Recently, a Florida woman was arrested for DUI manslaughter and child neglect after she allegedly crashed her SUV with four children and another adult in the car. One child, her 3-year-old daughter, died.
Although this is a profound loss this mother will grieve the rest of her life, the law does not allow for this alone to be “punishment enough.” Per F.S. 316.193, DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Most DUI arrests, even those that involve crashes, do not involve deaths. However, courts in Florida take very seriously DUI cases involving minor passengers under 18, even if no one was hurt. Continue reading
If you’re searching for a great criminal defense lawyer, chances are you’re not in a great situation. That can make the process even more stressful. There are numerous important factors you need to consider, and it’s a good idea to make a checklist before reaching out to anyone.
The very basic checklist is to find a defense lawyer who is licensed to practice in Florida, has the qualities you’re seeking and can offer the attention to your case that it requires. Doing a little research can go a long way. Continue reading
Protests over systemic police brutality against Black individuals has shined a light on the many forms of technology law enforcement has in its arsenal. One of those – surveillance technology and facial recognition – is increasingly being used by Florida police agencies to collar protesters on criminal charges.
For those who may be unfamiliar, facial recognition technology uses a photo of someone to compare it to other photos in an existing database. In Pinellas County, for instance, the facial recognition system used by the sheriff’s office draws from a database of approximately 38 million photos – everything from driver’s licenses to ID cards to mugshots.
It’s a tool that has been gaining in popularity with police over the last 20 years, but it’s been highly controversial, raising concerns about privacy, mis-identification potential and the risk of racial profiling and surveillance. Continue reading
The internet has been revolutionary, allowing us to connect with others – locally and across the globe – in real time in a way that’s never before existed in human history. But it’s not been without its complications, at least where application of the law has been concerned – and that includes criminal law.
Although many online interactions and exchanges – however heated – can be safely considered “free speech,” its bounds aren’t limitless. In fact, communications over the internet may in some cases be at higher risk of crossing the criminal threshold because they lack the benefit of context, inflection or familiarity of face-to-face or even phone conversations.
Florida criminal defense attorneys know law enforcement agencies are increasingly keen to solicit and investigate tips of threats made online, particularly in the wake of several mass shootings. Some agencies have said that dozens of potential shootings were stopped by this heightened vigilance in the wake of shootings in Dayton and El Paso.
Still, many of those charged find themselves bewildered that words, images or videos posted to a Facebook page or Instagram account might potentially have them facing jail time. 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).
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
In both federal and state criminal cases and even some civil case, the law (thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision 55 years ago in Gideon v. Wainwright) affords defendants the right to representation by a criminal defense attorney – even for misdemeanors. It is only when the individual is unable to afford a defense lawyer that one is appointed for the defendant (i.e., a public defender). The question of whether one can afford a lawyer is answered by determining one’s “indigent” status.
The question of one’s indigent status is one many of us don’t give a second thought to, but it’s made front-page headlines of late because of the recent high-profile case of the questionable indigent status of accused Parkland school shooter Nicholas Cruz. The 20-year-old is accused of carrying out one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history, killing 17 students and teachers. He has reportedly confessed and faces the death penalty.
Initially, he was appointed a Florida public defender after being deemed indigent. However, Law.com now reports he is anticipating a $432,000 life insurance policy payout following the recent death of his mother. His Broward defense attorney is now seeking to be removed from the case, arguing state law prohibits service of public defenders for defendants with financial means to higher a private Florida criminal defense attorney. The lawyer, with 40 years of experience, pointed out the defendant is now wealthier than most of those serving on his defense team and he has never had a client with access to as much money as Cruz. The average public defender in Broward County earns about $62,000. Continue reading
If you are accused of a crime in Fort Lauderdale, you are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. That means that criminal cases can be successfully dismissed if there are prosecutorial delays that violate a defendant’s due process right to a speedy trial. But what is the exact period of time that triggers a violation of this due process right? Your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney should closely examine the facts of your case to ascertain whether a motion to dismiss under a due process argument makes sense.
Generally, your criminal defense attorney will need to prove one’s defense is compromised by the delay and the prosecutor had not good reason justifying the delay OR that the prosecution has been delayed beyond specified limits.
There are two basic types of speedy trial rights for Florida criminal defendants.
- Statutory speedy trial. These are afforded according to Rule 3.191 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. These require one’s trial takes place within a very specific time window – 90 days for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony.
- State/federal constitutional protection under the Sixth Amendment. These provide for a speedy trial even if your statutory remedy er state law has been waived, effectively mandating due process protections.
Your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense team may well advise you NOT to seek a speedy trial; that may not be in your best interests, particularly in complex felony cases where the stakes are high, testimony is conflicting, discovery is extensive and expert witness testimony is warranted. However, if your case has sat on the back burner for an extended period of time, your defense lawyer may be wise to file a motion to dismiss due to a delay by the prosecution. This is not as uncommon as one might think, particularly in cases involving extensive delays in processing laboratory work. Continue reading
Is a sniff a search? It seems that may be a constitutional question for the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices are considering whether to grant review in the case of Edstrom v. Minnesota. The case, as our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys understand it, turns on the issue of whether trained narcotics-sniffing dogs can lawfully be brought to a person’s door to sniff for drugs or whether this requires police to first obtain a warrant.
The Minnesota Supreme Court held that police do not need a warrant to walk the dog to one’s front door and see if it passes the sniff test. We have no way of knowing which way the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to swing, especially since Justice Stephen Breyer stepped down and has been replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In several previous cases the court has considered that involved drug-sniffing dogs, the court has generally come down on the side of law enforcement – but one Florida case seemed to flip the script. Continue reading
Florida state lawmakers are mulling drug crime reform, specifically a series of bill that include provisions allowing judges more discretion for sentences that currently require minimum mandatory sentencing and increases of substance abuse treatment funds.
The chances signal a turn away from the hard-line stance so many lawmakers took in the 1980s and 1990s when the so-called “War on Drugs” was in full swing. Those efforts have largely proven ineffective, with many policy leaders agreeing hard-line sentences for low-level drug offenses didn’t lower use and didn’t keep the rest of us safer. In fact, all it did was decimate low-income, minority communities, which were disproportionately on the receiving end of enforcement.
Now, The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports the legislature appears somewhat split on criminal justice reform, with roughly half supporting these changes and half digging in their heels to maintain the status quo. Supporters of the bill say it will help bridge the gap of racial disparities that exist when it comes to enforcement and penalties for these offenses. Continue reading