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Were you arrested after the police discovered drugs, an illegal firearm and/or other contraband while checking on your safety while you were in your car?  If you were, a recent case from the First District Court of Appeals shows how you may be able to have your case dropped.

In Taylor v. State, Escambia County Sheriff’s Deputy David Ramires responded to a call at 4:30 a.m. about a man sleeping in a vehicle with a knife on his lap. Upon arriving at the reported location, