Artificial intelligence (also known as AI) has long been the subject of futuristic dystopian novels, with films like “Blade Runner” hyping the potential for this type of technology to bolster a nefarious police state. So it’s not surprising that the introduction of AI technology in criminal justice has been controversial. As our Broward criminal defense lawyers can explain, AI (specifically, facial recognition software) has been primarily utilized by police and prosecutors. Recently, however, it was used to exonerate a defendant accused of Florida vehicular homicide.Broward criminal defense lawyers

According to news reports and court records, the case began with a fatal car crash in Fort Myers six years ago. According to the defendant, he was the front seat passenger of a Mustang driven by his drunk, distraught friend, who sped recklessly at 100 m.p.h. on a street with a speed limit of 35 m.p.h. The defendant said he was terrified, begging his friend to slow down. They struck a curb, careened out-of-control, slammed into a light pole and then three palm trees before finally stopping against the side of a tree. The defendant blacked out. When he came to, his friend, the driver, was gone. The windshield had shattered. He was stuck, his seat belt jammed. And the car was on fire. He was dazed when an unknown man jumped into action, forcing open the driver side door and getting him out of the burning car.

He didn’t get the name of the man who pulled him from the car. When police arrived, they spoke briefly to the Good Samaritan – an interaction caught on the officers’ body cameras – who affirmed he’d pulled the defendant from the passenger seat. However, the officers didn’t get the name of that man either, perhaps being distracted by the fact that the defendant’s friend was dead nearby (which is not an excuse, especially as it almost led to a serious miscarriage of justice). Later, despite the defendant’s fervent insistence that he hadn’t been driving, prosecutors charged him with vehicular homicide for the death of his friend – a charge that could have landed him in prison for 15 years. They said there was conflicting evidence about who was driving; an accident reconstructionist presented evidence that the burns on his body weren’t consistent with being in the passenger seat. Prosecutors indicated the information provided to police by a nameless man on body cameras wasn’t enough, especially if he couldn’t be identified and called to testify.

But the nameless man didn’t stay nameless. The defendant was ultimately exonerated because of him, after an AI company with a facial recognition database of billions of faces granted his criminal defense lawyers access to that system. Through this, defense lawyers were able to identify that Good Samaritan – who confirmed he was there on scene, and that the defendant was indeed the one stuck in the passenger seat when he arrived. With his testimony, the prosecution dropped the case.

But use of this system to find him was only employed after years – hundreds of hours – trying to locate that man through fliers, social media, tattoo parlors inquiries, internet searches, etc. Local law enforcement reportedly ran a few cursory searches through the AI database early on as well, trying to find that witness, but didn’t have a paid account with the company, and thus didn’t pursue it further.

Still, not all criminal defense lawyers – or civil rights attorneys – are on board with the proliferation of this new technology.

How AI May Be Problematic for Both Criminal Defense and Civil Rights

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Any Florida DUI arrest carries the potential for hefty fines, driving restrictions, possible jail time – to say nothing of the impact it could have on your job, your personal relationships, and your reputation. Even so, the law – and to some extent, society – tends to treat first-time DUI offenders who haven’t hurt anyone as being largely redeemable – so long as you pay your dues, learn from your mistakes, and avoid making them again. However, if you’re arrested for a Florida DUI and it’s your second or subsequent offense, the consequences are suddenly a whole lot steeper. If you’re accused of being a repeat DUI offender is strongly advised to hire a good DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Florida drunk driving defense

As our Broward DUI defense lawyers can explain, Floridians report a higher-than-average percentage of adult drivers who admit to driving after drinking too much. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports more than 29,000 drivers were arrested for DUI offenses in the Sunshine State in 2020 – down slightly from nearly 34,000 in 2019.

It’s estimated 1 in 3 people arrested for DUI in Florida is a “repeat offender” with prior offenses on their record. There are more than 113,000 people in Florida with at least 3 DUIs on their record. There are nearly 12,000 with five or more prior DUI arrests. Some of these individuals still retain their driving rights (though usually with limitations such as to-and-from work and with mandatory ignition interlock devices on their vehicles). Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports at least 300,000 motor vehicle trips every single day in this country involve an impaired driver. Of those, about 4,000 are arrested. Those with prior

The penalties for driving under the influence in Florida increase with every prior offense.

