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FL_patrol_car.jpgIn Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a former police officer was fired after an internal investigation found that he regularly drove at speeds in excess of 100 mph both on and off duty in his patrol car. The ex-officer was charged with fatally hitting a pedestrian in connection with a June, 2006 crash. He tearfully apologized to the family of the victim, but denied that driven as fast as was testified to.

In June, a jury acquitted the man of vehicular homicide.

He was convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving and sentenced to 60 days in jail, followed by six months of probation. He was also fined $250 and will serve 100 hours of community service.

Source: Ex-officer who fatally hit woman is sentenced, Miami Herald, July 23, 2010 Continue reading

Earlier this month, Gainesville, Florida’s “bong bill” went into effect, which bans the sale of bongs, pipes, and other devices used for smoking marijuana in stores that earn 25% or more of their annual revenue from these types of products. These types of stores are called “head shops.” Stores with a smaller focus on bongs and a more diverse product line are not affected.

Already, a class-action lawsuit has been filed that questions the law’s constitutionality, since it’s aimed at criminalizing behavior, but only at a certain type of business. One lawyer likened it to police being selective about what types of cars they pull over for speeding, which is not fair to drivers.

However, because there’s a legal precedent for regulating tobacco and alcohol-related products, it’s likely that the bill will stand. If that happens, people may continue purchasing these products by going to different stores or driving to other cities that don’t have such strict regulations.

Source: ‘Bong bill’ affects head shops, Alligator.org, July 6, 2010 Continue reading

Florida_police.jpgOur Broward County criminal defense lawyers have learned that an ex-Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) trooper based in Miami-Dade pleaded guilty last week to eight misdemeanor counts of falsifying public reports. He will spend almost a year in prison for falsifying hundreds of traffic tickets, which were issued to drivers who were never pulled over for traffic offenses. After being released from jail, he will also serve two years of probation and pay more than $8,00 in restitution.

Some of these Florida motorists were out of the country when they were allegedly pulled over for traffic violations, and in a few cases, actually had their driver’s license suspended. The 38-year-old former trooper allegedly wrote the traffic tickets using information from drivers had pulled over previously in order to boost the number of tickets reported to his supervisors. However, the FHP says it does not work on a quota system.

He was originally charged with 22 felony counts, but those charged were reduced after he agreed to permanently relinquish his law-enforcement certification. As of the result of the investigation associated with his case, the state dismissed over 200 traffic citations.

Source: Ex-FHP trooper gets jail time for falsifying tickets, Miami Herald, July 22, 2010 Continue reading

Phone_calls.jpgOur South Florida criminal defense lawyers recently read that the Polk County Sheriff’s office is now recording telephone calls between prison inmates and their legal counsel. The calls can be used as evidence against them. The change went into effect on July 1. Before new policy, the Sheriff’s Office had recorded calls but exempted lawyer-client calls.

A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court said inmates have no reasonable expectation of privacy if they know calls are being recorded. While the policy is in accordance with the law, some Florida attorneys worry that it could slow down the legal process, because they will need to visit clients in prison rather than handling questions over the phone.

Lawyers are still permitted to visit clients in private during face-to-face visits or discuss their cases through a secure videoconference link. Some worry that will take longer to resolve cases and that innocent people will be stuck in jail longer.

Source: Sheriff Says He Will Record Inmate Calls to Lawyers and Use Them as Evidence, TheLedger.com, June 21, 2010 Continue reading

viagra.jpgIn Davie, Florida, a 68-year-old man was arrested and charged with battery after slapping his wife with an open hand and pushing her to the floor.

According to a Davie police complaint, the man became angry when he arrived home and asked his wife for his Viagra medication. She reportedly told him she’d tossed them into the front yard, which sparked his outburst. The wife apparently told police that in 31 years, she’d never seen him that angry.

The man’s bail was set at $10,000 after the wife told the judge she was not afraid of her husband and that she thought he’d learned his lesson. The judge has ordered that the man accused of battery may only have indirect contact with his wife for the time being following his release.

Source: Dispute over Viagra leads to arrest for battery, South Florida Sun Sentinel, June 29, 2010 Continue reading

fingerprint.jpgOur South Florida criminal defense attorneys have learned that Florida is participating in a program called Secure Communities, which is designed to identify and deport criminal immigrants after they serve their prison sentence.

