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It was only $23 worth of merchandise. The very charge has the word “petit” in it. Why is this a big deal? The State as offered an adjudication of guilt and nominal court costs, shouldn’t I just accept that and walk away? Not only no, but hell no. Petit theft, or any other variety of crime of dishonesty are snakes in the grass that keep biting long after resolution if not handled correctly. Far too often I receive calls from individuals who resolved a theft allegation to a nominal direct penalty in Court, only to have that decision haunt them for the rest of their lives. Anything an individual does that calls on credibility will be affected by a criminal history reflecting a crime of dishonesty. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative to retain a criminal lawyer well versed with not only the direct consequences of a theft crime, but also the collateral consequences often overlooked.

A common Petit Theft charge is either classified as a first or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the value of the item alleged to have been taken. If the property is between $100 and $299.99 the petit theft will be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in county jail and a $1000 fine. If the value is less than $100 the second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a $500 fine. For all intents and purposes the State Attorney’s Office will treat petit theft in the same fashion regardless of its misdemeanor level. What often gets overlooked is the fact that an adjudication of guilt to a petit theft could result in a driver’s license suspension and such conviction will remain the basis for disappointment for years to come. Any job application that triggers a criminal background check will yield a reflection that the applicant has a crime of dishonesty. Employers are very hesitant to hire one with a theft conviction in their past for fear that the person will steal from them, or worse, steal from a customer resulting in reputation damage or the threat of a lawsuit. Obtaining a mortgage or housing as a renter could be made exponentially harder if a background check reveals a theft charge. Any lender or landlord must rely on the credibility of the individual tasked with paying a loan or rent. The simple fact is, those with criminal histories involving theft crimes are going to have a hell of a lot harder time finding housing due to potential issues with credibility. For those that seek higher education and an ultimate licensure, having a crime of dishonesty on your record could inhibit or delay that process.

At the end of the day people may make youthful mistakes or mistakes of desperation that are aberrant and out of character. I believe that the sum of an individual is not their worst deed and hate when I see someone who is suffering from a mistake made years ago or worse, from a choice to resolve a charge based upon poor legal advice. It is critical if charged with any variety of theft crime, regardless of severity, to consult with a Tampa theft attorney well versed in both the direct and collateral effects of crimes of dishonesty. Jason Mayberry has protected his clients in the Tampa area for over ten years. Call on his experience to help you on your case now and to ensure an isolated charge doesn’t haunt you for years down the road. Contact us today at 813-444-7435 for a free consultation.

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VaderMug
Darth Vader of Death Star, Space, 45 years old, was indicted last week in the Middle District of Florida for allegedly violating the RICO act, Conspiracy, Committing Acts of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries, Murder, loitering and prowling, and finally, wearing a mask on a public way. Mr. Vader has long been thought to be a vital cog in the “Dark Side” organization but has to date avoided capture or criminal charge, instead going unscathed while various ranking storm trooper underlings faced a variety of criminal charges including trespass and drunk and disorderly conduct. While the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office have remained tight-lipped with respect to the evidence against Vader, many believe this could be it for the Dark Lord.

While it may seem to many a slam-dunk to earn a conviction against Mr. Vader, Mr. Vader’s legal counsel doesn’t think so. When asked, Mr. Vader’s lead defense counsel, Tampa criminal attorney Jason Mayberry indicated that while it may indeed be more difficult to defend against the loitering and prowling charge, it may prove to be an uphill battle in proving the terrorism charge, given a lack of eyewitnesses to Mr. Vader himself ordering or committing any act of terrorism under 18 USC 2332b. With respect to a potential conspiracy charge under 18 USC 371, Mayberry points out that there are no known remaining witnesses to attest that there was agreement to achieve an unlawful objective, that Mr. Vader knowingly and voluntarily participated in the conspiracy, and that Mr. Vader committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. United States v. Brenson, 104 F.3d 1267 (11th Cir. 1997); United States v. Suba, 132 F.3d 662 (11th Cir. 1998); United States v. Hansen, 262 F3d 1217 (11th Cir. 2001).

