Proven Criminal and DUI Defense
I don’t care what you’re accused of doing. You are a human being and you deserve to have someone in your corner who will fight for you. I will not judge you; I’ll defend you. - Tim Flaherty

If you’ve been charged with a crime, call (850) 243-6097 to get a FREE consultation.

Blog Posts

How to Communicate with an Okaloosa County Inmate

There is nothing more frustrating than having a loved one incarcerated and not being able to communicate with them.  If you are local you can visit your loved one based on a stringent schedule established by the jail.  You will be given specific days and times to visit with no liberty to modify.  If the jail is on lockdown for any reason and it happens to be your visitation day, you don’t get to see the inmate.  Children under the age of 18 will not be permitted to visit without an accompanying parent.  Communication will become one of the most difficult tasks you have from now until your loved one’s release.  Although Okaloosa County has taken some steps towards accommodating a more convenient visiting schedule, there are a few things you need to know in order to communicate.

Who Cannot Visit an Inmate at the Okaloosa County Jail?

There are a few situations where certain people are not allowed contact with an Okaloosa County inmate.  These situations are as follows:

  • If you are currently on felony probation;
  • If you are a co-defendant or co-conspirator of the crime for which the inmate is detained;
  • If you are the victim of the crime for which the inmate is detained;
  • If you have an active warrant for your arrest;
  • If you have been convicted of a felony regardless of probation or parole status.

How do I talk to My Loved One at the Okaloosa County Jail?

The calling system used by many facilities, including Okaloosa, is Securus.  Securus is an inmate calling plan that you can establish over the phone or internet.  Securus acts as the telephone agent charging your credit card or account based on the length of the call.  With Securus, you don’t have to deposit money on a phone card for the inmate or endure painfully expensive collect call bills.  Securus is available 24/7 through their call center at 1-800-844-6591 or on the web at https://securustech.net/.

The most affordable plan with Securus to date is the AdvanceConnect plan.  This is a prepaid plan that allows contact to land line phones and cell phones.  The prepaid account deducts for each call and can be replenished over the phone or online.  Once the AdvanceConnect plan has been established, you can begin receiving calls immediately.

Benefits of AdvanceConnect:

  • Minimum funding amount of $25
  • Calls are received as long as funds are in the account
  • Accounts can have multiple phone numbers attached

We are not affiliated in any way with Securus, and we do not receive any compensation for providing this information. We are simply offering it to help.

How can I see my loved one at the Okaloosa County Jail?

Would you rather connect with your loved one through a video chat?  Are you unable to see them on a scheduled day?  Securus has an answer for that.  Securus offers in home visitation through a video feed.  This is a great way to connect if you are not a local resident.  The Okaloosa County Jail is a video approved facility and can help you connect via video.  Use the same steps above and create a Securus account.  Once the account has been approved you will schedule a video conference with the jail for visitation.  Inmates are given a minimum of 2 hours of communication time per week.

Are Calls Private From the Okaloosa County Jail?

No.  No call or video will be private if you are communicating with someone held at the Okaloosa County Jail.  The ONLY private conversation your loved one will ever have at the jail is with their attorney.  Inmates should know this rule but if for some reason your loved one begins talking about their case or saying things that are private, terminate the call.  Jail calls can and will be used in court against an inmate.  ALL calls are recorded and heavily monitored.  We understand that your loved one has a desire to have their story heard and we agree, but that must be left for the attorney’s ears only.

If you have a loved one incarcerated at the Okaloosa County Jail and you need help establishing contact, call Flaherty Defense Firm today at (850) 243-6097.  We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for you.


What is First Appearance in Okaloosa County?

Under Florida law, when someone is arrested or picked up on a warrant, they must be seen by a Judge within 24 hours. This hearing is called First Appearance.

What happens at First Appearance in Okaloosa County?

Basically, at First Appearance, the Judge will decide whether to release someone on bond or hold them in jail until they appear before the Judge assigned to their case.

How does the Judge make the bond decision at First Appearance?

The Judge will consult with someone from the Pretrial Services office. Pretrial Services is the agency that compiles a person’s background, prior criminal history, etc. They submit a written report to the Judge with all of this information, along with a recommended bond (or a recommendation of no bond).

The Judge gives a lot of weight to Pretrial Services’ recommendation, but he or she is not required to follow it. It is still up to the Judge to make the final decision.

