Articles Posted in Animal Cruelty

It is said often and it should be repeated frequently: what you post on social media can get you in trouble with the law. As our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, there is very little that you can expect to do privately on the internet.
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Just this past week, two Fort Pierce residents were arrested after Florida law enforcement officers became aware of a questionable and disturbing photo they had posted on Facebook.

The photo of a tied-up alligator, which the couple posted to Facebook in April, was recently brought to the attention of law enforcement officers, who eventually arrested the couple for having hunted the 7-foot alligator without a permit.
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As reported by the Sun Sentinel, on October 11th of this year, a 19-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens was arrested on for the illegal killing of an alligator, a slaying for which he used a machete.
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Given what we know of the case at this point, the criminal defense attorneys at Leifert & Leifert have determined three major “don’ts” that the man demonstrated in this one incident, which you should take note of.

First, and most obviously, you should not kill alligators, especially illegally. Florida state law requires special permits and weapons to kill alligators, and the killings may only take place on certain state land regulated for that purpose. Second, you should never document yourself doing something that might be a crime. Third, you should not point the finger at an innocent person, or you will only add to the charges that can be filed against you.
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A lot of times when we talk about animal cruelty, we are referencing situations in which individuals are accused of abusing or neglecting domesticated or stray animals.
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However, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know that there is another type of animal protection law that can make criminals out of people who simply didn’t know any better. Many times, these people are tourists who figure their actions will be a thrill and won’t hurt anyone.

But in fact under the law, when those actions involve Florida wildlife, they may be considered harassment or molestation. Any form of this, particularly when protected species are involved, is taken very seriously by both state and federal wildlife authorities.

A number of high-profile incidents recently have illustrated this fact.

Last year, a St. Petersburg woman was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant after she was photographed two months earlier riding a manatee in a state park. After the images went viral, authorities asked for the public’s help in identifying the woman in the pictures. The 53-year-old woman later admitted she had touched the endangered animal, but said she was new to the area and didn’t realize it was against the law.

In fact, Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it a misdemeanor to at any time, by any means or in any manner intentionally or negligently annoy, harass, disturb, molest or attempt to do any of the aforementioned to a manatee. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and a jail term of up to 60 days.

However, doing so may also potentially violate federal law. Specifically, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 defines harassment as the “intentional or negligent act or omission that creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying to such extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns.”

This is the statute that will likely be applied in the case of three friends who were visiting Cocoa Beach. They allegedly lured a mother manatee and her calf near the dock, where one of the men then jumped onto the mother. Both manatees swam away, apparently unharmed. The men videotaped the encounter in a 51-second clip. That video then went viral. Now, the three are facing federal harassment charges.

While jumping or riding a manatee might seem like obvious harassment, even petting one can be deemed against the law, as one Fort Pierce man learned recently. He was photographed holding a baby manatee out of the water for his children to pet. In one image, a child was even placed on top of the manatee, although she wasn’t actually “riding” it, per se. Those images were posted to the father’s Facebook page, where they eventually caught the attention of authorities with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The number of manatees in Florida is down somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000, despite the fact that they have been legally protected since the late 1800s. Authorities are going to take any action against them seriously. As one official put it, “It’s like tackling someone in a wheelchair.”

We understand however that most people who violate these laws are enchanted with the creatures, and never meant them any harm. It’s our goal to ensure that these individuals aren’t forever branded as someone who is a danger to animals or a violator of federal law.
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An 82-year-old man from Fort Lauderdale was recently sentenced to three years in prison because his dog attacked and killed a cat earlier this year. angrydog.jpg

Specifically, he had been convicted on charges of animal cruelty and trespassing.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers believe three years is excessive, despite the fact that another animal lost its life. This case illustrates why it’s so critical to secure an experienced criminal defense attorney, no matter what the charges against you, as there is often a great deal at stake.

Part of the problem, in this case, was that the defendant had recently been released from jail pending his arrest for a charge of aggravated battery. There were certain conditions of that release that prosecutors said were violated by virtue of the fact that he had committed another crime. We don’t have the details on that earlier crime, and we do know that he is still awaiting trial on that charge.

In the newer case, surveillance video reportedly showed the elderly man walking his dog on a leash on S. Andrews Avenue. Then, while in front of a business, the man reportedly walked his dog up the driveway to the porch where the cat was resting. At that point, the dog began to maul the cat. At one point, the video seems to show the defendant stepping on the cat in order to pull the dog away from it. The defendant then left with his dog, and the cat, which was a pet and not a stray, later died of its injuries.

Florida Statute 828.12 defines animal cruelty as any person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, mutilates, kills or deprives of food or shelter any animal in a way that is cruel or inhumane.

This is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison UNLESS the person intentionally commits an act that results in a cruel death or the repeated infliction of pain and suffering to an animal. In the later case, it’s considered a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

A jury, in this case, found the defendant guilty of felony animal cruelty and sentenced him to two years less than the maximum. In addition, the man will not be allowed to possess a pet when he is released from prison – at the age of 85. Also upon his release, he must serve two years of probation.

Even in cases where animal cruelty charges are filed as a misdemeanor, it’s wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Even if you aren’t anticipating jail, there is no guarantee of that and this is the type of charge that could prevent you from getting into certain schools, landing certain jobs and could even result in your being fired from the job you have, depending on your career field.
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Our South Florida defense attorneys have been following an animal cruelty case out of South Miami-Dade. Tyler Weinman, 18, has been accused of mutilating and killing 19 cats in the region. He had been jailed pending a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, but was released on Wednesday on $249,500 bond and will face arraignment on July 6. His charges include 19 counts of felony animal cruelty, 19 counts of improperly disposing of an animal body, and four counts of burglary.

Weinman was arrested at a friend’s house on Sunday morning, and prosecutors have not released much information on why the teen is a suspect. His defense attorney was allowed to view, but not keep, the affidavit that outlines the evidence against the suspect.

Weinman was stopped for running a red light on May 15, and police say they questioned him about the cat killings at that point. He was also charged with marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. One of his lawyers said the police jumped to conclusions about Weinman because of intense public outcry. His lawyers and several families maintain that the teen is innocent.

Accused cat killer Tyler Weinman freed on bond, Miami Herald, June 18, 2009 Continue reading

Florida%20teacher.jpgA Palm Beach County middle school teacher was charged with two felonies on Monday after the corpses of her two cats were discovered at her Boca Raton apartment on February 23. Boca Raton Criminal Lawyer Douglas Leifert has learned that Allison Dinsmore, 26, was originally accused of misdemeanor animal cruelty, but Palm Beach County prosecutors increased the charges to two counts of felony cruelty to animals. Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail.

Phone messages and emails to Dinsmore and her defense attorney went unanswered. In February, Dinsmore told police that she couldn’t remember the last time she had been at her home in Boca Raton, because she’d been spending a lot of time at her boyfriend’s and working long hours at the middle school. However, she thought she’d left food and water for the cats.

According to Boca Raton investigators, the cats had been dead for about a month before the corpses were uncovered by an apartment manager. The manager also found signs of a frantic search for food and water.

Source: Teacher charged with felonies in deaths of two cats in Boca Raton apartment, Sun Sentinel, March 31, 2009 Continue reading

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