I was in need of money and told people I was raising money for a charity, but I plan to keep the money for myself instead of actually making the donation. Can I be charged with a crime?

The crime of wire fraud generally involves obtaining money, property, services, or something of value under false pretenses using electronic means of communication, including the internet, emails, text messages, social media websites, or wire transfers. Mail fraud is a similar offense, only the communications occur through the United States Postal Service or other carriers.

Wire fraud is illegal under both federal and Florida law. The Florida Communications Fraud Act criminalizes schemes to defraud, as described above. Under Florida law, a scheme to defraud is defined as “a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud one or more persons, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.” In the situation described above, asking people for money for a charity while knowing that the money would not actually be turned over to that charity and instead used for other purposes would be an intentional scheme to defraud. Continue reading

If you have been accused of a crime and not yet retained an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the police’s demands to discuss the alleged charges. When you are unrepresented, police are more likely to employ illegal tactics to get a confession from you. These tactics include using violence, promises, or threats to force a confession. To best protect your rights, it is important to know how police can – and, more importantly, cannot – elicit a confession from you during their investigations.

Any confession made involuntarily cannot be used against you in court. However, not all involuntary confessions fall under this category. A forced or coerced confession has only occurred when the police have threatened to use, or have used, violence against the accused which directly lead to their confession. Some examples of this type of force include: Continue reading

Florida lawmakers have recently been focusing on increased efforts to combat the crime of human trafficking. The result of these efforts has been new legislation criminalizing a broad range of conduct most people don’t realize is connected with human trafficking. News headlines of human trafficking arrests have been increasing across the state, with many individuals facing lengthy prison sentences for these crimes.

Many people have difficulty distinguishing between the crimes of human trafficking and prostitution. The key difference is essentially consent or coercion. Prostitution criminalizes the exchange of sexual acts for money with consenting individuals. Human trafficking is considered by the Florida legislature to be modern-day slavery involving an element of coercion that isn’t present in prostitution. Human trafficking also includes trafficking individuals for labor or services.  Most prostitution offenses are misdemeanors, while human trafficking offenses are felonies carrying much harsher sentences. Continue reading

I recently wrote a check and knew at the time that I did not have enough money in my bank account to cover the full amount. I was hoping that I could add enough funds to my account before the check was cashed to cover it, but I wasn’t able to and now the check has bounced. I know that my bank will charge me overdraft fees, but can I also be charged with a crime?

The short answer is it is possible. Under Florida law, there are many ways you could potentially face criminal charges for check fraud. For example, it is illegal to write a check or use a debit card while knowing at the time that there are insufficient funds in your account. It is also a crime to cash or deposit a check into your account with the intent to defraud, forge checks, forge signatures or sign someone else’s name on a check, or otherwise alter a check and then deposit it into your account or cash it. Writing a check and then improperly issuing a “stop payment” order on it to prevent it from being cashed is also a crime.  Issuing a worthless check or debit card order is a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a fine if the amount is less than $150. If the amount is $150 or more, it becomes a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a more severe fine. Cashing or depositing a check with the intent to defraud is also a felony of the third degree. All are theft and fraud crimes. Continue reading

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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

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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

Client Reviews
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I would like thank my attorney Thomas Luka. I knew from the beginning I had the right guy in my corner. While celebrating with family and friends at a Public Park in Seminole County, a fight broke out among various people. Myself, and a good friend, broke up the fight and the instigators left. Six months later, I was wrongly accused as the person who started the fight. The first attorney I hired could not even get a response from the State Attorney handling the case. Someone referred me to Tom and I felt comfortable at his demeanor and reactions.

After conversations with Tom, who knew I would settle for nothing less than a FULL DISMISSAL due to my innocence, I hired him. His firm of Adams and Luka did the due diligence by interviewing witnesses and the police who were on the scene, as well as starting a dialogue with the State Attorney. After gathering statements from witnesses, Tom was able to present a strong argument on my behalf to the State Attorney on why the case should be dismissed. If the State Attorney was not willing to dismiss the case, Tom was ready to take the case to trial.

The result by Thomas Luka: Case Dismissed.

I am 53 years old with a spotless record and glad to keep it that way thanks to the time, effort, hard work, and professionalism of the Adams and Luka and Tom Luka.

Earl from Mesquite
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Thomas Luka left a life-long great impression of lawyers. He was always professional, on time, and answered things honestly. From the start and during the 14 months it went on - Tom was very upfront and honest with me about the possible outcomes. The result was better than I had hoped for. Tom really over-delivered. HIGHLY RECCOMEND. Marcela Giorgi
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Adams and Luka were very professional and savvy in the courtroom. When you're in court with Mr. Luka you will think you have the best attorney there. I recommend this law firm. Pioneer Tech
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Rich Adams is an outstanding criminal attorney. I have had the opportunity to refer several friends and clients to his practice for handling of criminal matters, and on every occasion he has produced an excellent result. Rich practices with attention to detail, a thorough knowledge of the law, and a passion to defend his clients. I will continue to refer clients to Rich Adams, and would strongly recommend him for your legal needs. Brian Pink