The First Step Act, federal legislation for criminal justice reform, was just passed by the U.S. Senate. The First Step Act is aimed at reducing our country’s mass incarceration rates by reducing sentences and offering more programs to reduce recidivism rates. Under this act, federal judges will now have more discretion in bypassing mandatory minimum sentences, allowing them to give lighter sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Other sentencing guidelines have also been reduced, including the “three strikes rule,” which has been lowered from a mandatory life sentence down to twenty-five years. A law that increases sentences for individuals in possession of a firearm while committing a crime by up to twenty-five years will no longer apply for first-time offenders. The First Step Act will also make a 2010 statute that reduced the sentencing disparity rate between crack cocaine and powder cocaine charges retroactive to extend the reduced sentencing to individuals sentenced prior to the 2010 statute. Some other benefits for current inmates include more access to job training programs and programs designed to reduce recidivism rates, an expansion of early release programs, and pregnant inmates can no longer be shackled. Continue reading
Over 50 people, including celebrities, CEOs, and administrators, have been charged following the long-running college admissions scandal. Those charged paid over $25 million to ensure their children were admitted to elite universities, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California, despite the students not having the qualifying credentials. Among those charged, the most notable are Lori Loughlin, from “Full House,” her husband and fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli, and Felicity Huffman, from “Desperate Housewives.” Loughlin and Giannulli were indicted for allegedly paying $500,000 to have their two daughters designated as crew recruits to guarantee admission to USC, despite neither girl ever having done crew. Huffman, meanwhile, was indicted for allegedly paying an organization $15,000 to help her daughter cheat on the SAT. Continue reading
You’ve likely noticed bright green bikes and scooters available for short term rentals popping up in areas around you. While these may seem like a convenient option when you have had a little too much to drink and don’t want to drive your car home, it is still possible to get a DUI on one of these devices.
Florida Statute 306.003 defines a vehicle as “every device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway.” The statute further goes on to define a motorized scooter, which falls within the above definition of a vehicle. As a result, this subjects electric scooters to the same traffic laws that a car would be expected to follow. Since these rental scooters have become more widespread, Tallahassee Police Officer Damon Miller said, “You cannot run the red light, you basically have to follow all traffic laws.” Also, when you’re riding e-scooters on the sidewalk you must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk as well.” Continue reading
I was falsely accused of rape and the police just called to question me – should I talk to them? This is a call we receive quite often because it is our client’s first instinct to cooperate with the police when they know they have been falsely accused of a crime, especially one of a sexual nature. However, talking to the police without retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney could lead to disastrous results later.
Anything you say to the police can be used against you if charges are formally filed. You have a legally protected right to remain silent when police want to question you regarding an ongoing investigation. If the police call you or come to your house to investigate, do not panic. Do not speak to the police regarding the alleged crime or even try to explain your innocence. Simply remain silent and tell them that your attorney will be in contact. Don’t get tricked by the police. Most people do not realize the police can lie to you to obtain a confession. They may say things like “We have you on video” or “We have a taped conversation of you admitting it.” Do not fall for this trick. Remember, if the police had solid evidence against you, they would just arrest you and not need a confession. Additionally, is also important to not discuss the potential charges with family members or friends. Anything you tell them could also be later used against you if the prosecutor chooses to call them as a witness during trial. Continue reading
The short answer is yes if the criminal conduct you were involved in violated both state law and federal law then you can face criminal charges in both state court and federal court. Local or statewide law enforcement agencies including local sheriff’s departments, city police departments, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct criminal investigations involving potential criminal activity that violates Florida Law. The U.S. government also has federal laws that criminalize certain conduct; those crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). State crimes are prosecuted by the state attorney’s office and federal crimes are prosecuted by U.S. District Attorneys. It is possible to be investigated by multiple law enforcement agencies at both the state and federal level for the same criminal conduct, and to subsequently be prosecuted in both state and federal court. Continue reading
Most individuals do not understand what money laundering is, what types of actions can lead to money laundering charges, or the possible legal consequences. Often times individuals associate money laundering with complex criminal organizations moving large amounts of cash or associate it as something that only happens with money from selling drugs. In reality, money laundering charges can be the result of transactions for as little as $300 involving proceeds from any type of illegal activity.