Consequences for Conviction of DUI in Florida – 1,st 2nd, 3rd+ Time Around

If you’ve had prior DUI convictions and are arrested again, you may think you “know the drill.” But you need to be prepared for police and prosecutors to take your case much more seriously. Sentencing guidelines will skew in favor of jail time and stiff fines.

As outlined in F.S. 316.193, penalties for DUI are as follows: Continue reading

Many Americans hold their Second Amendment rights dear. But if you’re convicted of a Florida domestic violence offense OR you have a final domestic violence/stalking injunction against you, the right to bear arms goes out the window. In fact, buying or possessing firearms or ammunition post conviction or while you are subject to a Florida domestic violence injunction can result in serious penalties – including years behind bars. In some cases, federal authorities may get involved – even if the underlying injunction or conviction was issued at the state level. It is imperative if you’re accused of a firearms violation while subject to an injunction that you seek immediate legal counsel from a qualified defense attorney. firearm restrictions lawyer

Case-in-point: A U.S. District Court judge recently sentenced a man to more than 3 years federal prison for possessing firearms while subject to a Florida domestic violence injunction. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the 44-year-old defendant was subject to a domestic violence injunction issued by a state judge in Jacksonville. As part of that injunction, he was forbidden from purchasing or possessing any firearms or ammunition while the order was in effect. This directive was expressly communicated to him in the injunction, which noted failure to abide this rule was a violation of both state and federal laws.

In the spring of 2020, the defendant reportedly signed an affidavit indicating he’d turned over all firearms to deputies with the Jacksonville County Sheriff’s Office. But then, federal authorities were tipped off that he had not actually turned over all firearms in his possession. A special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) began investigating, and noticed the defendant also had several firearm silencers that were nationally registered, but not surrendered to the sheriff’s office along with his other firearms and ammunition. The agent obtained a search warrant, which was executed in November 2021. At his residence, agents reportedly found seven guns (rifles, pistols, revolvers), silencers, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Some of the guns and silencers were not properly registered.

His guilty plea for possession of firearms while subject to a domestic violence injunction was met with a 37-month prison sentence.

Florida & Federal Laws Against Firearm Possession in Violation of Domestic Violence Injunction

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Questions about the mutual combat defense in Florida domestic violence cases arose recently when video surfaced of UFC President Dana White slapping his wife, Anne, at a night club in Mexico on New Year’s Eve – after she slapped him.Broward domestic violence lawyer

The TMZ video showed the couple in a verbal altercation that turned physical, with Dana pushing Anne’s hand, Anne slapping Dana in the face, and Dana then slapping Anne twice in her face. The two continued to physically struggle with each other until they were separated by third parties. Both released statements after the fact saying nothing like this had ever happened before, they’d both been drinking too much alcohol, and were eager to move on.

Some have called for Dana’s resignation from his prominent public position, while certain media outlets and individual anchors have been criticized for “being soft” or “muted” in their reporting of the incident. But whatever professional consequences there are for what happened, few people are talking about criminal penalties for either spouse. Although domestic violence is illegal in Mexico, it’s unlikely authorities there will issue a warrant and demand extradition of either party here, considering no one was seriously hurt and both parties were aggressive toward each other.

If this same incident had occurred in Florida – and with video evidence, no less – it’s unlikely neither party would walk away with zero consequences. Still, some have asked whether the mutual combat defense may apply.

Florida Law Expressly Discourages Dual Arrests for Domestic Violence

Although both people involved in a Florida domestic violence case can be arrested for the same incident, F.S. 741.29(4)(b) strongly discourages dual arrests (where both parties are arrested for domestic violence). Instead, as our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, officers who believe two or more persons may have committed a misdemeanor or felony act of domestic violence are urged to identify the primary aggressor. Even if both people hit each other, the officer is supposed to figure out (usually after the fact, based on he-said-she-said statements) who was more at-fault.

