Currently, Florida’s death sentence policy is different than all other states in the US. Although some states have modified versions, Florida is the only state that allows the jury to recommend either the death penalty or life in prison decided on by majority vote. The judge then takes the recommendation into consideration but does not have to agree.
Last week in Miami, a Federal judge declared that Florida’s death sentence was unconstitutional because jurors are not required to explain what specific part of evidence they based their decision on. This is just one example of a situation where having a lawyer familiar with the Federal criminal code and Federal criminal sentencing could be beneficial.
According to an article from Tampa Bay Online, the ruling applies only to a specific case of a murderer currently on Florida’s Death Row, but there is reason to believe that this will spark many more challenges in the future.
So this brings us to the “hot topic” question… will this ruling have any effect on the outcome of the Casey Anthony case? The Anthony defense sure hopes so. Since word of Wednesday’s ruling from the Miami judge, Anthony’s defense team has “filed a motion to have the Florida death penalty declared unconstitutional.”
Anthony’s defense team decided to challenge the current death penalty days after their motion for a ruling of competence was disregarded. Three different psychologists saw Anthony and according to their findings, she is competent and the trial will proceed on Friday, and now on Monday news breaks that they have filed the motion. Coincidence?
UPDATE 7/6/11: With the acquittal yesterday of all murder charges, it isn’t applicable to the Casey Anthony case any longer.
In the state of Florida, if you are driving under the influence and have a blood/breath alcohol level of .08 or higher you will be charged with a DUI. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the penalties upon conviction are the same but depending on certain factors such as prior convictions or if there was a minor in the car, the suspect will face heavier consequences.
Referenced from the Department of Highway and Safety and Motor Vehicles, here is an outline of the consequences and suspension laws for a DUI in Florida.
-50 hours of community service is mandatory; you can either complete the community service or pay $10 for every hour that is required.
-Probation (should not exceed a year).
-You will not face more than 6 months jail time.
-Your license will be suspended anywhere from 180 days to a year.
-Mandatory DUI school before hardship reinstatement.
-Your car will be impounded 10 days.
If it is your first offense AND you have a BAL of .15 or higher or have a minor in the car your sanctions will worsen. Your fines will increase to $1,000-$2,000 and you could face up to 9 months in jail.
-You will not face more than 9 months of jail time.
-If it is within 5 years of prior offense, license will be suspended for 5 years.
-Mandatory DUI school.
-Your car will be impounded for 30 days.
If you have a BAL of .15 or higher or a minor is present, your fines increase to $2,000-$4,000 and you can face up to 12 months in jail.
-You will face at least 30 days of jail time but no more than 12 months.
-If it is within 10 years of prior offense, license will be suspended for 10 years.
-Mandatory DUI school.
-Your car will be impounded for 90 days.
Again, if you have a BAL of .15 or higher or a minor is present, your fines increase to no less than $4,000.
The most important thing you can do after receiving a DUI is to contact a criminal defense attorney. Hillsborough County is one of Florida’s most active counties in cracking down on drunk drivers. Generally speaking, if you are pulled over for DUI questioning, you will be arrested. Unfortunately you must pay the price, but having a Tampa defense attorney present throughout your process will ensure that you are making the right decisions as you go forward. A Board-Certified attorney should know the DUI laws like the back of their hand, so they will be able to educate you on what happens next.
If you have a Florida driver’s license, then yes. And believe it or not the State of Florida has been doing this for years.
It’s logical to think this act must be breaking a law when in reality, “the courts have ruled there is nothing illegal about it” according to an ABC Action News article.
Not anyone has the ability to purchase your license; the state only sells information to companies like ShadowSoft, Inc., which claims to sell the information they get from the state to businesses to whom use it for customer verification.
For example, if a doctor’s office was trying to track a patient down and came across that the patient has since moved or changed their mailing address, they would buy the patient’s personal information from a business like ShadowSoft.
There are 10 different companies that Florida sells drivers license information to. According to the article, our personal information is worth a lot – $62,968,946 to be exact.
So the question arises, is this constitutional? Courts say yes but the public, or at least the ones who know about it, say no. Larry Brindley was stopped outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles and asked his thoughts on the topic. After ABC Action News explained what was happening with Florida drivers’ personal information, Larry responded with
“I have a problem with that, it’s just another cash cow for somebody, and I think information is exploited to the max.”
