August 18, 2014

Should Police Officers be Required to Wear Cameras?

The issue of and controversy over police activity being captured on footage is not a new one. What is relatively new, however, is the discussion over whether or not police officers themselves should have to wear video cameras on their uniforms, not just mount cameras on the dashboard of their vehicles.
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Incidents such as the vicious beating of Rodney King in 1991 (taped by onlookers much to the chagrin of the officers involved) and the apparently unprovoked and unjustified killing of Michael Brown by a police officer earlier this month have reignited the conversation. As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, while law enforcement officers might think it's unnecessary, hordes of civilians argue that it will ensure accountability in a field where there's largely none.

Case in point: the most pressing questions swirling around the murder of Michael Brown by a Missouri police officer seem to have no definitive answers. It might very well have come down to an issue of he-said, he-said, were it not for the fact that one of the two people involved in the incident is now dead, having left behind a family and a nation demanding answers.

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August 14, 2014

Siri Provides Questionable Evidence in Florida Murder Trial

Back in September 2012, University of Florida student Christian Aguilar went missing. At the end of that month, his roommate, now-20-year-old Pedro Bravo, was charged with the murder, although no body had been found. Weeks later, hunters found the decomposing body of the victim in a shallow grave roughly 60 miles from Gainesville.
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In the trial that is expected to wrap-up today or tomorrow, the prosecution has received some key assistance from an unlikely (and perhaps unreliable) source: Siri, the helpful and often times sarcastic iPhone assistant.

As our Palm Beach and Broward County cirminal defense lawyers know, the increasing presence of technology in our everyday lives has implications far beyond those one might expect. This fact is being brought to light in the murder case of Pedro Bravo, given the fact that data recorded on his smartphone on the day his roommate went missing is being used against him in a court of law.

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August 13, 2014

Broward County Man Arrested for Possession of Moonshine

According to a report by the Sun Sentinel, a Broward man was recently arrested for posessing homemade liquor and the tools with which he allegedly produced (and intended to continue making) the moonshine.
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Producing moonshine conjures images of the days of Prohibition, during which it was illegal to proaduce, sell, transport or import alcohol in and within the U.S. from 1920 through 1933. But, as our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know from experience, criminal cases arising from the illegal production of alcohol are quite common -- even in, as the article puts it, "sophisticated South Florida."

The issue of illegally producing alchol is a complicated one. You don't need illegal substances to create illegal alcohol; unlike making pot brownies, for which you need to illegaly obtain marjiuana, you can make home-brewed alcohol with just a few, legal ingredients, including water, yeast and table sugar.

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August 11, 2014

Girl Charged With "Slenderman" Stabbing Found Incompetent

The nation was shocked and horrified to learn in May that two young girls had stabbed a friend 19 times before leaving her to die -- all to impress a fictional internet apparition called "Slenderman." The victim ultimately crawled to safety and the two 12-year-old attackers were arrested for the brutal attack.
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As former prosecutors, our experienced Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that the competency of a defendant to stand trial (i.e., to assist in their own defense) is of true significance in pre-trial discussions between the prosecution team and the defense lawyers. According to one of the accused girls' attorney, the 12-year-old, who claims to communicate with Slenderman (depicted on the right) and other characters such as Ninja Turtles, is not competent to stand trial and her case should be moved to juvenile court, wherein she would have greater access to social services.

Based on the testimony of two doctors who had met with the girl, the court found that, as of the pretrial hearing regarding competency, the girl was not competent to stand trial but might become competent to do so at some point.

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August 7, 2014

Do "Most Wanted" Shows Inspire Vigilante Justice?

The fact that individuals responsible for committing heinous crimes often remain on the run can make the grieving process excruciatingly difficult for victims and their families. As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers understand, those who have suffered at the hands of criminals, and the public at large, have an entirely reasonable interest in bringing those who have committed horrible crimes to justice.
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The problem is, however, that television programs such as "America's Most Wanted" and the newly minted, John Walsh-hosted show "The Hunt" often inspire members of the public to take matters into their own (untrained, uinformed and incapable) hands.

Our nation is one of laws; until found guilty by a jury of their peers, individuals are not to be treated as criminals and they're certainly not to be punished. The justice system in this country allows for lawyers, juries and judges to determine the fate of individuals convicted of crimes. Members of the public, as they are frequently inspired to do by these types of "Most Wanted" shows, should not take it upon themselves to inflict harm on those they deem worthy of punishing.

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August 4, 2014

Could Teenage Brains Cause Teenage Crime?

Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that whenever a crowd of seemingly rowdy young people approaches, trouble is probably not far away -- at least, that's what many people think. But why do we instinctly associate teenagers with trouble, angst and (often times) criminal behavior?
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The fact is that individuals in their early twenties do seem to misbehave at higher rathes than do others in society. But why? Do teenagers just love to drive fast, do drugs and steal things? Research is beginning to shed some light on this issue, and the results could one day cause a major shift in the strategies of criminal defense lawyers representing juveniles.