Arrest is the preferred response – for the “primary aggressor” only. If the other person “acts in a reasonable manner to protect or defend oneself or another family or household member from domestic violence,” they should not be arrested. Continue reading

Words like “kidnapping” or “false imprisonment” immediately conjure images of a person being bound and blindfolded, unable to escape a cagey stranger’s clutches. But more often, false imprisonment charges in Florida stem from incidents alleged domestic violence. Rather than tying someone up, false imprisonment looks more like forcing someone to stop and just listen to your side of the argument – something that can seem like a reasonable action, especially in the heat of a spirited disagreement. But it’s a felony, and should be taken seriously. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney

False imprisonment, as defined in F.S. 787.02, is when someone without the legal authority to do so restrains another person against their will. It’s similar to kidnapping, except the latter is more serious and involves moving another person against their will from one place to another while they are confined. Kidnapping also typically involves the intent to to commit another serious offense (i.e., extortion, sexual assault, battery, etc.).

False imprisonment is a third-degree felony, which carries penalties of a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and $5,000 in fines. It may also result in a permanent injunction (aka restraining order), which can have lasting implications for future employment opportunities, firearm rights, freedom of travel, etc. Kidnapping, meanwhile, is typically a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. It can even be a life felony if carried out in conjunction with other serious offenses.

Penalties can be more significant for either charge if there are aggravating factors – particularly if it was carried out in conjunction with another serious felony, such as robbery, burglary, sexual assault, child abuse, human trafficking, or exploitation of a minor. Prior convictions can also exacerbate the seriousness of a false imprisonment charge.

What Do Prosecutors Have to Prove in a Florida False Imprisonment Case?

As our Fort Lauderdale defense lawyers can explain, the elements of a false imprisonment charge are:

  • Intentional imprisonment. That is, the defendant intentionally limited or restricted the other person’s freedom – confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining them. It doesn’t necessarily require physical restraint. Coercion, threats of violence, and tricking someone can satisfy this requirement as well.
  • Lack of consent. The person who is being held does not consent to it. It’s worth noting that children, individuals with cognitive disabilities or impairments, or those who are intoxicated are not able to consent.
  • No legal justification. If you’re a police officer or nurse, you may have the authority and legal justification to restrain someone against their will under certain circumstances. Same with shop owners or security personnel, but only under certain circumstances. Parents also may have legal justification for restraining minor children.

Examples of False Imprisonment in Domestic Violence Cases

False imprisonment charges sometimes come as a surprise do defendants, particularly if no one was hurt or physically restrained at all.

Some examples of scenarios of false imprisonment in domestic situations:

  • Grabbing another person and/or blocking an exit so that they cannot leave.
  • Holding something the other person values without their consent so that they can’t leave (i.e., wallet, keys, pet, child, etc.).
  • Drugging someone without their consent to restrict their movements.
  • Locking the car doors during an argument so that a passenger is unable to get out when they want to.
  • Threatening to hurt someone if they leave a certain location.
  • Locking someone in a room against their will.

Defenses to Florida False Imprisonment Charges

There are certain defenses to false imprisonment that can be made depending on the relationships between the parties. For example, merchants accused of false imprisonment may detain someone for a reasonable amount of time on suspicion of retail theft. They can only do so long enough to make a reasonable identification, inquire as to whether the person has possession of unpurchased merchandise, and inform a police officer. Similarly, parents and caregivers can defend against claims of false imprisonment where children under 17 are concerned where they are responsible for assuming control of the child’s welfare.

But in the context of domestic violence, some common defenses to false imprisonment charges in Florida: Continue reading

“I got arrested. I need you to bail me out.” Florida jail bail Broward

When you’re loved one has just been arrested in Fort Lauderdale, those words can make you feel as if you’ve just had the wind knocked out of you. Likely, you have lots of questions. But as our Fort Lauderdale defense lawyers typically advise, it’s best to not to ask for too many details over the phone while they’re still in jail, as they’re likely on a recorded line. The first order of business is figuring out how to bail them out as soon as possible.

What Exactly is Bail? Is it the Same as Bond?

The whole principle of bond is to assure that the defendant will return to court to answer for the allegations against them, rather than lose the money the court is holding in exchange. Note: The terms “bail” and “bond” tend to be used interchangeably. They’re similar, but bail is money given to the court, while bond is a loan the defendant or third party takes out to pay that bail.