This spring, a group Florida citizens attempted to shut down the relationship between ShadowSoft and the state. The judge declared it legal and said it did not violate the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. So now we wonder… the more the public finds out about what is happening to their personal information, will we see an appeal to this case in the future?
Last Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state can no longer suspend motorist’s license if they refuse a DUI test. What’s the catch? That is only if the driver felt the refusal did not follow a lawful stop.
Prior to this ruling, Florida’s “implied consent” law required that if police officials had probable cause to pull a suspected motorist over and they denied the sobriety test, their license would immediately be suspended. Officials never had to consider the legality of the stop.
In the article, DUI License Suspension Rules Will Change After Ruling, attorney David Robbins says, “This gives defendants a fighting chance.” He and another attorney believed that since law enforcement had the ability to suspend someone’s license right on the spot, suspects had no chance to appeal the decision.
So what does the passing of this law tell us? It’s safe to say that we’ll see an uptick in the number of people that will challenge the lawfulness of their stop.
This law applies to DHSMV administrative suspension proceedings and excludes all criminal DUI cases.
There are many mistakes made before and after an arrest is made, the biggest behind breaking the law is making statements to law enforcement without a lawyer present. In this video found on my YouTube channel, you will find a sample of the advice I would give to you if I was your criminal defense attorney.
“The singular biggest mistake that everyone makes is they make statements to the police in the hopes of making their situation better and all they’ve done is hurt themselves.”
Although it is hard not to make any statements during this process, remember that anything you say will be used against you in the court of law.
Not too long ago, I touched upon the idea that Florida could see “no refusal” DUI checkpoints in the future, but last week Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal put an end to that idea, at least for now. The court ruled that law enforcement cannot forcibly draw blood in a DUI investigation if it is a misdemeanor. The ruling still stands that blood can be drawn if it involves injury, death or if it is a felony case.
According to an article from Key News in Key West, attorneys on both sides of the argument agree on one thing: that blood tests are the most accurate of all sobriety tests. Where they differ is how the blood is used. Sam Kaufman, Key West defense attorney states,
“What they’re saying is that blood is not being used as a means to commit a crime…In other words, the statute states that evidence has to be property used to commit a crime. They’re saying that a person’s blood doesn’t fall into that category.”
Dennis Ward of Monroe County is for the “no refusal” forced DUI blood tests. He wants everyone who is pulled over and has a prior DUI to be subject to a blood test. Currently, the law stands that blood can only be drawn in felony cases. A suspect’s third DUI is only considered a felony if it happens within 10 years of the last convicted DUI but the fourth DUI is always a felony.
Ward says that this ruling is not going to stop his fight against drunk drivers. At this point in time he cannot do anything about first or second time offenders, but says this will not hold him back from moving forward with felony offenders.
Although this case stems from Key West, the article explains that this “ruling affects all of Florida because no other precedent has been set.” This sets back any movement towards the “no refusal” DUI check points coming to Tampa. It raises the question of whether or not the Geiss case mentioned in the previous post or any other current cases dealing with forced BAC tests will be appealed. Although the law has passed, this is likely not the last we will hear of the “no refusal” checkpoints and blood tests. This situation underlines the importance of effective legal representation if you’ve been charged with DUI/DWI.
The House failed to pass The Eyewitness Identification Reform Act purposed to standardize identification lineups. The law would have required all police lineups to be conducted by a random officer who has no prior knowledge about the case or the suspect. The thought behind the bill was that if an unaffiliated officer ran the lineup, there would be no chance of bias or pressure for the witness to pick a suspect.
According to an article from the Florida Bar News, attorney Perry Thurston says that the bill did not pass because of law enforcement influence.
“They thought it was an excellent idea, but they didn’t want to be ordered to do it. They wanted to do it on their own time frame.”
We hear two arguments, both valid points. One argument is that this bill was purposed to prevent the innocent from being accused and to protect law enforcement from any unintended bias; the other argument is that this law potentially casts doubt on law enforcement’s integrity.
Sen. Steve Oelrich of Gainesville is quoted saying
“The argument can’t be both ways that we have every confidence in our cops, yet we are going to make them pay the price by having a law that casts a doubt on their integrity. This is a problem with misidentification by the witness, not a problem with our law enforcement and our law enforcement’s integrity.”
Although the bill died, attention was drawn to this proposition and the fact that police officials liked it – they just didn’t want to be mandated. Just because it didn’t pass, doesn’t mean officers may not adopt this procedure for future lineups.