As to a murder charge for the death of Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, Mayberry cites a claim for self-defense within one’s home. According to Mayberry, “it appears clear that Mr. Kenobi entered Mr. Vader’s home with the intent to use deadly force against him. It was Mr. Kenobi who was committing the crime of burglary against Mr. Vader, who was simply using deadly force to defend himself and his friends against the deadly force planned against him by Mr. Kenobi and his lightsaber. Furthermore, there appears to be an argument for a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in the middle district.” To Mayberry’s point, there are no known treaties between the United States and the Death Star, nor does there appear to be any enabling statutes, akin to the United States Coast Guard patrolling international waters for narcotics, in effect. A quick review of past police reports find that Obi-Wan Kenobi does have a history of brutally attacking Darth Vader leading to severe injury.

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Ah, the wonderful world of divorce and the precipitating domestic violence allegations that often accompany it. While not an uncommon crime, allegations occurring 6,834 times in Pinellas County last year and 6,387 times in Hillsborough County according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Report statistics, what is rare is to have an incident on video. This is just such an example for Pinellas County resident Corinne Novak who stands accused of domestic battery against her unnamed husband for allegedly grabbing his crotch during a time-sharing exchange of their two children. On video, a hand alleged to be Ms. Novak’s is seen blasting into view and appearing to intrude in her unnamed husband’s genital region, against his will as indicated by his reaction, also caught on video. While this fact alone presents a considerable issue for even the most seasoned criminal attorney, her statement immediately after the alleged grabbing of her husband to “call the police” and that she’s “going to tell them that you (her husband) just assaulted me (Ms. Novak)” could circumstantially throw away any legitimate argument she had.

While not yet formally charged through information of any crime, Ms. Novak is accused of domestic battery and in some capacity violating the conditions of her initial pretrial release. Domestic battery in Florida is nothing more than an allegation of battery against a family or household member. A battery in this case would be proven if the State Attorney can show beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Novak intentionally touched or struck the unnamed husband against his will or alternatively if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Novak intentionally caused bodily harm to the unnamed husband. Ms. Novak, while still technically married to the unnamed husband, is a spouse and thus considered a family or household member thereby satisfying the domestic enhancement in this charge. So what difference does it make if a battery case is considered domestic in nature?

When a simple battery is ramped up to a domestic battery, the direct and collateral penalties/consequences become more severe. Initially, if your battery is considered domestic in nature, you will not receive a schedule bond and must see a Judge at a first appearance/advisory in order to have pretrial release conditions considered. As a general rule, if one stands accused of a domestic battery and the alleged victim desires for the case to move forward, there is a strong likelihood that the accused will have a no contact order placed against him or her and will not be able to contact the alleged victim, often their children if the circumstances are relevant for this, and will not be able to return to the shared residence. Under Florida Statute 741.283 if the accused is convicted and there is a showing that bodily harm was inflicted upon the victim, a five-day minimum mandatory jail sentence will be imposed. Even if a plea is entered and a withhold of adjudication is imposed, because the domestic battery is an act of domestic violence as described in Florida Statute 741.28, the record will never be permitted to be sealed or expunged. Under Florida Statute 790.06 if one pleas to a domestic battery or domestic violence related charge, that person’s concealed carry license will be revoked and the individual must go three years from the time is completed before he or she will be considered for a new concealed carry permit.

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Deadbird The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team is under investigation by the FBI and Unites States Attorney’s Office in Houston, Texas for allegedly hacking an Astros player database. The New York Times reports that FBI and Department of Justice officials have evidence that Cardinals officials tapped into a database created by a current Astros exec and former Cardinals exec. According to the Times report, the database contained information on player statistics, scouting information, and internal discussions about players, trades, and other proprietary information. Thus far, both the Cardinals and Astros have been served with subpoenas but no formal charges have been returned against the Cardinals officials responsible for the breach. It is believed that Cardinals officials “gained access to the Astros’ database by using a list of passwords associated with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow dating to his tenure with the Cardinals from 2003 until he left for Houston after the 2011 season,” according to ESPN reports. Surprisingly, these databases were allegedly accessed using this information from the homes of the Cardinal executives involved.