Money laundering is the process of trying to conceal, disguise, hide, or process the proceeds generated from criminal activity to make the funds appear to be from a legitimate or legal source. Some examples of illegal activities that generate money illegally would be the sale of drugs, illegal gambling, bribery, and illegal kickbacks, or theft. Continue reading
Bringing a weapon to the airport unintentionally can happen. Often people are in a rush and forget to remove a weapon they usually carry with them from their bag. Others bring a weapon to the airport under the belief that they are legally allowed to do so. Unfortunately, this can lead to unintended legal consequences, whether you have a license to carry the concealed weapon or not.
Under Florida law, even individuals with a Florida concealed weapons permit are not authorized to carry a concealed weapon or firearm the inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport. Under TSA guidelines, a person may carry a legal firearm that is encased in a locked container, unloaded, and declared to TSA, to be transported in a checked bag. Any individual with a concealed weapons permit who violates this law can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to sixty days in jail and fines. While an individual could be taken into custody by law enforcement for this offense, officers have the discretion to possibly issue a notice to appear in court and then let the individual continue with catching their flight. Other places that individuals with concealed weapons permits are not allowed to carry firearms include police stations, courthouses, jails, polling places, schools, colleges, and universities. Continue reading
When people think of trafficking drugs, the first thing that often comes to mind are scenes from movies involving large quantities of drugs and cash being moved through complex criminal organizations. A real-life example of this that was recently in the news was a federal case where several arrests were made from an international drug ring moving cocaine from South America through Mexico and into Los Angeles. Federal agents seized over 7,700 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $500 million from this drug ring over a three-year period. Seven individuals were indicted on federal charges and one higher-ranking member has been extradited to the United States to face charges. The criminal organization was also linked to two murders, including a video recording of a murder involving torture and dismemberment. Continue reading
I was caught breaking and entering into someone’s home. I didn’t think breaking and entering was that serious of an offense, but now I’m being charged with burglary.
Unfortunately, most people do not realize the severity of a burglary charge until they are being prosecuted for one. Under Florida law, what is commonly refer to in lay terms as “breaking and entering” is actually the crime of burglary, which can be classified as high as a first-degree felony punishable by life in prison.
As of July 1, 2001, burglary is defined as entering a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter; or notwithstanding a licensed or invited entry, remaining in a dwelling, structure, or conveyance: surreptitiously, with the intent to commit an offense therein; after permission to remain therein has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit an offense therein; or to commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony. Essentially, a burglary is entering without permission, or remaining somewhere after permission was revoked, with the intent to commit a criminal offense. Continue reading
In Florida, conspiracy is defined by statute as a person who agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person or persons to commit any offense commits the offense of criminal conspiracy. In lay terms, conspiracy occurs when two or more individuals agree to commit a crime and intend for that crime to actually occur. All that is needed is the intent and the agreement, no further steps towards completing the intended crime are required. A simple example would be two individuals who agree to rob a bank together, with one individual saying “Hey, let’s go rob a bank,” and the other individual saying “O.K.”. Even if the robbery never occurs, they could still be charged with conspiracy. If they were to actually rob the bank then they could face both conspiracy and robbery charges.
The state does not need direct evidence, such as having the conversation recorded or in writing, to prove the agreement was formed. The agreement can be inferred from circumstantial evidence surrounding the crime. Surrounding circumstances that can be considered as circumstantial evidence of an agreement may be being at the scene of a crime together and actions that would constitute aiding and abetting, although those factors standing alone are not enough to prove a conspiracy occurred. If a crime is committed by more than one individual and their actions while committing the offense indicate that they would have needed to have a prior agreement to be able to execute the crime in the manner that they did could be circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy. Continue reading