Crimes within the US are divided into two types depending on how serious they are. The more serious crimes are called felonies, while those considered to be less serious are known as misdemeanors. Even though misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they can still be quite a serious charge. There are three specific classes of misdemeanors.
The least serious of these is called a petty misdemeanor. This class of misdemeanor typically only carries with it a simple 6 month or less sentence and a fine of no more than $500. The next type of misdemeanor is an ordinary misdemeanor which carries with it jail sentences of up to a year or longer and fines greater than $500. The most serious class of misdemeanor is the gross misdemeanor. It carries an even longer sentence and potentially greater fine. In some states, gross misdemeanors are closer to felonies than an ordinary misdemeanor. In fact, some define it specifically as “any crime that is not a felony or a misdemeanor.”
In such cases, the legal language here is intended to give a judge leeway when sentencing so that they may, for example, assess a fine that is typical of a misdemeanor while still requiring a jail sentence that would match a felony offense.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
Yoel Molina is an experienced, compassionate, and highly-qualified criminal defense attorney serving the greater Miami area. If you or a loved one is currently being charged with or you believe may soon be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, don’t wait but call the Law Offices of Yoel Molina today.
Mens Rea is the Latin term used to refer to a “guilty state of mind.” This most commonly is used in a court of law to refer to what a criminal was thinking or intended when they committed or took part in criminal activity. This means that the state of mind the defendant was in when they committed the crime does in fact have bearing on the case. Mens rea is what allows your defense attorney to argue that you did not intentionally set out to commit or take part in criminal activity.
One example of how this plays out in a court of law is as follows: Consider two different automobile drivers who both are involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian. In one case, the driver never even saw the pedestrian until it was, in fact, too late for them to do anything meaningful that could prevent the accident from occurring. What’s more, they did their best to stop with the notice they had. Though this person is still liable, because they were not in the state of a criminal and did not plan out the crime, they can only be tried in a civil court that, instead of issuing a sentence, seeks to secure monetary damages for the family of the deceased.
In this same example, the second driver actually set out to find a pedestrian. Upon seeing such a pedestrian, the second driver purposefully swerved toward him while hitting the gas. Because this driver clearly intended to cause great harm to or kill the pedestrian, they would be considered criminally liable because of Mes Rea. The result of both accidents is the same, but the penalty on driver two will be far superior simply because of their state of mind. This example illustrates a significant legal distinction:
CARELESSNESS VS. CRIMINAL INTENT
In legal settings, being careless and causing a crime is often called “negligence.” Negligence typically tends to result in civil cases, as opposed to criminal liability. This does not always hold true as circumstances can turn what would generally be considered carelessness into something a bit more culpable. As such, certain criminal statute’s negligence standards include what is called “reckless negligence.” A good example of this would be leaving out items that could harm others in a public area like the sidewalk in front of your house. If the item you left out was a lawn chair that could do little more than trip and slightly injure someone, this would be considered negligence. If, however, you left out a can of flammable gasoline or something else dangerous, the charge could be considered reckless because the seriousness of a resulting injury is far higher.
THE QUESTION OF INTENTION
When it comes to intentionally harmful behavior, this is almost always considered criminal. However, when the harmful behavior is unintentional, it is considered either a “mistake in law” or a “mistake in fact.”
A mistake in fact would be a situation where you did something that was illegal, yet didn’t know that you were doing something illegal. For example, if you sold a bottled beverage to someone under the age of twenty-one that was alcoholic but which you believed to be a non-alcoholic beverage (say it was mislabeled at the plant), this would mean you are “mistaken about a fact” that is central to committing the crime of serving alcohol to a minor in this case. The result of this case is that the necessary Mens Rea needed to seek a criminal conviction is not present because in your mind you were not committing a law but selling a non-alcoholic beverage. Though this situation is likely never to happen, it does well to illustrate what a mistake in fact looks like legally speaking.
A mistake in law is very different than a mistake in fact and rarely, if ever, can be found to prevent you from having criminal liability form your actions. Ever heard the phrase “Ignorance is no excuse?” This refers a mistake in law. So go back to the example of selling alcohol to someone under twenty-one. Say you knew there was alcohol in the beverage but you are used to laws in a different country where you can serve alcohol to people over the age of 18. So if you sell the bottle of alcohol to someone under twenty-one and know it’s alcohol but don’t know that doing so is illegal, you are still criminally liable. Again, this example is a bit unrealistic as you have to be licensed to serve alcohol in US states which requires taking a class where you become familiar with such laws. Nonetheless, it illustrates the difference between a mistake in fact and a mistake in law nicely. Now this might seem unfair, but it’s very necessary to prevent people from purposefully remaining ignorant of the law which would severely reduce the effectiveness of the US legal system.
