• Most people don’t have a clue that the cell phone in their pocket is a tracking device. The Supreme Court this week decided a case that requires the police to get a search warrant to get the tracking location information from your provider. The problem is, the police have been doing this for years without a warrant.That is how they put suspects at the scene of a murder, a hit and run, a burglary or a robbery. The cell phone companies know your every move and the police know they can get the information from the cell phone companies.
As a Ft. Myers criminal defense lawyer, in many of my serious cases, I learned that the detectives have gotten this information. How they obtained it may have been illegal or improper and the new Supreme Court opinion will help us in defending cases that involve cell phone data. Some of the departments have been getting search warrants, and some have not.
In a Charlotte county case, a few years back, they put my client at the scene of an aggravated battery by using cell phone tracking data. They claimed that he made a call to an old girlfriend who was in bed with someone else while he standing outside the house. That type of information and evidence is damaging. The jury found him not guilty anyway on other grounds, but the fact that the police can put a person at the scene of a crime with cell phone tracking data hurts.
Keep your mouth shut and lawyer up. It may only be a matter of time until the police come knocking if they get your cell phone information. It is a lot easier to talk to a lawyer before you are arrested.
If you get arrested in Lee County, either in Cape Coral, Ft. Myers or Leheigh, and your offense is a third degree felony or serious misdemeanor, if you do not immediately bond out, you will be taken before a judge within 24 hours. At that first appearance, you may be told that your case qualifies for ERC. That means you could be going to Early Resolution Court. You may be told that you do not need a lawyer and be advised to just “save your money” and take the deal they offer you. That really helps the judges and prosecutors because it makes the cases go quickly and reduces their workload. The truth is that, ERC may or may not help you or be in your best interest.
You may be offered “probation” at the early resolution court hearing. Although that may sound like a good deal, chances are, at the time you are offered that, you probably have not had an opportunity to have had a one on one meeting with the public defender or any lawyer. People often see the public defender for the first and only time in the courtroom. They may only get seconds with the public defender before having to make an important decision that can change their life. Probation may sound good, but it can be a trap. What if you are genuinely not guilty? What if it was someone else’s drugs? What if you really did not commit the crime? What if you are an addict or an alcoholic? What if you had a prescription for the drugs? What if you were only defending yourself? What if the arresting officer lied about why he stopped you? What if it was an illegal search?
If you take a plea deal and give up a good defense, it may be the biggest mistake of your life.
At our criminal defense office we handle probation violations and all too often, by the time people get to us, they have already given up a good defense, taken probation and now violated. Most lawyers, including the ones at our criminal defense office do not charge for an initial consultation. There is no downside to talking to a real good criminal lawyer before you make an important decision. A bad decision may have resulted in you getting arrested. Don’t make another bad decision and give up important rights without talking to a lawyer.
Our Constitution provides that you have a right to an attorney. The law says that “if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you”. The simple fact however is that all lawyers are not created equal. Doctors are not the same. Where would you go if you were really sick? Would you want to go to a really good doctor you selected or take your chances at the Public Health Clinic? That is a no brainer. You should always talk to a good qualified experienced lawyer.
If you get arrested in Ft. Myers, arrested in Cape Coral or arrested in Lee County and you go before a Judge, you may be told that your case qualifies for ERC. Most people do not know what that means. The public defender may tell you that you do not need to hire a lawyer and that ERC is an easy and quick way to end your case. They may tell you that it is the best way to resolve your case.
Here are the facts!
ERC means Early Resolution Court. That may or may not be a good thing. On a positive note, that is an indication that your felony charge is not one of the more serious ones. It might be something like possession of cocaine, grand theft shoplifting, or the illegal use of a credit card or some type of felony battery. Some “plea bargains” are not really bargains. The State may be offering you probation on a charge that they were never going to file anyway. They may be offering you “Diversion” on a case they were going to have to drop. For example, if you were in a car that was illegally stopped, and if the police found some weed or pills in the car, they may have arrested everyone in the car. The prosecutor may realize that he has no case because of an illegal search and seizure or, he may realize that if there was more than one person in the car he has no proof the drugs were yours. It is easy for him to get you locked into some type of probation by offering you probation at ERC.
The number one reason people get arrested in Ft. Myers is for a probation violation. Probation for some people is a trap. For some people, there is no way they are going to make it. If you have an addiction, you are not going to make it. You will get violated. The Early Resolution Court makes the criminal justice system less crowded, and in some instances, if your case is hopeless, it may sound like a good way to go…but…you really should talk to a real lawyer.
Initial consultations are free with most law offices. Call before you make a decision. If you jump on the first deal they offer, you may regret it down the road. There is an old saying that a person should “look before they leap”. If you have not had a private one on one conversation with the public defender about the individual facts of your particular case, how can you make an intelligent decision? Our firm represents people on probation violations all the time. Sometimes, by the time they get to us they have already entered a plea and given up great defenses. You need to talk to a good lawyer before you take a deal….not when it is too late.