How to Avoid Legal Drama This Holiday Season
Across the nation, there is an unspoken rule. Once October 31st passes, the entire country straps in for the holiday season. Every single retail store transforms into a winter wonderland. Christmas tunes can already be heard before anyone even had a chance to cut the turkey on Thanksgiving day. Some people love it, some people hate it. Here at the Rossen Law Firm, we know the holidays can be a wonderful time for families and loved ones. On the other hand, we also know that drama abounds during this time of year.
For a time that is supposed to be about merry and cheer, it seems that arrests are always near. Crime always experiences a nationwide spike during the holiday season. Why you may ask? There are a few reasons for this phenomenon.
Why Crime Tends to Spike During The Holiday Season
One big reason is because of an increase in alcohol consumption at holiday-themed parties. Just consider: between November and December, one individual may attend a number of parties where alcohol is being served. As a result, law enforcement responds by setting up DUI checkpoints throughout the course of this season. Even if an individual only has one or two drinks, law enforcement will still lean on the strict side. It is not uncommon for a police officer to still make an arrest even if one blows under the legal limit on the breath test.
Next, family tensions frequently climax during the holidays. Domestic violence is one of the most common holiday-related crimes. Altercations frequently happen when family members who do not get along with one another are confined under the same roof and around the same dinner table. Even if a physical altercation does not take place, the police may still be called in order to “de-escalate” a heated situation. Unbeknownst to most people, however, is that the police almost always perform an arrest when they are called to investigate a domestic dispute. Even if an arrest is not performed immediately, they will likely develop an ongoing domestic violence investigation into the individuals involved in the situation.
Another crime that goes hand in hand with the holiday season is theft. There are a variety of ways this can play out. Perhaps one’s valuables are stolen after being left visibly on a car seat. Maybe an opportunistic porch pirate spots an Amazon delivery box sitting in front of a doorstep.
On the flip side, a common motive for holiday theft is seen through a parent who steals presents when unable to afford gifts for his or her kids. Shoplifting is especially prevalent throughout the holidays as many individuals want to make sure their children can still get presents for Christmas.
At the Rossen Law Firm, our mission is to help when bad things happen to good people. We have seen far too many avoidable mistakes turn into criminal cases during the holiday season. That is why this year, we are offering 5 legal tips from each of our 5 partner attorneys to help you avoid legal drama this holiday season.
Tip #1 to Avoid Legal Drama During the Holidays: Do Not Make the Risky Decision to Steal
Provided by Attorney Susan Lawson
Even if you have fallen on tough times, you do not want to resort to stealing this holiday season. Most retail stores have heightened security during this season and often schedule additional lost prevention officers to monitor the store. Or suppose you see someone left something valuable in their car. Even if the parking lot is empty, there are often security cameras nearby that can capture your actions. Taking an item you see left on someone’s doorstep is especially risky as most homes have security measures in place like the Ring camera. Even if the particular doorstep you find a package on does not have a camera, a neighbor’s camera can still capture evidence of you stealing or leaving the scene.
If you do take something during the holidays, depending on the values of the items stolen, you can be arrested for either petit theft or grand theft. In the state of Florida, if the value of the stolen property is $750 or greater, then the crime will be charged as grand theft, which is a felony. For example, if you steal a brand new PlayStation 5, you can be facing up to 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. If you take an item of lesser value, say a $75 American Girl Doll toy, then you could be facing a second-degree misdemeanor for petit theft which carries consequences of up to 60 days in jail or a fine of up to $500.
Mistakes happen and if you do find yourself facing theft charges this holiday season, you have certain options at your disposal. If this is your first theft offense, then you can qualify for a theft diversion program regardless of whether the charge was a felony or misdemeanor. Depending on how proactive you are in seeking legal counsel and enrolling in a diversion program, you may even be eligible to have the case dismissed and your record expunged.
