Animal Cruelty Conviction Results in Prison for Elderly Broward Man

An 82-year-old man from Fort Lauderdale was recently sentenced to three years in prison because his dog attacked and killed a cat earlier this year.

Specifically, he had been convicted on charges of animal cruelty and trespassing.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers believe three years is excessive, despite the fact that another animal lost its life. This case illustrates why it’s so critical to secure an experienced criminal defense attorney, no matter what the charges against you, as there is often a great deal at stake.

Part of the problem, in this case, was that the defendant had recently been released from jail pending his arrest for a charge of aggravated battery. There were certain conditions of that release that prosecutors said were violated by virtue of the fact that he had committed another crime. We don’t have the details on that earlier crime, and we do know that he is still awaiting trial on that charge.

In the newer case, surveillance video reportedly showed the elderly man walking his dog on a leash on S. Andrews Avenue. Then, while in front of a business, the man reportedly walked his dog up the driveway to the porch where the cat was resting. At that point, the dog began to maul the cat. At one point, the video seems to show the defendant stepping on the cat in order to pull the dog away from it. The defendant then left with his dog, and the cat, which was a pet and not a stray, later died of its injuries.

Florida Statute 828.12 defines animal cruelty as any person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, mutilates, kills or deprives of food or shelter any animal in a way that is cruel or inhumane.

This is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison UNLESS the person intentionally commits an act that results in a cruel death or the repeated infliction of pain and suffering to an animal. In the later case, it’s considered a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

A jury, in this case, found the defendant guilty of felony animal cruelty and sentenced him to two years less than the maximum. In addition, the man will not be allowed to possess a pet when he is released from prison – at the age of 85. Also upon his release, he must serve two years of probation.

Even in cases where animal cruelty charges are filed as a misdemeanor, it’s wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Even if you aren’t anticipating jail, there is no guarantee of that and this is the type of charge that could prevent you from getting into certain schools, landing certain jobs and could even result in your being fired from the job you have, depending on your career field.
(more…)

Cold Case Detectives Arrest South Florida Man for Sex Assaults

A 65-year-old Deerfield Beach man has been arrested on a series of decades-old sexual assault cases, after a cold case crimes unit reportedly linked him to at least three assaults.

Detectives believe there could be dozens more, according to media reports.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers are always wary of police claims of guilt made many years down the road. There is a great deal that can happen in that time frame that make positive identification – particularly in sexual assault cases – extremely difficult for prosecutors.

In this case, the defendant was eccentric, to say the least. But that doesn’t make him a criminal.

Back in 1979, he reportedly carried out a series of burglaries in which he wore a cape. Detectives who pursued him in those cases said that he was brilliant – with an IQ number in the high 160’s. They also said he was “unstable.”

After being sentenced to 15 years in prison on various theft and burglary crimes, the defendant wrote a book called, “Secrets of a Superthief.” In it, he makes wild claims about jewelry heists in the hundreds of millions of dollars, his alleged ownership of a speed boat and a vacation home in Maine, and his use of sophisticated radio equipment that would have rivaled James Bond’s spy gear.

In fact, he had in one case stolen $1 million worth of jewelry from a doctor’s home that was rigged with high-tech alarms. But the book reads like more of a fantasy than a biography. Never once did he mention sexual assault.

He was released from prison in 1987 and moved to Arizona.

He was again arrested on burglary charges, and later on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor. He had been distributing fliers reportedly posing as a photographer, and was found in possession of hundreds of images of underage girls.

As a result, he was sentenced to prison in 1992. He was paroled in 2004 , and moved back to South Florida. He had since married and lived quietly with his wife in a trailer park in Breezy Hill.

Now, police are coming after him for a number of sexual assaults in the area back in the 1970s, with some speculating that he could be the so-called “Gentle Rapist.”

Depending on the circumstances, sexual battery can be charged as either a first- or second-degree felony, according to Florida Statute 794.011, meaning the individual would be looking at somewhere between 5 years to life in prison for a single charge.

Now you may be wondering about how statutes of limitation factor. It’s important to note that when the charge is aggravated rape, the prosecutor can file at any time. Generally, these are cases in which a weapon was used or there was more than one person or the victim was seriously injured.

For cases of sexual abuse or sexual assault, the statute of limitations is typically four years, or four years after the alleged victim turns 18.

