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Given that tourism is the economic heartbeat of Florida, it’s no surprise that state legislators want to ensure that everyone feels welcome, especially those who travel long distances.
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Our West Palm Beach traffic ticket lawyers are sure that has a lot to do with how quickly House Bill 7059 is making its way through the state House of Representatives.

The law is actually an effort to repeal an earlier measure that went into effect the beginning of this year that requires Canadian tourists to pay a $25 fee in order to obtain an international driving permit in order to be road-worthy on Florida thoroughfares.

The law has not only caused a huge back-up at automobile associations in Canada, it has raised serious concerns about whether these individuals will be targeted by law enforcement looking for cars outfitted with Canadian tags.

The measure caused a number of snowbirds from Canada, many of whom spend months on end here in the Sunshine State, to simply stay home. Many were worried that if they didn’t have a permit, they would be breaking the law.

In fact, some 3 million Canadians visited the state last year. That was a 4 percent increase from the year before, and it’s estimated these visitors bring about $4.5 billion to the state annually.

The law, an amendment to Florida Statute 332.04, was passed after law enforcement officials complained about difficulty in having to decipher international driver’s licenses that were often in a language other than English. The law would require all international visitors to the country to get a permit from their own country before they can drive here in Florida.

There were reports in Canada of three-hour-long waits – or more – for one of the permits.

However, the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles announced in February that the law wasn’t enforceable, saying it was likely to violate the standards created by the Geneva Convention of 1949.

According to those rules, non-resident visitors to Florida who want to drive need only have in their immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued in his or her name from either another state or U.S. territory or from their country of residence.

Still, given the sheer number of international tourists our state hosts every year, even the repeal of this measure isn’t going to be the end citations and arrests of foreign nationals visiting Florida.

If you are a foreigner arrested in the U.S., under the Fifth and Fourteenth Constitutional Amendments, you are afforded the same rights of due process as citizens accused of a crime. That includes traffic offenses, and it includes your right to consult with an attorney before speaking to police about anything other than your name, age, and basic information.

Many of our northern neighbors have expressed relief at the repeal of this law, saying that it will ensure they continue to be treated equally in the state of Florida. If nothing else, some said, it was a serious annoyance.

If you are stopped and hassled over your lack of an international driving permit, we are here to help.
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Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals has ruled that while all criminal suspects are to be afforded the rights as spelled out in a Miranda Warning – not every circumstance will require that they be notified of those rights.
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Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys are troubled by this development, considering the ruling nearly 50 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona.

You may not be familiar with the details of the landmark case, but if you watch any television, you are likely aware that “Miranda rights” have to be read to arrested suspects – before they are questioned. Those rights include the right to remain silent and the right to speak to an attorney. Individuals who are not informed of those rights before they are questioned stand a very good chance of having everything said thereafter tossed by a judge. If whatever the suspect said in that interview was particularly crucial to the case, a suppression of that evidence could result in the dismissal of the charges.

So for the court to rule that this law does not apply in certain cases – that’s no small thing.

Here’s what happened, according to local news reports:

Back in 2007, a 27-year-old man had barricaded himself inside his apartment as deputies with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrived to arrest him for the murder of his father. The suspect was suicidal, and threatening to shoot himself if detectives entered his residence.

Over the telephone for more than two hours, a detective was attempting to convince the suspect to surrender peacefully. During the course of that conversation, the detective at times recorded portions of it.

The suspect did eventually surrender peaceably. However, portions of those recordings came up in the suspect’s murder trial. In part of the conversation, the suspect, who was reportedly abused by his father, is heard telling the detective that he made his father sob and beg for his life before he slashed his throat.

His defense attorney, who was trying to argue self-defense, maintained those recordings should never have been allowed as evidence, as the defendant was never read his Miranda rights by the detective. He contended that the suspect was effectively in custody, as he was surrounded by police with a warrant in hand and he was not free to leave.

However, the Broward Circuit Court judge determined that Miranda warnings are only required when a suspect is in custody, being interrogated. The case was later sent to the appellate court, which was asked to answer the specific question of whether a barricaded suspect, surrounded by police, is in fact in custody, and therefore entitled to a reading of his rights.

The appeals court in its review found that a barricaded suspect is not considered “in custody.” That is, the individual can hang up on law enforcement officers at any time. And in this case, the suspect actually called the detective – twice – throughout the course of the ordeal.

The appellate court noted that three other states had reached similar conclusions, and that, in a situation where the suspect is barricaded, a requirement to read a suspect his rights could result in a dangerous escalation of the situation.