While this incident is being compared immediately to the Spygate scandal involving the alleged videotaping by the New England Patriots of opponents’ practices, under the surface there is potential that this incident could have far more severe implications through the federal criminal justice system. 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(4) makes it a federal crime for anyone to knowingly and with intent to defraud, access a protected computer without authorization…. and by means of such conduct further the intended fraud and obtain anything of value. One potential issue that could be raised by a federal criminal lawyer is the element requiring something of “value.” In essence, the question would be is there a value that can be said to be attached to a baseball team’s database compiling information important to the game as it’s played on the field? I would think a federal prosecutor would answer in the affirmative and would consider the information accessed to be congruent to a major corporation’s trade secret. 18 U.S.C. 1839 defines a trade secret, in relevant part, as business information, tangible or intangible, that the owner has taken a reasonable measure to keep secret, and the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by the public. Bringing this all together, under this theory I believe the federal prosecutor would argue that this information is a trade secret, value of which is in the potential for the Astros to properly scout and prepare for their opponents in order to win and ultimately, very likely be more profitable. Essentially, if there is any way the information accessed could contribute to value, it could very likely be considered a trade secret. Conversely, I think a Federal criminal attorney could argue to a jury that there is no way to assign a value to the information as the leap from the information accessed to actual profitability of the team is too far to make it a legitimate trade secret. In other words, what was accessed was not the recipe for Coca Cola or Chic Fil A’s delicious chicken sandwiches. 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(5)(c) criminalizes the intentional access of a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage and loss. I believe the same argument for both sides would apply here.

What about the good old sweeping charge of wire fraud? Generically, government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant (1) used either mail or wire communications in the foreseeable furtherance, (2) of a scheme to defraud, (3) involving a material deception, (4) with the intent to deprive another of, (5) either property or honest services. Bingo! Yet again, the federal prosecutor’s best friend makes a conviction a little easier.

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Winston
Want some terrible advice? Don’t break a car window to save a poor puppy about to overheat if you’re anywhere in the State of Georgia. Michael Hammons of Athens, Georgia, a desert storm veteran, is finding this out the hard way after breaking the window of a car he found with an overheating dog inside. According to several news reports, Hammons was walking through a parking lot when he noticed a Ford Mustang with a small Pomeranian mix inside. With no windows open and no air conditioning running, the dog was distressed and likely about to die according to a number of onlookers.  After Hammons broke the window to rescue the dog he was charged with trespass per the dog owners demand!

So, morally and ethically, the advice NOT to break the window is terrible and one would have to be a real son of a bitch to not save this little dog. It seems as though Georgia would prefer to have a number of dead dogs and sons of bitches roaming around in order to prevent their version of trespassing from being committed. As attorneys we can’t uphold our oath to the bar and advise one to break the law at the same time. To do one excludes the other. In this situation, that’s tough to do. So what happens now and what would happen to someone in Florida if they did this?

First and foremost, I’m hard pressed to think of an incident in Florida where someone has left their hound in a hot car where they weren’t prosecuted for animal cruelty if the dog was in distress or died. In Florida, plain jane animal cruelty is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and is proven if it can be shown that someone carried an animal in or upon a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane manner. In a Florida summer with the windows up and the dog left in a car the person is probably toast. Unless you get a jury of sons of bitches, once they hear those facts you’re out regardless of how good your criminal attorney is. So what if you break the window like Mr. Hammons? In my book you’re a hero. That said, theoretically you could be charged with trespass to a conveyance (a car is a conveyance) if they can show you willfully entered the conveyance belonging to another without their permission. There is a thought that criminal mischief could be charged if it can be shown that you damaged the personal property of another in a willful and malicious capacity.