Tip #2 to Avoid Legal Drama During the Holidays: Do Not Talk About Politics at Parties
Provided by Attorney David Tarras
Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah can bring together family members who often avoid seeing one another at all costs. Often, years of tension may be brewing under the surface of certain relationships. Bringing up political differences can be one of the quickest ways to suffocate a holly jolly spirit at a holiday party. Political disputes between family members often get particularly heated because the conversations tend to arouse feelings of disgust and enmity. With his years of experience in legal defense, attorney David Tarras has seen all sorts of familial disputes and drama escalate into an arrest for domestic violence. In attorney David Tarras’ opinion, the best way to keep your holiday party merry and bright is to avoid political conversations altogether.
Suppose there is an incident at your holiday party and someone either gets pushed or shoved. This is enough for the police to make an arrest for misdemeanor domestic battery which has penalties of up to a year in prison, a court-sanctioned no-contact order, probation, and $1000 in fines. Many times a well-intentioned family member will call the police to “de-escalate” a situation, but find that law enforcement comes ready to make an arrest instead. It is very rare that the police will end his or her domestic dispute investigation without an arrest for domestic violence.
In the event that you or a loved one gets arrested for domestic violence during the holiday season, there are still certain options you have to overcome the legal drama. First, if the alleged victim is willing, he or she can file a waiver of prosecution which signals the prosecutors that he or she would like the charges dropped. If not, then the other witnesses at the party can submit sworn statements in defense of the alleged offender. Beyond that, there are certain mitigation measures a defense attorney can help the defendant take such as enrolling in an anger management course or a batterer’s intervention program. These steps can be taken to negotiate with the prosecutors to drop the charges.
Tip #3 to Avoid Legal Drama During the Holidays: Avoid Excessive Drinking
Provided by Attorney Adam Rossen
One common denominator at almost all holiday parties is alcohol. In Attorney Adam Rossen’s experience, almost every major problem he’s seen at a holiday-related function started with someone having a little too much to drink. Regardless if the night ended in an arrest for DUI or in an arrest for domestic violence, Adam says it’s likely that the night started with drinks. In over 15 years of Adam’s experience as a lawyer, he believes many incidents would not have escalated to the level they did if the parties involved did not have so much to drink. If one is out in public or at a bar, having too much to drink can also lead to an arrest for disorderly intoxication. So if you don’t want to be on law enforcement’s naughty list this year, attorney Adam Rossen recommends moderating your alcohol intake.
If you do end up having too much to drink, it is unpredictable what the ramifications of that decision may be. There are a variety of charges with varying penalties for alcohol-related crimes. If you are arrested for disorderly intoxication, you would be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. This charge is what is known as a “catch-all” crime that law enforcement uses to “take care of unruly people”.
There are many defenses an attorney can make for an individual in this predicament. For example, a defense attorney can maintain that the defendant was acting within his or her first amendment rights or argue that the incident took place on private property instead of in public. If defense counsel is enlisted before charges are even filed, it is possible to negotiate with prosecutors to drop the case entirely by raising legal issues in the state’s case or poking holes in the officers’ investigation.
Tip #4 to Avoid Legal Drama During the Holidays: Take an Uber if You Plan on Drinking
Provided by Attorney Meri Ros
Here at the Rossen Law Firm, we know it’s not realistic to recommend complete abstinence from alcohol this holiday season. In fact, we hope your holiday season will indeed be the most wonderful time of the year. Just note, if you plan on trying some of your friend’s famous spiked eggnog recipe, you should also plan on having a sober driver get you home. In fact, we recommend being proactive and taking an Uber to the event in order to remove your option to drive yourself home altogether. Many people drink and drive because they did not plan ahead of time to Uber to their destination. Coming up with a plan ahead of time not only saves you the cost of an Uber when you split it with friends, but it can also save you from the cost that comes with drinking and driving.
