Florida DUI Arrests Could Increase With Reduced BAC Limits

If the National Transportation Safety Board has anything to say about it, the national standard for intoxication behind the wheel will soon be slashed from a blood-alcohol content level of 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.

Our Fort Lauderdale DUI attorneys understand this proposal recommends all 50 states and/or Congress pass a measure enacting the new standard.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Clinton Administration strong-armed all 50 states and the District of Columbia into enacting the 0.08 percent standard back in 2000 by threatening to withhold highway construction money from any state that defied the order.

Prior to that, the standard BAC intoxication threshold was 0.10 to .15 percent. Now, a motorist testing .15 percent may face additional sanctions for testing nearly twice the legal limit.

Over the last several years, we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of motor vehicle deaths throughout the country. Advocates for stronger DUI laws indicate that this is primarily due to the more stringent laws that have been enacted. However, they discount some critical facts in that equation: We have cars that are better designed, we have highways that are better maintained, we have higher seat belt usage and more motorcyclists and bicyclists wearing helmets.

Advocates argue that, “If we save one life, it’s worth it.” Certainly, we don’t want anyone to be injured or killed. However, as Sarah Longwell of the restaurant trade association the American Beverage Institute noted, this kind of change would essentially criminalize behavior that is perfectly responsible. We’d be thrusting the burden of a criminal record – and all the time, expense and other penalties – upon individuals who are doing nothing wrong.

What’s more, this kind of action targets adults who are responsible, social drinkers who engage in moderate consumption. It has no bearing whatsoever on individuals who are hardcore, heavy drinkers who cause a huge portion of alcohol-related fatalities.

Beer Institute president Joe McClain has been quoted as saying that rather than go after social drinkers, the NTSB should narrow its efforts to areas where the government may be most likely to get results. That is, by increasing penalties on repeat offenders or those with a BAC of 0.15 percent or more.

Interestingly, not even Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is fully supporting this initiative, primarily because the agency says it won’t be effective in actually curbing drunk driving injuries or fatalities. It will only result in more arrests.

A spokesman for MADD said that while the group favored other NTSB initiatives, such as mandatory ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders and administrative license revocation, which allows officers to seize a person’s license at the time of arrest, the lowering of the legal BAC would have little impact on the overall death toll.

Changing the definition of drunk, the spokesman said, does little to solve the problem. Still, the group contended it isn’t going to oppose the measure, but rather, focus its advocacy efforts on other measures it anticipates will be more effective.

Rash of Recent South Florida Child Abuse Arrests, Police Report

There have been a rash of recent child abuse charges in South Florida, and our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys want to make sure that anyone facing charges of this nature are fully aware of their rights.

We recognize how devastating these kind of allegations can be, not only for your career, but also for your family. Some people end up being torn apart by it.

It becomes much harder to make amends when a person spends a significant amount of time in jail or prison for something they either did not do or that was taken out of context or exaggerated.

The allegations lodged just over the last month in South Florida run the gamut, and show just how broadly our child abuse statutes can be applied.

First, there was a 50-year-old special needs teacher accused of cruelty toward a child by inflicting physical harm. He is being held on $2,500 bond after a 9-year-old autistic child accused him of shoving his head to the floor sometime last year. While we do know that children with special needs are potentially vulnerable to abuse, we also know that they can’t necessarily be held as reliable witnesses. Their perception of time and interpretation of other facts may lead them to exaggerate details that would be critical in a case like this particularly as there is apparently no physical or video evidence.

The second case involves a Lake Worth man accused of shaking his infant son and causing brain damage. The 5-month-old was reportedly in his father’s care before his mother returned home to find him sleeping, yet displaying odd moans and movements. She called 911, and the child’s injuries were believed to have been consistent with someone shaking it -retinal hemorrhages in both eyes, brain swelling and brain death – all likely to lead to the child’s death. The father at one point said he dropped the child while giving it a bath, but then later told a detective he shook the baby because he was frustrated. He is charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect, though he could be charged with murder if the child dies.

The third case involves a Coral Springs woman who reportedly struck her son on the head with an iron after learning he had stolen food from a nearby store. The boy, who was believed to be in middle school, told investigators he was forbidden from opening the refrigerator and ate once daily. The wounds from the iron reportedly were left untreated for about a week, though it’s unclear how those may have gone unnoticed by school officials. The mother is charged with cruelty toward a child, child neglect and contributing tot he delinquency of a child.

