If you are ever asked by law enforcement officials for permission to search anything, our best advice is to say "no", and ask for your attorney. Each of us has the Constitutional right to deny a search that is not called for by a warrant. We also have the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer. If you say "no", consent can be sorted out later. But if you say "yes", you waive your Constitutional right. What's done cannot be undone.
In addition to representing our clients in their individual cases, one of the most gratifying experiences to the members of this firm is to prevail on a constitutional issue which benefits thousands of criminally accused defendants. Over twenty -one years ago, we were honored to have successfully argued Doggett vs. United States, 505 U.S. 647 (1992) before the United States Supreme Court. Doggetthas become the bedrock case when courts are determining whether a person's Sixth Amendment right to speedy arrest has been violated, and has been cited in thousands of decisions on this issue.
We are often asked whether police officers have the right to approach a person's home without a warrant and then use what they observe to search the home. Generally, in the absence of "no trespassing" signs or fences, officers have the right to engage in what is referred to a "knock and talk" of a home, that is they have the right to walk on the sidewalk of your home, knock on your front door and engage you in a "consensual encounter." They do not have the right to conduct warrantless searches of your property. Nor do they have the right to enter into your backyard. In fact, the right to engage you is extremely limited. Law enforcement personnel often exceed the authority given to them under the walk and talk doctrine. This article discusses two cases which have limited the ability of police officers to conduct warrantless searches in the curtilage of your home and what you should do to protect yourself from unlawful searches and seizures on your property.
Ask most people whether billions of dollars should be spent arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for marijuana offenses and the answer will be a resounding "no." Recent polling in Florida indicates over 70% of the state's voters favor legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, which is what makes a just released study by the American Civil Liberties Union entitled The War on Marijuana in Black and White so disturbing. Not only are we spending more money every year trying to lock people up for smoking a plant, we are doing so based on race.
In Maryland v. King, ___ U.S. ___ (June 3, 2013) the Court upheld the warrantless swabbing of individuals arrested for what the Court characterized as "serious" offenses. Left open by the Court's decision are the questions of 1) what constitutes a serious offense; and 2) whether the warrantless seizure of DNA samples is permissible for individuals convicted of misdemeanor offenses, which, by definition, can result in incarceration of one year or less. Unfortunately, as the result of the Court's sweeping language in the King decision, lower courts may have a difficult time in distinguishing between a "serious" offense justifying the warrantless sampling of DNA evidence and the routine misdemeanors for which hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for or convicted of every year in this country. Thus, what the Court apparently views as a non-intrusive law enforcement practice may have a much greater impact on the constitutional rights of individuals than the Court could have envisioned, a problem highlighted by Justice Scalia in his dissent.
An attorney-client partnership is an important one. There are going to be ups and downs in your relationship. You want and need to be comfortable at the outset so you can be comfortable when your case comes to a conclusion. If you can't like and respect your attorney, the relationship will fall apart.
Attorneys William Sheppard, Elizabeth L. White, Matthew R. Kachergus & Bryan E. DeMaggio have been admitted to the Southern District of Florida.
I am often asked why so many criminal defense attorneys oppose the death penalty. Beside the fact that the death penalty is grossly ineffective, with the cost of capital litigation far exceeding that of imprisonment for life, defense practitioners see up close and personal the individuals who ultimately receive a sentence of death. The poor, the disenfranchised, those unable to obtain adequate legal representation are the disproportionate "beneficiaries" of the death penalty lottery.
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.
Sheppard, White and Kachergus, P.A. proudly announces the addition of Jonathan Graessle to the firm. Mr. Graessle joined the firm in 2013, after clerking with the firm every summer during law school. Mr. Graessle graduated from the Bolles School in 2005. A "Double Gator," he attended the University of Florida, as a Florida Academic Scholar, where he earned his undergraduate degree, with honors, in political science. He also received a certificate in public leadership from the Bob Graham Center. He then earned his law degree, again with honors, from the University of Florida College of Law.