| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Florida “Dog Sniff” Case

A Florida criminal law case involving a drug-sniffing dog will go before the United States Supreme Court. The rights of criminal defendants are at stake in the matter, which will determine when the sensory skills of a canine may supersede a person’s privacy expectations. Marijuana Detected by Florida Drug-Sniffing Dog The case arises from a 2006 incident in which police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, following an anonymous tip, began watching the home of a suspected Florida marijuana grower. A police dog named Franky arrived with a police officer and indicated that the smell of marijuana was coming from the home. Law enforcement got a search warrant for the property based on Franky’s behavior, and police officers found 179 marijuana plants in the defendant’s house. Ever since, the criminal case has wound its way through Florida courts. While the state argues that the warrant was legitimate because Franky’s alert to the police officer was valid, the defendant says that his constitutional rights were violated. The Fourth Amendment’s Protections The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment provides protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In order to get a warrant to search a home, therefore, police officers must present probable cause. The warrant in this case was based in large part on the dog’s sniff. At issue is whether using the dog constituted a search. If it was a search, then law enforcement should have obtained a warrant before allowing the dog to sniff for drugs, rather than using the sniff to get the warrant. The defendant argues that a person’s home is a place where more privacy is expected than, for instance, in an airport. The Supreme Court has ruled that airports, cars and the mail are permissible areas for law enforcement to use drug-sniffing dogs without a warrant. The use of thermal-imaging technology, on the other hand, requires a warrant because it reveals much of what is happening in a suspect’s home. The case, Florida v. Jardines, will determine important rights of criminal suspects for years to come.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Resisting Arrest

Are Some Problem Florida Law Enforcement Officers Still on the Job?

As a society we like to think that we can place our trust in law enforcement officers to not only protect us, but also our loved ones – and in the vast majority of situations Florida police officers rightly earn this trust. However, the Herald-Tribune recently released an investigative report that, if proven true, has unearthed some very frightening allegations regarding some of Florida’s “finest.” The Herald-Tribune reported situations in which many police continue to be on the job even though there exists ample evidence they have committed severe crimes – crimes involving drugs, violence and even forcible sex, including allegations of sex with children as young as 14-years-old. Given the extremely severe penalties possible when private citizens commit battery on law enforcement officers, it is surprising that it appears the same standards fail to apply to a few “bad apple” law enforcement officers. Allegations of Misconduct Against Florida Police The majority of Florida’s 83,000 law enforcement officers is extremely committed to the job and performs the duties with zeal and integrity. However as with any job, there are always a few that can ruin the image for everyone. Recently, the Herald-Tribune spent eight months looking into how law enforcement officials investigate and handle officer misconduct – reviewing thousands of cases. Some of the newspaper’s findings included: One out of 20 current Florida law enforcement officers has committed a moral character violation severe enough to risk his or her job, including 30 officers and prison guards who are still working even though they have four or more offenses. The number of officers with serious violations is probably much higher than state records show. Even though state law calls for each violation to be reviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, local agencies have faced no consequences for failing to report cases – some Sheriff’s Offices haven’t reported any violations in 26 years. Some police departments have permitted problem officers to resign during an investigation, which means they are listed as leaving voluntarily in the computerized tracking system – which can be very misleading when subsequent law enforcement agencies review an officer’s history before hiring them. In fact, the Herald-Tribune discovered two expressed agreements between officers and police departments that kept the truth regarding their departure a secret.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

Constitutionality of a Florida Drug Law Presented to Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments last month regarding the constitutionality of a particular state drug law. Their ultimate decision will not only impact the defendants in this specific case, but may have ramifications for countless other Florida drug crime cases. Florida Drug Law at Issue According to a federal judge in Orlando, the drug law at issue doesn’t require prosecutors to prove intent in drug cases – the federal judge ultimately held the law to be unconstitutional. Currently, Florida is the only state that doesn’t require prosecutors to prove intent. Many Florida state courts have also had issues with this particular law. For example, the case currently before the Florida Supreme Court arose when a Manatee County Judge threw out 42 cases after determining the law deprived the defendants of their due process rights. Moreover, since the federal court ruling, nearly 80 drug cases have been thrown out by two Florida circuit court judges. Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals is one of the few courts to actually uphold the law. The reasoning for upholding the law given by the 1st DCA is that defendants are able to raise arguments regarding their lack of intent as affirmative defenses – and if raised, it would then shift the burden back to the prosecutors to prove intent. Ultimately, the Supreme Court in Florida will have to decide if they agree with the Federal Court in Orlando or the 1st District Court of Appeals. Potential Florida Legislation However, this entire issue may be deemed moot if some Florida lawmakers have their way. According to the Associated Press, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and state Rep. Erik Fresen may attempt to pass legislation which would at least require the state to prove intent in drug trafficking cases. Bogdanoff told the Associated Press, “”As a lawyer, I have problems constitutionally with forcing a party to prove their innocence versus the state proving guilt.” Bogdanoff continued, “We’re shifting that burden to potentially an innocent person, which I believe is against everything our constitution stands for.”

