The City of Miami is a coastal metropolis, home to a diverse population of some 450,000 people and a major national and global leader in finance, commerce, arts, and trade. Known as the “Gateway to the Americas,” it’s a huge tourist destination, welcoming some 26.5 million visitors annually. It’s also long been a haven for many Latin American and Caribbean immigrants and refugees, who bring their language, culture, and traditions. The Financial Times called it “the most important city in America,” referring to its status as a trendsetter and, lately, one of the most desirable places to live, thanks to its sunshine, lax tax laws, and beachy vibe.
But there’s a lot more layers to life here, as our Miami criminal defense attorneys [include link to main Miami-Dade community page] can explain. Nearly 1 in 4 residents in Miami live below the poverty line, including 1 in 3 kids. One-third of the drivers are uninsured, and too many neighborhoods lack access to nearby healthy food or safe parks. All of this leads to some unique dynamics when it comes to crime, policing, and navigating the criminal justice system.
The Miami Police Department is an active agency with some 1,700 employees (including 1,300+ sworn officers) responsible for patrolling 13 neighborhoods: Little Haiti, Model City, Upper East Side, Allapattah, Downtown, Edgewater, Overtown, Wynwood, Brickell/roads, Coconut Grove, Coral Way, Flagami, and Little Havana.
According to a recent annual report, the agency in just one year:
- Received 450 million calls for service.
- Investigated 737 violent crimes, including aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and aggravated stalking. Of those, 161 cases were cleared.
- Investigated 547 robbery, kidnapping, and extortion cases, clearing 224 of those and arresting 443 robbery suspects.
- Investigated 210 sexual batteries, clearing 109 of those.
- Investigated nearly 1,200 domestic violence cases, clearing 700+ of those.
- Investigated 47 murders and cleared 47 of those.
- Investigated 992 burglaries, clearing 257 of those cases.
- Investigated 518 fraud and economic crimes, clearing 93.
- Arrested nearly 150 people on felony and misdemeanor gang-related offenses.
- Initiated 90 narcotics investigations and arrested 217 people for drug offenses.
- Issued 27,200 traffic summonses and investigated 1,500+ hit-and-runs and nearly 200 traffic homicides.
Facing criminal charges in Miami, Florida can be an intimidating experience. The city’s unique legal landscape presents challenges that demand the expertise of a skilled and experienced local Miami criminal defense attorney.How the Unique Makeup of Miami Impacts its Criminal Justice System
Miami is like nowhere else in the world. It has a spice and a flare and a feel all its own. If you’re arrested here, it’s important to work with a criminal defense lawyer. At The Ansara Law Firm, we protect clients from the police (they are not your friends), proactively negotiate with prosecutors (where possible), and provide guidance through the processes and procedures of Florida's 11th District Court.
Some of the distinctive elements essential to comprehending the crime landscape in Miami:
- Cultural diversity. Miami is hands-down one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. A major draw of this city is its pronounced and rich blend of Hispanic, Caribbean, and international influences. But this can lead to cultural clashes and economic class disparities that can contribute to crime. Non-English speakers are at a distinct disadvantage in dealing with police and prosecutors. And those without legal residence status may face even more serious consequences if they’re accused of a crime. There are also documented racial and ethnic disparities in how the Miami-Dade criminal justice system treats suspects. Black defendants are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, while White defendants are far underrepresented. Black defendants have 2.5 times greater rates of arrests, pretrial detention, conviction, and incarceration. Black defendants who are also Hispanic have arrest/detention/conviction/incarceration rates that are 4 to 6 times greater. Such concerns aren’t necessarily unique to Miami, but as a particularly diverse part of Florida, the disparities are especially pronounced.
- Tourism hub. In Miami, there is a constant come-and-go. That can make it tougher to thoroughly investigate crimes. Talking to witnesses is tough if they’re halfway across the world by the time you identify and track them down. Those who live outside Florida or the U.S. may face unique challenges if accused of a crime, including extradition (depending on the crime severity) or the prospect of traveling back-and-forth.
Urban geography. Miami is a big city, and its neighborhoods are densely populated. Urban areas tend to have higher rates of assaults, robberies, drug trafficking, pedestrian accident hit-and-runs, and thefts.
- Economic disparities. The economic inequality in Miami-Dade is the second worst in the nation. We have sky-high housing costs but predominantly lower wages. This impacts women and people of color most significantly - even those with higher education. The Federal Reserve reports Black and Latino households earn about half as much as White households on average, owning only about 15 to 20 percent as much wealth - a gap that has widened significantly over the past few decades. Economic disparities, especially when coupled with high pressure from outside forces like the ever-increasing costs of living, have long been associated with higher crime rates. In particular, we tend to see more instances of property crimes, such as robbery and fraud.
- Vibrant nightlife. Miami’s entertainment scene is a huge draw for crowds around the world. But while it contributes to the overall allure, it can mean more arrests for offenses like disorderly conduct, public intoxication, DUI, and other alcohol-related crimes.
Hiring a private Miami criminal defense attorney is a good idea no matter how serious the charge you’re facing. Even misdemeanor convictions in Florida can have long-lasting impacts to your future prospects for employment, housing, education, financial security, and familial relationships.
You are not guaranteed the appointment of a free public defender. It only applies if you’re facing jail time and the court declares you indigent (unable to afford a defense lawyer on your own). Trying to navigate the legal system on your own can feel impossible, especially when you’re up against the state’s well-funded and experienced police and prosecutors.
Although no defense attorney can guarantee a particular outcome, there’s ample evidence that those who are represented by legal counsel in criminal matters fare far better - lower convictions rates, reduced charges, lesser penalties, etc.
Prosecutors for the 17th Judicial Circuit have a reputation for being particularly hard-nosed. A skilled criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with local people and practices can anticipate these approaches and formulate effective counter arguments and negotiation strategies to protect the rights and best interests of the accused. We’re also prepared to handle appeals before Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal. Because we understand the local factors that may impact a case, we can proactively address them and craft an effective defense with evidence presented in a way that resonates with local sensibilities.
This is increasingly important in an environment of ever-advancing technology that law enforcement and state attorneys have at the tip of their fingertips. For instance in the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case of Carpenter v. U.S., justices reversed course from both lower courts in refusing to allow cell site data (which provides a more precise location tracker than cell tower data) to track people’s physical movements and prove their time and location when an alleged crime occurred. As newer tech emerges on the scene, we’ll continue to see challenges that the criminal justice system has yet to confront.
Having a skilled Miami criminal defense attorney advocating by your side - with enough experience and resources to build a strong case - is an imperative.
If you have been arrested in Miami-Dade County and need to secure immediate legal representation, call The Ansara Law Firm in Broward County at (954) 761-4011.