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Music producer and professional subject of controversy Suge Knight is back in hot water after being accused of a deadly hit and run in California. As so often is the case in a criminal trial, video of an alleged incident can be a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution, defense, or both. In the video Knight appears to partially pull into a parking lot where he is confronted by a man known as Cle “Bone” Sloan. After what appears to be a scuffle, Knight backs his truck out of the parking lot and then accelerates forward, running over Sloan in addition to another man on the scene named Terry Carter. Sloan survived, Carter did not. Knight faces murder charges in California and the video of the incident may well have a significant impact on his trial.

While California law will vary from Florida, it is likely that Knight’s charges will be very similar to what he would face had his actions been committed in Florida. In addressing the most serious allegation only, Knight would likely be charged with second degree murder were his case situated in Florida. Second degree murder occurs when there is an unlawful killing of a human being when committed via act imminently dangerous to another with a depraved mind, lacking any real concern for human life but lacking the premeditation required for a first degree murder charge. While it is arguable the State could move forward on a first degree murder charge, it is unlikely premeditation was present. One could argue had premeditation been present, Knight would have just hit the individuals immediately upon his arrival at the scene rather than stop to speak. As to second degree murder, the charge will hinge on whether his actions in accelerating forward were done with a depraved mind, lacking a concern for human life.

So does the video lock the case down for the prosecution on a murder charge? Having dealt with similar issues, there is perhaps more to be told. No doubt Knight’s criminal attorney will point to Sloan appearing to attack Knight when the truck initially stopped at the scene. This would support an initial self-defense argument in that Knight was not the instigator of the physical contact. As we can see Knight’s truck then backs up, only to lunge forward, hitting the men. After some elapsed time a man runs over to Sloan and appears to take something from him. If it can be shown that this was a weapon (specifically a gun), Knight’s actions could be argued to have been in self-defense. Even if the item taken isn’t recovered, there is still room for argument by the defense. So what do we make of the car that travelled down the road Knight initially backed into, almost immediately after Knight’s truck lunged forward? The prosecutor will argue that this is evidence of a clear path allowing for Knight’s safe escape from a compromised situation. Was it really though? Knight’s criminal lawyer may argue that the car was accelerating away from the scene after being behind Knight. Depending on the actions of those in the car, Knight may have feared for his life in attempting to navigate his way from the scene in an alternate capacity than what he did. Regardless of the outcome of the trial, in my opinion this video will be a focal point of the trial and will be used by both the prosecutor and Knight’s criminal defense team. Time will tell as to who the jury agrees with.

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One hit wonder and 90’s musician Vanilla Ice was arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft in Palm Beach County this week. According to news reports, Ice was renovating a nearby home as a part of his DIY television show “The Vanilla Ice Project” where he and his crew renovate and flip homes. According to the police, Ice is accused of burglarizing an unoccupied dwelling and stealing a pool heater in addition to several pieces of furniture sometime between December 2014 and February 2015. Several of the allegedly stolen items were later found in his home. The Lantana Police Department released a statement saying that “during the investigation, it was determined Robert Matthew Van Winkle (your buddy Vanilla Ice) played a role in the burglary and theft. Mr. Van Winkle is currently renovating the residence adjacent to the property in which the items were stolen. A search warrant was obtained and executed in unincorporated Palm Beach County in which several of the stolen items were recovered at a residence under the care and control of Robert Van Winkle.” There you have it. Every mid 30’s, slightly overweight white kid from middle America should just fall to their knees and pray now for a swift and favorable resolution to our childhood idol’s case. As if it weren’t enough that Ice only enhanced our lives with one damn song, now he’s accused of doing very basic crap like flipping homes. Now this. Here is what I have to say to you Ice so please stop, collaborate and listen…

