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Florida_cars.jpgOur Miami DUI defense attorneys have been following a news story out of Illinois. A judge ruled that the state law aimed at penalizing repeat DUI offenders by giving police the authority to seize their vehicles is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the statute gives the state too broad an authority, saying the law violates the due process clauses protected in both state and federal constitutions.

The ruling came out of a case involving three men who claimed the law did not allow defendants to petition a judge for return of their vehicles until their drunk driving case was resolved. Seized vehicles are periodically auctioned off or assigned to local law enforcement officers for their use.

Anti-drunk driving groups say the damages imposed on the vehicle’s co-owners or family members are far less than the greater public good. The county’s attorney apparently hopes to appeal the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.

Source: Illinois Judge Rules Seizure of Drunk Drivers’ Vehicles is Unconstitutional, DUI.com, November 25, 2009 Continue reading

FL_drug_court.JPGTwenty years ago, Miami set up the nation’s first drug court as a way to get nonviolent offenders into court-supervised drug rehab programs instead of spending time in jail. Now over 2,300 drug courts have sprung up around the country, and the Obama administration hopes to boost funding to drug courts, because these specialized courts are currently only available to a very small percentage of drug offenders.

The problem, according to advocates for drug courts, is a lack of money. There are currently about 1.2 million drug-addicted offenders and the $64 million in federal funds received by drug courts this year are not enough to treat all those who need it. The drug court association says that would take about $1.5 billion over six years, as well as matching funding from states.

Some defense attorneys say that prosecutors tend not to choose defendants with serious drug problems and that requiring defendants to plead guilty in order to get into drug courts is unfair. Still, there is evidence that the programs are working. About three quarters of drug court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two years after completing the program.

Source: Drug courts successful for few who get in, Associated Press, November 30, 2009 Continue reading

Earlier this year, Travis the chimpanzee made headlines for attacking a woman unprovoked, ripping off her nose, hands, lips, and eyelids. She was left blind with multiple other injuries. The woman’s attorneys had filed a $50 million lawsuit against the chimp’s owner, but prosecutors announced in December that the owner will not face criminal charges.

An attorney for the state of Connecticut said there is nothing to indicate that the 200-pound chimp’s owner knew the animal was dangerous and ignored that danger. The chimp was reportedly shot and killed by police. Prior to the incident this year, the animal had escaped from his owner’s car in 2003 and led police on a chase for several hours.

Wildlife experts say the incident should serve as a reminder that chimps are unpredictable and unsuitable as pets.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgPvif2hSWs

Source: Chimp’s owner won’t face charges in attack, USAToday.com, December 8, 2009 Continue reading

Florida_criminal_record.jpgWhile the laws in 41 states allow those accused or convicted of crimes to have their criminal records expunged, that right is being challenged by the proliferation of large commercial databases. Records that were once only available only to law enforcement agencies, courts, and corrections departments are now being digitized and sold in bulk to the private sector.

The trouble is that these databases are not always updated when someone’s criminal record is expunged, so those arrests or convictions can still show up in criminal background checks requested by employers or landlords. While these database companies claim that they are careful about updating records to reflect expungements, lawyers and other legal experts say that people do lose housing or jobs because of information that should have not expunged and was not.

In fact, a few lawsuits have illuminated this problem. One suit filed in federal court in 2006 involved a 33-year-old man who was convicted of disorderly conduct ten years prior and had a job offer rescinded because of misinformation in his background check.

Source: Expunged Criminal Records Live to Tell Tales, New York Times, October 17, 2006 Continue reading

football_team.jpgAt Michigan State, nine football players have been charged with misdemeanors in connection with a fight that broke out at a fraternity potluck dinner last month. Each of the nine players is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an assault and battery, punishable by up to one year in prison. The players also face at least one count each of assault or assault and battery, punishable with a maximum 93-day term in jail.

Two of the players who were charged with misdemeanors have been kicked off the team and five others were suspended. None of the suspended players will be able to play in the Alamo Bowl on January 2. Some wonder if charging several players is a legal strategy aimed at getting the truth out of the players, since charging one or two might not get the full the story about the altercation.