Sometimes, defendants are given a summons – meaning they aren’t arrested or booked and do not need to pay any bail. Instead, they are released on their own recognizance and given a court date for which they are expected to appear for (or have a defense lawyer appear on their behalf). Other defendants may be booked, but then released on their own recognizance with a summons to appear in court. Others may be booked and then given an amount right away.

How Is Bail Amount Decided in Florida?

Each county in Florida has its own bond schedule. The bond schedule for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County lists the following standard convenience bond schedule, depending on the type of offense:

  • Second degree misdemeanor: $25
  • First-degree misdemeanor: $100
  • Third-degree felony: $1,000
  • Second-degree felony: $3,500
  • First-degree felony (non-life): $7,500
  • First-degree felony (life): No bond
  • Capital offense: No bond

The exact amount can vary depending on the specific charge, and if the alleged offenses were attempts or solicitations (in which case, bond amount may be lower) or if the crime is one of violence (in which case, bond may be higher). Some offenses, like domestic violence, require the court to hold a hearing before bond can be issued. If the offense for which the defendant is arrested involves a violation of a protection order, they may be denied bond altogether and be held until trial. If a defendant is charged with several offenses arising from the same incident, the scheduled convenience bond will be set at the amount for the most serious offense.

By law, defendants are entitled to a bail hearing within 48 hours of arrest. However, that does not mean they’re guaranteed to be granted bail or released at all.

The process and cost for bailing or bonding someone out of jail can depend on: Continue reading

In Florida, breathalyzer tests are one of the most common tools used by law enforcement officers to glean proof of the blood-alcohol concentration of a motorist suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), in violation of F.S. 316.193. But can you refuse to take the test? Can you be forced to take one? If you refuse, can you still be convicted? West Palm Beach DUI defense lawyer

Short answers:

  • Yes – but not without consequences.
  • No – though officers can initiate a non-consensual blood draw in some circumstances.
  • Yes – because breathalyzers aren’t the only relevant evidence in Florida DUI cases.

Implied Consent in Florida

As our West Palm Beach DUI defense attorneys can elaborate, Florida has an implied consent law (F.S. 316.1932). This law states that anyone who accepts the privilege of operating a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to have given consent to submit to an approved chemical or physical test administered by authorities for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his or her blood or breath. The test must be incidental to a lawful arrest, administered by a law enforcement officer who has reasonable cause to believe the person was driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Reasonable suspicion of a DUI can include things like:

  • A driver traveling far below the speed limit with road conditions that don’t justify it.
  • A driver who is swerving or operating the vehicle erratically.
  • Failure to obey traffic signals.
  • High beams kept on despite incoming traffic.
  • No headlights on at night or at other times of low visibility.
  • Tailgating/following too closely.
  • Frequent stops or braking for no apparent reason.
  • Illegal turns.
  • A driver nearly hits an object, other cars, or pedestrian.

As to whether it’s better to submit or refuse, there are pros and cons to each. Refusal to submit to testing under the state’s implied consent law will result in an automatic one-year license suspension, and your refusal can be used against you in criminal court. That said, refusal effectively deprives prosecutors of a key piece of evidence that can be used against you in the DUI criminal case.

It’s worth noting that if you do choose to submit, there is an extensive history of technical problems associated with the Intoxilyzer 8000 (the machine most commonly used to administer roadside breath tests). Much of it comes down to human error and improper training on how to use the device to glean effective BAC results. These facts might be used by South Florida DUI defense lawyers in challenging the BAC results.

Florida DUI Convictions Don’t Require Breathalyzer Results

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A Florida domestic violence injunction has the potential to significantly impact the respondent for years to come. An injunction will show up on background checks, impacting your ability to obtain certain types of employment, travel freedoms, clearance for certain government jobs, and your right to own a firearm and ammunition. Any violations are considered criminal and can result in arrest and prosecution.Broward domestic violence defense

Once you have a permanent domestic violence injunction against you, it can last indefinitely – removable only if you petition the court and successfully prove a material change in circumstances that removes the claimant’s previously reasonable continuing fear of becoming a victim of domestic violence. Filing a motion with the court asking for dissolution of a Florida domestic violence injunction is best done with the assistance of an experienced domestic violence defense attorney.

