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As a parent or guardian, it can be stressful to see your child in handcuffs or get a phone call that your child is at the police station for allegedly breaking the law. Minors do have specific rights in the juvenile justice system that are important to know if the situation ever arises. A person is considered a minor in Florida if they are under 18 years of age.

If a minor is arrested, the police must read the minor their Miranda Rights, which means they have the right to an attorney and anything they tell the police can be used against them in court. If the minor is not read their Miranda Rights, any conversation between the minor and law enforcement will not be admissible in court as evidence. The minor may also have a parent present. If a minor requests their parents, the police must make a reasonable attempt to contact the parents and share the minor’s location, but police may still question the minor without a parent present. The minor has a right to an attorney, and either the parent may retain one or the minor will be assigned a court-appointed public defender. One exception to police questioning without an attorney is if the child is under 13 years of age and has been arrested for sexual assault or homicide, in which case the child may not be questioned at all without an attorney present.

After the minor is arrested and processed, a Juvenile Probation Officer will perform a risk assessment to determine if the minor is a flight risk. With that assessment, a Department of Juvenile Justice Officer will decide if the child may return home or should be held in a juvenile center before their detention hearing. If the minor’s risk level requires a juvenile center placement, they will be taken to either a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Center or a Juvenile Assessment Center.

Two men in New England were charged with fraudulently applying for a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan worth over $500,000. These loans, stemming from the recent CARES Act, were designed to assist small businesses during the CoVid-19 pandemic. David Butziger of Rhode Island and David Staveley of Massachusetts were charged with conspiracy to making false statements on their SBA forms and conspiracy of bank fraud. Staveley was separately charged with identity theft and Butziger was separately charged with bank fraud. They claimed on their applications to have multiple wage-earning employees at four different businesses. The Justice Department stated the employees claimed to work at the businesses were not actually employed. The FBI uncovered emails between the two men, discussing ways to create an application for a federal PPP loan and the supporting documents under false information without getting caught.

Butziger claimed his company, Dock Wireless, had seven workers on the payroll. The Department of Revenue determined, under further investigation, those workers were not employed at Dock Wireless. Records further showed no evidence of any alleged workers except Butziger. Staveley claimed on his application there were dozens of employees unemployed across three restaurants he owned. However, under further investigation, it was determined two of the restaurants were closed before the pandemic hit early March, and the other restaurant had no indication Staveley was involved in the business.

For the men to be charged in a criminal court, they must be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be guilty of the charges. Fraudulent applications to the PPP must have evidence containing immense wrongdoing in one or more of the four categories needed on the original application: 1) necessity for the loans, 2) size eligibility for the loan- less than 500 employees, 3) amount requested for the loan- under $10 million, or 4) the use of the loan- payroll, mortgage, rent, and/or utilities.

The Florida Supreme Court recently declined to consider whether law enforcement can legally force defendants to reveal their cellphone passcodes. In the case of Pollard v. State, 287 So. 3d 649, out of the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Alachua County, prosecutors sought to force the defendant to reveal the passcode to his cellphone as part of their criminal investigation. The case reached the Supreme Court of Florida; however, because the case was dismissed by the state attorney’s office, it will no longer be reviewed by the highest court in Florida.

This topic is a continuous debate between court systems and law enforcement throughout Florida and across the United States. Currently, two of the five Florida district courts are divided on the issue of requiring defendants to provide police with their cellphone passcodes. The 2nd District Court of Appeals which covers counties in the Southwest regions of Florida, has ruled a search warrant can require a defendant to provide their passcodes. In contrast, the 4th District Court of Appeals which covers counties in the Southeast regions of Florida, has ruled requiring a defendant to reveal their cellphone passcodes is unconstitutional violating a defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

In the 5th District Court of Appeals (DCA), which covers the Central Florida regions including the counties of Lake, Osceola, and Orange; the court has not been presented with a case to rule on whether a search warrant required a defendant to unlock their cellphones. The 5th DCA has ruled on other situations involving the search of a cellphone. The court has adopted the ruling in the case of Smallwood v. State, 113 So. 3d 724, which found that police needed to obtain a warrant to search a phone upon seizing it once an arrest has been made. The 5th DCA has also ruled on specific situations where a warrantless search of a cellphone is applicable. In the case of State v. Phillips, 266 So. 3d 873, the court found that a defendant on probation for sexual offenses created a greater public interest to justify a cellphone search without a warrant.

Recently in Colorado, a viral video captured parents engaging in a brawl by choking, shoving, and throwing punches at each other. The viral video depicts an adult choking another, followed by several others rushing towards the fence where the initial conflict began. All of this occurred at an elementary school among 7-year-old children participating in a youth baseball game. The fights are alleged to stem from a call made by the umpire who is only 13 years of age. This brawl resulted in several injuries, citations for disorderly conduct and fighting in public, and ongoing investigations for several parents involved.

In Florida, a brawl of this nature is likely to lead to battery charges. Florida law defines battery as actually and intentionally touching or striking another person against their will or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person. A battery charge is a misdemeanor of the first-degree and a person convicted of such charge can be sentenced up to one-year imprisonment and imposed fines. If a parent involved in a brawl as portrayed in the video has prior battery or aggravated battery convictions, the battery charge can be increased to a felony battery. Felony battery is a third-degree crime. Conviction of such crime can result in up to five years imprisonment and imposed fines.

In addition to battery, a person participating in a brawl at a sporting event may receive assault or disorderly conduct charges. Assault is defined by Florida law as an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, with the apparent ability to do so, and creates a well-founded fear in such other person that violence is imminent. Disorderly conduct is defined by Florida law as acts that corrupt the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them or engages in brawling or fighting. A conviction of assault or disorderly conduct are considered second-degree misdemeanors which can carry up to sixty days in jail and fines.

The police have asked me to turn over my cellphone and laptop so that they can search it for illegal material and child pornography. I don’t have anything to hide, but I don’t want to turn anything over unless I really need to. What do the police need to get a search warrant for my electronics?

Under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Florida Constitution, the police cannot search through information on your computer, laptop, cellphone, tablet, or other electronic device without either your consent or a search warrant. If you refuse to give consent, then a police officer or other law enforcement agent would need to provide a sworn affidavit to a magistrate or judge stating the grounds for probable cause. The affidavit would need to provide specific information showing that there is a high probability that law enforcement will find illegal material on your devices if they were allowed to search them.

Many people wonder how law enforcement could possibly know whether their devices contain illegal material such as child pornography. Most tips that law enforcement receives regarding child pornography comes from internet services providers, such as Google or Safari. Internet service providers are private companies. Given that 4th amendment protections only apply to invasions of privacy committed by government actors and not private individuals or companies, the 4th amendment does not protect you from private companies turning over information they have to law enforcement. For example, if an internet service provider becomes aware of an image of child pornography, it can report that image, including providing the web server and address, to law enforcement. Law enforcement can then use this information to establish the probable cause they need to get a warrant for uploads or downloads of this illegal material.

Client Reviews

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
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
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
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
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