Medical studies now reveal that the part of the brain responsible for reasoning matures after the parts of the brain that trigger emotions and sensations of reward have developed. In this sense, outlandish behavior by teenagers is, at least in part, explainable by the way the human brain naturally develops.

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July 31, 2014

Child Discipline or Child Abuse?

While many norms differ from culture to culture, it's fair to say that nearly every society opposes the use of unnecessary violence against children, typically regarded as the most vulnerable and helpless members of society.
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However, as our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know from experience, the definitions of child abuse become blurred when one considers the role of physical punishments in the process of disciplining a child. What rights does a parent have in choosing how to teach their children how to behave? When does an instructive decision made by a parent become a criminal act?

A recent criminal case involving a man who slapped his 8-year-old son underscores the complexities of this issue. Although the man claimed all along that he was disciplining his child for cursing, social service workers and a family court initially decided that the physical punishments to which he subjected his son constituted child neglect.

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July 28, 2014

Single Mom Faces Mandatory Prison Time For Posessing Licensed, Registered Gun

Many of the laws currently on the books were drawn up years ago, and today have unintended, undesirable effects. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws, for example, often target honest individuals who might have made simple mistakes, while criminal laws should in fact be designed to obstruct deliberately criminal behavior.
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In late 2011, a 27-year-old mother of two (in the photograph to the right) was pulled over in New Jersey during a routine traffic stop. Instead of being given a ticket, the young woman was arrested for and charged with unlawful posession of a firearm and bullets. Now, she faces mandatory prison time. Here's the problem: the gun she was arrested for carrying was legal, licensed, and registered.

Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert have been following the case of Shaneen Allen, the single mother caught in the web of an antiquated criminal justice system. Her trial, which begins on August 5th, will allow her to fight for her rights as an honest, hard-working individual who has fallen victim to illogical and ineffective laws.

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July 24, 2014

South Florida Woman Arrested for Counterfeit Money Demonstrates What Not To Do

Earlier this month, a woman in Pompano Beach was arrested for allegedly using $400 in counterfeit money to purchase a pre-paid Visa card.
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As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers understand it, the manager at the store at which the Visa card was purchased realized that the money used for the purchase was counterfeit, and he subsequently deactivated the pre-paid card. Upon realizing that the card was no longer active, the woman returned to the store, at which point the police were called.

This case highlights a few issues that are highly relevant to criminal defense law, including the fact that seemingly criminal behavior might be unintentional and that what you say to police officers can cause you otherwise preventable harm.

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July 21, 2014

Can Felons Use the "Stand Your Ground" Defense?

A thought-provoking legal argument from a courtroom in Palm Beach County is heading to the Florida Supreme Court. The case begs the question of whether or not a convicted criminal can invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law as justification for shooting someone.
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The controversial law has been receiving a great deal of attention recently, playing crucial roles in the recent Florida criminal cases first of George Zimmerman and then of Michael Dunn, both of whom fatally shot an individual they claimed posed a legitimate threat to their safety. In those cases, as our Palm Beach and Broward criminal defense attorneys understand, the defendants might have done questionable things prior to the incident, but neither was a convicted felon.

The case to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court is that of 25-year-old Palm Beach resident Brian Bragdon, a convicted felon who shot and killed two people in 2012; Bragdon claims it was in self-defense but the prosecutors disagree. Without a doubt, this ruling -- and the arguments to be made leading up to the decision -- will have a lasting impact on the criminal justice system in the Sunshine State.

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July 10, 2014

Confessions Aren't Always What They Seem

Whenever the media reports that someone allegedly confessed to something, people instantaneously assume that they're guilty. Of course, this seems reasonable at first. Why would somebody say that they committed a crime unless they did?
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As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, based on years of experience, confessions to crimes aren't always what they seem. Unfortunately, they do have consequences; even if somebody later recants their confession, prosecutors use the fact that the suspect confessed as evidence of guilt.

The truth is that people often confess (or are coerced into confessing) due to circumstances beyond their immediate control, regardless of whether or not they committed the crime in question. For this reason, it's vitally important that the general public, and especially the individuals who sit on juries during criminal trials, not confuse an alleged confession as an honest, clearheaded admission of guilt.

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July 8, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott Tours State to Oppose Sentence Leniency Measures

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is up for re-election in November, at which point he will face now-Democratic challenger former Gov. Charlie Crist in a battle over the top political position in the Sunshine State. Clearly, the Governor has a lot to deliberate and attend to, but our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense attorneys believe he hasn't devoted enough time to considering changes to existing sentencing laws.
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Gov. Scott is in the midst of touring the state, with campaign stops in cities such as Tampa, Orlando and Miami, in an effort to reaffirm his "stay the course" strategy with regard to the current legal reguirement that prisoners (even non-violent ones) must serve at least 85% of their sentence. Scott promised voters that, if he is re-elected, he will not change his position on the issue.

Scott's position, highlighted by the fact that he vetoed a bill in 2012 that would have cut prison sentences for non-violent offenders and placed them in drug rehabilitation programs, adds fuel to the raging fire that is our broken prison system.

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