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drunk Driving

Faulty Breath Tests Tossed In Florida DUI Cases

Prosecutors in two counties in Florida have withdrawn the breath tests from around 100 DUI cases, according to a story in the Herald-Tribune. The cases will still proceed, but the prosecution will rely on other evidence, said prosecutors in the article. Intoxilyzer 8000 Problems The Intoxilyzer 8000, a breath-testing machine, appears to have been improperly set up and may have caused numerous inaccurate measurements for years. The five machines in question operated without being properly calibrated for measuring the volume of air a suspect exhales into the machine. The Intoxilyzer calculates the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a person by comparing the amount of alcohol vapor in the breath to the volume of air exhaled. The faulty breathalyzers appeared to measure many times over the actual breath volume. In order to create an accurate measurement of BAC, the machine must receive enough air to ensure the sample is not skewed by residual alcohol in the mouth or throat. If the machine incorrectly measures the quantity of air, it cannot arrive at an accurate BAC. It is also possible, according to the Herald-Tribune story, that the machine could indicate an insufficient volume, falsely implying the suspect failed to blow a sufficient breath into the machine, which in Florida can be charged as a “refusal,” i.e. where one refused to take the breath test, and cause the motorists to be subjected to a license suspension. The state has found that as much as 40 percent of the Intoxilyzer 8000 machines were malfunctioning. Not Foolproof This story illustrates that even police can make mistakes when making arrests for DUI in Florida – you have a right to fight a DUI claim if you believe you were improperly charged. Moreover, additional reports from California and Pennsylvania indicate problems with other breathalyzers used by police. Breathalyzers have been found to be faulty throughout the country; the machines may not have been properly calibrated or maintained, or, the officers may not have received proper training. All of these factors can compromise the accuracy of a breathalyzer test. Even open-and-shut cases may have their weaknesses.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Prescription Pills & Opioids

As Prosecutors crack down on Prescription Pills, Manufactures increase potency

Prescription Pill abuse has forced law enforcement agencies across the country to target pain clinics and pain management doctors. As law enforcement cracks down on the abuse of prescription pills, an article written by the Daily Mail Reporter indicates that at least four manufactures are in the process of patenting the addictive ingredient hydrocodone in a pure form. Do we really need a “pure form” of hydrocodone? The Pharmaceutical companies will have doctors argue that this is just another “tool” for doctors to manage pain. However, the overwhelming addiction abuse associated with these pain medications has forced law enforcement and legislatures to increase penalties for illegally possessing these pain medications. The article in the Daily Mail, quotes Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing who told CBS: ‘You’ve got a person on your product for life, and a doctor’s got a patient who’s never going to miss an appointment, because if they did and they didn’t get their prescription, they would feel very sick. ‘It’s a terrific business model, and that’s what these companies want to get in on.’ These drug companies are going to produce a drug that is 10 times stronger than Vicodin. The reality is that the increased potency is going to lead to an increase in addiction and an increase in Pharmaceutical drug crimes. Some responsibility needs to come from the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers. Even as the criminal penalties increase, pharmaceutical manufacturers should have some type of ethical and legal responsibility to control its distribution.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

British Teen Found with Cocaine Faces Florida’s Strict Drug Penalties

On October 27th, a British teen was allegedly found with 30lbs of cocaine packed in her luggage at a Florida airport as she was entering the US. According to The Telegraph, the teen was told she now faces the rest of her life in prison for drug trafficking since she will be tried as an adult – she turned 18 three days after being arrested. The teen had arrived in Florida from Jamaica, and was attempting to catch a connecting flight to London, where US authorities believes she planned to sell the drugs. However, she was selected for a “secondary screening” by US Customs agents, at which time they state they found the cocaine packed into 24 cake mix boxes. The cocaine has an estimated street worth of more than $600,000. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle told The Telegraph, “This young woman had her 18th birthday in a foreign jail, far from her home and her family, because she thought she could smuggle almost 30 pounds of cocaine through Miami.” Fernández Rundle went on to say, “Sadly, she almost becomes a poster child for how easily the drug trade can corrupt our youth.” Drug Trafficking Penalties In Florida Unfortunately for this British teen, she is being charged in Florida, which has some of the harshest penalties for drug trafficking in the US – especially since they have chosen to charge her as an adult, which generally carries even longer prison sentences. In Florida, drug trafficking is punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison, with a maximum of 65 years. It is a very serious crime, with very serious consequences, and as such should not be treated lightly. If charged with a drug related crime Florida, an experienced attorney can help protect your rights and advise you of your rights and options.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

