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trial_by_google.jpgA drug trial in Florida earlier this year ended in a mistrial after the judge discovered that nine jurors had ignored instructions not to do their own research online. Increasingly, jurors are conducting Google searches on defendants, digging evidence that may have been intentionally excluded, and checking Wikipedia for definitions of legal terms.

This new phenomenon scares judges so much that legal experts have created a new term: “Google mistrials.”

Retrials are expensive and can create a blacklog. But more importantly, when jurors do their own sleuthing, it can undermine the justice system and deprive dependants of a fair trial. Prior convictions are generally not admissible in court, yet if jurors Google a DUI defendant they might discover that the defendant has a history of prior convictions and that can taint their opinion. Of course, that information could be incomplete or completely inaccurate. It’s an issue that lawyers and judges will be facing more and more as an increasing number of jurors become tech-savvy.

Source: Mistrial by Google, Boston Globe, November 6, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_attorney.jpgA recent article in the Panama City News Herald brings up an issue that our criminal defense law firm has noticed for years: the “death burden.” That is, the tendency of jurors to convict defendants in more serious cases such as murder as compared with crimes such as DUI or domestic violence.

As the article correctly points out, jurors in county court, where DUI and domestic violence are common cases, tend to empathize with the defendant, perhaps thinking back to an incident when they might have gotten charged with a similar crime themselves. In circuit court, on the other hand, defendants are convicted at a higher rate, despite the fact the burned of proof in both misdemeanor and felony trials are the same (beyond a reasonable doubt). And in both scenarios, jurors are told that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

This issue highlights why it’s so important for those charged with a crime to choose an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure the best possible legal counsel. A skilled lawyer knows how to handle this challenge and build a persuasive case.

Source: The little courtroom: County court is where trial attorneys are made, NewsHerald.com, October 31, 2009 Continue reading

Broward County Traffic Defense Attorney Brian S. Leifert has just learned that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office will be unleashing their latest weapon in an effort to better enforce local traffic rules. The Sheriff’s Office will be utilizing at least one new Dodge Challenger R/T (pictured below) hoping to curb aggressive and reckless driving around Broward County.

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Report: Broward Country Sheriff’s Office Unveils Dodge Challenger R/T Cruiser
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computer_alibi.jpgA 19-year-old man who was recently arrested and charged as a suspect in a robbery case had the charges dropped after his criminal defense lawyer presented his Facebook profile as his alibi.

The robbery suspect had typed an updated on October 17 at 11:49am, which was the same time as the crime he was accused of. The district attorney subpoenaed Faceboo to verify that the update had been at the suspect’s father’s home in Harlem. Once Facebook confirmed that detail, the robbery charges were dropped.

This is apparently the first time that a Facebook page has been used an alibi; however, social networking sites have been used as prosecutorial evidence. In one burglary case, the alleged burglar checked his Facebook page and left it open, leading police to the suspect. Social networking sites are also sometimes used in civil cases; for instance, to prove cheating in a divorce case.

Source: His Facebook Status Now? ‘Charges Dropped’, New York Times, November 11, 2009 Continue reading

As noted in a recent St. Petersburgh Times article, Florida has the highest rate in the nation of locking up children for life even when the crime did not result in death. The state also transfers more children to the adult prison system and tries more juveniles as adults. At its highest point in the mid-nineties, Florida had around eight thousand transfers.

Burglary was the crime that most commonly got juvenile offenders into the adult justice system. Florida is among the 15 states that give prosecutors “direct file,” that is, the ability to put juveniles into adult court at their discretion. Florida statutes dictate that for certain violent crimes, like murder, prosecutors must direct file or seek indictment. Aside from those cases, prosecutors generally look at the defendant’s circumstances, particularly when they are a repeat offender, to determine if they should be charged as adults.

Despite high crime rates in the 1990’s, Miami Dade County is now seen as a national model for effective juvenile justice, because the county focuses on getting services for first-time offenders based on needs rather than their crimes.

