It’s estimated that more than 2,000 people die every year in domestic violence incidents in the U.S. Of those who die, more than 70 percent are women and in more than half of all cases, it’s a firearm that is used to carry out the crime.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although the issue of availability of firearms is a controversial one in this U.S., but there is little denying the fact that the link between firearms and fatal domestic violence is strong. Just living in a state with a higher rate of gun ownership increases a female’s risk of suffering a fatal gunshot wound in a domestic violence, according to Boston University researchers. That study, released in January, indicated that for every 10 percent increase in gun ownership in a state, there was a 10.2 percent increase in gun-related murders of females.

Additionally, while firearms aren’t necessarily the fuel in domestic violence incidents, their presence does increase the lethality of an attack and also increases the number of victims (i.e., children, grandparents, friends, strangers, etc.). This phenomenon was chronicled recently in a comprehensive article by The Trace. Another thing the presence of a firearm does – whether it’s lethal or even fired – is increase the severity of the charges and the possible punishment. Continue reading

Police in Fort Lauderdale recently made a targeted effort to take down an alleged drug trafficking ring in South Middle River near downtown. They launched a six month undercover investigation, dubbed “Operation Bad Karma,” in which they ultimately made 22 arrests, aided by the U.S. Marshals Office and the Broward State Attorney’s Office.handcuffs1

Chief Frank Adderley said the goal was to reduce the proliferation of crack cocaine in these neighborhoods by arresting those responsible for its sale and distribution. Police suspect the group responsible for dealing crack cocaine in the region was also tied to an uptick in violence in the area over the last 12 months, including a handful of murders.

Residents in the area say they have been complaining for more than a year about open-air drug sales as well as violence connected to those engaged in the drug dealing. Police said the hope was that if they could get a handle on the drug activity, they would curb any further escalation of violence. The effort really got underway with fervor in January, when the bodies of two murder victims were found on the very same property where a man had been killed just three months earlier. Continue reading

Three years ago, Florida legislators passed a controversial bill that affected almost every kind of court case in the system – including criminal cases. The change involved the standard to which expert witnesses are held in court. Their expert qualifications, their methodology, their testimony – all of this came under greater scrutiny when justices did away with the previous “Frye Standard” and instead adopted the “Daubert Standard,” which is used in federal courts and in most other states. gavel21

This was largely deemed a positive move for two groups: Criminal and corporate civil defendants. However, personal injury lawyers and some state attorneys have taken issue with it. The Florida Bar is the group that has asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider reverting back to the Frye Standard.

The Frye standard asks the judge to consider whether to allow expert witness testimony into evidence based only on whether the it represents principles that are considered generally accepted in that particular field. The Daubert standard, meanwhile, requires judges to use a more stringent standard. Judges are asked to allow the expert witness testimony only if it’s based on sufficient facts or data, if it’s the product of reliable methods and principles and the expert witness has applied the methods and principles of the case correctly. Often, this requires something of a mini-trial before the trial. Continue reading

A Florida man has been arrested by the FBI on federal charges for allegedly making Facebook threats against the LGBTQ community at events in both Wilton Manors and nearby Fort Lauderdale, according to The Sun-Sentinel.computermouse

Fifty-year-old Craig Jungwirth is accused of violating federal statutes on interstate commerce when he reportedly made reference to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando and made numerous threats against LGBTQ events planned over Labor Day weekend. Additionally, he was charged with driving on a suspended license, an unrelated offense.

A six-page FBI affidavit that formed the basis for the arrest accuses Jungwirth of sending communication that threatened to kidnap or injure another person. A conviction on the federal charge could result in up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both. He was taken to jail in Seminole County, but is facing charges in federal court.  Continue reading

As our technology rapidly evolves, so too must our justice system. As we are often faced with ever-newer technological frontiers, courts are often grappling with how the law should be applied. computer1

One such case recently before the Florida Supreme Court highlights this. In Smith v. State, the court was asked to resolve a conflict between this ruling handed down by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in 2015 and an earlier ruling in 2013 in Biller v. State by Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal. At issue was whether the use of a file-sharing program for purposes of disseminating child pornography in fact violates the statutory prohibition on transmitting child porn.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled: Yes, it does. That means the precedent set by the 5th DCA is overturned, and those who transmit illegal sexual images of children via  file-sharing program can be charged under F.S. 847.0137. Continue reading

The Florida Supreme Court has sided with state prosecutors over a criminal defendant in a due process dispute that created conflict between Florida appellate courts. fire1

In the case of Patterson v. Florida, the state high court sided with the 1st District Court of Appeals, which found no due process violation in a case where testimony was admitted from state experts who physically examined evidence prior to its destruction, where a defense expert didn’t have the same opportunity. The 1st DCA had ruled it was only a due process violation if the destruction of evidence happened in bad faith. However, the 4th DCA, when faced with the same issue in Lancaster v. State, a 1984 case, the court had ruled that where destroyed evidence was potentially useful to the defense, this is a due process violation, regardless of whether the destruction was in bad faith.