In a fourth recent case, a Boynton Beach woman is accused of making her 17-year-old niece kneel on a metal cheese grater for several hours at a time as punishment for skipping school. Other previous punishments included beatings with a belt and a threat to poke the child’s eyes out. The woman would later tell investigators that she sometimes slaps the girl because she becomes frustrated in dealing with her, but she denied beating her or the cheese grater punishment. She was arrested on a charge of child abuse.

These kinds of charges have the potential for a defendant to serve many years in prison if convicted, per Florida Statute 827.03.

If you are arrested, do not offer a statement to police and immediately request the representation of an attorney.

Broward Defense Lawyers Report Disappointing Florida Legislative Session

A number of bills that would have boosted protections and reduced penalties for criminal defendants in Florida have failed, ending what was ultimately a disappointing state legislative session in the view of our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers.

Among the measures that failed to gain steam: Protections for juvenile inmates, scrapping the death penalty, improved cell phone privacy measures and reduced penalties for low-level drug offenders and those charged with possession of paraphernalia.

Our hope is that at least some of these actions will be picked up once again in the next session, although success will require more support from voters. It’s in this vein that we’d like to further explore some of these failed measures of the 2013 session.

The first was House Bill 4005, which would have eliminated the death penalty in Florida, commuting the sentences of all pending death row cases to life in prison. This is a bill that has come up over and over again, each time with proponents arguing that the death penalty is unconstitutional. There are some states where such measure have actually been successful. Florida may have a ways to go before we reach join them. This time, it was shot down in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee – its very first stop.

Next up were SB 1350 and companion HB 963, both of which dealt with the issue of juvenile sentencing. These measures would have provided sentencing alternatives in cases where a juvenile committed a felony that would otherwise only be punishable by life in prison. Already, juveniles can’t be put to death, no matter what the crime. But it’s a strongly-supported view that life in prison for a crime one commits as a minor amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

These bills would have allowed that, under certain circumstances, the juvenile could potentially be eligible for a re-sentencing hearing after serving 25 years of their life sentence. Ultimately, both bills died on May 3.

Another troubling defeat also happened that day, with the demise of both SB 846 and twin bill HB 797. If these bills had passed, law enforcement agencies would have been required to obtain a search warrant before they could legally seize and search the contents of a portable electronic device, such as a cell phone. This is a critical protection because so many of the criminal cases we handle every day involve some type of electronic evidence, whether through e-mail, call logs, text messages, voicemails or private social media exchanges. When an officer seizes a person’s cell phone, he or she has access to all of this information – which is an unquestionably broad search and seizure for almost any kind of investigation. Requiring a warrant would ensure that access to this information would be narrow, limited to the case at hand, and not indicative of a fishing expedition – as so many of these situations have become.

And finally, there was the passage of HB 49, which makes the sale of pipes used to smoke marijuana and other drugs illegal, as well as the failure of HB 159, which would have reduced the minimum mandatory prison sentences for those accused of prescription pain medication abuse.

Palm Beach BUI Results in Felony Charges After Skull Fracture

A 23-year-old man from Jupiter is facing a number of serious charges in connection with a 2011 boating accident that occurred along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Our Palm Beach BUI lawyers understand that the defendant is accused of striking an illuminated channel marker while speeding near Marcinski Road. Four other passengers on the vessel were injured, one of them critically with a skull fracture.

The charges against him include leaving the scene of a boating accident with serious injury, and four counts of violation of inland navigation rules.

Although authorities believe he had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, it’s not clear whether they will actually charge him with that because he wasn’t tracked down until the following day, when any alcohol that might have been in his system at the time of the incident had dissipated.

Still, it seems there has been enough evidence for him to face the other charges, which were filed by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The FWC reported that the crash, which occurred almost exactly two years ago, left a 26-year-old male passenger with a fractured skull that required a 50-day hospital stay in West Palm Beach.

Witnesses said a group of people on a boat picked up the defendant from a home near the A1A bridge. From there, they went to a local tiki bar, and then to a rum bar. Over the course of the evening, it is believed that the defendant consumed somewhere between five and eight beers.