Does everyone get a bond at First Appearance?

No. In a lot of cases, the arrest warrant will contain language that directs the first appearance Judge to “hold” the client for the Judge who will preside over the case.

If the charge is Violation of Probation, in most cases, the First Appearance Judge will order the person to be held without bond.

If the charge is a felony and the Judge covering First Appearance is a misdemeanor Judge, sometimes they will order no bond and let the felony Judge make the decision at a later date.

What can an attorney do for me at First Appearance?

First, unlike a lot of attorneys, I personally attend First Appearance for my clients. I will prepare my own detailed background on my client and be ready to present a compelling argument for releasing my client from jail.

One quick example:

Recently, I had a client charged with felony Violation of Community Control. The warrant requested “no bond.” The Judge handling First Appearance was a misdemeanor Judge. In other words, our chances of getting our client out of jail at First Appearance were not looking good.

I was able to get this client a reasonable bond at First Appearance after presenting mitigating evidence and background information about my client.

I will also contact a bail bondsman before the First Appearance and have them on standby so that once a bond is set, they can meet you at the jail and get you out as soon as possible.

I don’t want any of my clients to spend one second more in jail than they have to, so I will work to get you released from jail as quickly as possible.

If you or a loved one has a warrant in Okaloosa County, and you don’t want to face the Judge alone at First Appearance, call Flaherty Defense Firm at (850) 243-6097. I am available 24 hours a day, so if an arrest happens late at night, call me and I’ll be there when you need me.


Battery on Law Enforcement Charge in Destin Reduced

DC was charged with Battery on Law Enforcement after an altercation outside a bar in Destin. She had never been in any trouble with the law before, so needless to say, she was terrified. She also had a lot to lose. She was the manager of a retail store at the Sandestin Outlet Mall, and she knew that a felony conviction would destroy her career.

I was able to get the security tapes from the incident. I also tracked down all of the witnesses that were present, including several that the state wasn’t even aware of. All of them gave conflicting accounts about what happened, but there was one thing they were consistent on. It was not clear at all that the alleged victim in the case was a law enforcement officer.

In Battery on Law Enforcement prosecutions, the state must be able to prove that the defendant knew that the alleged victim was law enforcement. Usually, this is easily proven if the person is wearing a uniform, displays a badge, clearly identifies themselves as a police officer, or is driving a marked police vehicle. None of those factors applied here.

I outlined all of this to the prosecutor at a court hearing and I set the case for trial. The prosecutor offered my client a reduced charge to a misdemeanor. No conviction on her record, no jail time. Just a fine and some community service.  While I was confident we could win at trial, my client knew she was facing 5 years in prison if the jury convicted her, so she decided to take the sure thing and accept the misdemeanor plea.

If you have been charged with Battery on Law Enforcement in Destin, Flaherty Defense Firm can help. Call me anytime, day or night, at (850) 460-7470.


Getting a Bond in Okaloosa County

If you have a family member, loved one, or friend who is currently in jail in Okaloosa County, we understand that your first two priorities are getting them released from jail as soon as possible and securing the best criminal defense attorney you can find.

In most circumstances, a person is legally entitled to a reasonable bond. The main exception to this is violations of probation or community control, where someone can be held with no bond.

How bond decisions are made in Okaloosa County

Is there a bond on the arrest warrant?

When someone has a warrant for their arrest, sometimes there will already be a bond on the warrant. If so, they can turn themselves in, post bond, and leave.

What if there was no bond on the warrant?

The person will need to spend at least one night in jail and see a judge for a hearing called “First Appearance.” This is where most bond decisions are made. The Judge will have a report from Pretrial Services that will recommend the appropriate bond, but it is still up to the Judge whether to issue a bond.

What if no bond was set at First Appearance?

The next step is to file a Motion To Set Bond. This will be scheduled for a hearing before the Judge who is assigned to the case. If you need a Motion to Set Bond filed for a loved one, it can take a couple of weeks to get on the Judge’s calendar, so call me as soon as possible.

The following is a partial list of statutory criteria that the Judge will consider:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense charged
  • The weight of the evidence against the defendant
  • The defendant’s ties to the community and their financial resources
  • Whether the Defendant has ever failed to appear for court
  • Whether the Defendant poses a danger to the community
  • The source of funds and whether they are linked to criminal activities
  • Whether the Defendant is already on probation, community control, or parole

What if a bond WAS set at First Appearance but it is too high?

