Two years ago, a Palm Beach County lawyer named John Carter asked County Judge Marni Bryson to disqualify herself due to her history with a particular case. The judge convicted the lawyer of contempt of court and sentenced him to a month in jail. Appellate attorney Donna Solomon and her husband Mark Solomon represented Carter through his appeal. Carter’s legal team is pleased with the verdict, with Donna Solomon stating that the judges “rendered a very well-reasoned decision and we are pleased with the result.”
The History of the Case
On March 23, 2018, Carter entered Bryson’s courtroom. He was representing his client in a DUI case. The lawyer stated that it was not his client’s fault for not appearing in court because his client never received notice of the hearing. Carter and Judge Bryson then got into a verbal dispute over whether he had signed for the hearing notice.
Carter stated that in his 35 years as a lawyer, he had never experienced anything like it. He also stated that the judge was “disrespectful to the people of Palm Beach County” and that he was appalled. At the end of the exchange, the judge stated that she would recuse herself from the case and told Carter to leave, saying that she could not take him “seriously.”
A few days after the exchange, the judge submitted contempt charges against Carter. The grounds for the contempt charges are the alleged misrepresentation that he did not sign for a court document. Carter’s claim that someone else forged his signature set off the verbal dispute. During the contempt hearing, Carter continued to maintain that he never signed the notice to appear.
Carter’s Contempt Hearing
Bryson convicted Carter of contempt of court charge and sentenced him to 30 days in jail. Only hours after Carter entered a Palm Beach County Jail, the Court of Appeal ordered Carter’s appeal to the 15th Circuit Court. That night, a circuit judge ordered Carter’s release and he walked back out of jail.
During the hearing for contempt of court, Bryson submitted a video as evidence. The video showed Carter walking up to the clerk of the court’s desk next to the judicial bench. The desk of the clerk was not within the range of the camera and was thus not captured in the video footage. When Carter comes back into the video frame, he is walking away from the clerk’s desk. The video appears to show him holding several pieces of paper. He then rejoins his client.
According to court records, the clerk logged in a signed hearing notice into the court’s online filing system. Carter stated that he did not know what those papers were. Carter’s client stated that a new hearing date had not been set and that the court clerk would contact both of them when they scheduled a new hearing date.
The Decision of the Circuit Court
Two years after Carter was convicted of contempt of court, three Circuit Judges issued a ruling that Bryson made an error. The case started in county court, so a circuit court handled the appeal. First, the court ruled that she made an error when she failed to recuse herself from Carter’s contempt hearing.
The Circuit Court ruled that Bryson should have recused herself because of the history she had with the case. The Circuit court also agreed that Bryson should not have ordered Carter to complete a mental-health evaluation. Finally, the Circuit court ruled that Bryson was wrong to refuse to set a bond for Carter after she had convicted him.
The Judge Should Have Recused Herself
This circuit court decision will protect lawyers who have been charged with contempt. The level of animosity between the judge and Carter should have been sufficient for Bryson to recuse herself from trying Carter’s contempt charges. Her animosity was enough to give Carter a reasonable fear that he would not receive a fair hearing before Bryson, according to Carter’s attorney Donna Solomon.
County Judge Robert Panse has been assigned to hear Carter’s new contempt hearing, scheduled for July 17th. Carter will be asking the judge to dismiss all of the contempt charges against him.
The Impact of the Circuit Court Ruling
In its ruling, the circuit court wrote, “we cannot overlook that Judge Bryson recused herself from (Carter’s) client’s case not because of a conflict she had with his client, but because of an issue she had with (Carter.) Not only did she make that explicitly clear when she stated her basis for the recusal, but also when she stated that she ‘can’t take (Carter) seriously.’”
This ruling could become extremely helpful for lawyers who are facing contempt charges in the future. Everyone has a right to a fair trial, including lawyers who are facing contempt charges. When a judge displays an animus toward a lawyer based on personal opinion, that judge should not be able to preside over the lawyer’s contempt hearing.
