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Can my silence at the time of my arrest be used against me at trial?


No, silence at the time of arrest cannot be held against you. The courts have repeatedly held that prosecutors may not ask an accused about his post- arrest silence. Such questioning is a violation of one's Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. And this makes perfect sense. The first and most important Miranda warning, as we all know from watching TV crime dramas and movies is "You have the right to remain silent". So if an accused does remain silent, it follows that a prosecutor cannot ask that person on the witness stand, "Why did you remain silent when you were arrested and not tell the police what you are telling us now in court?" That prosecutors are not allowed to ask this question is one of the most basic rules of cross-examination. So it's surprising how often they get it wrong and do ask this question. I have seen it happen first hand as a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

Will a prosecutor's misstatement of facts at trial cause a reversal of a conviction?


Yes, it probably will. Although closing arguments during a trial are a time of persuasion, a prosecutor cannot misstate facts and encourage a jury to convict you on the basis of evidence not presented at trial. I have seen this happen as a Jacksonville criminal attorney. One would think that a prosecutor would never do such a thing, but this is exactly what happened in the case of U.S. v. Mageno. Nancy Mageno's godson, a leader of a methamphetamine conspiracy, did not speak English fluently, so Mageno translated telephone calls for him. As a result, Mageno was prosecuted for knowingly joining and participating in the drug conspiracy by fostering communication between its participants and her godson.

Can a judge make comments during a trial that favors the prosecutor?


No, he cannot. United States v. Rivera -Rodriguez, decided by the 1st. Circuit Court of Appeals on August 4, 2014, is a good example of what happens when judges decide to get into the action of questioning witnesses on their own. I have witnessed this myself as a Jacksonville criminal lawyer. Carlos Rivera- Rodriguez was convicted of drug possession and distribution charges. He appealed his conviction, claiming that the judge improperly questioned the witnesses against him and further made an unfair comment during the prosecutor's summation. Rivera-Rodriguez and Mr. Mercado-Cruz were among sixty four co-defendants charged with involvement in a conspiracy to distribute various types of illegal drugs. They were the only two who elected to stand trial rather than accept plea agreements.

Does my lawyer need to be present in the courtroom for my entire trial?


Yes, your lawyer needs to be present, as the 11th. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in U.S. v. Roy, on August 5, 2014. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I would never be absent for any part of a trial. But Mr. Roy's criminal defense attorney was temporarily absent from the courtroom when testimony was admitted into evidence, contributing to his conviction. As a result, Roy claimed that his conviction was obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. He argued that a new trial is required because his counsel was absent during a "critical stage" of his case. Apparently, the afternoon session of Roy's trial began when his lawyer was not in the courtroom and during this time, evidence directly inculpating Roy was presented to the jury.

Are expert witnesses really necessary?


You bet they are. Jurors love expert testimony and expert witnesses. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I always try and put an expert witness on the stand. Why? Because the prosecutor will almost always try and put expert testimony before a jury; it often fills the cracks in an otherwise weak or questionable case. Expert testimony helps to secure convictions. The only problem is, sometimes the science behind the expert testimony turns out to be unreliable or false.

Will a Judge punish me for exercising my right to go to trial?


Yes, they will, although judges rarely admit it. As a Jacksonville criminal attorney,I have seen this happen with regularity. One of the toughest decisions a client faces is whether to take a case to trial or accept the government's plea offer. Most criminal cases end with an agreed upon disposition, otherwise known as a plea bargain. In federal court, more than 90 percent of criminal cases are disposed of with a plea. Plea bargaining has become such an intregal part of the criminal justice system that the courts, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers expect this as a probable outcome. And when it doesn't happen, some judges feel that their time is being unnecessarily taken up or wasted if they have to preside over a trial (even though this is what they are paid to do).

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