Ice, I will represent you FOR FREE. Granted I’m a Tampa criminal attorney rather than a Palm Beach criminal lawyer but let’s not quibble. If you’re accused of jacking a pool heater and skunky furniture from a house in foreclosure, to hell with calling Saul, get Jason. Beggers can’t be choosers here Ice. The allegations against you aren’t good. If the burglary of an unoccupied dwelling sticks you’re looking at possibly hanging in and putting on rap shows in the Department of Corrections for up to 15 long, terribly boring years. To make matters worse, if you try to renovate your jail cell you might be charged with escape under Florida Statute 944.40 and have additional time added on to your prison term, again up to 15 long years. That’s brutal for simply wanting to knock out a wall isn’t it? And what about the grand theft charge? How much was that stuff worth? Less than $20,000? If so you’re in better shape that if it’s $20,000 or more. Less than $20,000 could get you up to 5 years in the pokey, while $20,000 to $99,999.99 could get you up to 15 years. If it’s $100,000 or more then I’m officially erasing all of my childhood memories of slam dunking my Nerf basketball and honing my baller skills as a 10 year old while you rocked the mike like a vandal on my cassette player. Is this how you want to be remembered!?!?
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It’s that time of year again folks! Downtown Tampa and Bayshore Boulevard will be packed this weekend with pirates doing all sorts of piratey things. The rum will flow, the booty will be plundered, yards will be peed in and some of us might even get arrested! While part of this sounds like perfectly reasonable pirate behavior, the eight different law enforcement agencies working this weekend and many local homeowners might have a slightly different take on our beloved festival. While I can personally attest that our little celebration is a blast, there is no disputing that some take it a bit too far, only to find themselves sitting pretty in a drunk tank until they can be transported to the Hillsborough Hilton. No it’s not ok to pee on that road cone or invite yourself in to Derek Jeter’s fantastic new house. With each passing celebration local law enforcement has tightened the belt on the festival and worked to contain the alcohol to specified locations. Take your drink outside of those “wet zones” and you could find your wallet to be a bit lighter.

No, the police really aren’t looking to give you a hard time at Gasparilla, nor do they really want to mess with having to arrest your royal drunkenness. Having attended many a Gasparilla parade I’ve witnessed with my own eyes a fiasco or two where an otherwise fine lad was led away in silver bracelets. Generally the police made contact with him and asked him to go back to a wet zone or simply asked him to cool it on some other form of jackassery. I’ve also received a ton of phone calls from those who got a little loud and rowdy and ended up in the clink. Honestly, at this point it’s kind of difficult to get arrested at Gasparilla unless you’re just asking for it. If you drink outside of the wet zone you will likely be fined $75 for a first offense, $150 for a second, $300 for a third, and $450 if you are ridiculous enough to do it a fourth time. While no one wants to be fined during Gasparilla, be happy Tampa passed this ordinance as it may prevent you from going to jail. It’s the lesser of two evils people. If you’re so hammered that you can’t stand up or speak, you’re likely going to be arrested for public intoxication, miss out on the rest of the fun, and will enjoy the thrill of sitting in the office of a Tampa criminal attorney next week. What if you have to pee? While at times the bush in your immediate field of vision might offer a reasonable place to relieve yourself, you are not in the backwoods of Alaska, nor are you on an airboat in the Everglades miles from civilization. You’re in the fine city of Tampa, home to the worst football team in the NFL and the best chicken wings of all time. I’m looking at you Hattrick’s! Hose that bush down and you could find yourself charged with a violation of Tampa City Ordinance 14-52 for public urination, thereby subjecting yourself to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail. You don’t have to pee that bad. What if that sweet babe with the sock on her head and 356 strands of beads around her neck (I wonder how she got those??) invites you to the aforementioned pee bush for a little romantic “live action?” Think twice hombre! If you make a baby in public you’re going to go to jail. Scientific fact. No, the wet zone won’t provide a loophole so don’t call me Monday and ask. No one, and I mean no one, wants to see what either of you are packing. If said package is out, soaking up the sun, you will be arrested for indecent exposure, charged with a first degree misdemeanor and come sliding into court just under the sex offender cut off.
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Retired Supreme Court Justice Major Harding wrote in a letter to Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston’s attorney Sunday that Winston was cleared of all code of conduct allegations against him. In Justice Harding’s letter it was cited that, “[i]n sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you (Winston) are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code.” For a little over the past year Jameis Winston has been the focus of an alleged sexual assault against a former FSU student after the two left together from local bar Potbelly’s. In spite of Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs declining to file criminal charges against Winston, FSU went forward with their own Title IX investigation, electing to allow the option of one of three retired Florida Supreme Court Justices to sit as the finder of fact. In using this process, both Winston’s attorney and the accuser’s attorney could veto one of the three judges each. After the vetoes were made from both parties the ultimate selection was Justice Major Harding, a man without ties to Florida State. Justice Harding is a distinguished and respected jurist having sat on the Florida Supreme Court from 1991 to 2002, with two years of his tenure as Chief Justice.

