Criminal Law Blog & News
Check this page often for the latest in Florida criminal law info & crime history of the day!
August marks the month when new freshmen students invade the streets of Gainesville, Florida. It is a time of excitement and growth for many young people who are often experiencing their first taste of freedom from parental constraints. For many new students and their parents it is easy to mistakenly view Gainesville as a student friendly town where local police agencies are surely tolerant and forgiving in their enforcement of the criminal laws of the State of Florida. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that our local law enforcement agencies, including the Gainesville Police Department (GPD), University of Florida Police Department (UPD) and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO), are notoriously intolerant of student misconduct. Consequently, Gainesville is one of the easiest college towns in America for a student to get arrested. The purpose of this blog is to educate incoming students, in hopes that they can avoid falling victim to the police forces that run the streets and bars of Gainesville, Florida.
In recent weeks there has been an internet explosion of articles about Florida’s prosecution of a teenager engaged in sexual activity with another teenager. Much of the focus of the recent articles has been the fact that the sexual activity was between two teenagers of the same sex. Some of the articles seem to imply that the prosecution has occurred only because the teenagers are of the same sex. See for example: Huffington Post report: Florida Teen, Faces Felony Charges Over Same-Sex Relationship
On this date, March 5, in the year 1994, former Jefferson Starship lead singer, Grace Slick, was arrested for pointing a firearm at a police officer who was responding to a call that shots had been fired at her house. Law enforcement officers from the Tiburon California Police Department went to the singer's home after receiving a call at 3:30 a.m. from an inebriated man who said a drunken woman was firing a gun in the home. When police officers arrived, a man came to the door yelling ''kill me,'' the police reported. An officer quickly subdued the man. Grace Slick then came to the door carrying a shotgun and allegedly pointed it at the officers. Slick was demanding that the officers leave her property as she pointed the firearm at them, police said.
A DUI deferred prosecution program or other DUI diversion alternative does not exist in many jurisdictions in Florida. Fortunately, in Gainesville, Florida, and the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida (which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties) there is DUI deferred prosecution alternative available for some individuals charged with Driving Under the Influence. This article will focus on the DUI deferred prosecution program as it currently exists in the Gainesville, Florida area. It should be understood that the availability and requirements of a DUI diversion alternative may vary greatly between each of Florida’s twenty judicial circuits. For detailed information about DUI prosecutions in other Florida circuits, one should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer whose practice is focused in the judicial circuit where the DUI is alleged to have occurred.
On February 5, 2013 , the First District Court of Appeals reversed convictions for felony charges of Burglary and Aggravated Assault and remanded the case back to the trial court to be retried as a result of the trial court judge improperly excusing a prospective juror based on their engagement status to a public defender.
A deferred prosecution agreement is a contract between a person charged with a criminal act and the prosecuting authority, which diverts the case out of the formal criminal justice system. If the accused individual complies with the conditions of the agreement, the criminal charges are usually dismissed at the end of the deferment period. This article will focus on deferred prosecution agreements in Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Gainesville, Florida, and Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. It should be understood that the availability and requirements of a deferred prosecution agreement may vary greatly between each of Florida’s twenty judicial circuits. For detailed information about deferred prosecution agreements in other Florida circuits, one should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney whose practice is focused in that particular judicial circuit. A map of Florida’s judicial circuits can be found here.
On Friday , January 25, 2013, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion vacating two of the four convictions previously imposed against Casey Anthony for the crimes of furnishing false information to law enforcement during an investigation. The court noted that both the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution contain “double jeopardy” clauses prohibiting multiple prosecutions , convictions, and punishments for the same criminal offense.
Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals has recently asked the Florida Supreme Court to answer the following as a question of great public importance:
Where the presiding judge in a criminal case has accepted the prosecutor assigned to the case as a Facebook “friend,”would a reasonably prudent person fear that he could not get a fair and impartial trial, so that the defendant’s motion for disqualification should be granted?
I've been practicing criminal law in Florida for more than 25 years and have represented hundreds of individuals in criminal cases over the years. In almost every case I've demanded discovery of all written statements and reports of law enforcement officers, but never - never - has a “draft” report ever been disclosed in discovery. Now I’m wondering how many “draft” reports have been hidden from defendants in criminal cases in Florida over the years. Surely, there have been other cases where police officers create a “draft” report and then made changes.
As a criminal defense attorney practicing law in a college town (Gainesville, Florida) I've seen more than my fair share of young adults, ages 18 - 20, being charged with the criminal offense of underage possession of alcohol. Underage possession of alcohol is a second degree misdemeanor in Florida and carries the potential punishment of imprisonment up to sixty days in jail for the first offense. See Florida Statute 562.111(1) I can’t help but feel sorry for these young adults and their parents as the realization sinks in that this “criminal” activity will be of public record, potentially for life. Yes, we live in a country where one is old enough to get one’s legs blown off in Afghanistan serving in the armed forces at eighteen years of age, but when one returns to the “land of the free” and possesses a can of beer one can be arrested, taken to jail and charged with a crime.
