Qualified immunity is one of the largest obstacles facing civil rights attorneys. The doctrine of qualified immunity gives police officers or other state actors immunity from suit in certain situations. To overcome the defense the plaintiff first needs to prove that (1) the defendant violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (2) that the constitutional violation
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.
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.
The Fourth Amendment restricts when a police officer may stop a person. Generally, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime in order to stop them. When police officers conduct a traffic stop, there is no question that they are allowed detain the driver. But what happens if one of the passengers of the vehicle wants to leave in the middle of the stop?
Most people are familiar with the Miranda warnings. But police do not need to use these warnings every time they speak with a suspect. The Miranda decision only applies when a suspect undergoes "custodial interrogation". In other words, when a reasonable person would not feel that they were free to leave.
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.
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.