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Florida_laser_beam.jpgEarlier this month, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning to the public that misusing a laser lighting device is a third-degree felony. If the light is deliberately pointed at and harms someone operating a boat, car, or aircraft, it is a second-degree felony. And if the aircraft crashes as a result of the laser beam, it becomes a first-degree felony.

In the past year, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office has fielded about 20 complaints about laser beams from pilots and air traffic controllers at Palm Beach International Airport. According to a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, the most recent incident occurred on October 10 when someone shined a laser beam into the cockpit of a JetBlue flight for approximately two minutes over the Palm Beach Gardens area.

Those with information on the misuse of a laser are asked to report it to authorities.

Blind a driver, boater or pilot with a laser and get a felony, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 14, 2009 Continue reading

Plantation, Florida –

The City of Plantation’s police department has some recommendations and tips for a safe Halloween. Our main Broward County criminal defense law firm is located in Plantation and we thought we would pass some of their ideas along to our readers.

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The focus here is obviously the children – their safety primarily, but also trying to limit any legal exposure – both criminal and civil. Our Plantation Criminal Defense Attorneys always see a spike in juvenile criminal cases on Halloween.

Halloween safety tips from the Plantation Police Department:

•Try to use sidewalks whenever possible.

•Walk facing traffic.

•Carry a flashlight to increase visibility.

•Have the children stay in your own neighborhood if possible.

•Don’t damage other people’s property. Just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean the police will look the other way. The Plantation police department will still prosecute vandalism, theft and criminal mischief and any other juvenile criminal offense.

For more tips, see the Sun-Sentinel’s article, Halloween safety tips
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Our Broward prostitution defense attorneys have learned that authorities in South Florida arrested 84 people last week in a three-day sweep that was aimed at finding underage girls who were forced into prostitution. Operation Cross Country IV was a joint task force with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and Miami-Dade, Miami Beach, and Miami police.

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In Broward County, the task force arrested nine people. Seventy-five people were arrested in Miami-Dade County, and twenty-four of those were arrested on Miami Beach. Authorities also say a 14-year-old girl was rescued in the Miami Beach prostitution sweep.

The arrests were made on a variety of charges such as deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution, transportation for prostitution, possession of cocaine, and offering to engage in prostitution.

84 arrested in Miami-Dade, Broward counties as part of anti-prostitution operation, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 26, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_teens.jpgAccording to statistics from Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice, the number of youths charged with violent felonies dropped 7% statewide between fiscal year 2003-2004 and 2007-2008. The decrease was 2% in Broward County, 12% in Palm Beach County, and 13% in Miami-Dade County. The drop in juvenile crime rates came despite a rise in population.

Crime experts attribute the decrease to better support programs for teens and a general drop in crime levels, including teenage crime. Another factor may be the departure from zero-tolerance policies from the past. For instance, instead of automatic arrest an officer can now turn minors over to the wrath of their parents.

While overall statistics show a drop in juvenile crime, several recent incidents in South Florida show that teens are still committing violent crimes. Last month, a 17-year-old Miami student stabbed a teen classmate to death at Coral Gables High School. And in 2008, a 12-year-old Lauderhill boy bludgeons his infant cousin to death with a baseball bat.

Brutal cases aside, juvenile crime down in South Florida, figures show, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 14, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_highway.jpgOur South Florida traffic attorneys recently read about how open-road tolling is reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents on toll roads. Open-road tolling means that Florida drivers with electronic transponders drive beneath an overpass that deducts the toll from their accounts, eliminating the need for them to use tollbooths.

Before Orange County started using open-road tolling, the county recorded hundreds of tollbooth accident each year, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in car and tollbooth damages. Between 2001 and 2005, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority recorded more than 200 crashes per year in its tollbooths. That number reached 303 in 2005.

Expressways are much safer with the use of open-road tolling. In fact, records show a 61% drop in tollbooth crashes. A spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol said opening up the highway’s lanes and clearing away construction around tollbooths has significantly improved traffic safety.