The state high court in reaching this conclusion relied on the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court case of Arizona v. Youngblood, which held the state’s loss or destruction of evidence that’s potentially useful to the defense violates due process only when done in bad faith. In the Patterson case, the court ruled there was no due process violation because there was no evidence of bad faith.  Continue reading

Drivers in states where marijuana is legal cannot be pulled over in other states by cops who make assumptions based on solely on the origin of the license plate. That’s according to a ruling by federal justices with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Tenth Circuit. marijuana2

Mind you, this ruling – Vasquez v. Lewis and Jimerson – is technically only applicable in the Tenth Circuit, which covers the six states of Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, plus those portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho. However, given that this is not an issue that has arisen at this level in other jurisdictions, it’s likely to have set a clear precedent on the constitutionality of such practices. Some have referred to policing in this manner as, “license plate profiling.”

It’s not as major of a problem here in Florida because not many other nearby states have allowed legal marijuana, even for medicinal purposes. But that’s not to say someone traveling from Washington or Colorado might not get the side eye from law enforcement here. Based on the reasoning of the 10th Circuit, this is wrong.  Continue reading

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently denied Wellington polo magnate John Goodman’s motion for a rehearing in his DUI manslaughter case. However, the court did submit several questions “of great importance” to the Florida Supreme Court. drivein

In Goodman v. Florida, Goodman asked the court to rehear his evidence regarding the testing of his blood following a fatal accident in 2010 that killed 23-year-old recent college graduate Scott Patrick Wilson. Goodman allegedly was drunk at the time of the collision and reportedly left the scene of the crash without calling emergency services. Wilson’s vehicle was later found overturned in a canal, where he drowned.

Goodman had been convicted two years later of DUI manslaughter and failure to remain at the scene of the crash. However, that conviction was later tossed due to juror misconduct and the case retried. Goodman testified he wasn’t drunk, and insists his vehicle malfunctioned and that was the cause of the crash. This was despite the fact that his blood-alcohol level was reportedly more than twice the legal limit some three hours after the crash, according to the testing that was done on his blood. He was ultimately convicted again, sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined $10,000.  Continue reading

When it comes to red light cameras, states have come to different conclusions about them. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), 21 states plus the District of Columbia have laws that permit some form of red light camera use, while 10 states prohibit use of them. Another 19 states haven’t decided one way or the other.

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So it makes sense, then, that jurisdictions in Florida haven’t come to a clear consensus either. The state allows the cameras and cities can make up their own minds about how to implement them. The traditional penalty for red light running is $125 and three points on your license. Paying a red light camera ticket will result in a $158 fine, but no points on your license. But now, even the courts have taken sharply different stances on the issue.

In Florida v. Jimenez, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has held that the red light camera program in Aventura does not violate a state law that prohibits farming out law enforcement responsibilities to private companies. The issue was whether the review of red light camera footage by the private companies that provide, install and maintain the cameras crosses the line. Personnel for these firms first review the footage and then forward perceived violations to local law enforcement, which also reviews and then decides whether to issue a ticket via mail.  Continue reading

Two stolen prescription pads. That’s all authorities say was needed to forge 140 prescriptions for approximately 17,250 doses of powerful prescription drugs, which were then resold on the streets of South Florida, likely for tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prescription bottles used to store medicine

Authorities allege the group operated in Boynton Beach throughout 2015. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has filed hundreds of charges in the case – including 112 counts against a single 29-year-old woman from Pompano Beach. She and another woman, 25, of Lake Worth were medical assistants at Bethesda Health who allegedly stole the prescription pads from the office of Dr. Edyta Mularczyk, an internist in Boynton Beach. Investigators are accusing them and four others – ages 52 to 62 – of drug trafficking and RICO conspiracy charges. Warrants have been issued for four other individuals, including three from Fort Lauderdale. (Two of those already arrested are from Fort Lauderdale as well.)

It is alleged the group wrote prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone and morphine, and then sold those drugs on the black market. Warrants for their arrest say the missing prescription pads was the first red flag, though it’s not clear if that was initially reported to police. What staffers began to notice, however, was that the number of prescriptions filled by certain patients aroused suspicions. For example, in one case, a single patient filled 19 prescriptions for powerful pain medications over the course of just a few months.  Continue reading