Here’s how the program works: when someone is arrested, booked, and fingerprinted, their information is automatically checked against immigration records. This only applies to those who are convicted of a crime, not those who are merely charged with a crime.

The program began in 2008, and should be nationwide by 2013. Palm Beach County joined in April. Broward and Miami-Dade counties joined in 2009. As of last month, all 67 Florida counties were participating.

While law enforcement has embraced the program, others have criticized it. Immigration activists say the program could violate the suspect’s presumption of innocence. We’ll be interested in seeing how this plays out. So far, more than 1,800 criminal immigrants have been deported through the program.

Source: Police to share fingerprint data with feds to ID criminal immigrants, South Florida Sun Sentinel, June 29, 2010 Continue reading

Our South Florida criminal defense attorneys have learned that the Florida Supreme Court will hire a full-time lawyer and create a panel to study how systemic flaws in Florida courts have sentenced innocent people to jail.

The Florida Legislature is funding the commission for one year to the tune of $200,000. The commission will explore issues such as false confessions, eyewitness misidentification, jailhouse informants, and police interrogation.

Since 200, eleven Florida inmates who were wrongly convicted have been freed thanks to DNA testing and the work of the Innocence Project Florida. Another inmate was exonerated after he died of cancer on death row.

Four of those wrongly convicted inmates were from Broward County. Brevard County had two inmates freed.

Source: Why are so many innocent people convicted of crimes? Florida Supreme Court wants to find out, Palm Beach Post, June 14, 2010 Continue reading

 

 

As Fox News points out, several DUI arrests over the past few months have involved Hollywood notables like Chris Klein, Jason Wahler, and Stephanie Pratt. Lindsay Lohan was also recently sentenced to 90 days in jail for violating her probation after arrested for drunk driving several years ago.

So, are more celebs driving drunk or are police simply getting more aggressive about arresting them?

According to a spokesperson from the Los Angeles Police Department, has implemented more DUI and sobriety checkpoints thanks to increased funding. Despite high-profile arrests of starlets like Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardasian, many celebs apparently believe that their fame will protect them from prosecution (some reporters claim this is the case but LAPD says otherwise).

Ironically, these celebrities have more than enough money to pay for a cab ride or even a chauffeur. Still, DUI arrests often have a negative impact on their careers and endorsement opportunities.

Source: Driving While Famous: Why Are More Stars Getting Busted for DUI? FoxNews.com, July 13, 2010 Continue reading

legal.jpgLast month, the Supreme Court ruled on the issue of criminal restitution. Until that point, federal law had required that judges decide restitution in criminal cases within ninety days of sentencing. But on June 14, they ruled that judges may order restitution payments after the ninety days have expired provided they state beforehand that they plan to order restitution.

The court was split 5 to 4 in this decision. Interestingly, this ruling had traditionally conservative and liberal judges voting on the same side.

The issue of criminal restitution and the ninety day limit emerged after Brian Dolan pleaded guilty to federal charges of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. The judge sentenced him to 21 months in prison and three years of supervised release, but said he had insufficient information to order full restitution at the time of sentencing. (Restitution was mandatory in Dolan’s case.)

The judge ordered Dolan to pay the victim over $100,000 in restitution, but the order was issued after ninety days had elapsed. The Tenth US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the restitution order.

Source: Supreme Court: judges have leeway on criminal restitution deadline, The Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2010 Continue reading

BMW.jpgBroward County has already had its share of political scandals. The latest to be charged in that saga is Tamarac Commissioner Patricia Atkins-Grad.

According to an article in The South Florida Business Journal, she allegedly received and failed to disclose a $2,300 lease payment for a BMW. The payment came from developers who were trying to get a building project approved. She voted to approve that project and is also accused of receiving $4,000 cash from the same builders for a victory party after she was elected to the commission in 2006.

Atkins-Grad is charged with bribery, official misconduct, and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. Bribery and unlawful compensation charges are considered second-degree felonies, carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for each count. The other charges are third-degree felonies and carry a maximum sentence of five years each. Her bond has been set at $15,500.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has suspended Atkins-Grad from the commission.

Source: Tamarac commissioner faces criminal charges, South Florida Business Journal, June 25, 2010 Continue reading

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