However, there is an exception for DNA analysis. The state has up to one year after the discovery of DNA evidence linking the suspect to the crime in order to file, even if the regular statute of limitations has passed.

That’s what we’re looking at in this case, which will undoubtedly require a skilled attorney to develop a strong legal defense.
(more…)

Former Cop Strikes Plea Deal on South Florida Weapons Charges

A former police officer pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges, including that he sold firearms to undercover agents at gun shows and, at least once, in a gas station parking lot.

Our Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that the laws surrounding weapons and weapons sales are somewhat complex, but can be more lax at gun shows, depending on the county.

The state of Florida allows each individual county to set the requirements for gun show background checks. In Broward, an ordinance was enacted in 2007 that requires a five-day waiting period for all gun sales, which are contingent upon passing a national background check.

That last part, according to Florida Statute 790.065, means that the individual can’t have previously been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor for domestic violence. It also means that he or she can’t have been adjudicated mentally “defective,” or in other words lacking normal intelligence or suffering from some mental illness.

And under federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 923, no one can engage in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing firearms or ammunition unless he or she has received a license from the attorney general to do so.

Weapons charges can be prosecuted at either the state or federal level – it really depends on the primary investigating agency.

Gun owners who sell weapons for a hobby are allowed by state law to sell a limited number without a license, but they can only do so as a hobby. Once it becomes a more significant part of a person’s income, it is then considered a part-time business and, as such, requires more licensing and compliance with federal regulations.

Depending on where you are and the nature of your sales, gun laws are not only controversial, they can be quite complex. This is why you should never assume that you have no choice but to plead guilty. A skilled defense attorney will be able to analyze your case from all angles to determine whether prosecutors indeed have enough evidence to convict you, or whether the charges can be plead down or whether you have a good shot at winning if your case goes to trial.

In this case, according to the Sun-Sentinel, a 55-year-old retired Miami Beach officer reportedly sold 11 firearms to agents who were acting undercover in the three years between 2009 and 2012. Prosecutors say there were records at the officer’s home that indicated he had actually sold hundreds of guns to buyers at gun shows in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando and Fort Myers, without ever conducting the background checks that are required by licensed dealers.

According to prosecutors, the officer at one time did have a federal firearms license. However, it had expired and he had not taken the time to renew it. He maintained that he never sold to anyone who didn’t have a permit to carry conceal weapons. Such documents would reflect that a state agency did in fact conduct a background check at some point prior to the sale.

Of course, that’s not full-proof and it’s not the same as a formal background check.

And the state did reportedly have evidence that the former officer knew his actions were illegal. In fact, he allegedly told them so during one of the deals. In all, they say he was paid more than $6,100 for 11 handguns.
(more…)

Palm Beach Burglary Investigation Leads to Major Drug Bust

Two West Boca men are facing drug manufacturing charges after officers investigating an alleged burglary found evidence of synthetic marijuana manufacturing.

Our Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers understand the case started back in August, but didn’t result in arrests until late last month.

It will be interesting in this case to see whether defense attorneys will try to suppress evidence obtained during the initial search of the premises, as there was no warrant. Under the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine, all evidence obtained during an illegal search or interrogation may be deemed inadmissible in court. This means not just the evidence obtained in the search or interrogation, but anything discovered as a result.

In this case, the detectives reported they were responding to a burglary at a warehouse just west of Boca Raton. The detectives then entered the warehouse. They did not find any burglars, but they did find evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. Media reports don’t indicate who owned the warehouse and whether he or she was the one to call authorities. That could be a crucial point because if he or she did not grant permission to enter the premises, the contents of that initial search could be suppressed.

Once detectives found evidence that individuals were making and packaging synthetic marijuana, they went back to a judge to obtain a formal search warrant for the property.

They then returned in short order and searched the property again, finding six-foot tall bins with clear baggies marked with a label that said “cannabinoid free.” Although the labels indicated the product was potpourri, the detective stated in the affidavit that from his experience, potpourri products don’t typically contain such a warning.

Investigators also found a machine that is typically used for sealing packets. The packets were labeled with titles such as “Strawberry Blast,” “Voodoo” and “Da Bomb.” In all, there were some 235 pounds of the substance confiscated from the search.

Detectives sent samples of the contents of those packets, with the tests coming back positive for synthetic marijuana.

