Florida passengers en route to California are being arrested after authorities at local airports detect the smell of marijuana on them. California, as most are now aware, is one of the handful of states that now allows the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana for recreational use. Florida law is much more stringent, allowing sale, use and possession only for medicinal use, as recommended by a physician.Fort Lauderdale civil forfeiture

VICE.com reports on criminal investigations and civil forfeiture actions lead by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s narcotics and money laundering task force that target passengers on their way to California.

While in criminal cases, the burden of proof is on prosecutors to prove one’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil forfeiture action, however, it’s the property owner who has the burden of proof to show the cash or other property to establish that those funds or properties weren’t being used for criminal drug activity. That often deters people from filing counterclaims to retrieve their items. Law enforcement appears to count on the assumption that people won’t pursue retrieval of their property. Continue reading

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law was recently tested by a jury, which found the defendant guilty of manslaughter for killing another man following an argument over a parking spot last year.criminal defense lawyer

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand the local sheriff’s office didn’t initially arrest the suspect, citing the Stand Your Ground law. The defendant was white and armed, while the man he killed outside a convenience store was black and unarmed, setting off racial tensions. Authorities did arrest the defendant three weeks later when prosecutors decided to charge the defendant with manslaughter.

The defense lawyers intend to appeal, believing the state attorney’s office filed the charges to appease pressure from political activists.

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With the proliferation of smart phones – each containing a great deal of personal information. In some cases, that information can be incriminating. Courts across the U.S. have been attempting to find common legal ground on the issue of whether persons should be compelled to reveal their cell phone passcodes if it could unlock potentially self-incriminating information.criminal defense attorney

This summer, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys wrote about the recent ruling by the California Supreme Court ruled attorneys can subpoena private social media posts where they are pertinent to a criminal case.

Now, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal has sided with a criminal defendant who fought against being fought to comply with an order requiring him to supply prosecutors with his cell phone password. This is welcome news for Florida defense lawyers, but it does conflict with a previous state appellate court ruling, making the issue ripe to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court. Continue reading

After he was sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for a non-murder felony, Terrence Graham argued the injustice all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and won. Because of that case, teens convicted of felonies that did not involve a homicide cannot be locked up for life without parole. Doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because youths change. For better or worse, one is rarely the same person at 36 that they were at 16.Fort Lauderdale juvenile defense lawyer

But the namesake of the landmark 2010 ruling in Graham v. Florida is still locked up – nearly a decade after that ruling and having served more than 15 years behind bars. He recently lost an important appeal in his ongoing bid for freedom. The loss of this appeal means he’ll be behind bars for at least another six years.

At 16-years-old, he and two others robbed a restaurant in north Florida, beating a manager with a metal pipe in the process. After pleading guilty, he spent one year in jail and was placed on probation. The following year, he was arrested for home invasion robbery, F.S. 812.135, a first-degree felony that carries a possible life sentence if a firearm is used. Because of the prior felony, he was sentenced to life in prison. Continue reading

Manslaughter is the killing of another human being without malice aforethought. That means a person may not have intended for the other person to die (unlike homicide/murder), but nonetheless that was the result of one’s conduct, usually reckless or criminally negligent. It can stem from crimes like driving drunk, criminal assault or neglect. In these cases, it is not necessary to prove intent.manslaughter defense lawyer

Recently, several nursing home employees were arrested on charges of manslaughter, pursuant to F.S. 782.07, following the deaths of 12 elderly patients who overheated in sweltering conditions with no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma struck South Florida in 2017.

Manslaughter is considered aggravated when it involves the death of an elderly person or disabled adult due to culpable negligence without lawful justification. Culpable negligence, as noted in Florida Standard Jury Instructions, is defined as a course of conduct that shows reckless disregard for human life or for the safety of individuals exposed to it that displays recklessness or wantonness. Continue reading

It’s no secret that immigration enforcement has increased in recent years under President Donald Trump’s administration, the stated purpose being to target undocumented residents who commit crimes. However, The Tampa Bay Times reports that federal data shows detention of immigrants with no criminal conviction has soared. This is especially true here in Florida, where arrests of undocumented persons with no criminal records were seven times more likely to be arrested now than they were four years ago – twice the national average. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand it, traffic offenses in particular are the primary vehicle by which this crackdown is being facilitated. Immigration attorneys report clients frequently being pulled over on their way to work for minor traffic infractions. Some agencies are accused of relying on racial profiling to net the highest number of undocumented immigrants, with heavy (some say excessive) enforcement of traffic laws being carried out in Hispanic neighborhoods.

