The most recent case showing the magnitude of this problem can be found in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's use of the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Technical problems with this system have cost the State of Florida over $11 million and have resulted in delays in investigations and arrests throughout the State of Florida.
There is a common misconception that scientific evidence is infallible and the results of scientific testing are used to convict people for criminal offenses throughout this country on a daily basis. Many people do not realize undetected or undisclosed system errors are in fact sending innocent people to jail or prison. From the breathalyzer machine not properly maintained, inspected or used to now discounted hair analysis, which applied the wrong statistical probability of a match, we are now learning many supposedly infallible tests are "riddled with error."
Our firm was recently in the news:
With what appears to be the imminent legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, questions have begun to arise as to what may happen in the event Officer Friendly believes that a citizen is driving under the influence of marijuana. In Florida's an officer's request for breath, urine, or blood must be made incident to a lawful arrest. Before the law enforcement officer can make such a request under Florida's implied consent statute, the driver must be arrested. This does not prevent the law enforcement officer from seeking a driver's consent before an arrest, such request for consent should be politely but firmly declined.
As one of the founders of Florida's first integrated law firm, William J. "Bill" Sheppard has been highly regarded as a prominent criminal defense and civil rights attorney during his tenure practicing law. Throughout his career, he has argued cases at every level of the judicial system for protections and defenses against civil rights violations for countless individuals. He has successfully supported the causes of racial equality, while also successfully vindicating the rights of others.
In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court this week ruled that, in a limited set of circumstances, police officers can conduct a warrantless search of a person's residence over that person's objection, if another occupant consents to such search. The facts of California v. Fernandez are somewhat unique and, as a result, the Fernandez decision may have limited application. Nonetheless, the language of Fernandez implies it may have a significant impact upon the way police officers obtain consent, namely, by separating the home's occupants and "persuading" the weakest link to consent to a warrantless search. After Fernandez, all occupants should make clear their refusal to consent to a warrantless search or risk having a court declare items seized to have been lawfully obtained.