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Halloween Special: Speedy Trial Beats Felony and Jury Trial Beats Plea Offer

Okeechobee Felony Battery Attorney

Help from a Okeechobee Felony Battery Attorney

Michael Trask (not his real name) was arrested in Okeechobee County on 2/18/2019 for felony battery.  Michael promptly retained Jeffrey H. Garland to handle the matter.

For reasons that were never clear, the State initially reduced the charge to misdemeanor battery.  Latter on, the State would upfile the case back to felony battery.  But the prosecutor did that in response to Garland’s announcement of “ready for trial” on 10/31/2019.  Actually, Garland had announced ready for trial at every docket call from the time of arrest until the one on 10/31/2019.  The prosecutors, at every docket call, moved for a continuance over defense objection.  Garland did not waive Michael’s right to speedy trial under Rule 3.191, Fla. R.Cr.P.

The State’s behavior in this case was difficult to comprehend.  There was no “plea offer” and the State was seeking a year in jail.  Did the prosecutors really think Garland would recommend that Michael should plea no contest and receive the maximum sentence?  That, my friend, was not going to happen.

So the prosecutor threatened to upfile the case to a felony if Michael did not plea.  Garland figured the evidence would be the same in either venue.  Michael, of course, rejected any such plea offers.  After all, Michael had no criminal record.

So at the Halloween docket call, the prosecutor said for sure that he would upfile to a felony.  Garland had a few pranks, of his own, to pull on the prosecutor’s Halloween trick or treat.

As soon as docket call was done, attorney Garland called his assistant and requested for her to file a notice of expiration of speedy trial.  More than 175 days had passed since Michael was arrested.  The speedy trial periods for both misdemeanors and felonies had passed.

As soon as docket call was done, the prosecutor prepared and filed a felony information charging Michael with felony battery.

The prosecutor learned quickly enough that Garland was “faster on the draw”.  In short, the notice of expiration was filed first.

The State conceded that Rule 3.191 prohibited the State from upfiling the charge after expiration of speedy trial and after the defense had given notice of expiration.  The State filed its motion to recall the felony battery charge on the same day – Halloween – saying:  “The State is not permitted to amend the charge after this point (expiration of speedy trial), unless natural speedy has been waived.”

The case then proceeded to jury selection on 11/4/2019 on the charge of misdemeanor battery.  Okeechobee County Judge Wallace noted that the defense had already beat the attempt to upfile the charge to a felony.

The State’s evidence at trial primarily consisted of a high definition video from a Circle K parking lot.  Although many people were present, the State called no one but a Circle K manager (for the video) and the alleged victim, Arturo Casas.  The State did not even call the investigating officers, likely because Arturo had told officers that he was so intoxicated he didn’t remember anything.

Arturo’s memory has reborn at trial.  He testified that Michael hit him.  The video showed Michael, immediately before and after Arturo fell to the ground.  The video did not show an impact, but the video could be construed as supporting the claim of battery.

The State provided belated additional discovery just before trial.  The medical records showed that Arturo told medical personnel he was hit with a beer bottle.  The medical records showed facial bones were broken, which was consistent with an impact by a hard object such as a beer bottle.  The Circle K video showed that Michael had nothing in his hands.

Judge Wallace rightly precluded Garland from confronting Arturo with the statement to police that he had no memory due to intoxication; and his statement to medical personnel that the injury was caused by a beer bottle.  Those statements were “hearsay”.

The State rested.  The defense rested without calling any witnesses.  The jury could watch the video and figure out for itself what happened.  The evidence part of trial took place on 11/5/2019 and lasted about 1.5 hours.

After being instructed, and after closing arguments, the jury labored over 2 hours, 10 minutes to reach a verdict.  The jury found Michael guilty of battery.

Judge Wallace sentenced Michael to straight probation based upon his lack of record, behavior at trial, and matters presented at trial.

Comment from a Okeechobee Felony Battery Attorney

In this case, some Halloween trickery beat the felony based on the speedy trial. The facts of the case, Michael’s lack of prior record, and Michael’s behavior at trial, all contributed to a straight probation sentence.  Hence, the defense beat both the felony and the plea offer.  This case was a win!

If you or a loved one are in need of a Okeechobee felony battery attorney, contact The Law Office of Jeffrey H. Garland, P.A.today at (772) 489-2200.