As illustrated in the recent case of Bak v. Bak before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals, fighting for dissolution of a domestic violence injunction can take years – decades, even. But the fact that it’s still worth it to do so even after all those years just goes to further underscore the importance of putting up a strong defense against having them issued in the first place.

The Bak case goes all the way back to the summer of 1999, when the former wife alleged her then-husband was abusive toward her. The judge granted a temporary injunction (which isn’t difficult to obtain in Florida, as it only requires testimony and evidence from the petitioner). A couple weeks later, a permanent injunction was filed, and the pair divorced shortly thereafter.

Thirteen years passed. In 2012, the husband asked the court to have the injunction dissolved, arguing that changed circumstances had made it equitable to do so. As noted by the court, success in this argument would require the moving party to show that the scenario underlying the injunction no longer exists so that continuation of the injunction no longer serves a valid purpose (as pointed out in the 2011 Fla. 1st DCA case of Alkhoury v. Alkhoury). The request was denied. Two years later, he again requested an end to the injunction – and was again denied. In that ruling, the judge cited the ex-wife’s reasonable continuing fear based on the fact that their minor child still lived at her home. Another five years passed. He filed a third request to have the Florida domestic violence injunction dissolved. Again, the trial court denied his request. But instead of accepting this decision as final, he appealed – and prevailed.

According to the 4th DCA, the former husband made a number of compelling arguments, including: Continue reading

Most folks know that misdemeanors are “minor” offenses (at least in comparison to the more serious felony tier of crimes). However, that doesn’t mean the impact on your life will be minor.

In fact, you can face heavy fines, jail time, and reverberating effects in other areas of your life that have the potential to plague you for years to come.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

If you are arrested for a misdemeanor offense in Broward County, it’s important to invest in legal counsel. Our primary goal is usually for our client to walk away without a conviction, but even when that’s not possible, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help negotiate the charges down to a lesser offense, fight for reduced penalties, and soften the impact on your daily life.

Florida Misdemeanor Penalties

Under the umbrella of misdemeanors, there are two tiers of severity:

  • First-degree misdemeanors. The maximum penalties for 1st degree misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
  • Second-degree misdemeanors. The maximum penalties for 2nd degree misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by a maximum 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

(There are also non-criminal violations that are typically issued via citation that carry possible fines and other penalties, but usually no jail time.)

Penalty schedules for misdemeanor and felony offenses are laid out in F.S. 775.082 and schedules are spelled out in F.S. 775.083.

But it’s possible your penalties could even exceed this if certain enhancements apply. This could happen because of aggravating circumstances (you used a gun, the alleged victim was a minor, etc.), you have prior convictions, etc. In some cases, first-degree misdemeanors can be leveled up to third-degree felonies – meaning all of the sudden, you’re facing the possibility of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

In addition to this, judges can require completion of costly diversion programs, community service, house arrest, substance abuse treatment and monitoring, loss of driver’s license, etc. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the offense, a misdemeanor charge or conviction can have a ripple effect on your life – in a pending divorce case, child custody issue, an immigration matter, or with your professional license. You could also be kicked out of school, be disqualified for certain loans, and passed over by certain landlords.

All of this is why hiring a Broward criminal defense lawyer to represent you with your misdemeanor is imperative. The State of Florida does provide you with legal counsel if you cannot afford one yourself – but only if you are facing the possibility of jail time. And while there are many dedicated, experienced lawyers working for the public defender’s office, the amount of time and resources they dedicate to your case is likely to be less than what a private lawyer can devote. When we’re talking about your future, that’s not something you want to skimp on. Continue reading

If you are arrested for domestic violence in Fort Lauderdale, there is no one-size-fits-all defense solution. That said, there are some strategies that are commonly used because they have proven effective in many cases. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

When you hire a defense lawyer, you can generally trust they are going to carefully examine the police incident report, arrest affidavit, and any existing evidence to begin formulating their legal approach.

Some questions we may ask in our initial review of the facts:

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