The Value of Hiring an Experienced Lawyer for Your Defense
Attorney Mark Solomon represented Carter during the initial contempt of court charges. For the appellate case, Attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon secured a favorable verdict. Carter’s case showcases the need for experienced appellate lawyers. In this case, a judge who clearly showed animosity toward Carter as a lawyer presided over his contempt hearing, making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to have a fair trial.
If you are facing criminal charges, hiring an experienced trial lawyer is imperative. When an unfavorable verdict occurs at the trial court level, you need an experienced appellate lawyer. Contact Mark Solomon, P.A. today to schedule your consultation with our South Florida criminal defense law firm.
Facing sex crimes charges in South Florida can be extremely difficult. Even if you are innocent and the charges are dismissed, the stigma of being charged can stay with you for a long time. Understanding the different types of Florida sex crimes is important. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is important to hire an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Sex Crimes with a Minor in Florida
Florida prosecutors take sex crimes against a minor extremely seriously. When a victim is below the age of legal consent, he or she cannot legally give permission for sexual contact with an adult. Someone who is 17 years old or younger who has sexual intercourse with someone 24 years old or older will be considered the victim of a sex crime. The fact that you did not know the age of the victim will not be a valid defense against sex crimes with a minor charges. You will need to start building your case as soon as possible. You could face severe penalties, which could include up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Sexual Rape and Battery
Rape is one of the most serious sex crimes and one with which most people are familiar. In Florida, prosecutors often charge people with rape and sexual battery at the same time. The use of any force or any coercion can justify a crime of rape or battery. Those convicted of rape and sexual battery will be placed on a sex offender registry for the rest of their lives. The court looks at aggravating factors that will increase the standard sentencing of a conviction. Aggravating factors include intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, or physical injury.
Facing a charge of rape can easily ruin your life. Even if you are not found guilty of rape, the stigma of the rape charge can change your life for the worst. Rape happens when one adult does not consent to sexual activity. They might be unable to consent because they are on drugs, drunk, or otherwise mentally unable to consent. In this case, the act could be considered sexual battery or rape under Florida law.
Statutory rape is a crime that happens when a person is 24 years old or older and has sexual contact with someone 16 or 17 years old. This crime is a second-degree felony. In this context, sexual activity includes anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse or penetration. Statutory rape can also include cases in which both parties are minors and one party cannot consent, but both parties meet the age difference requirements.
The Punishment for Rape in Florida
The punishments for rape vary in Florida. The sentence will depend on the age of the victim, whether a weapon was involved, and whether the assault caused someone’s injuries. When rape is a second-degree felony, it will be punishable by up to 15 years in prison as well as 15 years of sex offender probation. Additionally, the defendant could face 7 and ¾ years in prison along with two years of sex offender probation.
Lewd Conduct and Lascivious Behavior
This sex crime involves someone who engages in sexual activity with a minor who is under the age of 16. Prosecutors will bring the charge of lewd conduct and lascivious behavior when sexual misconduct happened that did not add up to rape. If you are ignorant of the true age of the other party, you will not have a valid defense. There are four different types of charges under this crime:
Lewd and Lascivious battery happens when you have sex with someone age 12 to 15. It also includes enticing, encouraging, or forcing any person less than 16 years old to engage in sexual bestiality, prostitution, sadomasochistic abuse, or any other act involving sexual activity.
Lewd and lascivious molestation happens when a person intentionally touches in a lewd or lascivious manner the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks, or the clothing covering them, of a person less than 16 years of age, or forces or entices a person under 16 years of age to so touch the perpetrator.
Age is Often Involved in Sex Crimes
The age of the parties involve often comes into play when prosecutors charge sex crimes. When the two parties involved are younger than 16 or 17, or 23 and 24, you might be charged with a sex crime even when both parties consent. Florida changes the ages occasionally, so it is important to stay on top of the current Florida laws.
