What’s the Future for Miranda Rights After Supreme Court Decision?

Lately, all eyes have been on the Supreme Court as they have released recent decisions on everything from abortion to school funding to the government’s control over environmental issues.

As it relates to the law, one case in particular has gained attention.

A ruling regarding Miranda Rights has implications for anyone arrested for a crime. What did the ruling say? And, what does it mean for both police and the public?

What Are Miranda Rights?

You have the right to remain silent.

The statement above is the beginning of what is referred to as Miranda Rights. Miranda Rights are a statement said by police to someone immediately after they have been arrested for a crime. While the wording doesn’t need to be exact, the statement must touch on four points.

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can be used against you.
  • You have the right to an attorney
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be assigned to you.

Miranda Rights were created in 1966 as a result of the Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona. The statement was created to protect a suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights, which protects a person from self-incrimination.

If police fail to issue Miranda Rights, the statements made by an arrestee after the arrest may not be able to be used in court (although there are some exceptions). Recently the Supreme Court issued a ruling on what else happens — or doesn’t happen — if police fail to issue Miranda Rights.

What Was the Supreme Court’s Ruling?

The recent Supreme Court case wasn’t related to whether or not police must issue Miranda Rights. It had to do with an arrestee’s right to sue if their Miranda Rights weren’t issued at the time of the arrest.

A federal law allows people to sue government offices for violating their constitutional rights. The Supreme Court case looked at whether failing to read Miranda Rights was a violation of a civil right. The Court found that it wasn’t.

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said failing to read Miranda Rights was not a violation of civil rights, and it shielded police from being sued if they failed to issue Miranda Rights.

The Supreme Court did not say that police are no longer required to issue Miranda Rights. Even after the Court’s ruling, police are still legally required to issue Miranda Rights.

So, what does the ruling mean for law enforcement and the public?

Related: Find The Best Legal Representation by Asking This One Question

What Does the Ruling Mean for Law Enforcement?

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter, and St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway gave statements to the Tampa Bay Times indicating that they don’t believe the ruling will have much bearing on the way their officers conduct arrests.

According to their statements, police still have a major incentive to issue Miranda Rights.

If police fail to issue Miranda Rights, they cannot use evidence collected from statements made by the arrestee. Law enforcement officials say officers are inclined to collect as much admissible evidence as possible, so they will read Miranda Rights to ensure that they can collect and use evidence.

“If the officer wants to make sure that he or she has a strong case against the person they just arrested, then they need to read Miranda,” said St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

What Does the Ruling Mean for the Public?

While many law enforcement officials believe the Supreme Court ruling should have no bearing on fair arrest processes, some civil rights advocates and legal experts have concerns.

Judith Scully, a criminal law professor at the Stetson University College of Law says, “They [the Supreme Court] recognize the police officers’ conduct as being unethical, perhaps even unacceptable, but they are not willing to say that it’s unconstitutional. They draw a distinction between ethics, acceptability, and constitutionality.”

Concerns are that the new ruling decreases the accountability of police officers. It’s unlikely that law enforcement departments will discipline officers for failing to read Miranda Rights, and now, there is no civil recourse either.

For the public, it’s more important than ever to know your rights. Even if you aren’t read your Miranda Rights, you should know that protections still exist. If you find that your rights were violated, get good legal representation to ensure that you can dismiss any evidence that was collected unlawfully.

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

Talk To a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are arrested for a crime, you have rights. Make sure you know your rights and that you have a criminal defense attorney by your side who will fight for your rights. If you have been arrested for a crime and need expert legal counsel, talk to TJ Grimaldi today.

TJ is committed to fighting for his clients and getting them the most fair and just outcomes possible. Talk to TJ about the details of your case today. Call 813-226-1023 or request your consultation to schedule a time to talk and make a legal plan for your case.

How Will 24 Sexual Misconduct Lawsuits Affect Deshaun Watson’s Future?

At the top of his game, Deshaun Watson had a multi-million dollar deal playing football for the Houston Texas. Now, his life is in limbo as two different types of courts and the NFL look into sexual misconduct accusations made against him by more than 20 women. How will the criminal, civil, or NFL league investigations affect his future?

What Is Deshaun Watson Accused of Doing?