Perhaps most damning were the contents of more than a dozen spiral notebooks found on the scene. There were notes allegedly addressed to each defendant, invoices and transaction logs. There were also copies of the defendants’ driver’s licenses, which led detectives right to their door.

Sale of synthetic marijuana and other substances have already been specifically banned by officials in Broward County. Leaders in Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County are mulling similar measures. In Broward, punishment for violation of the county ordinance is a $500 fine and two months in jail. But that measure primarily applies to shop owners who are selling the substance.

Manufacturing of it comes with harsher penalties. Florida Statute 893.13 states that it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, sell or posses with intent to sell, any controlled substance. To do so, the law states, is a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years of incarceration.
(more…)

U.S. v. Peoples – Proper Courtroom Etiquette in Broward County

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers want our clients to understand that anytime you enter a courtroom – no matter if it’s state or federal, civil or criminal – there is a certain etiquette that must be observed.

It’s understandable that many people aren’t familiar with this etiquette, as most people don’t spend every day in a courtroom. But failing to follow these basic guidelines can reflect poorly upon you and your defense, and in some cases, might even result in additional criminal sanctions for contempt of court.

That was the case in U.S. v. Peoples, decided last month in by the South Carolina District Court. This was an individual who had brought multiple civil claims before the court. On the day of jury selection, he showed up late to court. The judge warned him not to allow it to happen again.

But it did, on the first day of trial. The judge warned that if he was late again, she would dismiss his case with prejudice. That trial concluded without further issue.

Then the second trial began. The plaintiff was again late on the first day. The judge called him into her chambers, where he explained he was stranded on the interstate with a flat tire. The judge confirmed his version of events with roadside assistance personnel, who stated the vehicle was not drivable. From then on, she directed a court marshal to transport him to court in the morning.

This may have been the end of it, but then throughout the course of the second trial, it’s alleged that the plaintiff became “disruptive and disrespectful.” He was cautioned that he would be found in contempt if he continued.

Then the third trial began. On the first day, he was again late to court. When the judge scolded him, he reportedly muttered something disrespectful. Then the next day, he was 15 minutes late again. As a result, the judge dismissed his case. He responded by muttering an expletive at the judge. He then left the courtroom, only to return and begin swearing at the court reporter, making negative statement about the judge.

A court security guard escorted him out. The next day, the judge ordered a hearing for the man to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt. He was more than an hour late for that hearing.

Two trials were held for two criminal contempt charges. He was sentenced to four months and then 30 days, respectively.

Upon appeal, the appellate court affirmed the first conviction and reversed the second on a technicality. However, the case is an example of how improper courtroom conduct can impact a case.

In addition to ensuring you are on time and at all times refrain from using profane language, here are some other courtroom etiquette tips:

1. Dress appropriately. Don’t show up in jeans, mini skirts, tennis shoes, saggy pants, spandex or belly shirts. If you don’t own a suit or other dress clothes, wear plain jeans with a button up, collared shirt and close-toed shoes. Dress as if you were going for a job interview or attending church.

2. Toss your candy or gum. The judge will see it as a sign of disrespect, and may even ask you to throw it away.

3. Turn off your cell phone. If you must have it on in case of emergency, make sure it is on vibrate.

4. Come prepared. Have all of your paperwork with you, and perhaps an extra copy just in case the prosecutor or judge needs another copy. Have these documents organized in a neat folder or binder. Your criminal defense lawyer can instruct you what, if any, paperwork you need to have prior to coming to court.

6. Be respectful. This includes to the judge, to court officers, to the lawyers and to others in the courtroom. It’s certainly understandable that you are going through a wide range of emotions and you are under a great deal of stress. But punching doorways or kicking benches or cursing is likely to land you in contempt of court.

7. When you are speaking to the judge, be sure to use either the term, “Your Honor” or the judge’s last name. Do not attempt to argue with the judge. Similarly, when addressing the prosecutor, it’s considered respectful to use the terms “sir” or “ma’am.” In many cases, you may not need to address the judge at all. Having a skilled attorney means we do most of the talking for you and can instruct you on when it’s appropriate – or not appropriate – to speak.
(more…)

Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

Florida Criminal Lawyers

1200 S Pine Island Rd #220 Plantation, FL 33324
(954) 424-7433 954-424-2200
2160 W Atlantic Ave 2nd Floor Delray Beach, FL 33445
(561) 922-8103 561-988-8100