The incident is still under investigation.

Source: Legal strategy at issue in Michigan State altercation, Freep.com, December 10, 2009 Continue reading

Last month, a Florida man shot a black bear near his home in Shalimar. Although there are no legal means of killing a bear in Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission makes recommendations on whether the person should be charged. In this case, the bear reportedly lunged at the man popped her teeth.

black_bear.jpgA report from the commission says the 52-year-old man thought she was going to attack and shot her to defend himself, not intending to kill the mother bear. The report also states that the man was unsure who to call to report the incident, so he called his neighbor, an Okaloosa County Commissioner. The neighbor called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to report a bear in the area, and the man called the agency the next morning to report the shooting.

Although some local conservationists have criticized the man for killing the bear, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has recommended against criminal charges for the man.

Source: 7:00 P.M. UPDATE: Man who shot mother bear won’t be charged (REPORT), NWFDailyNews.com, December 8, 2009 Continue reading

A recent article in the New York Times discusses a growing phenomenon among the left and right wing people who believe that the criminal justice system has gotten too big for its britches. While some conservatives once supported the tough-on-crime stance of the Republican party, many now worry that prosecutors have taken things too far.

According to the conservative research group the Heritage Foundation, the federal code now includes more than 4,400 criminal offenses. Many of these offenses do not require prosecutors to prove criminal intent in the traditional ways. A book by a civil liberties attorney in Massachusetts states that all Americans violate federal criminal law every day, because it’s too vague.

Several upcoming cases will examine the boundaries of the federal government. For instance, United States v. Comstock will go before the Supreme Court in January and test whether Congress has the constitutional right to authorize the continued confinement of people convicted of sex crimes after they have served their criminal sentences. Our South Florida criminal defense attorneys will be interested in watching this case unfold and seeing how the issue develops over the next several months.

Source: Right and Left Join Forces on Criminal Justice, New York Times, November 23, 2009 Continue reading

Breathalyzer_Florida.jpgAccording to state records, about a third of Florida drivers charged with drunk driving refused to take a Breathalyzer test in 2008. Many Florida drivers are not aware that they have the legal right to refuse a Breathalyzer test.

However, there are penalties for refusing a Breathalyzer test. The first refusal results in a one year driver’s license suspension, even if t he driver is not found to be legally drunk. The second refusal can result in an 18-month license suspension and criminal charges of a first-degree misdemeanor.

Some Florida attorneys are pushing for tougher penalties on drivers who refuse to a Breathalyzer test. And last month, the Vero Beach Police Department became the first police agency on the Treasure Coast to get a search warrant for taking blood samples in DUI cases where the driver refuses a Breathalyzer test.

Source: More than a third of all Floridians charged with DUI refuse Breathalyzer test, TCPalm.com, December 3, 2009 Continue reading

Our Pompano Beach attorneys are following a developing news story about the city’s potential plans to form its own police department. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Broward Sheriff’s Office sold cities on its ability to offer police protections for less than local governments; however an audit in May discovered that Broward County paid over $21 million to subsidize police and fire services in the 14 cities contracting with the sheriff.

Leaders in Pompano Beach believe that ending their decade-long relationship with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and hiring its own officers may help the Pompano save money. The city pays the Sheriff’s Office $38.8 million for its police services each year, but a study conducted in July shows that re-creating a Pompano Police Department could cost $64.9 over the first two years.

If Pompano Beach follows through on its plan, it would become the first city in 15 years to end its police service contract with the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Source: Pompano considers ending contract with Sheriff’s Office, South Florida Sun Sentinel, December 1, 2009 Continue reading

Palm Beach County, Florida – Palm Beach County DUI Lawyer Douglas Leifert has just learned that the city of Palm Beach Gardens has scheduled a sobriety checkpoint for December 11, 2009. The DUI Checkpoint will be conducted by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department from 11:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M. in the 3350 block of Northlake Boulevard.

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Palm Beach Gardens Police will be prepared to arrest individuals for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

PB Gardens warns of sobriety checkpoint, www.wptv.com, December 8, 2009.
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