| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

The Top 10 Common Crimes Committed in Florida

In 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the top 10 most common crimes committed in Florida are drug abuse violations, theft, assault, driving under the influence (DUI), aggravated assault, liquor law violations, burglary, fraud, robbery, and vandalism. If you have been charged with any of these crimes or another let the experienced criminal defense lawyers of Moses & Rooth fight for you. 1. Drug Crimes: In 2013, according to the FBI, drug abuse violations accounted for almost 30% of all arrests (not counting traffic offenses) in Florida. Drug offenses can range from possession to trafficking and many others. Carrying a wide range of fines and periods of incarceration if convicted. 2. Theft: According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), a theft is committed every minute in Florida. Theft is the unauthorized taking or use of another’s property, including larceny, stealing, misappropriation, conversion, and other offenses. The value of the property determines if the theft is a misdemeanor or a felony. 3. Assault: Assault happens when there is a threat of imminent violence even if there is no contact. 4. DUI: In Florida, driving with a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or higher is illegal. The severity of the penalties are determined by many factors, such as, whether it is a first, second, or third offense, BAL, a minor was present, or any injuries or property damage were sustained. 5. Aggravated Assault: According to the FDLE, an aggravated assault happens every nine minutes in Florida. Aggravated assault is assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill or intent to commit a felony, is classified as a third degree felony, and if convicted you could serve five years in prison and be charged with a $5,000 fine. 6. Liquor Law Violations: A laundry list of activities if committed are against Florida liquor laws, including selling alcohol to a minor or selling alcohol without a permit. 7. Burglary: According to the FDLE, a burglary occurs every three minutes in Florida. A person can be charged with burglary if the person enters or remains in a building with the intent to commit a crime. Burglary is a felony of the first, second, or third degree depending on the circumstances. Defenses include, arguing that the building was open to the public or you had an invitation or license to be there. 8. Fraud: A person can be convicted of fraud under dozens of Florida laws, which carry a wide range of jail time and fines. A criminal defense attorney can explain what law you are charged with breaking and create a plan to defend you. 9. Robbery: According to the FDLE, a robbery happens every 22 minutes. A robbery is when a person takes money or property from another person with intent to permanently or temporarily deprive that person of the money or property by force, violence, assault, or fear. 10. Vandalism: According to the FBI, over 20% of all vandalism is committed by minors. Contact a juvenile defense attorney, if you are under 18 and been charged with a crime or you are the parent of a child charged with a crime. If you have been charged with any of the above crimes or another crime let the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Moses & Rooth explain the charges and create a plan for your defense. Contact us today to assure the best possible outcome of your case.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Traffic Offenses

Florida requires car seats through age 5

Instituting new restrictions on the public is usually a bad idea. However, the Florida legislature and Gov. Scott certainly go this right. Until today, Florida only required children through age three to be in car seats. The new law requires kids to be in either a 5-point harness or use a booster seat until their 6th birthday. Prior to the enactment of this statute, Florida ranked last in child safety seat laws. Can’t really blame the legislature as they passed a law in 2001 but it was vetoed by then Gov. Jeb Bush. Anyway kudos to Florida law makers for finally getting it right. See we don’t have to be the nation’s laughing stock all the time. For anyone interested this was HB 225.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Traffic Offenses

Florida Starts Ban on Texting While Driving

The traffic offenses of Texting while driving will now be against the law starting on October 1, 2013. Florida Statutes 316.305 is the law used to regulate and enforce Florida’s Ban on Texting while Driving law. The Statute states: “A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.” The statutes allows for some relief to those addicted to texting to check and send messages while the vehicle is stationary. The dangers associated with texting while driving is substantial, however enforcing this statute will be a challenge for law enforcement. Law enforcement can only enforce this statute as a secondary action. This means law enforcement must have already stopped your vehicle for a separate violation such as careless driving before they can site you for the texting statute violation. Furthermore, law enforcement will face significant evidentiary issues. Law enforcement may not be able to use the billing records statements or statements from wireless providers as evidence unless a crash resulting in death or personal injury occurs. These traffic offenses still have minimal penalties. While I commend the legislature for outlawing texting while driving the penalties need some adjusting. A first offense is considered a non moving violation. The only way for the citation to carry points on your driving record as a moving violation is for a second or subsequent violation within 5 years of the prior conviction.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Traffic Offenses

ACLU Sues Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles for Suspending Licenses of Defendants Too Poor to Pay Court Costs | ACLU of Florida

The ACLU is filing a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.  The law suit is alleging that the DMV is violating the due process and equal protection rights of individuals by suspending their license without a hearing to show that the person has the ability to pay their outstanding fees.  These outstanding fees can easily exceed $1000.00 and traps the poor into a cycle of non-payment and continuous arrests for driving without a license. Over 200,000 have had their license suspended due to an inability to pay their financial obligations.  Often times these people have no idea that their license has gone into suspension.  While it is easy to state that if your license is suspended then you should just not drive, but in reality this simply compounds the problem as someone who is financially unable to pay costs would be in an even worse place economically if they cannot drive to work.  They are left with a choice of either risking a criminal arrest for driving on a suspended license or not going to work to support themselves and their families. I believe that forcing the DMV to show that someone has the ability to pay prior to suspending their license is just.  If someone has the ability to pay they will do so to avoid the suspension and a court hearing.  However, if a court finds that someone is unable to pay, perhaps a restrictions on their license is appropriate until all fines and financial obligation are taken care of by the person.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Traffic Offenses

