Marijuana laws are rapidly evolving around the state – including here in Florida, where voters agreed to widen access to medicinal pot. At the same time, four other states were added to the list of those that now allow recreational marijuana use (bringing the total to eight). studentunion

But while the state marijuana laws in this country vary wildly, there are two things you should know that apply everywhere:

  • Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
  • Most college campuses still do not allow it.

Take, for example, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. A spokesman for the university recently told USA Today that while marijuana was legalized statewide for adults to possess, sell and use for recreation, it’s still not allowed on campus. Because it’s illegal at the federal level, it’s barred on campus and considered a violation of student code, similar to possession of alcohol.  Continue reading

A South Florida computer expert starting out his decade-long sentence for a conviction of espionage has just been found guilty again, this time of underage sex trafficking. handcuffs

The Miami-Herald reports defendant was accused and ultimately convicted of exploiting girls who were underage – between 13 and 16 – for sex while he was working in Honduras for the U.S. Department of Defense. The crimes allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2014. Now 36, the former West Palm Beach native faces a minimum mandatory additional 15 years in prison, with the possibility of being handed a life sentence.

In a classic case of “what not to do when you’re facing serious felony charges,” the man represented himself during the Miami-based federal trial, which lasted for a month. The proceedings were marked by bizarre episodes. For example, although defendant was born and raised in the state of New York and spoke fluent English, he demanded the court provide him with a Spanish interpreter to help translate the proceedings.  Continue reading

Spring break in Florida is something of a rite of passage for many college students across the country. They flock here for a brief, sunny respite from the mid-semester doldrums and flood the state’s beaches and bars. welcometomiami

Many communities thrive off this yearly influx of younger visitors. However, state and local police are issuing stern warnings about what is expected of visitors here and what kinds of enforcement actions they can expect.

In particular, police are focused on:

  • Public drinking
  • Drinking and driving
  • Underage consumption of alcohol

Continue reading

Technology has made our communications and interactions instantaneous. It’s become second-nature to document almost every waking moment – from what we’re eating for breakfast to conflicts at work to expressions of affection, amusing observations and plans.cell phone

But the platforms on which we share these insights and information aren’t as private as we might think. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have gotten very adept at scouring these sites for evidence that may help bolster a criminal case. That could include identification of a suspect or evidence that might be used against a known person or both. People need to be very mindful of this fact when they go to post anything on the internet – even in seemingly closed communications.

Recently, The Sun Sentinel reported Hollywood police officers were able to track down a man who evaded police with active lights-and-sirens on an all-terrain vehicle while riding down the highway during a, “Bikes Up, Guns Down” event in January. This was an impressive feat considering the officers didn’t know the man’s name, the ATV didn’t have a plate number on it and the man lived 1,150 miles away and returned home shortly after the incident. How did they do it? A cell phone selfie-style video. Continue reading

In a divided and controversial ruling, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a longstanding ban on people openly carrying firearms in public. gun

The court disagreed with passionate arguments by supporters of the Second Amendment, instead ruling 4-2 that the state law doesn’t impede the exercise of the core right to bear arms. Rather, the law only regulates one manner of how a person can bear arms. The court’s decision is an affirmation of the findings by the 4th District Court of Appeal, which in 2015 decided against a man arrested for open carry of a gun in a holster in St. Lucie County.

Defendant in the case, Norman v. Florida, specifically challenged the constitutionality of F.S. 790.053, the state’s open carry law, which has been in effect since 1987. The statute holds that except as otherwise provided, it’s against the law for anyone to openly carry on or about his or her person any gun or electric weapon or other device. In order to be lawfully carrying a gun, one has to be licensed to carry a concealed firearm and the firearm has to be adequately concealed.  Continue reading

Makers of a device called the “Breathometer” promised that their product could help drinkers determine when they’d had too much to drive. driver

The product concept was first pitched on the television show, “Shark Tank,” and it involved an app-supported smartphone device that would help consumers make smarter decisions about whether to refrain from driving after consuming alcohol. By breathing into the app device attached to their phone, users would be able to tell whether they were over the legal limit of 0.08 alcohol concentration.

However, the Federal Trade Commission recently slammed the company, ultimately negotiating a settlement, amid charges the device didn’t actually work as promised. Specifically where the FTC was concerned, the company lacked the scientific evidence to support the claims made in advertising.  Continue reading

Florida Senate committee members unanimously voted on a measure that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in 118 crimes where such requirements currently exist. Members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee say mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, a holdover from all those “tough-on-crime” initiatives, passed SB 290, which gives judges more discretion in sentencing on non-violent offenses (save for drug trafficking). prison

The decision came as lawmakers noted that thousands of people are being locked up in the state every year for decades-long sentences that are costing taxpayers an inordinate amount of money, ruining lives and doing very little to keep anyone safe in the long-run. In fact, these efforts may be counter-intuitive to public safety because they leave those hemmed up in the system with very few resources or supports once released after spending a much of their life in prison.

Take for example the case of a woman serving a 25-year sentence at the Homestead Correctional Institution for selling less than 40 pills in exchange for $300. Minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines required the judge to impose the maximum penalty of 25 years. She won’t be released until 2023. By then, her incarceration will have cost taxpayers more than $450,000.  Continue reading

The boy was just 15-years-old in November 2015, allegedly driving a stolen Mustang convertible at reported speeds of up to 120 mph as he tried to evade the police officers chasing him, lights flashing. speeding car

At the same time, a woman was on her way to pick up her own teenager, a 16-year-old girl who was in dance class. She never saw the convertible that crossed through that intersection. The 46-year-old woman, a mother of two, was ejected from the vehicle and died instantly, according to The Sun-Sentinel. The crash occurred at the intersection of Palmetto Park Road and Northwest Second Avenue, after the teen reportedly ran a red light.

Prosecutors have direct-filed the teen as an adult on charges of vehicular homicide, fleeing the scene of a fatal crash and driving without a license. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 25 years in prison. His first trial took place in January and ended in a mistrial. Jurors reportedly deliberated for more than nine hours and still were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.  Continue reading

A second person arrested in a wide-ranging federal investigation into insurance fraud by South Florida sober homes has pleaded guilty to health care fraud conspiracy. cash

The Sun-Sentinel reports the 45-year-old defendant conceded before the court that he had accepted nearly $250,000 in kickbacks to refer clients living in his sober living homes for testing and treatment for substance abuse. Additionally, he reportedly sent some 60 clients with health insurance to two different recovery centers, and those centers in return sent him approximately $500 a week.

At this point, authorities have arrested seven people for health care fraud conspiracy at sober homes throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties. A 46-year-old man from Boynton Beach was the alleged ringleader of the operation. Meanwhile, this defendant who recently pleaded guilty faces up to 10 years in federal prison.  Continue reading

The 33-year-old Ohio father of a teenage girl was sentenced to two years in prison for an attack on a teen boy who had allegedly propositioned the 13-year-old girl while on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida.cruiseship

The incident occurred on an Independence of the Seas cruise ship back in the summer of 2015, where defendant and his family were vacationing. Defendant’s brother-in-law reportedly overheard the teen boy, age 14, offer his daughter a key chain in exchange for giving him her virginity. Authorities then said defendant took no action to intervene when the 31-year-old brother-in-law grabbed the boy in the library of the ship, forced him to pull down his pants and simulated a sexual act on him.

He was arrested and later convicted on charges of child abuse and false imprisonment. Despite his repeated apologies to the court and insistence that he meant no harm, the judge pointed out the man had failed to apologize to the teen boy himself.  Continue reading