In some cases, the criminal defense lawyer can answer a detective’s questions on your behalf. What your criminal defense lawyer says to the police can’t be used against you at a trial.
  • A criminal defense lawyer can help you to avoid a potential charge of lying to a federal investigator, which is a federal criminal offense punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison.
  • If you decide to speak to the police, your criminal defense attorney can request a proffer agreement from the state or federal prosecutor. With a proffer letter, the general rule is that as long as you tell the truth, nothing you say during the proffer meeting can be used against you in court.

The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case. However, if you decide to voluntarily speak to the police without the assistance of an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer, you are giving up that very important right. Don’t do it.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Nationally and Florida Board Certified criminal defense attorney David C. Hardy is a former Tampa prosecutor that has extensive experience handling criminal cases.

Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney David C. Hardy

Attorney David C. Hardy is a highly experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney. Attorney Hardy is a former prosecutor that is Florida Board Certified and Nationally Board Certified as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. He has extensive experience handling Tampa criminal cases, and he takes pride in guiding his clients through the criminal justice process and working with them to obtain the best possible results in each and every case. Contact the Hardy Law Firm, P.A. and get help today.

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