Everyone uses a phone or computer to communicate, but texting, emailing or using a cell phone in connection with a crime is itself illegal. So if you’ve been arrested in Florida for nearly any serious offense, in addition to the charges for the primary crime, you may find yourself charged with Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device.
That’s because under Florida Statute 934.215, “using a two-way communications device in furtherance of the commission of any felony” is itself a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. Generally, the statute is used in cases such as drug trafficking, prostitution or soliciting sex with minors, but prosecutors can add the charge to nearly any offense. It’s not uncommon in cases of murder or kidnapping.
Florida Communications Crimes Defense
There are a number of ways to defend against these charges, including double
jeopardy, meaning that the communication is not separate from the primary crime being charged. For example, a Polk County man was arrested in 2012 after sending sexually-explicit text messages to an underage neighbor. He was convicted of Transmitting Material Harmful to Minors and Unlawfully Using a Two-way Communications Device.
However, an appeals court later threw out the conviction for illegally using a communications device. “Transmitting an image, information, or data via electronic mail necessarily involves the use of a “two-way communications device,” the court said. It’s important to note that the appeal was granted on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. In other words, a capable lawyer would have had the charge dropped early on. Earlier court cases had settled the matter, but since the man’s lawyer didn’t bring it up, the charges went forward.
In another case, the courts overturned a communication device conviction related to a burglary. The police found walkie-talkies during a burglary arrest. But they had no actual proof that they were used in the crime, so the charge ultimately didn’t stick. An effective attorney might have kept the charge from being brought in the first place.
The Importance of an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Aside from a thorough knowledge of precedents and case law, an experienced and aggressive defense lawyer is an expert in due process law. He or she knows how to protect a defendant’s rights against common procedural violations and a prosecutor’s overreach. Your attorney can conduct a thorough investigation of how the police handled the arrest and how prosecutors built their case. A good lawyer will find out where the police and prosecutors failed to follow the law.
There may have sloppy police work, shoddy evidence collection or prosecutorial misconduct. A criminal defense attorney can work to exclude certain evidence, challenge witness statements or crime lab results. When you are facing criminal charges, it’s vital to talk with a lawyer as soon as possible. Your best chance for a winning defense is to have an aggressive, determined legal advocate on your side. Consider the Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Rivas Law Firm. Call 407-349-4211 for a free consultation.