Source: Florida leads nation in locking up kids in adult jails, TampaBay.com, November 12, 2009 Continue reading

FL_Criminal_Record.JPGOur South Florida criminal defense lawyers recently read a Wall Street Journal article that discusses the impact of criminal records on job seekers. Because of increased competition for jobs and the relative ease with which employers can conduct background searches, more and more job applicants are looking for ways to legally clear up their criminal records so they can compete for job openings. According to the article, 80% of companies performed background checks in 2006, while less than half performed background checks just eight years earlier.

Here in Florida, the state has sealed or expunged close to 15,000 criminal records in the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of 43% over the previous year. The laws vary by state, but generally felonies like armed robbery or sexual assault cannot removed from one’s criminal record, while lesser crimes like shoplifting, petit theft or possessing a small amount of marijuana can be sealed or expunged depending on the details of the case.

When a criminal record is sealed, it means that the public does not have access to it, but certain governmental or law enforcement agencies may view the information. Expunging a record means that the details cannot be accessed without a court order, but those entities would be informed the person’s criminal information has been expunged from their record.

Source: More Job Seekers Scramble To Erase Their Criminal Past, Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2009 Continue reading

In a Marion County Courthouse earlier this month, a Florida criminal defense lawyer was reportedly handcuffed and arrested by a court bailiff. Henry Ferro says Anthony Riggins violated his civil rights by touching him without permission and falsely arresting him. Ferro was in court to help a client enter a change of plea on a violation of probation when the bailiff told him to move into the audience area.

The lawyer apparently left the courtroom, and Riggins followed him outside, where he arrested him. Riggins was put on suspended leave with pay after the incident. Ferro, who formed criminal defense law practice in 2001, filed a complaint with the Ocala Police Department and contacted the State Attorney’s Office about possible criminal charges.

The incident remains under investigation.

 

 
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BROWARD COUNTY DUI LAWYER – Sobriety Checkpoints tonight (Friday, November 13, 2009) in Hollywood, Florida and Tamarac, Florida.

The Florida Highway Patrol will conduct a safety (ahem! . . . sobriety) checkpoint tonight in west Hollywood beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Southwest 56th Avenue and Southwest 24th Street.

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Office will also be conducting a DUI checkpoint in Tamarac, Florida starting at 10:00 p.m. at the 3600 block of West Commercial Blvd.

The BSO DUI Task Force will be present to enforce DUI laws.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel 11/13/09, Unlucky day for unsafe, impaired South Florida motorists
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Our Delray Beach Florida criminal defense lawyers have been reading about Atlantic High School’s Criminal Justice Academy. Since 2002, the Academy has helped Delray students interested in law enforcement to learn more about the field. Students learned about what it takes to be a police officer and how to write traffic tickets, preparing them to major in criminal justice or other fields. Due to budget cuts, however, the Delray Beach had considered eliminating the program.

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But the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, totaling $70,375, will allow the criminal justice program to continue.

The Delray Beach police department also received a $289,582 grant to help fund the Holiday Robbery Tack Force, reconfiguring driving simulators, and additional police vehicles. The United State Department of Justice allows state and local government to support a range of activities to prevent and control crime. Both grants are from the Department of Justice.

Source: Grant helps save Criminal Justice Academy at Delray Beach high school, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 28, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_handgun.jpgA Palm Beach County Judge recently released a 46-year-old Woodbury man who shot and killed an unarmed teenager five years ago, ending his 10-year probation five years early. Jay Levin shot a 16-year-old in the back on the night of October 24, 2003. The teen had been playing a game of ring and run with a friend when he was shot in the back with a .40-caliber handgun.

Levin reportedly told police he thought he’d seen a large figure holding a gun outside his home. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a firearm. His plea deal included 10 years’ probation, 1,250 hours of community service, and a year of “short weekends” in jail. The deal also included a clause stating that Levin could request early termination of probation if he satisfied the terms of his agreement after five years.

While the lawyer for the boy’s parents said there were disappointed by the judge’s decision of early termination of probation, Levin’s defense attorney insisted that his client does feel remorse about the deadly shooting and has taken responsibility for his actions.

Source: Judge ends probation for man who shot teen, South Florida Sun Sentinel, November 6, 2009 Continue reading

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