Our Broward County criminal defense lawyers recently read about firefighters and police officers around Florida who earn extra money cleaning up crime scenes. It makes sense, especially considering that the average population isn’t as comfortable with the sight of rotting flesh or flood, while police officers and firefighters routinely deal with these kinds of conditions.
Owners of Florida-based crime clean-up services say a cleanup job can pay as little as $200 or as much as $15,000. It’s a good side job, but many say there isn’t enough demand to earn a full-time living from it.
As of November, South Florida had 16 trauma-cleanup businesses liked with the Florida Department of Health. Six of those are based in Broward County and five companies are in Palm Beach County. Although health officials don’t regulate cleaning procedures, they do register companies who transported biomedical waste from crime scenes.
Source: Crime-scene cleanup: Police, firefighters do dirty job in off-duty hours, South Florida Sun Sentinel, December 13, 2010 (more…)
As our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyers reported in November, law enforcement would be on patrol, looking to make as many DUI arrests as possible during the Thanksgiving holiday.
We were right — the Florida Highway Patrol recently released its statistics, which showed a large number of DUI arrests and other traffic citations, numbers which don’t include local law enforcement totals.
And as the December holiday season hits full swing, we again warn drivers not to get trapped in the net of police as they are stepping up patrols this holiday season. Being charged with DUI in Fort Lauderdale not only can introduce a person to the criminal justice system, but can put them on the hook for possible criminal penalties and out-of-court sanctions such as job loss.
That’s why all aspects of the crime — from the initial stop and whether it was lawful to the accuracy of the breath testing and field sobriety testing — must be challenged by a skilled attorney. Otherwise, a person may not get a fair trial.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, troopers made 136 DUI arrests between November 23 and November 27 this year. That number is up from the 121 people who were arrested for the charge in 2010. Troopers statewide actually filed 470 fewer citations in the same time period, however.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that more people were driving under the influence and it certainly doesn’t mean those who were arrested are guilty. It simply means they were arrested.
Police are under enormous pressure, especially this time of year, to make arrests for drunken driving. When DUI-related fatal crashes hit the news, officials and the public sometimes call for answers. Often, the only answer of law enforcement is to run more PR campaigns that include sobriety checkpoints and enforcement blitzes.
And they respond by beefing up patrols. This can end up ensnaring people who are innocent of the charge. This sometimes happens when overzealous police officers stretch the limits of what is probable cause and arrest people who may not be guilty.
It all starts with the traffic stop. Police can’t pull you over unless you have done something wrong and that usually amounts to a traffic violation, such as speeding, running a red light or swerving. But it can also stem from having a tail light out, an improper license plate or an expired tag.
Once an officer makes the stop, he or she can use their training to see if the driver may have been drinking. What they classify as glassy eyes or blood shot eyes and slurred speech can all be used against the driver. Once they make these observations, it’s likely they will arrest the driver for DUI. A breath test, if one is consented to, and field sobriety tests, may be formalities at that point.
So, fighting the charge is the only option. An arrest may be an embarrassing mark, especially during the holidays, but it can be erased with an acquittal, if charges are dropped or a successful plea to a less-serious charge. Simply allowing the state to bowl you over with these charges is never an option.
Earlier this year, two sets of parents in Boca Raton were arrested and accused of hosting homecoming after-parties with alcohol for underage drinkers. Some underage drinkers were also arrested, and the parents said they either were not aware of the alcohol or weren’t able to control the mob of intoxicated teens who brought booze with them.
Florida’s “open house party” law went into effect in 1991, but many parents of juveniles say they aren’t aware of the law, which states that if anyone younger than 21 is caught drinking alcohol or using drugs at a party in your home or on your property, you could be arrested and charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Violations of the “open house party” law are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Beyond criminal penalties, there are also civil liabilities that can result in lawsuits. Parents can also be held liable if a drunk teenager causes property damage, sexual battery, injury or death to others or themselves during or after leaving the party.
Source: Many parents still don’t know of law against hosting underage drinking, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 24, 2010 (more…)
Nearly two dozen people were charged with fraud in West Palm Beach recently after authorities alleged they participated in an assisted living facility scam.