There is another section of laws that do not require any Mens Rea to be present for criminal liability. These laws are called “strict liability” laws. Such laws pertain to acts that, no matter how they were original intended, should be punished criminally. Such laws include statutory rape and selling alcohol to a minor (it doesn’t matter if you genuinely thought they were older). These laws are strict liability laws to protect minors more than someone who might be innocent (the point being that the law is more concerned with protecting minors than making sure an “innocent” adult is punished unfairly).
WHEN YOU HAVE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ARE COMMITTING A CRIME
There are a good number of criminal laws that require guilty parties “know” they are committing a crime in order to have criminal liability. What must be “known” changes depending on the crime in question. One example of this would be that someone found guilty of drug trafficking would need to know they had brought drugs into the country to be found guilty. If, for example, they’d been given a gift that had drugs hidden inside of that they were unaware of, they’d not be criminally liable because no Mens Rea could be established.
THE ISSUE OF “SPECIFIC INTENT”
This type of Mens Rea would refer to any class of crime where there was a particular goal, that is that someone did some actions with the expectation of something happening. An easy example of this is robbery or theft. The language with theft requires that you not just take something, but take it with the full intent to “permanently deprive” it’s owner of using whatever it is you steal. This means that borrowing your friend’s cellphone is not theft even if you didn’t let them know about it. This is because you never intended to keep it permanently.
MALICIOUS OR WILLFUL CRIMES
There are some criminal laws that will describe conduct as being willful or malicious. There isn’t much these distinctions add beyond “willingly” and “knowingly,” but with crimes like murder, they can indicate a greater measure of willingness that can result in a murder charge of a higher degree. The reasoning behind this is that killing someone in a fit of passion or anger is a very different crime than devising an elaborate plan in cold blood. Often, such “willingness” indicates that someone had full knowledge that their act was illegal, yet still planned and carried out the actions.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
The motive in such cases matters because it reveals that an act was down both knowingly and with a specific intent. If you or someone you love has recently been accused of a crime and you have questions, call the Law Offices of Yoel Molina today. Yoel is an experienced, compassionate, and highly-qualified criminal defense attorney in the greater Miami area. Don’t take a chance and face your charges on your own, call today!
If you or a loved one has recently been accused of a felony, this article will help answer many of the common questions people have about felony crimes. The most important thing I can tell you is that a felony is the most serious class of criminal offenses within the US. This means you absolutely must retain the services of a qualified and experienced criminal attorney like Yoel Molina if you face felony charges. What’s more, felonies are divided into different classes so that repeat offenders suffer more serious consequences than first-time offenders.
What’s more, a felony committed in a heinous, cruel, hateful, or injurious manner will be classified as a more serious type of felony over ones committed without malice.
THE PUNISHMENT FOR FELONIES
The punishment for being convicted of a felony definitely differs depending on the type of felony as well as the court system you are being tried in. But generally speaking, felony punishments include prison time, a fine, or both. Because felonies tend to be crimes of “moral turpitude,” these crimes carry with them a much greater stigma than lesser crimes. Those convicted of felonies often face strict social stigma and other restrictions that are ongoing even after a prison sentence has been served. Crimes that are typically considered felonies of this kind include arson, treason, rape, terrorism, robbery, murder, kidnapping, burglary, etc.
What’s more, misdemeanors typically (depending on the state) require a sentence to be served out in a local jail while felonies require serving time in a state prison. Some crimes can result in spending time in jail or state prison. When this is the case, the crime is typically classified according to where the defendant will serve out their sentence.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
Yoel Molina is a qualified, experienced, and compassionate criminal defense attorney who has been helping clients facing misdemeanor and felony charges alike in the greater Miami area for several years now. If you or someone you love is facing felony charges and you have questions or need qualified legal representation, please call the Law Offices of Yoel Molina today. Felony charges are some of the most serious you can face. Don’t wait, but call today!