It is true that anyone – regardless of criminal background – can be arrested, detained and deported. However, the priority has historically been to target undocumented individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety, border security and national security.

That doesn’t appear to be what’s happening. Continue reading

It’s hard for some folks to believe that non-violent, small-time, petty theft can land people in a Florida prison for years. But it happens all the time, both because of Florida’s low felony theft threshold and minimum mandatory penalties for those convicted of prior offenses.criminal defense lawyer

Two bills that had been advancing through the Florida legislature earlier this year sought to address it. Both, however, have since been defeated, meaning at least this year, the Sunshine State won’t be joining the ranks of a growing number of states that are increasing the dollar amount threshold for felony theft charges (the dollar amount at which a theft crime becomes a felony instead of a misdemeanor).

Lowest Felony Theft Threshold in the Country

In fact, Florida has the second-lowest felony theft threshold in the country – just $300, per F.S. 812.014. Someone may end up in prison for stealing even less than that if they have prior convictions or are on probation/parole. Other states, on average, have a felony theft threshold of somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500. Plus, many don’t have the punitive provision that Florida has, wherein the third petty theft is an automatic felony charge. Continue reading

Florida’s penalties for drug traffickers are harsh. With few exceptions, penalties imposed for homicide are much harsher. But increasingly, when drug users die, their dealers are being charged with their murder – thanks to a 2017 Florida law passed unanimously by the state legislature. drug crime defense lawyer

For example last year, a 26-year-old father reportedly died one month after moving from Ohio to Florida, where his girlfriend and son were slated to join him weeks later. The medical examiner reported finding a form of opioid fentanyl in his system, at which point his death investigation became a homicide investigation. Several neighbors were interviewed, after which police identified the suspected dealer of the drugs in the decedent’s system. They arranged two undercover buys, after which time he was arrested for selling drugs near a school – a felony. The investigation continued, and the suspect was charged with first-degree murder in the death of the man who had overdosed.

It’s not that defendants in Florida couldn’t be charged with homicide for dealing drugs that someone later died of on overdose after using. Technically, that law has been on the books since the early 1980s, when the War on Drugs was raging. However, it was rarely used in practice, individuals were rarely convicted and it wasn’t until 2017 that fentanyl was added to the list. Now, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers have noted an uptick in these types of criminal case. Those facing first-degree homicide charges in Florida overdose cases can, themselves, face the death penalty.

An appellate judge for the Fourth District Court of Appeal says he sees a recurring problem in Florida criminal cases when it comes to hearsay. Specifically, it’s being confused with the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and therefore subject to being weighted more heavily by case law standards rather than Florida Statute.criminal defense lawyer

The problem, said the judge, is that courts are veering further and further from legislators’ intent in these interpretations.

What is Hearsay in Florida Criminal Case? 

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know hearsay is one of the most misunderstood criminal laws in its application. Some mistakenly think prosecutors can’t pursue charges based on he said/she said evidence. In fact, the state can pursue charges on nothing but verbal testimony, but there are specific definitions and exceptions. Continue reading

In an unprecedented move that not only greatly concerns criminal defense lawyers but also prosecutors and free speech advocates, the California Supreme Court in a gang-related murder trial has ruled that attorneys can subpoena private social media posts pertinent to the case.criminal defense lawyer

Interestingly, the request for production of those records came from the defense team.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all subject to the order. Facebook’s public relations team issued a statement saying the company was weighing legal options, but believes federal law bars any order mandating the platforms turn over private content of alleged crime victims to defendants and defense lawyers. The Fortune 500 company’s goal, it says, is to protect the privacy interests of its customers. So the company may be slow to comply – or it might not comply at all, though the latter could set off an intense legal battle with potential to reach the U.S. Supreme Court and have extensive implications.

The court’s decision lifted a previous stay imposed by the appellate court on the San Francisco trial court’s order, which high court justices cited as providing compelling enough reason to justify access to the private messages. This is the very first time that an order like this has been imposed in California. Continue reading