Before March 2021, Deshaun Watson was mostly known for his work on the football field. The NFL quarterback had signed a four-year contract worth nearly $111 million with the Houston Texans. But, all of that changed when a line of women began acussing Watson of sexual misconduct.

What started as three civil suits against Watson eventually ballooned to 24 lawsuits. All of the civil lawsuits were filed in Harris County, Texas, and each alleged that Watson conducted varying levels of sexual misconduct. The lawsuits recount incidents said to have happened between March 2020 and March 2021, and two of the cases included claims of sexual assault.

According to The New York Times, “Watson was said in both cases to have pressured women to perform oral sex during massages and was accused in one of also having grabbed a woman’s buttocks and vagina. The civil suits alleged that Watson engaged in a pattern of lewd behavior with women hired to provide personal services, coercing them to touch him in a sexual manner, exposing himself to women he had hired for massages, or moving his body in ways that forced them to touch his penis.”

So, what do the allegations mean for Watson legally and professionally?

Related: Get Good Legal Representation by Asking This One Question

Potential Consequences in Civil Court

The 24 lawsuits against Watson were filed in civil court. As of June 21, 2022, Watson has settled 20 of the cases. The attorney representing the women, Tony Buzbee, issued a statement saying that the terms and amounts of the settlements were confidential and that those cases would be dismissed once finalized.

There are four remaining civil cases against Watson. The cases will either be settled outside of court like the other 20 cases or they could lead to a trial that could end with Watson paying financial damages if found guilty.

The 24 cases filed against Watson are in civil court, which means they carry no potential consequences related to jail time or fines. But the civil charges did spark a criminal investigation that could have led to those consequences.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Potential Consequences in Criminal Court

In April 2021, the Houston Police Department began investigating the allegations made against Watson. At that time, 21 civil lawsuits had been filed against him.

Almost a year later, in March 2022, a grand jury in Harris County declined to bring charges against Watson on any of nine criminal complaints. A second grand jury in Brazoria County, Texas, also declined to indict Watson on charges of sexual misconduct, as reported by The Athletic.

Watson never faced criminal charges related to the allegations, and at this time, he faces no potential criminal consequences.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Potential Consequences from the NFL

The allegations made against Watson put his career with the NFL in limbo. Shortly after the civil suits were filed, the NFL opened an investigation into Watson’s conduct in March 2021.

The investigation has been ongoing for over a year and, in that time, Watson was traded to the Cleveland Browns in March 2022.

The investigation led to a recent three-day NFL disciplinary hearing that will determine if Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. Retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, the arbiter jointly appointed by the NFL and the players’ union, oversaw the hearing which wrapped up in late June 2022.

Robinson will determine what punishment, if any, Watson will face from the NFL. If Robinson finds that Watson was not in violation of the policy, the case will be closed with no consequence to Watson. If Robinson finds Watson in violation of the policy, he could be suspended from the league for a year.

Either side could appeal Robinson’s ruling. In that case, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he chooses would make the final ruling, according to NFL.com. The ruling is expected to be delivered before the Browns start training camp on July 26, 2022.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

Talk to an Experienced Civil and Criminal Attorney

In many cases, the lines between civil and criminal charges can blur together. If you are facing charges in either type of court, it is a serious matter. Talk to an attorney right away who can offer advice in both types of law. TJ Grimaldi has experience in both civil and criminal matters. Call 813-226-1023 or request your consultation today to talk to TJ about the details of your case.

Mother Faces Manslaughter Charges After Her Toddler Shoots and Kills His Father

Toddler Shooting

It was a tragedy that could have been prevented. A two-year-old had access to a gun. He found it and accidentally fired it at his dad, killing him. Now, the mother of the child is facing criminal charges and will face the consequences of the terrible accident.

How Did a Two-Year-Old Shoot His Father?

Reggie Mabry, 26, and Marie Ayala, 28, lived in an Orlando home with their three young children. One afternoon, Mabry was playing video games in the same room as two of his sons — and a loaded gun.

A shot went off and hit Mabry. Ayala called the police and began performing CPR on Mabry. First responders arrived, but it was too late. Mabry was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

At first, investigators thought the shooting was suicide. Then, one of the boys in the room told his mom and authorities what happened. The five-year-old didn’t know how the younger boy got a hold of the weapon, but he said the two-year-old had found the gun and shot it, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

At this point, the responsibility for the shooting fell onto the mother.

