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

Florida arrests that begin with probable cause searches initiated by the “sniff test” (i.e., detecting the distinct aroma of cannabis) may be no more. For that, we can thank the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill legalizing hemp and its derivative CBD (cannabidiol), as well as the Florida statute that followed to align with it as Congress instructed.marijuana arrest lawyer

The federal law, which went into effect Jan. 1st, removed industrial hemp and CBD from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act list of unlawful and dangerous drugs. However, many states – Florida included – still had laws on the books that criminalized these substances. Florida’s new law fixes that.

Florida’s New Hemp/CBD Law Sweeping in Effect on Criminal Pot Cases

What this now means, as Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain, is not only will future marijuana arrests in Florida most certainly be significantly curtailed, but it may even impact pending cases – at least going back to July 1st and possibly all the way back to January. Continue reading

Florida has one of the broadest public records laws in the nation, which means one of the most powerful bargaining chips Florida prosecutors have – particularly in sex offense cases – is shame. There are the initial mugshots, incident and arrest reports and identifying details all available for public release – and that’s even before a person is convicted.Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer

Now, a new Florida law will have those arrested for misdemeanor prostitution solicitation in Florida facing additional public ridicule – with potential to even further impact one’s employment, housing, education and financial situation – not to mention personal relationships.

Those arrested in Florida for misdemeanor prostitution (often overlooked as a sex offense) may be tempted to simply plead guilty, pay the fine and enter a diversion and/or complete other requirements so they can quickly put it all behind them. That’s generally not advisable, but because of the potential long-term implications, Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys especially warn against doing so until you’ve spoken with a a lawyer experienced in defense of prostitution solicitation crimes. Continue reading

Florida DUI defense attorneys know that a key part of due process in these cases from the very beginning is that if police want to secure blood from a suspect who is unwilling, they’re going to need a warrant first.DUI defense

Of course, there are exceptions, which the U.S. Supreme Court has just drastically expanded. But as noted in tersely-written dissents in Mitchell v. Wisconsin from Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonya Sotomayor, the court ended up deciding a question it was never asked.

This case arose from an incident in Wisconsin, which like Florida and dozens of other states, has an implied consent law. Similar to Florida’s implied consent law, Wisconsin holds that drivers who assume the responsibility of controlling a motor vehicle on public roads also accept the responsibility to submit to chemical testing if asked by a law enforcement officer with reasonable suspicion of DUI. In Florida, this is applicable to breath and urine samples only, with failure to do so resulting in an automatic one-year license suspension.

In a 2013 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that extracting blood samples (sometimes deemed to produce more scientifically accurate results than the other two) are different because it requires a personal body intrusion. Thus, barring exigent circumstances, if a person refuses to submit to a blood test, police need to obtain a warrant to do so. A person who is unconscious cannot provide consent to such an act, and thus a warrant is required, defendant argued. But the state upheld his DUI conviction.

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Cannabidiol oil, better known as CBD, is touted in Florida stores as a means to alleviate anxiety and depression. But a dose of it with a little too much THC could have you feeling a different kind of anxious – in a South Florida jail cell.Fort Lauderdale CBD arrest

Criminal defense attorneys in Palm Beach know this probably has a lot of folks confused. After all, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized commercial hemp and the CBD that is derived from it. Hemp is used to make a wide range of goods and products, from textiles to soap. CBD is a derivative of hemp which is a type of cannabis, but unlike it’s cousin marijuana, hemp has little-to-no THC (tetrahydrocannabidiol). This is the psychoactive extract of the drug, meaning that’s what makes a person feel that euphoric high.

But while federal the latest Farm Bill removed commercial hemp and CBD from the list of federally-controlled substances, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) still prohibits CBD for use in food, beverage and cosmetics products. (Many business owners are flouting this rule, and currently do so at their own risk.)
  • State marijuana laws are a patchwork, and not every state allows CBD oil. In Florida, you could still run into trouble with CBD if it contains any trace amount of THC (the federal limit 0.03 percent) and you don’t have a doctor-recommended state-issued marijuana patient card.

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Police call it a “modern-day neighborhood watch,”  a proliferating network of surveillance cameras affixed to the doorbells of private residences. Florida criminal defense lawyers are increasingly wary, citing concerns about privacy – especially because police from here to Houston have been “gifting” these devices to homeowners – using taxpayer money – with the caveat that they must turn these devices over to police upon request (something Amazon – the company that acquired the firm for $1 billion last year – said it will be “cracking down on”).criminal defense lawyer

This was at least the case in Houston, and criminal defense attorneys recognize that it raises the question of possible violations of citizens’ Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures. If any arrests were made based on footage police demanded an unwilling homeowner fork over, it’s plausible that evidence could be suppressed.

CNet reports more than 50 local police departments have been partnering with the manufacturer of these “smart doorbells” to give them away free, cheaply or with a $3-a-month “subscription service” that allows police to tap into these feeds whenever they want. In some neighborhoods, police can tune in to watch – and record – what’s happening in real time on surveillance footage. Continue reading

It’s summertime, school’s out (or soon-to-be) and throughout South Florida, teens and young adults are celebrating – fairly often with substances they aren’t legally allowed to have or consume (namely, alcohol).Fort Lauderdale lawyer underage alcohol

As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys can explain, these scenarios can result in several different criminal charges:

  • Unlawful possession of alcohol by a person under age 21, per F.S. 562.111.
  • Unlawfully selling, serving or giving alcohol to a person under age 21, per F.S. 562.11.
  • Open house party where host knows or should know alcohol will be served to minors, per F.S. 856.015.

There are also potential civil consequences if the minor becomes impaired and somehow hurts themselves or is involved in an underage DUI car accident that injures themselves or others. Those cases will be handled by the civil justice system, separate from any criminal charges. Continue reading

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