Anyone who has ever been accused of a crime has had to learn first-hand how complex and difficult-to-navigate the criminal justice system is here in the US. It’s not something anyone wants to or should face on their own. If you or a loved one has currently, or is likely to be accused of a crime by law enforcement here in Florida, the Law Offices of Yoel Molina are standing by to help. But first, let’s talk a little bit about the common questions people have when they are accused of a crime so that you understand better what you or your loved one is facing.
The following are a series of questions I’ve been asked many times over the years. I’ve put this list together to help make getting these answers even easier for my clients and others in the greater Miami area.
Q: IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE ARRESTED WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE OF GUILT?
A: Police can only issue a warrant for your arrest if they do believe you’ve committed a crime. So this means they need what is known as “probable cause.” With probable cause, they have a few options on how they can proceed:
A: The initial appearance you make before the court after you are in custody is your arraignment. At this time, your defense attorney will be provided with a complaint that states what charges are being filed against you as well as any police reports that accompany the case. If you have been placed in custody, it is at the arraignment where your defense attorney and the DA can argue bail.
Q: IS IT OKAY OR ADVISABLE TO TALK TO THE POLICE?
A: In general, it’s best to avoid signing anything or making any kind of statement to police as they may not be upfront with you about whether or not you are under investigation. If the police do ask you to come down to the precinct and make a statement, you should contact the Law Offices of Yoel Molina to secure legal representation from a qualified and experienced criminal defense trial attorney. An attorney like Yoel is able to intercede for you with the police in order to procure information and even possibly prevent charges from being filed. The key here is that bringing your attorney in allows you to avoid giving any statement which the DA can and likely will use against you if the case proceeds to trial.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AT A PRELIMINARY HEARING?
A: Anyone who is charged with a felony will next have a preliminary hearing. This hearing takes place so that a judge of the court system can evaluate the case against you to determine whether sufficient probably cause that both (1) a crime has happened and (2) you indeed likely are the person who committed this crime. By coming ready with a criminal defense attorney, you can dispute evidence against you, secure the testimony of witnesses that help your case, and point out any inconsistencies in the DA’s case against you.
Q: IF THE JUDGE AT A PRELIMINARY HEARING DECIDES THE CASE AGAINST YOU CAN CONTINUE, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
A: The next thing that happens if your case is not thrown out in the preliminary hearing is that it is sent to the court that is appropriate for you to stand trial in depending on the nature of the charges against you. After this, a second arraignment takes place within the correct court. It’s important to note that the charges here may indeed differ from the charges brought up at your original arraignment because the DA is under no obligation to bring up any charges they feel the preliminary court proved valid – even if they were not contained in the original complaint upon which you were arrested.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AT A PRETRIAL CONFERENCE?
A: After you have your second arraignment, the next court date you will have is your pretrial conference. It is at this conference where your attorney has the opportunity to argue any pretrial motions, like the motion to exclude or suppress any pieces of evidence from inclusion in trial as well as to even dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Your attorney can also argue for a plea bargain at this point with the DA. When this happens, your charges are reduced in exchange for a guilty plea resulting in a lesser sentencing or the reduction of the seriousness of charges brought against you. Sometimes your attorney can even argue a felony down to a misdemeanor with a plea deal.
Q: IF MY CASE GOES TO TRIAL, WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
A: In the event a disposition is not reached in your case by this point, a trial date will be set by the judge. The first stage of trial is usually the selection of a jury, followed by the presentation of evidence by both sides, cross-examinations, and finally, closing arguments. Once this is completed, the jury will retire to chambers to deliberate the case and arrive at a verdict. Depending on their deliberations, they will come back with a verdict of guilty, innocent, or a mistrial (if the jury cannot agree, depending on the state you are being tried in).
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
Yoel Molina is an experienced, compassionate, and qualified criminal defense attorney with years of experience defending clients on all kinds of criminal charges in the greater Miami area. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, don’t hesitate but call our offices today!
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"My name is Anastasia Yecke Gude and I am the owner of Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage LLC. In the process of my company’s growth and expansion, I suddenly found myself a few weeks ago in need of a 1099 contractor agreement, and I needed it ASAP. As in, the very next day! I contacted the Law Office of Yoel Molina and his assistant put me in touch with Mo. I sent him what I had drafted up and he replied within a few hours with suggested revisions and clarifications, as well as a few insights I had not even considered. I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of work he provided, especially considering the time crunch I put him in (sorry, Mo!). I definitely recommend his services to anyone in need of a good contract attorney, and I will be calling him again for future work…hopefully in less of a rush next time!"