Sheppard, White, Kachergus, & DeMaggio, P.A. Attorneys & Counselors At Law
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Jacksonville Florida Criminal Defense Blog

What is the knock-and-announce rule?

Police in Florida and throughout the U.S. are required to follow a procedure known as the “knock-and-announce” rule. It applies to officers who are executing a search warrant and bars them from immediately forcing their way into a dwelling.

According to Cornell Law School, this rule is important in a judge’s consideration of how reasonable a search is under the Fourth Amendment, and it goes into their decision to approve a search warrant. Its guidelines are that police must knock and then identify themselves and why they are present. Then they must wait for a “reasonable time,” which is intended to give occupants the opportunity to open the door and allow police to enter.

America's depiction of juvenile crimes

Everyone makes mistakes, but not all Floridians understand the many phases young people can go through. Younger minds are susceptible to external influences, and can easily become wrapped up in a situation far too complex to understand. When a young person becomes involved in a juvenile crime, there are often many sides to the story.

In some cases, one thoughtless crime can result in the end of one's freedom entirely. ABC News considers the strictness of penalties for juvenile crime, bringing to attention the 1999 case of Lionel Tate, a Florida native who killed his 6-year-old friend while wrestling. Tate was 12 at the time of the incident, but was tried as an adult under a 1981 Florida statute. Although the numbers of juvenile murder arrests have plummeted in the last few decades, ABC points out that Florida nevertheless has the second-highest juvenile violent crime rate in the country. Some lawmakers have demanded a reassessment of the state's strict laws, arguing that its views on juvenile maturity are severely antiquated.   

Penalties for juvenile crime: are they too severe?

A large majority of Florida adults can look back at their youth and agree that it contained a rough streak or two. Many can relate to situations in which they were harshly judged for poor decisions at a young age, and some even have experiences in juvenile detention and other correctional institutions.

While setting young people up for success is the goal of many parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, a strict penalty for a small crime is not always the answer. Recently, experts have considered the ways Florida officials handle youth crime, pointing to more effective ways to deal with serious incidents and the adolescents that cause them.

Can a field sobriety test prove intoxication?

If you have been stopped by a law enforcement officer and during what started off as a routine traffic stop you are asked by the officer if you have been drinking, you may soon find yourself investigated for potential drunk driving. Part of the process involved in a suspected drunk driving investigation is the administration of what are called field sobriety tests. If you are requested to take these tests, you should know what they are really for.

While the name implies that these tests may identify whether or not you are sober, that is not actually the case. As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, these test are not used for that purpose in part because they really cannot prove any such thing. Instead, field sobriety tests are used to collect evidence that supports the potential that you might be drunk. If an officer is able to say that you failed one of these tests, they may be able to legally arrest you and charge you with a drunk driving offense. 

Judge Walker Declares Florida's Clemency Process Unconstitutional

Florida's restoration of civil rights process is designed to make it virtually impossible for convicted felons to regain their fundamental constitutional rights, such as the right to vote. On February 1, 2018, Judge Walker, federal district judge for the Northern District of Florida declared the process to be unconstitutional. As politicians in Tallahassee continue to attempt to suppress the right to vote (see its recent efforts to tally a non-vote as a NO vote in constitutional amendments placed on the ballot for citizen consideration), it is now more important than ever that our federal courts reject these blatant efforts to diminish our voices. This is not a political issue; it is a matter of protecting the fundamental constitutional rights of all citizens in this state. Rather than continuing to discourage, and indeed, prevent people from exercising their constitutional right to vote, this governor and his legislature should be affirmatively looking for ways to make the ability to vote more, not less, inclusive. A copy of Judge Walker's opinion can be found here.

Realities of using an ignition interlock device

People in Florida who are charged with a driving under the influence offense need to gather information about their defense options but also about the potential penalties they may experience if they are ultimately convicted of the charge. As explained by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, one of these penalties may be the required installation and use of an ignition interlock device.

If a driver must use an IID, they must work only with one of the manufacturers and provides authorized by the state. These companies will not only provide the device itself but will also provide reporting to the court on all tests taken. Some of these reports may be provided electronically. The costs for the installation and all maintainence of the devices as well as any rental fees are generally to be paid for by the driver.

