Articles Tagged with Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer

It is common in traffic stops where officers suspect the presence of drugs to search the driver and request a search of the vehicle. If an officer finds a substance he or she suspects to be an illicit drug, they rely on a roadside drug test to make the call. The results of these $2 kits, which have largely remained the same in design and process since they were first released in 1973, can mean the difference between a person being released at the scene or being arrested on felony charges.

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In a troubling expose on these kits, The New York Times delved into the accuracy of these kits and what they have meant to the lives of many of the 1.2 million people who are arrested annually in the U.S. on illegal drug possession charges. While those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty, these cheap testing kits are often a key deciding factor in how public defenders fight these cases and how prosecutors pursue them.

One analysis of the accuracy of the kits was conducted by the laboratory system operated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). What they discovered was that more than 20 percent of the evidence police listed as “methamphetamine” in fact was NOT methamphetamine. In fact, half of the false positives weren’t even drugs at all. A tracking by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office revealed 15 false methamphetamine positives just in the first seven months of 2014. Further, in combing through department records, officers had been given ambiguous instructions on how to conduct the tests and some misunderstood which colors indicated a positive and which indicated a negative.  Continue reading

In a contentious 5-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court in Utah v. Strieff ruled in favor of a cop who seized drugs after an unlawful stop. It was only after that stop the officer learned the defendant had an outstanding traffic warrant. After making an arrest, the officer searched defendant and found drugs and paraphernalia. Plaintiff argued this evidence should be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. police

However, the majority ruled that although the initial stop was not lawful, which would normally mean any evidence obtained thereafter could not be used against defendant, the court instead chose to apply the attenuation doctrine. This doctrine states that even though the way the evidence was obtained was illegal, such evidence can still be admissible if the connection between the evidence and the illegal method is sufficiently thin or attenuated. The court held that the officer made a good-faith mistake when stopping the defendant, who was leaving a suspected drug house. This was not, the court decided, part of some systematic recurrence of police misconduct and nor would the decision result in the proliferation of dragnet searches for those with outstanding arrest warrants.

Dissenting Justice Sonya Sotomayor, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, had strong words of rebuke for the majority on this issue, saying unlawful police stops, “Corrode all our civil liberties and threaten our lives.”  Continue reading

Often when a law enforcement officer is working long hours, it’s a sign of diligence. However, for the colleagues of Broward County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kreg Costa, suspicions were heightened because the road duty supervisor was staying in his office during and after his shift with the lights off and uniform and gun belt removed. Staffers who witnessed his behavior called it “bizarre.” police2

Detectives with the agency’s public corruption unit launched an investigation that included asking for computer use reports from the sergeant’s work laptop from January to March. That’s when they found images of hardcore pornography, bondage and incest-related sites. Further he was reportedly engaging in sexually explicit messages with a 16-year-old girl on both video chats and Twitter. Costa allegedly instructed the California teen to record herself engaged in sexual activity.

Costa was arrested when he arrived at work for a scheduled training. He has been suspended without pay and faces a total of 29 serious criminal charges, including soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct using a computer, use of a child in sexual performance, possession of child pornography and lewd lascivious battery. Continue reading

The study of predicting which criminals are more likely to commit future crimes has been one of great interest for many years, and it’s given birth to computerized systems in the U.S. known as “criminal risk assessment tools.” Criminologists say there is a public interest in recognizing which individuals may be more dangerous before it is decided how long their sentence should be and when or whether they should be released. teen1

Prior to the 1970s, these predictions routinely factored race, skin color and nationality. The following decade, as the country was in a midst of a crime wave, lawmakers imposed many mandatory minimum sentences and removed discretion from the hands of prosecutors and judges. That meant there was less important to evaluate individual offenders, but then states started grappling with overflowing prisons and jails. And that’s where criminal risk forecast has swung back into routine use.

As detailed in a recent ProPublica article, dozens of computerized risk assessments are being used nationally – including right here in Broward County. These programs made by for-profit firms weigh dozens of various factors. However, the researchers found that these scores have been cited repeatedly by judges at sentencing hearings, and what’s more, the results tend to be skewed along racial lines. Black defendants are often deemed to have a much higher risk assessment, even when the crimes are similar and the statistics are controlled for other factors.  Continue reading

The alleged gang rape of a Florida Atlantic University student at last year’s “South Florida Oil Spill” party remains unsolved as event organizers prepared to host the party again this year. It will be the seventh annual for the event, in which 600 to 800 college students from across the state pack into a party spot and pay a $30 flat-rate for all-you-can-drink and live music. nightclub

According to the Sun Sentinel, it was at this event at the Wayne Barton center just two miles off campus in Boca Raton last year that a young woman, separated from her friends while dancing in the center of the gym, was allegedly dragged off the dance floor, guided briefly onto the main stage and then pulled into an enclave to the left of the stairs. There, she would later tell authorities, the men pulled a curtain over her head and took turns raping her.

Today, there are no suspects and no arrests, but authorities say they are hoping for a break in the case, which at this point will hinge on DNA evidence. When the woman was taken to the hospital – hours after the alleged attack – there were traces of semen found inside her. At this point, that may be the only way to identify those allegedly involved.  Continue reading

South Florida Defense Attorney Richard Ansara of The Ansara Law Firm successfully defended a client charged with manslaughter following a 2013 fatal shooting in Boca Raton.photo__1366917_richard-ansara

As The Sun-Sentinel recently reported, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley dismissed the second-degree felony case against 25-year-old client Joshua Henry of Pompano Beach. Henry originally faced up to 15 years in prison. He is now a free man.

Ansara aptly argued that the events resulting in the death of Justin Holt, 22, were the result of a “tragic accident,” not criminal action.  Continue reading

Ron Cacciatore is a man who has spent his life in Broward law enforcement. He worked for years as an undercover agent, targeting drug traffickers. He took on high-profile, influential members of organized crime. He even spoke at one about about running for Broward sheriff himself.keys

But now, he’s on the other side of that coin. The 62-year-old, who currently serves as the head fraud investigator at the Broward Property Appraiser’s Office, was recently accused of taking a key to vandalize the car of a 73-year-old neighborhood association president, who has been sparring with his 43-year-old stepdaughter.

This is according to The Sun-Sentinel, which alleges the source of this quarrel spans a full five years – and the tenure of two association presidents. In all this time, there have been reports of conflicts between those involved that resulted in hair-pulling, biting and restraining order filings. And now, reportedly, it’s culminated in vandalism by a high-ranking county official and retired lawman.  Continue reading

Most people think speeding is one of those things that is “no big deal.” People do it all the time, and often with little consequence. But consider this case recently reported by the Sun-Sentinel:caraccident6

A man has been charged with vehicular homicide in Fort Lauderdale after a high-speed crash resulted in the death of a 4-year-old boy almost two years ago in Sunrise.

The now-21-year-old defendant had been driving at least 70 mph in a black BMW. Investigators would later opine he was driving somewhere in the neighborhood of 83 mph. The speed limit on that stretch of North Pine Island Road is 45 mph. There was a yellow car in front of him. A vehicle ahead of that yellow car made a wide turn into the parking lot of a shopping plaza. The yellow car hit the brakes. The BMW driver, Andrew Ezequiel Perez, couldn’t slow down in time. He lost control.
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