In Winston’s code of conduct review, the threshold allegation was whether it could be proven by a preponderance of evidence that Jameis Winston violated Florida State University Student Conduct Code 6C2R-3.004(1)(e)1 for an allegation of sexual misconduct. “Preponderance of the evidence” under Florida State University code, means that the evidence, as a whole, shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not. 6C2R-3.004(1)(d)8. In other words, if Winston’s accuser could have shown by just a tip of the scale or by 50.1% of the evidence, that Winston violated the code of conduct, he would have been found to be in violation and could have faced expulsion from the institution. Unlike the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in a criminal case, preponderance of the evidence is a considerably easier standard to meet for the party that bears the burden of proof. As a Tampa criminal attorney when I defend someone accused of a crime, I have the benefit of defending an individual to a standard that in order for them to be convicted, the State must show there is no other reasonable explanation for what occurred than the specific facts they allege. When one thinks of beyond a reasonable doubt in the inverse it is a little easier to see just how difficult the standard is to meet assuming the jury holds strongly to the jury instruction’s dictate.
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A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of St. Louis teen Michael Brown. After nearly three months, the grand jury comprised of seven men and five women, nine white and three black heard evidence from 60 witnesses and met 25 times. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney William P. McCulloch cited inconsistent witness testimony, thereby making it difficult to present a clear picture of what occurred in the 90-second confrontation between Officer Wilson and Mr. Brown. The grand jury considered charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, all before failing to find that probable cause was established to return a true bill of indictment to charge Officer Wilson.

To lead in, any loss of life is tragic. No one wins in this situation. A young man lost his life, his parents lost a son, and a police officer has possibly lost a career and will have to live with the fact that he had to use lethal force while on the job. In this case, at least from what was visible, due process was performed and the grand jury failed to return a true bill of indictment after having been presented with a considerable amount of evidence over a very long period of time. Article I, Section 16 of Missouri’s Constitution requires that 9 of 12 members on a grand jury find that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed in order to return a true bill of indictment.

Unlike a standard jury trial, a grand jury is performed without the presence of a criminal defense attorney and the proceeding is not open as a standard trial is. Using the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (“FRCP”) as a guide can better explain how a typical grand jury system works. Though there is no enumerated quorum for a grand jury to convene, FRCP 6(a)(1) requires between 16 and 23 members of a grand jury in order for the grand jury proceeding to move forward. In a grand jury proceeding a Prosecutor will call witnesses and present evidence before the panel in an effort to prove by a probable cause standard (more probable than not) that a crime has been committed. Unlike a jury trial, these proceedings are conducted in secret with the only individuals present being government attorneys, the witness being questioned, a court reporter, and possibly a translator. FRCP 6(d)(1). There is no defense attorney to represent the accused’s interest or to make timely objections to otherwise inadmissible evidence. For instance, it is proper to present hearsay evidence to a grand jury. United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974). Of course the hope is that the Prosecutor is ethical enough to vet the garbage hearsay from that that is most assuredly reliable, if there is such a thing as reliable hearsay. Once all evidence has been presented, the grand jury retires to a deliberation room, much like a jury would in a jury trial, to determine whether enough of them believe probable cause has been established. In Missouri, had 9 of 12, or 75% of them believed probable cause was established, they would have returned a true bill of indictment. In the Federal system 12 jurors must believe probable cause is present to return a true bill of indictment. FRCP 6(f). If an indictment is issued it will likely be under seal until the defendant can be brought in to custody.
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