While the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation television franchise ended first-run episodes and only exists in syndication, new CSI-style "adventures" continue at high-profile locations.
Florida law imposes harsher penalties on defendants who knowingly commit crimes of violence against law enforcement officers. For instance, a defendant found guilty of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer is subject to a mandatory life sentence. Understandably, a criminal defense attorney who represents a client faced with one of these charges will strive to remove the law enforcement victim enhancement, if possible. A recent decision out of the Florida Supreme Court-Ramroop v. State-has made it easier for defendants to do just that, by holding that the defendant must have known the victim was a law enforcement officer for the statute to apply.
Approximately 96% of all vehicles manufactured since 2013 are equipped with devices called event data recorders-or "black boxes"-that keep track of data such as when the driver brakes, steering, engine rpm during a crash. More sophisticated black boxes record a wealth of information about a person's driving habits ranging from where they go, how fast they drive, and even whether the vehicles systems are in working order. In the hands of law enforcement officers or prosecutors, such data can become powerful evidence in a criminal case.
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.
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.
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.