In 1973, Congress enacted legislation which would later become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The act gives students with certain disabilities the right to a "free appropriate public education." Each student under IDEA is given an individualized education plan (IEP), which sets forth educational goals for the student and lays out a roadmap for services that will be provided to ensure disabled students can meet those goals. Under the IDEA, each IEP must ensure that disabled children are receiving sufficient help to make progress toward their education. If the IEP fails to provide such support, the IDEA allows parents to sue for tuition at a private school that can meet the student's needs.
This month, attorney Bill Sheppard and Bryan DeMaggio succeeded in winning the State v. Ratledge case, where they defended Florida man Randal Ratledge. Ratledge faced 120 years in prison after firing two gun shots into the air, harming no one. In the decision of this case, the Florida Supreme court ruled that judges have the authority to sentence criminal defendants in these types of cases to no more than 20 years in prison.
The Supreme Court of the United States is currently tackling a major issue: when do comments on social media cross the line from protected speech to illegal threats? See Elonis v. United States, Docket No. 13-983. In this modern age of Twitter, Facebook, chat-rooms, and other social media platforms, drawing the line between free speech and illegal threats is no simple task.
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether law enforcement must get a warrant to inspect hotel registries, a very interesting question. On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court held that warrantless GPS monitoring by police is unlawful. This has a very active time for both courts and more important decisions are expected in the coming months.
In a case of great significance, this week the Florida Supreme Court rejected the use of evidence obtained through the warrantless search of a cell phone. In Smallwood v. Florida, ___ So.3d ___, 38 Fla.L.Weekly 5271a (Fla. May 2, 2013), a case originating in Duval County, the accused was charged with armed robbery of a convenience store. After identifying a potential suspect in the robbery, an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Smallwood and, during the course of his arrest, seized a cell phone from him. Without first obtaining a search warrant, the officer proceeded to access and search data on the phone, which led to the discovery of five photographs allegedly linking Mr. Smallwood to the robbery. These photographs were admitted at Mr. Smallwood's trial and he was convicted.