Florida voters overwhelmingly agreed that medical marijuana should be legal in the Sunshine State – but don’t expect cultivation and possession arrests to drop off any time soon.marijuana plants

Amendment 2, in favor of access to medicinal cannabis for those with certain serious illnesses, received a groundswell of support from the electorate. But it’s also a very short piece of legislation, which means there is a significant amount of power in the hands of the Florida Department of Health to make rules for medical marijuana treatment centers. There is still the need to hammer out procedures for licensing, registration, records, testing, labeling, inspection, security and revocation of registration. Further, a number of cities in South Florida have temporarily banned marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers, arguing officials need time to weigh the effects on the community and set zoning regulations.

In the meantime, don’t expect any breaks when it comes to the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes. Just recently, according to The Sun-Sentinel, a 40-year-old in Deerfield Beach was arrested for growing some 200 marijuana plants inside two residences in the city. Authorities first searched a home on Southeast Eleventh Street and discovered 25 marijuana plants growing in two separate bedrooms. He was arrested at that location. Investigators then went to a residence on Southeast Tenth Street, also owned by defendant, and there discovered an additional 169 marijuana plants, plus 12,000 grams of packaged cannabis and a jar of cannabis oil. He was arrested on charges of manufacturing/ producing cannabis and suspicion of traffic marijuana greater than 25 pounds less than 2,000 pounds. Continue reading

Last year, a Pompano Beach man was convicted of a slew of burglary and robbery charges. He faced up to 60 years in prison. The judge deferred his sentence in lieu of probation. But then, he was stopped for driving without a license. He was hauled back into court and sentenced to the full 60 years in prison. Following widespread backlash, the Broward Circuit judge had a change of heart. Community leaders at a hearing promised to work with the 24-year-old defendant, Herbert Smith. They were going to help him find a job and keep him out of trouble. The judge agreed once again to suspend the 60-year prison term. The caveat was that any violation of that probation – no matter how minor – could result in that 60-year sentence being reinstated. police

Then just before Thanksgiving of this year, Smith was arrested, accused of a burglary that took place in September. He was identified as one of two men who broke into a home in Parkland and heisted $30,000 worth of jewelry. It didn’t look good for the defendant, especially because probation violations don’t have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, Smith got another break when prosecutors recently decided not to pursue the burglary charge or the probation violation. They dismissed both, finding there was not enough evidence to move forward.  Continue reading

Concerns about due process violation have been raised with the increasing use of a form of technology that conducts “probabilistic genotyping” as opposed to the regular DNA testing that has long been used as evidence in criminal cases. science

One example of this offered by ProPublica, a non-profit, Pulitzer prize-winning online publication, was a case out of New York two years ago. Police officers attempted to pull over a vehicle that was operating without headlines. However, they driver and passenger fled on foot. Officers gave chase and then heard a gunshot. Police never actually caught up with the suspects, but they did find a loaded handgun nearby. The car, which had been abandoned, was connected to its owner. Police arrested him, but they couldn’t link him to that gun unless they could secure a DNA match. Unfortunately for them, the DNA that was left on the handgun did not provide a good sample for conventional methods. DNA from at least four or five people was on the weapon. So prosecutors requested an analysis from a company that offers the genotyping software program.

Traditional DNA analysis asks researchers to visually and manually interpret the markers on the sample to determine whether there is a match. This new type of testing runs the information through a computerized algorithm in order to determine the likelihood that a certain individual’s DNA is present in the mixture, when compared to the DNA of a random person. Those who developed the technology insist the results are the best way to remove human bias from the process. However, criticism has arisen about whether this process undermines defendants’ due process. Continue reading

Thousands of individuals convicted on potentially tainted scientific evidence have been waiting years for the chance to clear their name, ProPublica recently reported. arrest

Four years ago, a long-time chemist working at a state drug laboratory in Massachusetts admitted to contaminating samples over the course of her nearly nine-year career, resulting in more than 20,000 drug crime convictions that could have potentially been flawed. Those cases involved people from all across the nation and from eight different countries. In many cases, defendants were jailed. In some cases, defendants were deported. At the time, prosecutors insisted to the governor that addressing any possible breaches of justice would be priority No. 1.

Unfortunately, that has not proven to be true. Four years later, and prosecutors have battled to hang onto pretty much every single conviction garnered with this flawed evidence. Meanwhile, defense attorneys arguing on behalf of potentially innocent defendants are asking courts to vacate all the convictions that relied to any substantial degree on that lab worker’s tainted results.  Continue reading

A senior at Florida International University who played on the football team’s tight end was reportedly the victim of a domestic violence attack that has ended his career. waterboil

The Miami Herald reports the Panthers’ 2017 NFL Draft prospect suffered severe burns on his head, neck, back, arm and shoulder after his girlfriend reportedly dumped boiling water on top of him. The woman, Mary Gaspar, 20, is reportedly five months pregnant with Jonnu Smith’s child, and has been charge with a single count of aggravated battery. Gaspar is also a student at the school, a junior who lives on campus.

The couple were reportedly arguing in Smith’s dorm when defendant is alleged to have boiled the water and walked over and poured it on top of Smith. She reported she was livid over Smith’s failure to attend to their relationship and was feeling extremely stressed out and emotional. When Smith reportedly did not act strongly enough to the boiled water on his skin, Gaspar allegedly started to strike him with her fists. Continue reading

Dontrell Stephens was awarded $23 million earlier this year by a federal jury after he was paralyzed from the waist down when shot by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy after being stopped for riding his bicycle into traffic. wheelchair

Now, he is facing felony drug charges for reportedly selling heroin, cocaine and marijuana in close proximity to a preschool. Authorities announced the arrest of the 23-year-old Palm Beach County man in a Facebook post with his mugshot and the hashtag “BUSTED.” It was the first arrest the agency announced since it posted news of an arrest in a 40-year-old murder case. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said the announcement on Facebook had “nothing to do with who he is, but was because he was arrested for selling drugs near a day care.”

Right…

She also insisted the agency wasn’t trying to publicize the arrest because they hadn’t issued a press release to the media. Formal press release or not, most reporters do follow the agency’s official Facebook page and would have seen it featured fairly prominently.  Continue reading

He’d just turned 18 and, according to police, was celebrating this milestone with a joyride in a stolen BMW late last month. But in those predawn hours, the teen is accused of using his cell phone and not paying attention to the road, causing him to slam into a sport utility vehicle, killing the other driver, age 39. key

Now, that teenager is facing criminal charges that could lock him up for longer than he’s been alive.

Prosecutors have charged Gregory Holt with a series of charges, including failure to stop at the scene of an accident involving death, failure to render aid, vehicular homicide and driving without a license involving death. The collision occurred Sept. 25th, and a Broward judge recently set bond for the teen in the amount of $175,000. Prosecutors had been asking that he be held for at least $250,000. A passenger with Holt, who was not injured in the crash, was the one who told investigators Holt was using his phone and being inattentive to the road, and may also have been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. The vehicle had allegedly been stolen from a home in Coconut Creek that had been rented through Airbnb for a party that had a turnout of 150 people (unbeknownst to the owner).  Continue reading

People get coughs and colds all the time, and most don’t think twice about taking some medicine and getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, this can result in serious consequences if you are pulled over or involved in an accident and deemed to be “under the influence” of these substances. medicine

F.S. 316.193 prohibits motorists in Florida from “driving under the influence.” Most people define that by the second provision of the statute, which indicates that a person may be considered impaired if his/ her breath-alcohol level exceeds 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath (or 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood). However, the first part of that law says that one can be arrested on this charge if they are under the influence of any chemical substance that results in impairing a person’s normal faculties. This can, indeed, include cough and cold medicine. The penalties can be just as severe as if you chose to drink and drive.

As an example, take the recent case of Kranchick v. State, which was one such matter out of South Carolina. The facts giving rise to this case began in January 2002. It was about 3 p.m. and defendant lost control of her passenger vehicle while traveling eastbound on the interstate. According to court records, she swerved off the road, overcorrected and then slammed into the rear of a bobtail truck. That impact sent the truck spinning into the median, over the guardrail cables and into the path of a tractor trailer. The tractor trailer struck the smaller truck, causing the later to overturn onto its roof, killing the driver and severely and permanently injuring his passenger and the driver of the tractor-trailer. Continue reading

The so-called, “War on Drugs” has been an irrefutable failure in so many respects, to the point many states and municipalities have been actively working to de-criminalize possession of marijuana and related non-violent offenses. However, this does not meant that those caught with the substance can expect a break. marijuana

The Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-marijuana advocacy group, reports that since June 2015, numerous cities and counties in Florida have taken marijuana policy into their own hands to reduce the chances that consumers of marijuana are going to be arrested or jailed. Those include measures taken by: Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, West Palm Beach, Broward County, Wilton Manors, Palm Beach County, Volusia County, Orlando, Tampa, Osceola County, Alachua County and Port Ritchie. (Specifically here in Broward County, commissioners voted unanimously to give police the option to issue a $100 civil fine rather than arrest those caught with 20 grams or less of the drug. However, police still have the choice to make an arrest, at their discretion.)

But the question is whether laws like this are actually making a real dent. According to a new report by The Human Rights Watch, there continues to be a drug possession arrest in the U.S. every 25 seconds.  Continue reading

A Florida hit-and-run arrest has shocked a local community where the defendant, 37-year-old Jarvis Kendrick, is a well-known leader in the area. He’s regarded as a philanthropic businessman who serves on numerous boards and committees.drivein

Now, Kendrick stands accused of a first-degree felony after authorities say he struck and killed a 74-year-old woman with his pickup truck and left her for dead before concocting an elaborate story to cover his tracks.

Authorities say that had Kendrick simply stopped and rendered aid, as required under F.S. 316.027, he likely would not have faced any charges. Now, he’s looking at a maximum 30 years in prison.  Continue reading