When the group left the second bar, he reportedly assumed control of the boat. As he drove, one of the other passengers reportedly instructed the defendant that he needed to lower his speed, as they were in a controlled speed zone.

However, this warning was not heeded. He was reportedly traveling at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour when he crashed into the channel marker.

The defendant then made it off the ship and fled, having a friend pick him up at a nearby gas station.

Officers found him the following day, with his girlfriend hiding behind a bar dumpster.

It’s not clear why it took so long to file these charges, but the latest was that he was being held in Palm Beach County Jail without bond.

BUI is charged similarly to DUI in that one is considered legally under the influence if he or she has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, per Florida Statute 327.35.

A first conviction carries a possible six month jail term, while a second carries a possible nine month jail term and a third within 10 years constitutes a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

If a BUI causes injury or property damage, it’s considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. If it causes serious injury, it’s a third-degree felony, again punishable by up to five years in prison.

If someone is killed, it’s a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If you kill someone and you leave the scene, it’s a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

These kinds of incidents are more common than you might realize, especially in Florida. As we enter the summer season, bear in mind that there are an estimated 4,800 recreational boating accidents each year, with nearly 750 fatalities.

So regardless of whether your under the influence charges occurs on land or on sea, you will need to secure the services of an experienced defense lawyer.

South Florida Arrest for Copper Theft Shows Trend Not Dead

It seemed for a while that copper thefts in South Florida may have tapered off.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know that at the bottom of the housing market, after the bubble burst, the real estate landscape was littered with vacant homes, many of which were left abandoned and unsecured, leaving them vulnerable to copper mining. This was exacerbated by the fact that the price of copper began to soar, starting in 2004.

The problem was universal across the country, as evidenced by a 2010 report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy, which had detailed legislative and law enforcement measures taken to curb the problem.

But it was particularly bad in Florida, which was central to the housing market crisis.

It has trended downward in the last several years, as the price of copper has also declined, as has the wealth of opportunity with fewer vacant, unsecured homes to which potential thieves have access.

However, a recent incident out of Davie illustrates the practice isn’t dead.

According to the Sun Sentinel, a 52-year-old man was arrested on charges of burglary, grand theft and battery, as well as several other unrelated charges.

The incident occurred at an electric company, where the defendant used to be employed.

The company owner said there had been three prior break-ins at the site within the past 30 days. He suspected a former employee was involved, but he had no proof.

So on a recent Monday night, he decided to stay on the property overnight, to see if he could catch the responsible parties.

The owner said he was awakened around 3:30 a.m. to the sound of someone hopping over the fence. He noted the suspect’s pickup truck outside the lot, and he quickly ran over and punctured the tires so that the individual would not be able to escape.

A few moments later, the owner said he saw the defendant attempting to climb over the fence with a large spool of copper wiring. The owner raced over to the edge of the fence and attempted to keep the defendant inside the yard by striking him with a stick through the holes of the fence. At one point, the defendant reportedly kicked the owner in the chest, causing him to fall to the ground.

The defendant did eventually make it to his vehicle. However, he soon was stranded, as his tires were flattened. Police arrived on the scene soon after and held him there until the owner of the company identified him.

The defendant gave a statement to the police, saying that while he had kicked the owner, he had never actually entered the yard.

Even at this point, it would appear the evidence favors the owner. Add to that then the fact that there was also surveillance video, which reportedly showed the defendant hopping the fence to the inside of the yard, grabbing a spool of copper wire from the back of the truck and tussling with the owner before he made it to his truck.

The video shows a man using some type of gray cloth to cover the lower portion of his face. A similar gray cloth was discovered in the back seat of the defendant’s truck.

That’s a heavy burden of proof for the defense to overcome, and it was likely made worse by the defendant giving a statement to police. We can not stress enough here in this blog how critical it is to practice your right to remain silent and request an attorney.

We don’t know the exact value of the copper taken in this case, but judging by the fact that he is charged with grand theft, we can assume that the property was worth at least $300. Typically, this is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

However, per Florida Statute 812.014, if the individual commits grand theft and also either uses a motor vehicle to assist in the offense and therefore damages the real property of another person or simply by virtue of the crime causes damage in excess of $1,000, he or she may then be charged with a first-degree felony. That is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

Florida Criminal Lawyers

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