The defendant, who received an 18-year-sentence, is deciding whether to appeal the case further to the Florida Supreme Court.
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Florida legislators haven’t exactly axed the red light camera program operating in communities across the state, but it appears they are looking to significantly sideline it.
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Our West Palm Beach traffic ticket defense attorneys understand that a state House committee has given an approval stamp to a bill that would tighten the reins on how counties and cities use the devices at major intersections.

House Bill 1061 seeks to disallow the use of the cameras to cite drivers for running red lights. It would also set a minimum amount of time for yellow lights to be displayed and could give some drivers more tools to fight back against any citations they do receive.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, was the sponsor of the bill and said that due process rights were the paramount concern in drafting the measure. He stressed the measure wasn’t a ban on the use of devices, but it will serve to regulate them at minimum levels.

The bill received the 12-4 approval of the House of Economic Affairs Committee.

Unsurprisingly, police chief unions and the Florida League of Cities have expressed stern opposition to the measure. That makes sense considering the benefits these entities reap from having the cameras up. For law enforcement, there isn’t as much pressure on them to patrol the streets and stop red light runners and speeders. For municipalities, it’s a cash cow.

Some insisted that it was a local decision and should remain that way. However, the issue of whether to install red light cameras rarely goes to a public vote. It’s decided by city councils and county commissions – whose coffers are all significantly lined with the proceeds of these cameras.

The next step for HB 1061 is the House Appropriations Committee. A similar measure, SB 1342, has been filed by a Democratic state senator from Royal Palm Beach, though that one has yet to be heard in committee.

The fact that these measures have bipartisan support – with one sponsored by a Republican, the other by a Democrat, is promising for the future of putting the brakes on red light cameras.

At the heart of the issue is one of due process and discretion. Plus, the photographic images that are submitted don’t adequately identify the actual person behind the wheel. So the ticket ends up going to the owner of the vehicle, no matter if they were actually driving.

HB 1061, by requiring a minimum amount of yellow-light displays, would lead to a decrease in the overall number of red light tickets.

The bill would also require a number of changes to the appeals process that is used for such citations. Among those, municipalities would be responsible for authenticating the evidence presented in the images. It also underscores the fact that the burden of proof is on the government – not the driver – to prove guilt. The driver also can’t be called to be a witness against himself and each person must be afforded the right to confront any witnesses against him.
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Last year, some 100,000 spring breakers flocked to Florida to enjoy the sand, surf and a break from their studies. welcometomiami.jpg

However, our West Palm Beach DUI lawyers know that many left with more than a tan. They ended up with a criminal record.

Florida is the top destination in the country for spring break revelers.

According to the state’s Business and Professional Regulation’s Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco division, some 20,000 fake IDs were seized just in Daytona and Panama City. In those two areas, there were 2,000 arrests of individuals aged 15 to 21 over the four-week spring break period.

During that time, the Journal of American College Health estimated that the average male spring breaker was consuming 18 drinks daily, while the average female spring breaker was downing 10 drinks a day, with about 50 percent reporting they passed out or became ill at least once.

Law enforcement officials report that some of the most commonly broken laws during Florida spring break include:

1. DUI 2. Underage consumption 3. Public intoxication 4. Illegal sales or purchase of alcohol and/or drugs
As such, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles and the Florida Highway Patrol is launching a campaign to urge spring breakers to keep their behavior in check. The campaign, “Spring Broke 2013” tells partiers that a Florida DUI is something they can’t afford. The posters tally up the costs for fines, DUI school, monitoring, license reinstatement, impound fees, insurance, probation and ignition interlock, bringing the estimated total to somewhere between $5,000 and $20,000. Those involved in crashes will have to pay more, the department warns.

Out-of-state defendants should know that a Florida DUI may result in your having to return for important court dates – which could result in you missing classes or work. Our experienced Palm Beach DUI defense lawyers have helped countless out-of-towners, and we work hard to help limit the impact to your every-day life.

FL Statute 316.193 addresses the state’s DUI laws.

The points being driven home by state law enforcers are these:

–The legal drinking age in Florida is 21. Anyone who is younger than that and in possession of alcohol can be cited for a second-degree misdemeanor.
–Anyone who sells alcohol to a person under 21 or purchases alcohol for someone who isn’t yet 21 can also be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
–If you have an open container in your vehicle, whether you are actually driving it or not, you can be cited or even arrested for DUI.
–While 0.08 percent blood alcohol content is the limit for over-21 drivers, under-21 drivers can be arrested for DUI for having a blood alcohol content of as low as 0.02 percent.