Why Was the Mother Charged?

Ayala was charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence, among other charges. Authorities say she was responsible for the child having access to the gun, which made her responsible for the shooting and death of Mabry.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said, “The gun was not properly stored. In fact, it was easily accessible, even to a two-year-old, and the result is a tragedy that no one in this community can really comprehend.”

It turned out that there should never have been a gun in the house in the first place. Both Mabry and Ayala are convicted felons and were not legally allowed to possess a gun.

Related: Misdemeanor vs Felony: What’s the Difference? 

What Is Manslaughter?

In addition to the manslaughter by culpable negligence charge, Ayala also faces charges for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, and violation of probation. In the past, both Ayala and Mabry had been on probation for child neglect and narcotics possession.

A manslaughter charge is a step below a murder charge, but it is very serious. In Florida, manslaughter by culpable negligence is a second-degree felony.

Manslaughter is defined under Florida Statute 782.07. It’s different from a murder charge because there is no intent to kill. In manslaughter cases, the defendant did one or more of the following.

  • Intentionally completed an act that led to the death of another person.
  • Persuaded or encouraged another person to complete an act that led to that person’s death.
  • Was culpably negligent which led to the death of another person.

It is not entirely unusual for a parent to be held liable for the action of their children.

In December 2021, the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after they bought their son a gun which he took to school and used to injure seven people and kill four more. His parents each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each person killed by their son.

Related: How Much Jail Time Could Parents of Oxford School Shooter Get?   

What Consequences Does the Mother Face?

In Florida, the consequence for manslaughter by culpable negligence is up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

Ayala faces these penalties, as well the penalties from the other charges: possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, and violation of probation.

Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon alone can result in up to 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and up to 15 years of probation.

In some situations, a criminal manslaughter case can also lead to a civil wrongful death case. Families of those killed can file a civil case against the party whose negligence led to the death of their loved one. At this time, a wrongful death case seems unlikely since the man who died was married to the woman being held liable for his death.

In the end, it’s a terrible tragedy that will impact the lives of the entire family, and it could have easily been prevented.

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death? 

Protect Your Family and Yourself

Serious criminal charges can impact you and your entire family. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, talk to a criminal defense attorney right away. If you have a case to discuss, contact the office of TJ Grimaldi today.

Talk to TJ directly about the details of your case. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

How Will the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Case End? 6 Outcomes to Consider

All eyes will soon be on the jury of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation case. The trial is expected to end this week, and the jury will begin their deliberations.

What facts will the jury consider, and what are the possible outcomes of the case that has captured national attention?

The Facts of the Case

In 2018, Amber Heard wrote an editorial for The Washington Post indicating that she was a survivor of domestic abuse. While the article didn’t name Johnny Depp as Heard’s abuser, many people assumed the article was about Depp because the couple’s tumultuous relationship had been widely publicized throughout the years. Depp alleged that Heard’s story was fabricated and that the article led to financial hardship for him.

Depp filed a $50 million defamation civil suit against Heard in Fairfax County, Virginia (where the servers for The Washington Post are located) in an attempt to recoup the losses he said he experienced.

During the trial, two witnesses testified in an attempt to show the value of Depp’s losses. A forensic accountant testified that Depp lost $40 million in income after Heard’s allegations. Depp’s talent manager testified that Depp lost a $22.5 million deal with Disney for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise after Heard’s article was published.

In response to Depp’s lawsuit, Heard filed a countersuit for $100 million.

Heard says that after Depp’s attorney told The Daily Mail that the actress’s allegations were an “abuse hoax,” she also experienced financial losses of her own, according to the New York Times. Heard’s attorneys say she was unable to find work after Depp’s “attempt to destroy and defame Ms. Heard in the press.” Unlike Depp, Heard hasn’t shown how she came up with the $100 million amount. Heard’s talent agent testified that her career prospects fell off after claims from Depp’s legal team, but the agent did not include specific financial numbers.

Related: Why Is Johnny Depp Suing His Ex-Wife, Amber Heard for $50 Million

What Does the Jury Have to Consider?