If your loved one had First Appearance in Okaloosa County and the bond was set too high, the next step is to file a Motion to Reduce Bond. Just like with a Motion to Set Bond, call me as soon as possible to get this process started because it can take a couple of weeks to get on the Judge’s docket for the Motion to Reduce Bond.

Need help getting a loved one out of the Okaloosa County Jail?

If someone you care about is in the Okaloosa County jail, Flaherty Defense Firm can help. Give me a call 24/7 at (850) 243-6097. I will look into their current bond status and talk with you about whether to file a Motion to Set Bond or a Motion to Reduce Bond. Either way, I’ll be glad to give you some answers.


Choosing The Right Criminal Attorney In Destin

As an attorney who practices criminal defense in Destin, I’m in court several days a week. I get a chance to watch how other attorneys work; how they treat their clients; how they address the Court. It’s always obvious which attorneys seem confident and “on it,” and which ones seem flustered and ill-prepared.

Mediocre representation has becomes common. There are many reasons for this. One big one is that many attorneys are in a “race to the bottom” when it comes to fees. I really hope the practice of law hasn’t become a business where greed is the driving force and the model is “sign as many clients as possible for the lowest possible price and plead them guilty as quickly as possible.”

The old cliché of you get what you pay for definitely applies when it comes to choosing an attorney for your Destin criminal case.

At Flaherty Defense Firm, people call me all the time wanting me to “fix” what another attorney did. Usually, they either had the public defender, or they hired the cheapest payment plan lawyer they could find. Sometimes, I am able to help, but sadly, it is often too late.

There are two areas in particular where I see this subpar level of attorney representation:

(1)       The so-called “DUI Expert”

There are several attorneys in Destin who advertise themselves as DUI experts. They claim that DUIs are all they do. I am thinking of one attorney in Destin especially who only takes DUI cases and he pleads every single one of them guilty. Just the exact same deal the client could have gotten without an attorney. These attorneys will take your case on the cheap and then sell you out. They will scare you into taking the first deal offered by threatening that you could get jail time if you don’t plea out.

This is nonsense and you shouldn’t fall for it.

(2)       Felony Court

Felony court is a serious place that demands serious, thoughtful representation. It is a place where lives are in the balance and making the right moves is critically important. Before trusting your freedom to someone just because they quoted you a low fee, ask them if they have ever tried a case before a jury in felony court. Maybe even ask them if they have ever won a jury trial in felony court. I think you would be amazed by the response you might get.

It really comes down to value. Does it really matter if your attorney charged you a low fee if you end up in prison, or end up with a felony on your record that could have been avoided with the right defense strategy?

I guess the point of this post is to warn you to do your research. Do your homework. You don’t want to look back later and wonder if you could have done something different to give you a better outcome. By then, it will be too late.

You only get one chance to get this right. Your choice of defense counsel for your Destin arrest might be one of the most important decisions you ever make. You owe it to yourself to hire the very best criminal defense attorney you can.

If you have been arrested in Destin, I would be glad to meet with you to talk about your case. Call Flaherty Defense Firm today at (850) 243-6097 and let’s get to work planning your defense. I welcome your call, and I am available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Don’t Talk To The Police: Advice From An Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Talking to the Police:  Just Say NO!

Many people think that they are required to talk to the police when being questioned or investigated. I want to tell you one piece of advice that could save you from a criminal conviction on your record. You have the right to remain silent and you should use that right. The police cannot force you to talk to them.

Police officers are trained to get information from suspects and potential witnesses. They may try to scare you into making a statement and answering their questions. They may try to tell you that if you don’t answer their questions, you will be arrested. Don’t be fooled. They are going to arrest you one way or the other if they feel they have enough evidence.

Very rarely does someone talk themselves out of trouble. It is far more common to see someone talk themselves into trouble.

Another tactic the police in Okaloosa County like to use is to tell the suspect that they believe you are innocent and just need a little information from you.

The police use these tactics to catch people in a lie and to gather evidence to use during your criminal prosecution.  Most times, after someone does talk to the police, they are arrested anyway, and have given the cops ammunition to use against them.

