The Fourth Amendment provides citizens with the most protection inside their own homes. A recent decision by the Florida Second District Court of Appeal-Davis v. State-addressed which areas in a rooming house constitute a Defendants' "home" for the purposes of such protection. Davis involved a defendant who stashed a pill bottle containing cocaine inside a lattice beneath the rooming house where he sometimes stayed. A police officer proceeded to remove the lattice and search the pill bottle. Davis's criminal defense attorney sought to suppress the results of the search. He argued that removing the lattice constituted an unlawful search of the defendant's home.
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.
In Florida, it is a crime for anyone infected with the human immunodeficiency virus to have sexual intercourse with another person unless they first disclose the infection and obtain that person's consent. HIV can spread through a range of sexual activities. Until recently, however, some Florida courts used a very limited definition of "sexual intercourse" that only applied to heterosexual encounters that involve contact between male and female sexual organs. A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court-Debaun v. State-clarified the definition so that it now applies to all types of sexual encounters.
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.
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?
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.
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.
In an opinion written by Justice Canady rendered last week, the Florida Supreme Court held that making a file accessible to others in a file-sharing program constitutes "transmission" under Florida's child pornography laws. The crime in question is codified in Section 847.0137, which makes it a third degree felony for any person "who knew or reasonably should have known that he or she was transmitting child pornography" to another person.