Red Light Camera Traffic Tickets

Effective July 1, 2013, drivers that are issued a red light camera ticket will be permitted to contest the ticket in front of the city that issued the ticket. The hearing will have to take place within 60 days of the ticket being issued. Currently, the driver receiving the ticket only has 30 days to appeal the red-light camera ticket. Florida made a total of $100 million from red-light cameras last year and is set to make $120 million this year. This bill will give drivers the chance to fight the bill and to see whether the driver did in fact run a red light. Currently, if a driver wants to fight a red-light camera ticket, he or she has to wait for the city to issue a uniform traffic citation, and then he or she can go in front of a judge in traffic court.  These hearings are heavily contested by the local city attorneys and often require extensive traffic litigation.   If the driver does in fact lose the red light hearing, the fines will increase to $264. The current fine for a red-light camera ticket is $158. It will be particularly hard to overturn a red-light violation since the city that is collecting the fine is also the one who oversees the violation in court. The new law will also be more lenient on drivers making a right hand turn on a red light. The law states that the driver “fails to make a complete stop before the turn, they will receive a citation, but they won’t receive a citation for failing to stop before the white line”. There will be some tolerance with this law, but a red light camera is pretty clear-cut evidence and will be extremely hard to overturn in court in front of a hired city official. The city will be allowed to nominate their own city employee to serve as hearing officer, hire a special magistrate or to partner with other cities and share hearing officers. It is unclear how much training and how extensive the training will be for these nominated city employees. They will need special training to be able to interpret the red-light cameras. Again, the same city that is hearing this appeal is benefitting from the fines, so it will be a tough appeal to win. The goal of this bill is to speed up the appeal process and also to be more effective in accessing the red-light camera tickets.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Traffic Offenses

Texting While Driving

Florida has recently become the 41st state to enact a texting while driving ban. Governor Rick Scott recently signed the bill banning texting while driving in the state of Florida. Scott signed the bill on May 28, 2013.The texting while driving bill surprisingly took five years to pass.Texting while driving will be a secondary offense, meaning a police officer cannot stop the individual for texting while driving as the main reason for the stop. The officer has to find a primary reason to pull the person over and then decide if he or she was texting while driving. Although there are exceptions to this bill, it will certainly make the roads safer. Some of the exceptions are “interpersonal communications that can be conducted without manually typing the message or without reading the message”. Studies show that “voice-to-text” is just as dangerous as “regular” texting while driving. Also, there is an exception for navigation information, traffic data, and radio broadcasts. Another interesting exception is that persons are allowed to text while stopped at a red light. This part of the bill will rely heavily on police discretion while deciding if the vehicle was actually moving. All of these exceptions could pose as a problem while trying to enforce the law. Also, the first violation will result in a $30 fine that is added on to the primary offense the officer stopped the individual for. The second offense is a $60 fine and 3 points on the individual’s license, only if the second offense was committed within five years of the first offense. If the result of texting while driving results in a crash then the bill allows for the acceptability of a person’s wireless communication device billing records as evidence.The officer must obtain a warrant to search the individual’s phone or phone records. Lastly, if the result of an incident is an injury or death, the person texting while driving will receive 6 points on their license. The main purpose of the bill is to increase highway safety and to prevent crashes due to texting while driving. In 2012, there were a total of 257,912 car accidents in Florida; 4,022 of those accidents were caused by “distracted individuals on electronic devices“. More importantly, of the 257,912 accidents, 196 were caused solely by texting while driving, which is less than 1%. Texting while driving is the biggest cause of death for teenagers. About 3,000 teenagers died last year from texting related incidents. While this bill will make our roads safer to travel on, police are worried that it will also be extremely tough to enforce.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Traffic Offenses

Consequences of Toll Violations in Central Florida

The Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority reported netting $251 million last year in toll collections – a $45 million increase from 2009. The toll revenue plays a crucial role, providing the funding necessary to maintain the Florida Turnpike. Unfortunately, some innocent SunPass users are playing the role of victim in this fund-raising endeavor. The SunPass transponder – also referred to as an E-Pass – is an electronic device that allows travelers on the Florida Turnpike, Toll Roads – 417, 429, 408 and the 528 to move through toll collection areas without stopping. Sensors at the toll station communicate with the transponder in the driver’s vehicle, debiting the toll from money in the SunPass holder’s online account. This system is aimed at reducing travel time and toll cost, but it can create some significant problems for SunPass users when it fails. SunPass Short-Circuits A SunPass transponder can fail due to a variety of reasons, some of them include: • dead or failing batteries, • vehicle’s windshield contains metal oxide, or • improper transponder placement. Technology can fail, too, through no fault of the user. Florida Turnpike authorities claim that the technology works if users follow directions, but it is pretty hard to believe that the electronic toll system has never malfunctioned. Regardless of fault, when the SunPass system fails it can cause serious trouble for the vehicle owner. Consequences of Toll Violations When the SunPass responder fails at a toll station and the driver isn’t aware, Florida law punishes the vehicle’s owner as an unpaid toll violator or may issue them a uniform traffic citation (UTC). Unlike many other states, Florida’s toll violations are considered moving violations. Because of this classification, vehicle owners hit with toll violations face significant consequences: • Fines that may exceed $100 • Increased insurance costs • Points assessed to driving record • Drivers License suspension • Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License These consequences are severe: especially for busy turnpike travelers who didn’t catch the transponder failure. However, they can avoid the serious consequences involved if they take action. Avoiding the Consequences Any toll or traffic violation can prove costly, but a skilled Orlando defense attorney can work with the traffic courts and toll agencies to avoid serious consequences from resulting. Consider hiring a defense lawyer with experience as a prosecutor, as that experience can provide a unique insight that may be valuable when creating defense strategies.

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