Tampa Criminal Defense Law Firm, Law Offices of Ben Stechschulte, Blog

Blog

Florida’s Response to Opioid Epidemic is Extreme

In response to the opioid epidemic, Florida has chosen to create new minimum mandatory sentencing requirements specifically targeting the possession of fentanyl. This rare course of action places anyone who possesses as little as four grams of fentanyl at risk of receiving a 3 year prison sentence. Criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte discusses this issue, as well as the importance of skilled representation.  

Expansion of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

Recent changes in Florida’s Stand Your Ground defense shifts the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecutor. While some decry this change as placing an unreasonable burden on the prosecutor, board certified criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte believes this shift is appropriate and necessary. Learn more about the Stand Your Ground law and attorney Stechschulte’s position on the recent changes in our latest blog.

Acceptance of Responsibility and Federal Court Sentence Reduction

An Acceptance of Responsibility plea is unique to the federal court system, and to receive the most benefit from this option it is important to hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Only this level of representation will assure that an effective defense strategy is developed that takes into account all of the challenges and resources of the federal legal system.

Under Investigation For Sex Offenses? Hire an Attorney Immediately

Former congressman Anthony Weiner is under federal investigation by the US Attorney’s Office regarding child pornography. While no charges have yet been filed, Mr. Weiner’s attorneys are working hard to protect their client’s interests. This case is an excellent example of why it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you become aware you are under investigation rather than waiting for charges to be filed.

DUI and Marijuana: Challenging the Field Sobriety Tests

In November 2016, Florida joined a growing number of states who have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Florida’s statute allows the use of medical marijuana and the state’s Department of Health is drafting guidelines to regulate the process. In addition to this state-wide effort, the City of Tampa recently decriminalized the possession of marijuana for amounts up to 20 grams, re-categorizing it as a civil infraction. Marijuana users who are stopped under suspicion of a DUI pose unique challenges to law enforcement agencies to legally prove the person was too impaired to drive safely.

When A Federal Agent Calls for an "Interview", Consult A Criminal Attorney Immediately

If a Federal Agent contacts you to “just talk” or “hear your side of the situation” contact an experienced federal attorney immediately. Whether you are a potential federal witness or the subject of an investigation, you need an expert lawyer who can protect your rights throughout this process.

Experienced Criminal Attorneys Effectively Use Substantial Assistance to Reduce Sentences

A defendant or convicted criminal in state or federal court can help themselves tremendously by providing "substantial assistance" to help law enforcement investigating another crime.  The designation is determined solely by the prosecutor.  The determination of substancial assistance and its impact on a sentence can be tremendously impacted by the strategy a defense attorney uses to present the situation.  

Tampa Bay Area Criminal Attorney Sees Local Situation Consistent With National Incarceration Rate Inequalities Across Counties

One of the best strategies to reduce both sentences and rates of recidivism for many types of first time criminals is through the use of drug and mental rehabilitation programs offered by counties.  A study by the New York Times shows that smaller rural counties have much higher incarceration rates than larger counties. This disparity can be largely attributed to the use of rehab programs to greater degree in large counties compared with harsher penalties preferred in smaller counties. The counties around greater Tampa Bay show patterns congruent with the national trends in the New York Times article. 

Only Experienced Federal Criminal Attorneys Can Manage the Role of the Federal Probation Officer

The federal U.S. probation officer preforms a unique role in federal criminal cases compared to his counterpart in state court.  The federal probation officer has the additional duty of creating the pre-sentence investigation report which heavily influences the judges final sentence.  Any attorney hired for a federal crimainla case should be seasoned in helping probation officers create this report in the defendant's best interests.  The proper application of the Safety Valve Law, one that could reduce sentences by up to 24 months for someone with no priors, is an example of an issue that needs to be positioned correctly.

A Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Needed After Selling Counterfeit Goods

Selling counterfeit goods is considered a federal offense because they have most likely traveled across states and international borders.  If you sense that federal agents are "dining out", or shopping and gathering evidence against you, immediately cease selling the items and call a criminal defense attorney with federal experience.  

Tampa Decriminalizes Possession of Marijuana (Up to 20 Grams)

Although not legal, possession of small amounts of marijuana (less than 20 grams) will now draw a citation instead of an arrest in the City of Tampa.  Beware that misdemeanor charges will still apply when related to driving under the influence and in areas of Hillsborough County not included in the new ordinance like Brandon and Town n' Country. 

Relevant Conduct Affects Sentencing in Federal Criminal Cases

The Dennis Hastert case is a good example of how "relevant conduct" can affect the sentencing of a federal criminal case.  Judges can take into account actions surrounding a crime, not just the crime itself, in determining the length of sentence.  It is extremely important to find an attorney with extensive experience in federal crime cases who will present relevant conduct during the federal probation interview and presentence  investigation report. 

Defending Wrong Way DUI Drivers in Tampa

Management of Florida’s Felony Scoresheet

Florida ranks felony offenses with a severity scale of 1 to 10 on the Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet to help determine if a defendant should face prison time and, if so, its length. It is calculated by the prosecutor and then presented to the defense attorney. As a former prosecutor, Ben Stechschulte has the experience and understanding of how the scores are calculated and will use that knowledge in developing strategies to minimize potential sentences the scoresheet suggests.

The Bail Bond System

Don’t navigate the bail bond process without consulting an experience criminal defense attorney like Ben Stechschulte. An experienced attorney may have you released on your own recognition or may be able to reduce or keep the original bail amount set so the client can return home and continue working instead of staying in jail until their court date.

Most Common Questions New Clients Ask

If you or a loved one has been arrested there are many questions you might have.  Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney, Ben Stechschulte helps answer some of the commonly asked questions by new clients that include: 

  • "Am I facing jail time?"
  • "Will I have to go to court?"
  • "Was my Miranda rights violated?"

Miranda Rights - What Television Doesn’t Tell You

Unlike the usual procedure shown on popular television shows, you deserve your Miranda rights upon custody and questioning, not just arrest.  And when you do receive them, demand your right to an attorney, not silence. 

Arabic, French Creole, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Spanish – Representing Clients where English is their Second Language (ESL)

Language and cultural differences can create unforeseen challenges when an attorney represents a client for whom English is a second language.  Skilled criminal defense attorneys, such as Ben Stechschulte, are comfortable with English as Second Language clients and have the resources necessary to effectively communicate with them to assure the best possible representation.

Challenging Field Sobriety Tests

Police officers use field sobriety tests to confirm their impression that a person is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  An experienced DUI attorney knows that a police officer cannot testify in court as to the results of this test unless they are a certified Drug Recognition Expert, and even then, the expert can be challenged.

Jared Fogel’s Smart Defense

Recently the Federal Court of Indiana charged Jared Fogel, Subway spokesperson, with distribution of child pornography and having sex with a minor. Mr. Fogel hired a defense team as soon as he realized he was under investigation. By hiring a defense team before charges were brought against him, Mr. Fogel and his attorneys were able to develop several smart defense strategies to reduce his exposure and potential jail time.

Weight and Consistency Critical Factors in Defense of Drug Charges

The severity of the penalty in drug trafficking charges is based, in part, on the amount of drugs in the defendant’s possession. Experienced defense attorneys challenge law enforcement’s and prosecutors’ numbers by focusing on the actual weight versus estimated weight and the consistency of the drugs in question to limit their client’s exposure to penalties and prison time.

Out of State Residents and Florida Warrants

Former Florida residents can be surprised to learn that a Florida arrest warrant has been issued against them. For minor charges, these warrants can dismissed with little effort and often no travel, if the defendant hires experienced Florida representation. When the warrant was issued for serious crimes, immediately hiring a skilled Florida attorney can be critical in the overall defense as this lawyer can begin negotiations and discussions early in the process.

Defending Synthetic Marijuana Cases

The laws surrounding synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, are constantly changing. Synthetic marijuana is considered more potent so, in terms of sentencing, a gram of XLR 11 (a current popular form of spice) is equal to 167 grams of marijuana. When judges use this equation to determine a jail sentence, those convicted of manufacturing, selling or using are seeing sentences increase from probation or 1-3 years to 12 to 20+ years. Criminal defense attorneys need to constantly monitor these changing laws to develop the most effective strategies to use for their clients.

Defending Private Firearm Sellers

It is legal for a gun owner or collector to buy and sell firearm in their own state.  However, it is illegal when they sell in excessive amounts or sell to someone prohibited under federal law from purchasing a gun.  If you are a gun owner who has been charged or is under investigation, contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who understands federal gun-related charges to represent you.

Defense of Repeat DUIs

Repeat DUI arrests bring harsher penalties for each conviction. In some counties, convicted offenders may be able to avoid jail time with sentencing options. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands these penalties and the different local and state sentencing options.