Theft charges in West Palm Beach can range from simple petty theft of a candy bar from a convenience store to an orchestrated burglary of a house. It can turn into a white collar crime if there is a concerted plan to steal money from an organization, insurer or business.
All of these charges require the skills and experience of a West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer. No defendant, regardless of the charges they face, deserve substandard legal counsel. In fact, the U.S. Constitution requires a defendant have a solid attorney representing them throughout the case.
In this situation, authorities allege that a Little Havana woman was creating fake credentials so that people could get jobs in assisted living facilities throughout South Florida. According to officials, the woman would charge several hundred dollars to people who were interested in getting one of these jobs.
Medical personnel are required to have specific skills in order to work at these facilities and in order to care for the disabled or elderly.
Officials said that an undercover agent approached the woman recently and asked for a health-based credential in order to get a job. The woman charged $200 and said she would be able to get a credential and a job for the agent working with children who had Down Syndrome.
The article by NBC Miami goes on to state that authorities recently shut down an assisted living facility because it was discovered that a majority of the workers had fraudulent and fake work credentials. Along with assisted living facility workers, private bus operators and three people classified as “ringleaders” have been arrested.
While many people have been charged and the general public may believe that these people are guilty, they are innocent until the state proves the charges beyond all reasonable doubt. In this case, that means that the state must have evidence to show that these people aren’t entitled to the credentials they have and that the woman created all of them.
In cases where multiple defendants are arrested, it’s likely the state will attempt to flip some of them to become state’s witnesses. This brings up credibility issues because the state is essentially asking for a person’s word in exchange for their freedom.
In these cases, what they say to police at the time of the crime, during a deposition before trial and on the witness stand must all be compared. Inconsistencies that show they are changing their story to favor the state’s case must be pointed out to the jury. In extreme cases, it’s possible to get those witnesses excluded for their bias.
This is at the heart of the fairness issue of a trial. A defendant must have the right to confront their witnesses, even if those witnesses were previously co-defendants. All aspects of the case must be challenged.
It’s obvious that a murder charge in Fort Lauderdale is a serious offense. Not only are the allegations that a person has been killed by another, but the consequences could be life in prison or possibly the death penalty in Florida.
That’s why murder must be treated differently. Not only must an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer be hired to defend the client, but prosecutors and judges must keep in mind the rights of the defendant — even more so than in other criminal cases.
This means a statement the defendant gave to police, if he did, should be scrutinized along with the police actions leading up to the conversation. Also, how police collected evidence and what actions they took to find witnesses should also be looked at closely.
In many cases, if a suspect’s constitutional rights are violated, an experienced lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence. If law enforcement acts improperly, such as gaining entrance to a person’s car or house and seizing evidence without probable cause, that evidence can be thrown out of trial.
Or, if at trial, the judge or prosecutor makes comments or takes actions that cause the defendant to suffer bias, it’s possible a new trial can be ordered. That’s what happened in State v. Allen, a Maryland case.
This case stems from an altercation between two friends. Allen was at the house of John Butler one night in 2001. Allen asked Butler to drive him home, but he said no. Allen jingled his keys and threatened to drive himself home, which caused a fight.
In the middle, Allen stabbed Butler repeatedly, took the car and drove off before crashing it soon after. He was arrested and charged with many crimes, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder and armed robbery.
During trial, the judge told jurors that they could find him guilty of first-degree felony murder whether he had gone in with the idea to commit an armed robbery or only considered it after the murder. The man was convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, armed robbery and other charges.
First-degree murder in Florida can be charged if the crime was premeditated or if another felony, such as armed robbery, is committed at the same time. The appeals court ruled that robbery can’t be an “afterthought” in a felony murder case and sent it back for re-trial.
During the second trial, the only issue for jurors to consider was whether the man was guilty of first-degree murder. But a judge once again messed up when telling jurors that the man had already been found guilty of the armed robbery and second-degree murder, which paved the way for them to find him guilty of first-degree murder since that element of the crime was established by the judge.
An appeals court again granted a new trial. Judges make mistakes. But the defendant must always receive the benefit of the doubt. The bottom line is the defendant must have a fair trial in a Fort Lauderdale murder case.
Florida Criminal Lawyers