The Fourth Amendment only applies residences when a police officer conducts a "search" of that residence. A common tactic that police officers use to get around the Amendment's protections is to use a technique called a "knock-and-talk." During these encounters, police officers will approach a residence, knock on the door, and try to get an occupant inside to speak with them. During that encounter, officers will either seek permission to enter the house (meaning that they do not need a warrant or probable cause) or will try to detect evidence of contraband in plain view from the doorway.
In August of this year, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission succeeded on a Title VII claim on behalf of an employee who was discriminated against due to sexual orientation. We wrote about that opinion in a previous blog post. Last month, they achieved a similar victory in Pennsylvania, marking the latest in a recent trend of federal courts across the nation recognizing that LGBT employees are subject to all of Title VII's protections.
The Equal Access Act is a federal law passed in 1984 to ensure that federally funded schools give extra-curricular clubs equal access. The law was originally lobbied for by Christian groups who wanted to ensure that Christian students could conduct Bible study programs during lunch and after school. It has since been used as a tool for gay-straight alliance organizations to gain equal footing on school campuses with other extra-curricular activities.
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court decided Kelsey v. State, the latest case to guarantee juvenile defendants serving long prison terms a chance at a new sentence. To understand the opinion, some background on juvenile resentencing in Florida is required. In the landmark decision of Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court held that Florida's practice of giving juvenile offenders life sentences for non-homicide crimes violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Government generally cannot use evidence of a defendant's prior bad acts to prove that a defendant committed the crime charged. Under Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence states that evidence of crimes, wrongs or other acts are not admissible to prove a person's character to show that that they acted in accordance with that character on a particular occasion. Similarly, Rule 403 prohibits introducing evidence when its evidentiary weight would be substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.
One issue with which criminal defense attorneys must often grapple is what constitutes a "weapon" under Florida's criminal code. A recent decision out of the Second District Court of Appeal, C.W. v. State, has added some additional clarification as to whether, and under what circumstances, BB guns may be considered weapons. C.W. was a juvenile who brought a spring loaded B.B. gun with him in his bookbag to school. When a security officer discovered the BB gun, C.W. was arrested, charged, and eventually convicted of possession of a weapon on school property.