Even if you are innocent, most likely you will be nervous while answering their questions and it is very easy to misunderstand one of their questions, or be misled by their interrogation tactics, and answer something in a way that makes you look guilty.

Here at Flaherty Defense Firm, I get a lot of calls from people who haven’t been arrested yet, but the police want to question them. My advice is to ALWAYS respectfully say no to talking to the cops without your criminal defense attorney present, even if you are 100% innocent.

Here are some general guidelines if you are stopped by the police:

  • You have the right to remain silent. Invoke this right!
  • Be polite and calm during all of your interactions with law enforcement.
  • Ask them if you are free to leave (they hate this question).
  • Do not consent to any searches of your property or person.
  • If they are insistent on questioning you, tell them you want your lawyer present.
  • If you feel the police are acting unlawfully or inappropriately, do not try to fight it right then, or argue with them. This makes matters worse. I will fight that battle for you in court.
  • Do not make any statements about the incident in an effort to talk your way out of an arrest.

If you or a loved one has been approached by the police for questioning in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty Defense Firm right away at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.


Is There Any Way To Stay Out Of Prison For A Felony In Okaloosa County If I “Score Out” Under The Guidelines?

Downward Departure Sentencing in Okaloosa County

I’ll be honest. In most cases, if you score 44 points or more under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet, any plea bargain will result in a prison sentence. The prosecutors in Okaloosa County almost never agree to a non-prison sentence for someone with more than 44 points, and the Judges are reluctant to do so as well.

There is a legal way for the Judge to deviate, or depart, from the guidelines and impose a lighter sentence, however. This is the Downward Departure.

In order for the Judge to issue a Downward Departure sentence, he must find that one of the following applies to your case:

  1. Legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain
  2. Defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct
  3. The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminal nature of the conduct or to conform that conduct to the law was substantially impaired
  4. Defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction and is amenable to treatment
  5. The need for restitution outweighs the need for a prison sentence
  6. The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident
  7. Defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person
  8. Before the defendant’s identity was determined, victim was substantially compensated
  9. Defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense
  10. The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse
  11. Defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense
  12. Defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender
  13. Defendant is amenable to a post-adjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program
  14. Defendant was making a good faith effort to obtain or provide medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose

Even if the Judge finds that you meet one or more of the criteria, he or she still has the authority to deny the Downward Departure and sentence you according to the guidelines.

It is my job as your criminal defense attorney to show the Judge which of the above criteria you meet in order to qualify for the Downward Departure. I will also do everything possible to convince the Judge that you deserve a second chance to stay out of prison.

My #1 job at Flaherty Defense Firm is to keep my clients out of jail/prison. I have developed techniques and strategies over the years to try and accomplish that goal. Making an effective argument for a Downward Departure is one of them.

If you are being charged with a felony in Okaloosa County and you’re worried about going to prison, give Flaherty Defense Firm a call today at (850) 243-6097.  I’ll be glad to review your case with you and give you an honest and realistic opinion about your options and what strategies I would use to defend you.

 

 


Speedy Trial In Fort Walton Beach Criminal Cases

I decided to write this blog about Speedy Trial in Fort Walton Beach cases because as a criminal defense attorney, I get asked about it a lot. I’ll discuss the Speedy Trial rule and how it works. When we meet to talk about your case, I’ll explain whether I think Speedy Trial is a good idea in your case or not.

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191 is the applicable law on this topic. I’ll discuss Rule 3.191 and also offer some information about how the rule is applied in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County courts. The rule divides Speedy Trial into two types: Speedy Trial Without Demand and Speedy Trial Upon Demand.

(1) Speedy Trial Without Demand

Rule 3.191(a) states: “Every person charged with a crime shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest for a misdemeanor, or within 175 days of arrest for a felony. The time periods established shall commence when the person is taken into custody.”

What Does Custody Mean?

As defined by Rule 3.191(d), “a person is taken into custody when the person is arrested or when the person is served with a notice to appear in lieu of physical arrest.”

What If We Need A Continuance To Get Prepared?

This is very common. The prosecutors in Fort Walton Beach are notoriously slow in sending discovery on their cases, so a lot of times, when the court date comes around, we are still waiting for discovery. Especially in situations where the case might go to trial, I need sufficient time to review discovery, file motions, take depositions, and prepare. If I decide that a continuance is needed, I will waive Speedy Trial, which stops the clock unless we file what is called a Demand For Speedy Trial which is discussed next.