Possession of Child Pornography in Florida
Possession of child pornography is against federal law and Florida law. It is illegal to possess any video or image of a child engaged in a sexual act. Even viewing child pornography is a crime. When law enforcement can find child pornography on your phone or computer, or when you have shared such an image or video, you could face child pornography charges. There are several different types of child pornography charges, including the following:
If you have been charged with any sex crime, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defnese lawyer as soon as possible. You are entitled to a legal defense and the sooner you work with a lawyer to develop your legal strategy, the better. Contact Mark Solomon, P.A. as soon as possible to schedule your free initial consultation.
If you have been charged with a DUI in Florida, you are probably concerned about your future. One of the best legal defenses is to challenge the alcohol testing conducted by law enforcement. When law enforcement pulls you over for drunk driving in Fort Lauderdale, they will probably ask you to take a set of field sobriety tests. They might ask you to blow on a breathalyzer machine that measures the level of your breath-alcohol concentration.
Prosecutors Must Prove that You Were Under the Influence of Alcohol
Prosecutors must prove that you are guilty of driving while intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt. Many Florida DUI cases hinge on your chemical, blood, or breath test. When a prosecutor cannot prove that the DUI testing was accurate, a jury will not convict you of the DUI. Many people are surprised when they find out how often blood tests and breathalyzer tests are wrongly used.
Florida DUI Limits
In Florida, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Prosecutors must prove all of the following elements of a Florida DUI beyond a reasonable doubt:
In many cases, law enforcement determines if your normal faculties are impaired by showing a video of your field sobriety tests. Additionally, they will submit the results of your breath, urine, or blood test to prove that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Many people assume that Florida DUI charges always involve alcohol. However, many people who are charged for DUIs due to drugs are frequently prosecuted, as well. Law enforcement will need to prove that they detected either the defendant’s blood or urine.
Types of DUI Tests Used by Law Enforcement in Florida
Florida has an implied consent law when it comes to DUIs. Law enforcement must have probable cause to believe that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Many times, law enforcement officers do not have probable cause to pull a driver over. They need to prove that they had probable cause to believe that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Breathalyzer Tests and DUI Charges in Florida
Law enforcement in Florida commonly requires a driver who has been arrested for a DUI to submit to a breathalyzer test. Florida law enforcement uses the Intoxilyzer 8000. Breathalyzer tests use infrared light to detect the percentage of alcohol in the suspect’s breath. The results of breathalyzer tests are often far from accurate. There are several important ways to challenge the results of breathalyzer tests, including the following:
Urine Tests and DUI Charges in Florida
Urine tests are the second type of chemical tests that Florida law enforcement use to measure the blood alcohol content of a driver. Law enforcement officers often use a urine test if they suspect that the driver used drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Urine tests can deduct the following types of drugs in their system:
As with blood tests, law enforcement must follow certain procedures when they are administering urine tests. When a controlled substance is present in the urine, law enforcement needs to conduct a screening process called an immunoassay. This process can take up to 20 minutes to receive a reading after the suspect submits the urine sample. There are many opportunities for law enforcement to make a mistake when processing the test. Urine samples often do not show an accurate presentation of a controlled substance. Instead, it shows metabolites which are trace chemicals that remain in the blood.
Blood Tests and DUI Charges in Florida
Law enforcement officers often require a suspect to submit a blood test to determine their blood alcohol content. When conducted properly a blood test will measure a suspect’s blood alcohol content and determine whether certain controlled substances are found in the blood. Your attorney can request a portion of the blood sample that law enforcement used to charge you with a DUI. An independent lab can read the test and determine whether law enforcement accurately measured your blood alcohol content.
Contact Our Experienced Florida DUI Defense Law Firm Today
Fort Lauderdale lawyer Mark Solomon, P.A. has helped many defendants face their DUI charges. He has extensive experience and knows all of the ways that law enforcement can fail to accurately conduct a chemical test. Contact Mark Solomon, P.A. today to schedule your initial consultation.