Both defamation cases have been wrapped into one trial. Seven jurors will determine if the defamation claims are accurate and if so, how much should be awarded in damages. The verdict must be unanimous.

Unlike a criminal case, the jury does not need to find the evidence convincing beyond a reasonable doubt. They only need to determine which side presented a stronger case.

The jury will decide whether or not they believe Heard’s claims of abuse to be legitimate. If they believe her claims match what happened, the defamation case is likely to swing her way. If they believe her claims were fabricated, the case will likely end in Depp’s favor.

The jury must also consider whether or not there was malice to defame one another. They must determine whether or not the exes choose to speak publicly about each other in a clear attempt to bring harm to one another.

If the jury decides one party attempted to defame the other, they will also have to determine how much the defamation cost the harmed party. The defamed party will need to clearly show how they arrived at the requested amount of damages.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

What Are the Possible Outcomes?

As the trial comes to an end, the seven jurors will make their judgment. What decisions could they come up with? There are a few possible outcomes.

Depp wins and is awarded the full $50 million. For this outcome, the jury would need to find that Heard’s claims were fabricated and intended to defame Depp and that the claims led to a loss valued at around $50 million for Depp.

Depp wins and is awarded less than $50 million. The jury may find that Heard’s claims were fabricated and intended to defame Depp but that the claims didn’t lead to a full $50 million in losses.

Heard wins and is awarded $100 million. If the jury believes Heard’s claims and that Depp’s legal team acted to discredit her, she may walk away with the full $100 million if the jury believes she experienced damages in that amount.

Heard wins and is awarded less than $100 million. The jury may believe Heard’s side of the story but not the amount of damages she experienced. She could win the case but walk away with a smaller amount of money in damages.

Neither is awarded damages. The jury could decide that no one in the case deserves damages.

The couple agrees to an out-of-court settlement. The couple’s legal teams could meet outside of the court and decide on a settlement of their own. This scenario is unlikely considering that the trial has already gone on for weeks.

We will have to wait and see what the jury decides. Even then, it is likely that the case will continue on as there is the potential for either side to file an appeal after this case concludes.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

Protect Your Interests

As we have seen with the Depp and Heard case, a lawsuit can completely disrupt your life. If you are facing a civil or criminal case, you need an attorney by your side who can give you advice and fight for you.

If you are in need of a personal injury attorney or criminal law representation, talk to an attorney right away. Schedule a free consultation to talk to TJ Grimaldi to share the details of your case and see how our experienced legal team can help. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Florida Sheriff Encourages Homeowners to Shoot Burglars. Is It Good Advice?

When police in Santa Rosa, Florida, finally caught a burglar who had broken into multiple homes, they saw he had a gunshot wound. The County Sheriff seemed to salute the shooter and encourage others to shoot at anyone who breaks into their property. Is this good advice?

Florida Sheriff Praises Person Who Shot Home Burglar

On a Wednesday night in April, a neighborhood in Pace, Florida, had a flood of break-ins. Multiple residents called to report that someone had broken into their houses. When police showed up, they pursued the culprit as he ran away, jumping over fences and continuing to break into houses.

When they finally caught the 32-year-old suspect, he was wounded. He was shot, but not by a police officer. A homeowner had shot him presumably while the burglar was on their property. No one claimed responsibility for the shooting, and the burglar was arrested.

It seems that Santa Rosa County Sheriff, Bob Johnson approved of the shooting, according to statements he made at a press conference.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Sheriff Johnson commended the shooter, saying he or she should attend a gun safety course to “learn to shoot a lot better” and “save the taxpayers money.”

“If someone is breaking into your house, you’re more than welcome to shoot at them in Santa Rosa County. We’d prefer that you do actually,” he said.

The sheriff also encouraged other residents to take action if they find someone breaking into their house. He invited people to take the sheriff’s office gun safety course offered every other Saturday, adding, “If you take that, you’ll shoot a lot better, and hopefully, you’ll save the taxpayers money.”

It begs the question: is it legal to shoot someone who breaks into your house, whether or not the local sheriff told you to?

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

What Happens if You Shoot a Burglar on Your Property in Florida?

In the burglar shooting, it appears that no homeowner wanted to admit that they shot the culprit. Even after the sheriff’s encouraging words, no one came forward to take responsibility. It seems that whoever shot the burglar didn’t want to face any potential attention or consequences for their actions.