Good news: New toll plazas reduce crashes, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 13, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_alcohol_law.jpgEarlier this month, the Delray Beach City Commission voted unanimously to allow restaurants bars to begin selling alcohol at 7am instead of at noon. However, the new law still forbids the sale of alcohol for drinking “off premise,” so it will not apply to supermarkets and convenience stores.

Not surprisingly, restaurant owners support creating a wider window for alcohol sales to compete with bars and restaurants in the surrounding area. Still, some worry the new law might be unfair to supermarkets and convenience stores. Stores in Boynton Beach and unincorporated Palm Beach County are allowed to sell booze after 7am. But in Boca Raton, the law prohibits liquor sales before 1pm on Sundays.

The city will vote on the topic again at the next city commission meeting.

Delray considers early alcohol sales on Sundays, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 7, 2009 Continue reading

In the past several years, Miami-Dade police have charged over 50,000 people with so-called “quality of life” misdemeanors like being in a park after hours, selling flowers by the side of the road, and drinking beer near a liquor store. All of these cases were processed by the county’s already overburdened court system, and many of the charges were later dismissed.

The County Commission will be reviewing a report later this month to decide if these “nuisance laws” should be lifted. Currently there are 18 seemingly minor misdeeds that are on the books as crimes punishable by jail time. Those who support the decriminalization movement say it would allow police to focus on more serious crimes such as domestic violence, homicide, or assault.

Broward County has fewer cases, so there is no decriminalization movement in that country.

Miami-Dade County’s costly `nuisance laws’ could get the ax, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 12, 2009 Continue reading

911_phone_calls.jpgWhen John Tabbutt, of Winter Springs, called 911 about accidentally shooting his bride-to-be the night before their wedding, he was sobbing hysterically and asked the dispatcher to send an ambulance immediately. But when James Robert Ward placed a similar call to 911 on September 21, he told the dispatcher calmly and politely, “I just shot my wife … she’s dead.”

This contrast highlights an important issue that detectives have been studying: how a 911 caller’s demeanor can clue in investigators to potential crime suspects. Ward pleaded not guilty to a second-degree-murder charge and is out on bond as his case develops. Tabbutt has not been arrested.

Since 911 calls are recorded and sometimes the information in those conversations contradicts the suspect’s alibi, they can be useful information for crminal investigators. Of course, people react differently in a crisis, so that information isn’t always reliable.

Are you innocent or guilty? 911 call may tell, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 15, 2009 Continue reading

Parking_Lot.jpgAccording to a 2003 study released by the American Automobile Association, drivers without a valid license are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers who have a legal license. Traditionally, law enforcement agencies don’t actively pursue unlicensed drivers.

But in Palm Beach County, teams of state troopers and deputies have been cracking down on unlicensed drivers. In fact, they have been ordered to stake out courthouses and apprehend drivers attempting to pull out of the parking after losing their driver’s license. Since the crackdown started in September, over a dozen drivers whose licenses were suspended by a judge have been arrested and their vehicles towed, according to officials.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this approach. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer said he feels tax dollars would be better spent policing more serious issues like violent crime. Although officials say they are planning additional operations in Miami-Dade and Broward county, they would not disclose the details.

New tactic from law enforcement agencies nabs unlicensed drivers, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 7, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_texting.JPGLast week, Parkland’s City Commission voted unanimously to approve a ban on text messaging while driving within Parkland city limits. The ban was prompted by a recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study that found drivers who text while behind the wheel are 23 times as likely to be involved in a car accident compared to other drivers. Commissioner Jared Moskowitz reportedly proposed the ban.

Florida drivers face a $100 fine for texting while driving, but on-duty police and fire officials are exempt. However, deputies are currently issuing warnings while the city awaits a ruling from the state Attorney General’s Office on the legality of a text messaging ban.

Some believe that text messaging while driving as is dangerous as drunk driving or dui, especially for younger, less experienced drivers.

Parkland bans texting while driving, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 7, 2009
Florida could ban texting while driving, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 26, 2009.
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