Standing up against abuse of prison guard power

Prison guard abuse is an issue many might assume is no longer common in today's society; unfortunately, however, the problem persists in detention centers across the nation. Yet this problem is often a hidden one, making it all the more complex and dangerous. Families and friends, unaware of various forms of abuse that take place within prison walls, are horrified to find that their loved ones do not receive adequate protection and care. While mistreatment in Florida prisons can take many different forms, the reality that countless prisoners must face daily is one that cannot continue.

While the media has certainly placed immense focus on this topic in recent years, not all observations have proved optimistic. Vice News sees the issue as an important one, but also one that may be difficult to tackle -- prison abuse has become part of a vicious cycle in the country's incarceration system. Prison guards often berate and isolate inmates to unnecessary extremes, which, in turn, can inflict lasting trauma on the victim. Vice also points out the lack of mental health support in prison systems; as a result, many inmates do not receive the care they need, and some even end up back behind bars. To make matters worse, many corrupt guards face no penalties for their actions, despite how damaging their abuse may have been.

What you should know about domestic violence in Florida

Domestic violence is a continuing problem in Florida, as it is across the nation. Sections 741.28-741.31 of the Florida Code define domestic violence as any kind of assault and/or battery, simple, aggravated or sexual, perpetrated by one family or household member against another that results in the victim’s physical injury or death. Domestic violence also can include stalking, false imprisonment, kidnapping, or threats of physical harm or death.

“Family or household member” has a specific meaning and refers to any of the following:

  • Spouses and former spouses
  • People who presently cohabitate or who have done so in the past
  • People who are related by blood or marriage
  • People who have had a child together, whether or not they are or were married

The all-too-common issue of police brutality

In the immediate wake of the Daniel Shaver shooting in Arizona, many Floridians are left confused and distraught; however, there is one aspect that is certain: police brutality is still a tremendous issue in America today. Unfortunately, there are countless who suffer at the hands of law enforcement, never to see justice served.

Florida, similar to other states, contains specific laws surrounding police misconduct. Those who have been exposed to excessive force or other kind of police brutality have rights to take legal action, and to seek out truth in such an unfortunate and damaging situation.

Understanding plea bargaining

When defendants set out to argue their criminal cases in a Jacksonville courtroom, they typically do so with the ultimate goal of gaining an acquittal and/or an exoneration. However, somewhere along the pathway to completing this process, that goal may shift to earning the most favorable outcome that is possible. To do that, one may have to give some serious thought to plea bargaining. Such agreements are much more common in the American criminal justice system than most may think. According to information shared by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 48,939 criminal offense cases heard in America's largest 75 counties in 2009, 53 percent of felony cases ended in pleas. 

Most may assume that plea bargaining must be initiated by a prosecuting attorney, yet that is not the case. Either side of a criminal case can commence such talks. Perhaps the reason that it is presumed that prosecutors typically are the ones seeking plea bargaining is because it may be believed that they are the side most benefitted by it. Indeed, the American Bar Association states that courts and prosecutors are motivated to avoid trials due to the time and expenses that they require. Yet the ABA also claims that plea bargaining also offers distinct advantages to defendants, such as: 

  • Avoiding the cost of having to defend themselves
  • Not risking receiving a harsher sentence as the result of a trial
  • Avoiding the damage that the details shared at a trial can do to their reputations
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  1. Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Rated for highest level of Provisional Excellence 2016 Best Lawyers Best Law Firms US News 2016 American College of Trial Lawyers William J.Sheppard Best Lawyers Lawyer of the year 2014 The Florida Bar Board Certified Best Lawyers|Best Law Firms US News|Criminal Defense: White-Collor|Tier 1|Jacksonville|2017 Best Lawyers|Lawyer Of The Year WM. J. Sheppard|Criminal Defense: White-Collor|Jacksonville Florida|2018
  2. Best Lawyers Best Law Firms US News 2017 AV Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards and Legal Ability Super Lawyers Best Lawyers Linking Lawyers And Clients Worldwide
  3. Martindale-Hubbell Client Champion Silver / 2017 Best Lawyers Best Law Firms US News 2018

Sheppard, White, Kachergus, & DeMaggio, P.A. Attorneys & Counselors at Law.
215 N. Washington Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202

Phone: 904-701-0589
Phone: 904-727-7191
Fax: 904-356-9667
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Regular office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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