Without knowing the full details of what happened, we can’t know if what the shooter did would leave them in legal trouble. But, we can look at Florida laws to see what laws relate to the incident.

Florida Statute 776.031 outlines the use or threatened use of force in defense of property. It says a person is not permitted to use deadly force to prevent trespass. But, it also says a person is justified in “using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to commit a felony.

Another Florida law also relates to the situation.

Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, individuals can use deadly force as a means to protect themselves without first retreating from the threat. Florida Statute 776.012 says, “The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to murder you or someone else.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

So, Is It Legal to Shoot an Intruder?

While Santa Rosa County Sheriff Johnson may have encouraged homeowners to shoot people on their property, it may not be as cut and dry as he made it sound.

If a person is in their home and feels that they have a reasonable fear of imminent death, danger, or bodily harm from an intruder or if they believe the intruder is about to commit a felony, the homeowner may be able to shoot and kill a person and not face any legal consequences.

But, it isn’t always a sure thing.

If you shoot someone, you would need to prove that you thought the intruder was going to commit a felony or harm you. Also, if you shoot an intruder in the back, you may not be able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Work with a Criminal Defense

Even if you shoot someone in self-defense, you should still talk to a criminal defense attorney. Cases are rarely as cut and dry as they seem. An experienced attorney can protect your rights and ensure that you get the most fair and just outcome possible.

For criminal defense legal support, schedule a time to talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Will Self Defense Claim Work in Florida Road Rage Murder Trial?

When two drivers encountered each other on the narrow and quiet streets of St. Petersburg’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood, no one would have guessed it would have led to road rage, a shooting, and the death of one man.

Now, a trial has finally started almost three years later to determine if the shooter will walk away after claiming he shot two men in self-defense.

What Happened on the Road?

On March 27, 2019, Quentin Hicks, 42, was driving a black convertible BMW while in town visiting from California. He was on his way to see his father and in his front passenger seat was Tyler Oliverbrooks Acker, now 34.

The two were driving through the narrow streets of St. Petersburg’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood when Acker says they thought they had the right-of-way and drove through an intersection. At that time, they were cut off by a Blue Hyundai Santa Fe driven by William Shutt, now 34. The BMW turned down a street and then the car driven by Shutt appeared again and began to taunt them.

According to reports, Hicks and Shutt then pulled up next to each other at the same intersection.

Acker and Shutt have different accounts of what happened next.

Shutt’s attorney, Roger Futerman, says the two men in the BMW yelled at his client. According to a story by the Tampa Bay Times, Futerman said Hicks yelled, “I’m going to f – – king kill you,” at Shutt, and that Acker yelled, too.

Shutt says he thought Hicks reached down to grab something. Shutt assumed Hicks was reaching for a gun. That’s when Shutt fired his own gun, shooting both Hicks and Acker. Hit by the bullet, Hicks drove through the intersection and crashed into a tree. He died on the scene while Acker suffered a gunshot to his leg.

Acker denies Shutt’s claims. He says he and Hicks didn’t yell and that their hands were clearly visible the entire time.

An Arrest One Week Later

It took one week for Shutt to be arrested for the shooting. He was charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, and he has been held without bail at the Pinellas County jail since his arrest in April 2019. His trial began this week.

In opening statements, Prosecutor Elizabeth Traverso pointed to the careless, remorseless way that Shutt handled himself after the shooting. She said Shutt didn’t call 911 after the incident. He didn’t tell his girlfriend. Instead, evidence shows he searched for information about countries that didn’t allow extradition back to the United States, according to reports by the Tampa Bay Times.

Police say that during their investigation, they found that Shutt had stockpiled weapons. He also saved videos and articles about mass shootings and murder. A search warrant says that Shutt also confessed to another shooting in an antique store in Delaware.

Shutt also had a record of careless driving. Just five days prior to the shooting, Shutt was cited for careless driving after causing a crash. According to a story by 10 Tampa Bay, he was also cited for reckless driving in 2018.

Despite the evidence against him, Shutt and his attorneys are claiming that he acted in self-defense. Will it work?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

How To Prove Self Defense

In Florida, laws protect people who use deadly force when they feel their life is threatened.

Often referred to as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Florida Statute 776.012 says:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.”