(2) Speedy Trial Upon Demand

Rule 3.191(b) states in part: “Every person charged with a crime by indictment or information shall have the right to demand a trial within 60 days by filing with the court a Demand For Speedy Trial and serving a copy on the prosecuting authority.”

What Happens After Filing a Demand For Speedy Trial?

The Judges in Fort Walton Beach do not like it when defense attorneys file this Demand. It puts pressure on them and on the prosecutor which is what makes it a useful option in some cases.

Rule 3.191(b)(1-4) lists the four things that happen once a Demand is filed:

  • No later than 5 days from the filing of a demand for speedy trial the court shall hold a calendar call for the express purpose of announcing in open court receipt of the demand and of setting the case for trial.
  • At the calendar call the court shall set the case for trial to commence at a date no less than 5 days nor more than 45 days from the date of the calendar call.
  • The failure of the court to hold a calendar call on a demand shall not interrupt the running of any time periods.
  • If the defendant is not brought to trial within 50 days of the filing of the demand, the defendant has the right to the appropriate remedy set forth in 3.191(p).

What Is The Remedy If The Case Isn’t Brought To Trial On Time?

This is why the Judges really don’t like this rule. Rule 3.191(p) states that once the time period has passed, and after the defendant files a Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial Time, the court must hold a hearing within 5 days, and at that hearing, must order that the trial take place within 10 days, unless some very narrow exceptions apply. If the case is not brought to trial within that 10 day period, the defendant will be discharged forever from the crime.

In other words, the case gets dismissed and can’t ever be refiled.

Do You File A Demand For Speedy Trial A Lot?

No. While the Rule does potentially pressure the State, which we can sometimes exploit to our advantage, it also has implications for the defense. Rule 3.191(g) states in part that the defendant is bound by the demand. It further states that no demand should be filed unless the defendant has a bona fide desire to obtain a trial faster than normal. Also, the Rule states that by filing the demand, the defendant is telling the court that he/she has diligently investigated the case, and is prepared to try the case within 5 days.

This is why I don’t use this tactic as a bluff. Judges know when either side is playing games and if they think I am doing so, they will call my bluff and possibly force us to trial within 5 days. This is rarely to the client’s benefit.

Speedy Trial is something I always monitor in all of my cases. I try to avoid whenever possible waiving our client’s right to a Speedy Trial unless it is absolutely necessary.

I have used Speedy Trial in the past in a few cases to get charges dismissed, so it can be an effective tool when it applies. With every case I defend in Fort Walton Beach, I am always looking for every possible edge I can find to help my clients.

If you have been arrested in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty Defense Firm at (850) 243-6097 and get the help you need.


Do The Police In Okaloosa County Wear Body Cameras?

We have all seen the crime based TV shows where there are multiple cameras and law enforcement is able to “catch the bad guy” with the use of technology. This level of high tech crime fighting has now landed itself on the streets of Okaloosa County.

Okaloosa County Sherriff’s deputies are now equipped with a body camera that records everything that the officer sees or hears. The camera is mounted on their chest and records all audio and visual data from the officer’s perspective. This can be a great tool to help keep the officer safe. However, it is also a recorded digital record of your interaction with law enforcement.

What does this mean for residents of Okaloosa County?

It means every interaction you may have with law enforcement comes with a digital record. Everything you say and do is now being recorded without your knowledge.

Can I fight to have the digital evidence removed or ask the officer to turn it off?

No. Law enforcement is allowed to use any digital means necessary to track their contact with civilians. The basis for these cameras is for officer safety and as such will continue to be used as spy cameras.

If I can’t stop it, what are my options?

Even though you can’t stop them from videotaping your interaction, knowledge is power. Knowing this gives you the ability to present yourself in a positive light for possible future use in court. It can also work against the officer if their treatment of you is anything less than professional. Either way, I will subpoena and analyze any and all video evidence that may be available in your case.

If you have been arrested in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty Defense Firm and get the help you need. We are available 24/7 at (850) 243-6097.

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10.0Tim Michael Flaherty

Call (850) 243-6097 for your free consultation.