Like it or not, we live in a country where the average citizen’s word is practically worthless if contradicted by the words of a police officer. As a consequence of this reality, the majority of police misconduct that occurs daily goes unreported and undetected by Courts and prosecutors. The misuse of physical force is routinely blamed on the suspect by police officers. The use of coercive investigative techniques are routinely denied by police officers. The illegal detention of citizens is a daily occurrence, sustained by the exaggerations and misrepresentation of police officers. Without a video recording of what actually occurred, the typical citizen, once arrested, is often powerless in a court of law when faced with the lies and distortions perpetrated by police officers. One partial solution to this problem is the citizen who is willing to video record police officers engaged in their daily activities.
There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but driving away may not be one of them if you have violated a number of non-driving laws/regulations in the State of Florida. It is reasonable to guess that violating civil or criminal traffic laws or using a motor vehicle to commit a crime might be cause to suspend one’s license, but many other reasons may provoke a revocation of one’s driving privilege.
On August 24, 2012, the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Federal District Court that had found Florida’s drug statute unconstitutional in the case of Mackle Shelton vs State of Florida. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals did not actually decide the constitutional issue presented, finding instead that consideration of the defendant’s question of law was procedurally barred under the provisions of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996. The lower court that was reversed had found that the Florida drug statute’s failure to require proof of knowing possession of contraband violated due process of law.
In a sharply worded dissent in the case of State v. Luke Jarrod Adkins, Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry criticizes the majority of the Court and refers to their opinion as being built on a foundation of flawed “common sense” which shatters bedrock constitutional principles.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled, in an opinion dated July 12, 2012, that Florida drug laws are constitutional, rejecting arguments that the drug statute’s failure to require proof of knowing possession violates due process of law. In the case of State of Florida v Luke Jarrod Adkins, a five justice majority concluded that, “Given the broad authority of the legislative branch to define elements of crimes, the requirements of due process ordinarily do not preclude the creation of offenses which lack a guilty knowledge element.”
May 4, 1970, Four Kent State University Students Killed By Ohio National Guard - Today In Crime History
On this date, May 4, in the year 1970, four students were killed and nine others wounded when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during a Vietnam War protest. Approximately 67 shots were fired by the guardsmen over thirteen seconds. Jeffrey Glenn Miller, age 20, was shot through the mouth and killed instantly. Allison B. Krause, age 19,was shot in the chest and died later that day. William Knox Schroeder, age 19, was also shot in the chest and died almost an hour later in a hospital while undergoing surgery. Sandra Lee Scheuer, age 20, was shot in her neck and died within a few minutes from loss of blood. Among the wounded was Dean R. Kahler, who was shot in the back, causing permanent paralysis from the chest down. All of those killed or wounded were unarmed.
April 30, 1871, Settlers In Arizona Murder More Than 100 Indian Women & Children - Today In Crime History
On this date, April 30, in the year 1871, more than one hundred Apache Indians in Arizona were murdered by local settlers in what became known as the Camp Grant massacre. Apaches refer to the site as g’ashdla a cho o aa or “big sycamore standing there,” with the unspoken understanding of what took place.
On Tuesday , April 11, 2012, the so-called former attorneys of George Zimmerman announced to the media, and thus the public at large, they were withdrawing from further representation of the man under investigation for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
Although attorneys have the ability to withdraw from cases under certain circumstances and although there really wasn’t an actual case to withdraw from as of Tuesday, questions remain regarding the decision to publicly disclose certain matters which may have the potential to negatively impact the defense.
I suppose I should not write this. I suppose I should just go with the flow created by the apparent overwhelming ground swell of the media and popular outrage over the Sanford Police Department’s failure to arrest George Zimmerman on a murder charge. As a criminal defense attorney that knows well that the police are not only fallible but also capable of outright dishonesty, I still feel the need to speak in opposition to the idea that we can know with certainty the facts of this investigation by reading news reports or listening to popular media accounts. As my friends and associates lineup on Facebook acknowledging that they have signed a petition essentially demanding that Zimmerman be immediately arrested, I can’t help but smell a lynch mob mentality that causes me to step back and urge caution.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with several other local law enforcement agencies, has arrested at least twenty different individuals for utilizing various Internet social meeting sites to allegedly attempt communication with a person believed to be a minor regarding sexual activity. No actual children were involved - only adult law enforcement officers posing as minors. The Gainesville television station WCJB reports that one of those arrested was an elementary school teacher. This blog will not report the names of those arrested as all are presumed innocent.