Florida Statute 782.02 also addresses self defense. It reads:

“The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

In self defense cases, a criminal defense attorney can argue that a defendant’s life was threatened, and they acted with deadly force to protect themself. To prove their case, Shutt’s attorney will need to prove that Shutt felt that Hicks and Acker were planning to take Shutt’s life before he took Hicks.

If Shutt fails to prove his claim, he could face life in prison.

The trial will continue this week.

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

Talk to an Attorney You Can Trust

Facing any type of criminal charge is serious, and you need an attorney you can trust by your side. If you need legal advice about a criminal charge against you, talk to an experienced attorney right away to ensure that you get the most just and fair outcome possible.

If you need assistance, contact TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 to schedule a call and discuss your case directly with TJ.

What Charges Can Be Filed by the Runner Who Was Sucker Punched During His Race?

While coming around the track in first place, the last thing high school student Nathan Carter expected was to get punched. But, that’s what happened at a high school track meet last week.

Carter was knocked to the ground and out of first place. So now, we are asking who — if anyone — is going to face consequences for a teen getting punched in what should be a safe space for high school competition?

What Happened on the Track?

Carter was leading in a 1,600-meter race at the Tohopekaliga Tiger Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida, when he found the track partially blocked by another student who was not involved in the race. According to reports of the incident, Carter first passed the student and told him to move. During the next lap, Carter bumped or pushed the student out of the way as he passed.

On Carter’s next lap around the track, the student on the sidelines ran up to him and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The punch was captured on camera, and you can clearly see the student run up to Carter and hit him from behind.

It was later reported that Carter suffered a concussion from the punch.

What Didn’t Happen on the Track?

Police were called to the scene, but no criminal charges were filed that day.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) said that neither family wanted to press charges, according to a report by TMZ. At the time, the Florida High School Athletic Association and Orange County Public Schools said they were reviewing the situation for potential disciplinary actions.

But now, Carter’s family says they were misled and that’s why they did not initially press charges.

Legal representation for the Carter family says they did not initially press charges because police told them their son would also be arrested and charged with battery for pushing the student who hit him. Now that they know their options, the family may take action against both the boy who hit Carter and the officials running the event.

“If this event hired proper officials to help run this track meet, they could have prevented this,” says the Carter family attorney.

“They could have prevented the CC athlete from standing on the track during the first turn. Or they could have moved the CC athlete after the first lap incident. Or they could have moved the CC athlete before the second lap incident. Or they could have stopped the CC athlete before he chased [my client] down and sucker-punched him. They had many opportunities to prevent this and failed to do so.”

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Charges Could Be Filed?

The Carter family could proceed with both criminal and/or civil charges.

Criminal Battery Charges

Criminal charges could be filed against the boy who hit Carter. Under Florida law, striking a person and causing them harm is considered battery. Battery is defined under Florida Statute 784.03. It can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor battery can come with penalties of:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to one year on probation
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

Felony battery is a more severe charge and often used if the incident led to lasting physical harm to the victim. It can come with penalties of:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Up to five years on probation
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

The incident is on tape so the Carters have proof that the student punched Carter. Carter sustained a concussion so it meets the standard of misdemeanor battery.

Civil Personal Injury Charges

Civil charges could also be filed against the boy who hit Carter. In Florida, you can sue for personal injury if someone’s negligence or recklessness causes injury and damages. Since Carter sustained a concussion from the punch, his legal team could sue for personal injury to collect funds to pay for financial losses (such as medical bills) and/or special compensation damages (such as loss of income, cost of altered plans, and emotional trauma).

The Carter family could also seek personal injury compensation from the organizers of the event. They could argue that event organizers failed to live up to their responsibility to provide a safe environment and that their negligence led to Carter’s injury and damages.

Criminal Assault Charges

The boy who hit Carter could also pursue legal action. Since Carter tried to physically push the boy off the track, a legal team could argue that Carter engaged in simple assault. Assault is defined under Florida Statute 784.011 as an “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.” It would be more difficult to prove than Carter’s case, but it could happen.

At the time of writing this article, neither family has officially pursued legal action.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Get Representation for a Criminal or Civil Case

Being involved in a criminal or civil legal action is serious. Make sure you have an attorney by your side who can guide you through the process and help you get the best possible outcome. If you have pending legal charges against you, don’t delay. Talk to an experienced attorney today.

