CRIMINAL CASES AND THE MEDIA

Criminal charges stink!  But what can make matters even worse is when the person charged is either famous or an otherwise high-profile individual.  Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is now on the receiving end of a criminal charge arising from an incident at a nightclub in Las Vegas. Griffin is being charged with one count of Misdemeanor Battery.  Without much information released as to the specific facts of what happened, it’s difficult to judge the merits of the case.  What we can discuss are some of the consequences when facing a misdemeanor battery charge.  We can also discuss some of the challenges that this case will face after having garnered so much media attention.blake griffin

In Florida, Battery is a 1st degree Misdemeanor.  Battery is punishable by up to 1 year in jail, 12 months of probation or a $1,000.00 fine.  To read more about Battery charges and potential defenses, click here.

Misdemeanor cases are handled in the lowest level courts in the state.  In Florida, misdemeanor cases are handled in County Court.  Most county court prosecutors are brand new attorneys fresh out of law school with little to no courtroom or trial experience.  Since Battery is a misdemeanor, county court is where the case will be handled.  This can sometimes be a problem for the defense because many times, defense attorneys will seek to use the ignorance of a young and inexperienced prosecutor to an advantage.  This tactic may not work in these types of cases which have attracted media attention.  The state does not want an inexperienced attorney to be the face of their organization and handling a case which will be seen by millions of viewers.  The cases are handed off to more experienced attorneys or supervising state attorneys.  Depending on the prosecutor assigned to the case, this can be either a good or a bad thing for a defense attorney dealing with a high profile client.

There are some special considerations that the court and attorneys will face when presented with a case from the local police involving a celebrity, professional athlete, musician, local politician or businessperson.  Media attention is always a concern both for defense attorneys and prosecutors.  Media attention can alert the public that an incident has occurred.  The media can help urge witnesses to come forward and give their statement to make sure that all evidence has been collected.  Many times this can be helpful to the state or for the defense.  Media attention can also shed light on unfair or discriminatory police practices and help make changes in the community.

Some negative effects include release of false, incorrect or incomplete information from the news media which can destroy the defendant’s reputation.  Also, the widespread availability of information could potentially contaminate the fairness and impartiality of potential jurors in the community.  Media attention can affect the opinions of witnesses and their willingness to testify openly in court.  Another potential negative effect is that both the Court and the State Attorneys are scrutinized at a higher level which may effect the way the case is handled both in and out of court.  With increased attention from the public, prosecutors and judges may be influenced to act more conservatively which will can negatively affect the way a case will be treated.

Another negative effect is not so obvious but very common.  Celebrities and other high profile individuals can be targeted by people who are trying to get a pay day.  Sometimes people will use defendants’ celebrity to create attention in an attempt to get paid to go away and end the story.  Solely based on the statements by Griffin, it appears that there is a lot more going on under the surface than the media has released so far.  Hopefully the system will do its job and allow the truth to come out.  Our system is over 200 years old and is based on the belief that everyone is entitled to fair treatment in court whether the defendant is indigent or a famous and wealthy professional athlete.

If you are facing any criminal charges in Florida or simply have questions regarding any issues in criminal law, Call 800-403-3887 to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney today, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for a free consultation or case evaluation.

Never speak to police or go to court without first speaking with a criminal defense attorney.  Remember, even fish would not get caught if they kept their mouth shut.

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