Red light camera systems are becoming an increasingly prevalent source of traffic tickets throughout Florida. It is well-known that red-light cameras allow cities to issue more traffic tickets than traditional methods, since police officers no longer need to pull drivers over to issue a citation. However, cities are also using these systems to increase the output of traffic tickets in a less-visible way: by outsourcing the traffic citations process to private companies. Many cities are contracting with red light camera operators, not just to take photographs of cars running red lights, but also to review those photographs, screen for possible violations, and mail traffic citations to those who are found to have violated the law. In the most egregious situations, these contracts can effectively make employees of private companies honorary traffic cops.
The trial and conviction of Jacob Dougan is well-known to criminal defense attorneys throughout Jacksonville. A decision rendered by the Florida Supreme Court last week marked a new chapter in his long and tragic story. The Court upheld the lower court's decision granting the death-row inmate a new trial, 31 years after his original conviction.
In March of this year Florida Legislators made a change in the death penalty laws, requiring only a 10-2 vote by jurors to impose the death penalty. In an article published by the Daily Record, Bill Sheppard is quoted as being "dumbfounded" by the change. Sheppard has defended many clients in death penalty cases over the course of his career as a prominent criminal defense attorney, including Gary Alvord.
Florida law contains dozens of crimes that punish defendants from pursuing or soliciting sex with minors. Many of these crimes share similar elements. This means that prosecutors can often charge defendants with multiple crimes for the same incident, dramatically increasing their potential sentence. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits criminal defendants from facing multiple charges for the same crime.
The legal doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials who apply force reasonably or apply force in situations where the law is unclear. The purpose of qualified immunity is to prevent government officials from being discouraged carrying out their duties or protecting themselves from violent individuals. In practice, however, qualified immunity often causes judges to throw meritorious lawsuits out of court.
When judges sentence sex offenders to probation, they often require the defendants to "actively participate" and "successfully complete" a sex offender treatment program. The law does not specify what "successful completion" requires. It is generally understood that a defendant must cooperate with the treatment program's requirements in order to complete probation. This can create problems where treatment programs impose requirements that defendants were unaware of when they entered a guilty plea.