If you are arrested for any of these offenses while on spring break, you need to contact a local attorney before you leave town or as soon as possible.
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In 1983, a 15-year-old Miramar boy confessed to a horrific crime – the brutal murder of a 58-year-old woman who had been strangled and repeatedly stabbed. taperecorder.jpg

Now, 30 years after his conviction and five years after he was freed, our Broward defense lawyers have learned that his representatives have filed a civil lawsuit against the state, alleging that investigators should have known his confession was untruthful.

For starters, the teen reportedly referred to the victim as a girl, despite the fact that she was just a few years away from collecting Social Security. Further, he told investigators that the victim was taller than him. In reality, she was 8 inches shorter. He also indicated that she was completely naked when he left her. She wasn’t. Additionally, he didn’t appear to know that she had been stabbed or strangled.

He first told police he had seen three other men murder the woman. He didn’t get the day or the time of the murder correct. He failed to correctly identify the murder weapon. When he was asked about details at the crime scene, he had no idea.

What’s more, this was a teenager with an IQ of 67 who was questioned without the aid of his parents or defense attorney. The result was an egregious miscarriage of justice, and it was only righted after DNA tests showed that he could not possibly have been this woman’s killer.

An attorney representing the exonerated man is now saying that police made suggestions to him in conversations that weren’t taped and that he later repeated those suggestions as if he had firsthand knowledge. Those conversations were being taped. It’s a claim police deny, but there seems to be little other explanation.

This tragic case shows once again how easily an innocent person can slip through the cracks. Even with advances in technology, police and prosecutors will still in many cases rely heavily on confessions or statements made by the suspect during questioning.

This is precisely why we so strongly urge suspects or defendants never to speak with police investigators or prosecutors without your attorney right there at your side. No matter what police tell you or offer you, do not agree to speak with them absent your lawyer. This is as true if not more true if you are innocent. As this case shows, innocence may not be enough to shield you from investigators who are pros when it comes to manipulative interrogation tactics.

It also shows how officers can hone in on a particular suspect or theory – and refuse to let go of it, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.

Here, the defendant told police the first time he had seen the victim was around 5 or 6 in the morning. Yet, detectives knew the victim had died sometime around 3 a.m.

And although he had initially said he witnessed others commit the crime, in later interrogations he took full responsibility for it.

In depositions for the upcoming civil trial, officers maintained that he got certain details right – like the description of the knife used at the scene. However, that was only after that weapon had been shown to the suspect on numerous occasions.

An attorney for the man now says officers took advantage of the boy’s willingness to help. Another suspect, who police stopped pursuing after they homed in on the teen, was later found to have been connected to the crime by DNA.
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Two men suspected of involvement in an identity fraud ring were arrested by officials with the Transportation Security Administration at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, after officials say the men were “acting nervous.” selfportrait1.jpg

Officials refused to say what exactly the men were doing that drew suspicion, but said they were clearly exhibiting behaviors that increase when trying to suppress high stress levels. As a result, the men were searched and TSA officials found envelopes containing numerous debit cards and lists that contained hundreds of names, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

Our Fort Lauderdale felony defense lawyers know that nervousness is almost status quo when folks encounter police officers or those who hold some position of authority. While these two may have had reason to be fearful of discovery, a display of fear alone should not be considered the sole probable cause for a search.

Of course, different rules apply to individuals who are boarding a plane versus someone on the street. Even when we are in public, we can expect a certain degree of privacy. However, individuals who enter an airport to board a plane should expect that their property and persons will be thoroughly searched as a condition of getting on the aircraft. Trained dogs also routinely patrol airport facilities in order to sniff out drugs, weapons and explosives.

When you are on the street, however, you do have the right to refuse a search. That doesn’t mean an officer won’t follow through anyway if he or she believes there is probable cause to do so, but it will give your attorney some leverage in court if that probable cause is later found to be faulty.

Nervousness displayed on the part of a person being stopped is often a key factor for police in deciding whether someone has something to hide. It’s often pointed out in arrest reports and affidavits.

Aside from the fact that perceptions of a person’s nervousness are highly subjective, the definitions of it can vary greatly among agencies and between officers. It could be sweating, fidgeting, your lack of cooperation, hands shaking or voice wavering. But again, there could be many other reasons for this (it’s hot, you have a medical condition, etc.)

An appellate court in North Carolina recently ruled that nervousness alone is not enough of a basis for officers to initiate a traffic stop. In North Carolina v. Canty, the court of appeals determined that an officer can’t determine a person’s degree of nervousness when they are traveling 65 miles per hour.

