Following the mass shooting at a South Florida high school in February, Florida became the sixth state to pass a so-called “red flag law,” something numerous other states are also examining. criminal defense attorney

Sometimes also referred to as a “risk warrant law,” this measure approved by state legislators last month give police officers the authority to temporarily remove guns and ammunition from individuals who display warning signs of violence to themselves or others. Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio has said he plans to introduce similar legislation at the federal level that would allow close family members and law enforcement the ability to obtain a court order to bar future gun sales to someone who might pose a threat. Backers of red flag laws say they can help drive down the number of gun-related injuries and deaths, including suicides. Opponents say they deprive citizens of their Second Amendment rights without due process.

Before Florida, five other states (Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Connecticut and California) had laws on the books enabling officers to seize firearms after receiving notice that a person with access to deadly weapons may pose a danger to themselves or others. It’s not clear exactly how effective these laws are (it’s difficult to opine the number of crimes prevented). We do know that in Connecticut, an average of seven guns were seized from every one person targeted from 1999 to 2013.  Continue reading

It’s been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed Florida’s process of deciding death penalty cases unconstitutional for the second time.criminal defense lawyer

Florida had a long-standing practice of allowing imposition of the death penalty without the unanimous support of a jury. Before the 2016 ruling in Hurst v. Florida, courts here only required a recommendation of a simple majority of jurors (7-5), though the decision was ultimately up to the judge. Not Ok, ruled the U.S. Supreme Court, finding it a violation of the Sixth Amendment. The state legislature revised the rules, deciding at least 10 out of 12 jurors needed to agree in order to impose the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that still wasn’t good enough, as it violated the Eighth Amendment’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. Juror input and consensus is mandatory in capital cases.

Now, the Tampa Bay Times reports that since those two rulings, there have been “far fewer” convicted murderers sentenced to death in the state. Continue reading

Marijuana use is gaining acceptance in a growing number of states across the country, and it’s even approved in Florida for limited medicinal uses. Many municipalities have decriminalized personal possession, but that doesn’t mean people can use it with impunity – particularly on the roads.marijuana DUI defense

In fact, nothing about F.S. 316.193, Florida’s driving under the influence statute, has been altered to allow drivers operating vehicles under the influence of marijuana to do so with any greater freedom. But the increased popularity has led the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to allocate $5 million to a public service campaign to warn people of the consequences for driving while high. The “Drive Baked, Get Busted” initiative is an attempt to discourage people from driving after they have smoked or otherwise consumed marijuana. The campaign has already started cropping up on billboards and on local television and radio broadcasts statewide.

The state is specifically targeting motorists 18 to 34, as well as those 55 to 74. Additionally, authorities plan to start collecting data on positive drug test results gleaned in traffic crash investigations, with the goal of helping policymakers ascertain how frequently drug use plays a part in crashes and other traffic offenses. These tests are likely to be similar to what are used in roadside tests used to ascertain sobriety, except they would likely use urine as opposed to breath. But as our criminal defense attorneys know well, the challenge here – and with prosecutions of drivers accused of DUI marijuana – is how to ascertain if someone is actually under the influence, or merely consumed marijuana at some point recently. Continue reading

Florida lawmakers are considering a pre-arrest diversion program – something many counties and judicial circuits already offer – that would be uniform throughout the state. HB 1197 and companion bill SB 1392 would create two separate pre-arrest diversion programs in each judicial circuit in Florida.criminal defense attorney

The measure calls for a diversion program for adults and another for juveniles. The basic goal is to offer certain misdemeanor offenders the opportunity to complete community service, drug treatment and other requirements in lieu of sending their case down the criminal justice pipeline. Those who fail to successfully complete the diversion program requirements would be adjudicated through the typical process. However, those who are successful would have the opportunity to avoid a criminal record entirely, and could have record of their arrest sealed or expunged.

The bill would grandfather in existing diversion programs, so long as it was operational before the measure passed and new programs will be allowed so long as the state attorney determines it will be in compliance with the state law. Supporters of the measure say that while many circuits do already have such programs, the lack of consistency is problematic. Introducing a uniform framework with specific guidelines for law enforcement and prosecutors will streamline the process.  Continue reading

If you have been charged and convicted of a DUI in Florida, that’s not necessarily the end of the story. Depending on the circumstances and the details of your trial or plea deal, there could be an opportunity to appeal the conviction or the sentence – but you’ll need a good DUI defense lawyer to be successful.DUI appeal attorney

It’s important to note that not all cases will be ripe for appeal, and simply not liking the sentence or the permanence of a DUI conviction on your record won’t be enough. Typically, there has to be some kind of error made during the trial or sentencing in order to file a successful appeal of a DUI conviction. Because there are stringent time limits (usually just 30 days post-conviction) in which to file, it’s imperative you contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Recently in Escambia County, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal upheld a 15-year prison sentence for a man convicted of a 2013 crash that resulted in the death of a passenger. Defendant was convicted of DUI manslaughter, which under F.S. 316.193 carries a maximum penalty of 15 years, as it is a second-degree felony. The fact that he was also convicted of DUI property damage meant that his sentence was longer than most for first-time offenders, though the judge did allow him to serve these terms concurrently (at the same time) rather than consecutively (back-to-back).  Continue reading