Request your consultation with TJ Grimaldi or call 813-226-1023 today to schedule your intro meeting.

Could Will Smith Face Legal Charges for Slapping Chris Rock at Oscars?

By now, most Americans have heard the biggest story of the 2022 Oscars. Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face. Nothing like this has ever happened in the 92-year history of the Oscars, and the incident left people with many questions.

But, one of the most consequential questions is: Could Will Smith face legal charges for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars?

What Led Up to Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock?

The shocking incident happened fast.

Chris Rock took the stage to introduce the nominees for Best Documentary. He began with a few jokes. One joke referred to Smith’s wife Jada’s short hairstyle. Jada Smith was visibly upset by the joke. She has been vocal about how having alopecia has affected her hair loss.

At first, Will Smith appeared to laugh at the joke but then moments later, he walked on stage in what seemed to be a joke at first and slapped Rock across the face.

Rock looked stunned. Will returned to his seat where he yelled to Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out of you f***ing mouth.” Rock rebounded, said he would, and continued on to the award.

The incident set a new tone in the theater, yet Smith was not approached by security or asked to leave. Later in the evening, he returned to the stage to accept an Oscar for Best Actor.

At the time, it seemed like Smith was facing no consequences for his action. But, could he?

What Criminal Charges Could Will Smith Face?

The incident happened in Los Angeles so it would fall under California state laws.

In California, the incident would be considered a battery charge. Battery is the intentional act of force or violence against another person. It is defined under Cal. Penal Code § § 240, 242.

In most cases, battery charges in California are classified as a misdemeanor, but they can be charged as a felony at the prosecutor’s discretion. It’s likely that the Smith case would be classified as a misdemeanor as it doesn’t meet the qualifications often associated with felony battery (such as an assault on a police officer or public worker).

Charges could be more severe depending on the level of Rock’s injury. Battery causing serious bodily injury can lead to longer jail time.

At this time, it doesn’t appear that Rock has any serious injuries so if Smith were to face charges, he would likely face a simple battery charge.

Battery in California could be punishable by:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Fine up to $2,000
  • Probation up to six months

So, will Smith face charges?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Could Will Smith Face Criminal Charges?

There is clear evidence that Smith hit Rock. It was broadcast live to roughly 16.6 million viewers.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean Smith will face charges since there are bondsmen in New Haven County to help in all the police formalities.

Rock has declined to press charges or file a police report. Rock’s participation is not required to file charges against Smith, but Rock’s lack of interest in pursuing legal action likely means no case will be opened.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it is aware of the incident but was not pursuing any other action.

Defense lawyer Alan Jackson, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who oversaw high-profile cases, told ABC News why the state will likely not investigate the case further.

“Would they ever in a practical world do that when Chris Rock is saying, ’I won’t cooperate with a criminal investigation?’ Not in a million years. LAPD is probably breathing a relative sigh of relief that they don’t have to get involved with two high-profile actors duking it out on a world stage,” said Jackson.

While it remains to be seen if the Los Angeles city attorney’s office will decide to bring charges against Smith, it seems unlikely at this time.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

Could Chris Rock File a Civil Case Against Will Smith?

In cases where a person is assaulted, the victim may have an option to sue for personal injury in civil courts. There does not need to be criminal charges to pursue a personal injury case.

Rock could technically file a personal injury case against Smith, but it is also highly unlikely.

Rock has already said that he is not pressing charges in the criminal matter so it is unlikely that he would pursue a civil case. Also, to secure a win in a civil personal injury case, Rock would need to prove that he experienced damages as a result of the incident. At this time, it does not appear that Rock was seriously injured or sustained any type of meaningful damages.

But, like potential criminal charges against Smith, civil charges could happen. Time will tell, but it’s unlikely to happen.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Talk to an Attorney If Facing Criminal or Civil Charges

Potential criminal charges and civil charges can lead to serious consequences. If you or someone you know has been charged in either court, talk to an experienced attorney right away.

Even if you have been involved in an incident and charges aren’t filed yet, it’s still important to talk to an attorney and start a legal strategy right away. Talk to TJ Grimaldi about the details of your situation with a free consultation. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.