In that case, deputies set up a speed trap along the highway when a green minivan passed. The vehicle was initially traveling at 73 miles per hour in a 70 miles per hour zone, though it slowed to 65 miles per hour, presumably when the driver spotted the officer. Two officers testified that in addition, both the driver and passenger stared straight ahead and appeared nervous as they passed.

Officers stopped the van and later said that the occupants would not make eye contact. The officers would later say that the vehicle drove left of center, though dash cam video proved that account false and didn’t reveal any indication of unsafe driving.

The driver was given a warning and then consented to a search, at which time officers discovered two firearms in a suitcase that belonged to the passenger. He was then arrested and convicted for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

However, that conviction was subsequently tossed because the officers’ entire basis for the stop – that the driver and passenger were “nervous” – was not something they could have judged in a vehicle that was zooming past them. Given that the defendant’s attorney never raised this issue during the first trial, the court ordered a new trial during which another attorney would likely be successful in filing a motion to suppress the evidence.

Because this case happened in North Carolina, it doesn’t have any direct effect on us here, but the same logic could be applied in a number of traffic stop arrests here in Florida.

The bottom line is it’s normal to be nervous if you are approached by an officer of the law. There is an inherent imbalance of power, with the officer having the power to ticket or even arrest you.

In general, here are some things to keep in mind the next time you encounter law enforcement:

1. Don’t talk. You may have to provide the basics: Your name, your date of birth, your license and insurance card. Beyond that, you don’t need to answer any questions. Doing so usually just makes it worse. Be polite, but firm.

2. Do not run away. This is considered the epitome of nervous behavior, and it will usually result in you facing additional charges. Follow officer instructions. Building a defense can be tougher if you run or resist arrest.

3. Don’t believe what the police are telling you. It’s legal (and common) for police to lie to you in order to get a confession. They will tell you that your friend has already confessed to your role. Simply refuse to talk until you have had the opportunity to confer with your defense attorney.

4. Don’t look in areas where you don’t want police to look. They will pick up on that glance you gave to the console or trunk. Look down and stay quiet.

5. It’s natural to be nervous. Accept that. Take a deep breath. Don’t let your nerves cause you to try to talk your way out of a situation. Let us do that for you.
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In a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Florida v. Harris, justices have affirmed the role of drug-sniffing K-9 units during traffic stops. germanshepherd1.jpg

Our Fort Lauderdale defense attorneys are disappointed by the decision, but we also know that there may be numerous other opportunities to challenge an officer’s probable cause and therefore have certain evidence suppressed.

Some of those other opportunities will be found in situations where police failed to take in the “totality of evidence” standard in their decision to proceed with a non-consent search of a vehicle. That is, a drug-sniffing dog’s positive indication of drugs alone may not be enough to warrant a search. The officer must consider the fair probability of the presence of illegal substances based on standards that would dictate how reasonable and prudent people act.

That’s a broad standard, but it is not above challenge.

What was at issue in this case was whether police agencies had a responsibility to track the success rates of their trained K-9 units and whether a dog’s poor success rate or a failure of police to track it could be used as a basis for suppression of evidence.

The court determined that police agencies have no such obligation. Partially, the court reasoned that to track a dog’s field performance wouldn’t necessarily reflect all the dog’s false negatives or might actually overstate its false positives. The court did concede that such track records may be valuable in certain cases, but it declined to set any hard-and-fast rule. As a result, the high court overturned an earlier decision reached by the Florida Supreme Court.

Given that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that even well-trained dogs get it wrong a fair amount of the time, this is troubling.

In this case, a police officer pulled over a driver during a “routine” traffic stop. The officer reported that the driver was nervous and he was in possession of an open beer can. Still, the driver refused to consent to a search of his vehicle.

The officer responded by having his K-9 narcotic unit conduct an open-air sniff of the vehicle. The dog gave his handler a positive alert near the driver’s side door handle. The officer concluded this was enough to carry out a search of the vehicle. The search didn’t result in the officer finding anything the dog was actually trained to detect. However, the officer did find chemicals and medicine routinely used to manufacture methamphetamine.

The defendant was arrested, booked and then released on bail. While out on bail, the defendant was again stopped by the same officer, with the same K-9 unit. Once again, the dog alerted to the presence of drugs, yet none were found.

The challenge was that the dog’s history of false-positives was enough to warrant a suppression of evidence.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided that the dog’s training and testing records was enough to support its reliability.
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