The day after a gunman fatally shot 17 people at a high school in South Florida, most of American teenagers returned to school. And when they did, a number of so-called “copycat” threats were made, posted on social media, scrawled on bathroom walls and called into school administration offices. Regardless of how serious these individuals are, they need to know that such actions can have very real criminal consequences, even for minors. Police, prosecutors and school districts are not likely to assume such assertions are idle. If anything, there will be a tendency to overreact, despite the fact that we know 15- and 16-year-olds (the most common perpetrator in these cases) aren’t developmentally mature and don’t always make the best decisions. criminal defense lawyer

  • In South Carolina, we saw a 9th grade student arrested after allegedly posting a photo of himself wearing a partial mask, holding what appears to be an assault rifle above a caption that says, “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow.”
  • A sixth-grader in Broward County was arrested for writing a note threatening to bring a gun to school and “kill all of you.” She had slipped the message underneath the principal’s door and later gave a confession to administrators.
  • In Brooklyn, New York, two 16-year-old boys were arrested for threatening to shoot up their school less than two hours after word spread about what happened Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
  • A Brevard County student was arrested after posting a photo on Snapchat of herself holding a gun, above the caption, “I’m coming to space coast, watch out.”
  • In Ohio, a high school student was arrested for a social media post referencing the Parkland shooting. He is facing a felony charge for inducing a panic.

The list goes on and on, and includes everything from students posting photos of unloaded guns to actually bringing weapons to school. In Collier County on Florida’s West Coast, officials reported 27 school threats in less than two weeks after the shooting. USA Today reports more than 600 copycat threats have been made against schools throughout the country (about 70 daily).  Continue reading

It’s become increasingly common in Florida DUI cases for prosecutors to rely heavily on the investigation and testimony of drug recognition experts (DREs). These are police officers who are specially trained to recognize the signs of impairment in drivers who are under the influence of drugs. DUI defense

Last year, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that for the first time, drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs than drunk. Forty-three percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes had used a legal or illegal drug, surpassing the 37 percent who tested above the legal limit for alcohol. It’s worth noting that researchers were unable to definitively say there was a causal link between the presence of those drugs and the crash, or even that the drugs were present in levels that indicated impairment.

F.S. 316.193 makes it clear that no driver is allowed to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of any substance – legal or otherwise – if it impairs his or her normal faculties. But while legislators have created a per se limit of intoxication that pertains to alcohol consumption (0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath), no such cut-off exists for drug impairment. That means the question of whether someone is “under the influence” is often a subjective question that comes down to the observation of the arresting officer – who has more credibility in a courtroom with DRE certification. That does not mean the assertions made by that officer are correct. Our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorneys encourage all defendants to remain respectfully silent during questioning and ask to speak to a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Continue reading

Florida state lawmakers are mulling drug crime reform, specifically a series of bill that include provisions allowing judges more discretion for sentences that currently require minimum mandatory sentencing and increases of substance abuse treatment funds.drug crime defense attorney

The chances signal a turn away from the hard-line stance so many lawmakers took in the 1980s and 1990s when the so-called “War on Drugs” was in full swing. Those efforts have largely proven ineffective, with many policy leaders agreeing hard-line sentences for low-level drug offenses didn’t lower use and didn’t keep the rest of us safer. In fact, all it did was decimate low-income, minority communities, which were disproportionately on the receiving end of enforcement.

Now, The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports the legislature appears somewhat split on criminal justice reform, with roughly half supporting these changes and half digging in their heels to maintain the status quo. Supporters of the bill say it will help bridge the gap of racial disparities that exist when it comes to enforcement and penalties for these offenses. Continue reading

In a per curium ruling, the Florida Supreme Court upheld an appellate court decision rejecting defense challenges to blood sample collection of suspects in felony DUI cases. It was a case watched closely by many Florida DUI defense lawyers because had the court ruled in defendant’s favor, it could have meant the potential for numerous successful challenges to pending DUI cases. Now it appears there will be no change.DUI defense

The DUI conviction was a high profile one which you may recall involving a South Florida polo mogul and a recent college graduate in his early 20s. Defendant is serving a 16-year sentence following conviction on charges of DUI manslaughter after the fatal crash killed the young man, who drowned after his vehicle was launched into a canal.

This is one of a string of challenges he has mounted to fight the validity of the charges and his subsequent conviction. His South Florida defense attorneys argued people subjected to DUI blood tests in Florida have no opportunity to make sure the blood samples are scientifically reliable. Further there are no guidelines for the type of needle used and no independent assurance that testing labs will discard samples that are clotted or irregular prior to felony DUI cases going to trial. Continue reading

Hazing, which years ago may have been considered little more than a normal rite of passage in some school-age circles, is now considered a felony offense in Florida. criminal defense attorney

F.S. 1006.63 states that hazing can be any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for numerous purposes, including (but not limited to) initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a post-secondary institution.

That’s what is charged against nine college students at Florida State University, accused of hazing a 20-year-old fraternity pledge to the point he suffered fatal alcohol poisoning. His BAC at the time of death was 0.447. To put that into perspective, the threshold for intoxication for drivers is 0.08. The fraternity brothers, aged 20 to 22, are charged with college hazing causing injury or death, a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Continue reading