If you do get behind the wheel after drinking, there is a large chance that you will be stopped by one of the many DUI investigators at a DUI checkpoint. If you are arrested for driving under the influence and if it is your first time committing the offense, you could be facing 6 months in confinement, a driver’s license suspension, and between $500-$2000 in fines. The consequences only become graver the more you have to drink before driving. The higher your intoxication level, the higher your chances are to get into a vehicular collision that causes bodily injury or death. DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony that could have you facing up to 15 years of imprisonment, probation, or a combination of prison time and probation time.
If you or a loved one does get arrested for DUI, there are a few important things you should know. First, if you live in the state of Florida, you have only 10 days to save your driving privileges according to the DMV’s 10 Day Rule. During this time, you can apply for a hardship license and decide whether or not to have a formal hearing to reinstate your full driving privileges. Next, depending on the county you live in, you may be able to enroll in a DUI school. Doing so may be beneficial to your legal case. The sooner you enlist legal counsel in your case, the more you have at your disposal to achieve a favorable outcome in the matter. A DUI defense attorney can review the facts of your case to see if your rights were violated in any way during the police’s DUI investigation and fight to suppress any evidence that was collected illegally.
Tip #5 to Avoid Legal Drama During the Holidays: Think Twice Before Participating in a DUI Investigation
Provided by Attorney Manny Serra
As mentioned earlier, DUI checkpoints seem to be around almost every corner during the holiday season. During this time, instead of sleigh bells jingling, police sirens can be heard ring-ting-tingling. Police officers are hyperalert and watch the road with a sight specifically set on any actions that might suggest a driver is impaired from drugs or alcohol. On the one hand, this proactive method of patrolling can help keep the public safe. On the other hand, this method can lead to a DUI investigation and subsequent arrest of a sober person. Suppose you make one simple traffic mistake and drift slightly out of your lane while looking at your GPS. This is oftentimes enough to plant the suspicion into the minds of law enforcement that a driver is intoxicated. Or, if God forbid you get into a car accident, law enforcement will often simultaneously conduct a DUI investigation while investigating the accident. Keep in mind that once law enforcement develops a suspicion of guilt, they will often develop their investigation to reinforce that suspicion instead of proving your innocence.
In the state of Florida, there is no legal consequence for refusing to perform field sobriety tests. It is likely that an officer will arrest you after you refuse, but your refusal cannot be used against you in court. Conversely, if you do perform the exercises, then your performance can be used against you. Contrary to popular belief, field sobriety tests are not “pass/fail”. They are used to help an officer determine whether or not your mental faculties are impaired. Therefore, one should not hope that an officer will let him or her go after “passing” the exercises. Similarly, if you are asked to submit a breath test, an officer will not “un-arrest” you if you blow under the legal limit. You will still be taken into custody and be asked to provide blood or urine samples. There is, however, a consequence for refusing the breath test. If it is your first refusal, your license may be suspended for an entire year. If you do take the test and blow over the limit, then your license will be suspended for 6 months.
Although no one asks for a DUI charge on their holiday wish list, you should still know what to do if you ever find yourself in that situation. As mentioned previously, if you get your license suspended, you can challenge the suspension at a Florida DMV formal review hearing and apply for a hardship license. Next, if you were arrested after blowing under the legal limit, you can enlist the help of a DUI defense attorney to aggressively pressure the prosecutors not to move forward with the case. If you blew over the legal limit, a DUI defense attorney can try suppressing some of the evidence against you in the case.
How the Rossen Law Firm Helps People Facing Charges After the Holidays
If you were arrested or charged for an offense over the holidays, our legal dream team at the Rossen Law Firm can help you. Our mission is to help when bad things happen to good people so they can achieve their best future. Regardless of the type of charge you are facing, we can help you. We offer free strategy sessions at our firm where we can go through the facts of your case and formulate a plan of attack to fight the charges. You can call us our fill out the form below in order to schedule a free strategy session with one of our defense attorneys.