Cocaine Use Declining in Florida

After being in vogue for over 25 years, cocaine use in Florida is declining. According to a report by James N. Hall, Director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University, the number of cocaine-related overdoses and deaths in Florida has declined. Likewise, fewer people are seeking treatment for cocaine and crack addictions. But it is not because we are winning the war on drugs or because more drug users are becoming clean – cocaine use is declining primarily because, in tough economic times, many cannot afford to buy it. Cocaine was introduced in the United States in the 1970s, but the height of its use was in the 1980s and 1990s. Cocaine and crack cocaine were readily available and abuse was rampant. As cocaine use increased, so did law enforcement’s war on drugs. The war on drugs made it more difficult to obtain cocaine, thereby reducing the supply and making it more expensive. Increased police efforts have lead to more “cut” – or less pure cocaine – being on the market; so users are paying more but getting less. Recently, Florida’s unemployment rate has hovered between 10 and 12 percent, the housing market has collapsed and many Floridians have little disposable income. Cocaine, one of the priciest recreational drugs, is too expensive and more of a luxury drug in this economy. Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise While cocaine use is declining, the abuse of prescription drugs is increasing. Prescription drugs are easier to obtain and cheaper than cocaine. According to an article in the Miami Herald, of the 9,000 drug-related deaths reported in Florida in 2010, 6,090 of those included the use of benzodiazepines and Oxycodone. Here are some statistics from Hall’s report: In 2007, there were 281 cocaine-related deaths in Miami, while In 2009, that number fell to 155 deaths The number of ER visits related to cocaine overdoses declined 14 percent from 2008 and 2009 In 2009, 918 persons sought treatment for cocaine addiction, and in 2010, only 549 persons sought treatment In 2010, deaths from prescription drugs like Oxycodone increased 50 percent Cocaine and Florida are linked forever in pop culture because of TV shows like “Miami Vice” and movies such as “Scarface.” But with declining use of cocaine and increasing abuse of prescription drugs, it may be time for that image to change.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Drug Charges

State’s Prescription Fraud database launches Today

The State of Florida prescription drug database launches today.  This database is intened to combat the increase in prescription drug crimes such as prescription fraud or doctor shopping.  In a nutshell the law now requires pharmacies and dispensing physicians to upload information into the database within seven days of filling the prescription. The database will allow doctors and pharmacists to view your medical history and see if you are attempting to obtain the same prescription that a different doctor has already prescribed.  However, the doctors and pharmacists are not required to examine the database and it has yet to be seen whether or not they will do this voluntarily. As a criminal defense attorney I have seen an incredible increase in arrests for prescriptions drugs like oxycontin, xanax, and valium.  I am not sure if this database will lead to a decrease in use and abuse of these drugs or if it will simply give law enforcement another tool to target the addict who exhibits drug seeking behavior.  The database does not prevent the sale of durgs on the black-market nor does it stop the unscrupulous doctor from over prescribing this powerful medication.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Domestic Violence

Single Spank is not Domestic Violence, Florida Court Rules

A three-judge panel in the First District Court of Appeal has ruled that one single spank does not qualify as domestic violence, and unanimously quashed an injunction for protection against domestic violence issued against a man identified only as G.C. Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence The injunction for protection was issued by a lower court based upon accusations from the ex-wife of G.C. that he spanked their 14-year-old daughter once on the buttocks with his hand. The father had stated he spanked his daughter because she had been acting defiant and disrespectful – while the teen believed she was merely being sarcastic. In making their decision, the court stated, “common law recognize[s] a parent’s right to discipline his or her child in a ‘reasonable manner’… a parent’s right to administer reasonable and non-excessive corporal punishment to discipline their children is legislatively recognized.” Moreover, the court opined that since the law in Florida regarding domestic violence does not expressly exclude this common law defense, it is available to quash a injunction against domestic violence – and when the defense was applied in this particular case, the court ultimately concluded that “under established Florida law this single spank constituted reasonable and non-excessive parental corporal discipline and, as a matter of law, was not domestic violence.” Domestic Violence Under Florida law, domestic violence is generally any type of assault or adverse intentional action that results in an injury to any other member of the family or household – in this case it was between a father and daughter, but a more commonly occurs between a husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. Emotionally charged domestic violence accusations not only split families but also lead to a host of other severe consequences. Because of the seriousness surrounding domestic violence allegations, if you are a victim trying to get a restraining order or even the accused trying to protect your rights, it is important to contact an experienced domestic violence lawyer in your area.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Drug Charges

Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring

Today Florida will begin monitoring your prescriptions in an effort to deterdoctor shopping and physicians from overprescribing medication.  The legislation that led to the data base has been mired in controversy.  Advocates contend that it gives law enforcement the ability to monitor “pill mills” and is necessary to combat Florida’s growing prescription pill epidemic.  Those in opposition, including Gov. Scott prior to changing his mind, believe that the monitoring program violates patient privacy. Whichever side you come down on it is clear that Florida is serious about cracking down on prescription drug abuse.  Law enforcement at the Federal, State, and local level has made it clear that they are targeting the unlawful possession of prescription medication and those that obtain these drugs fraudulently.  Law enforcement now has the ability to expand their investigations into prescription drug fraud.

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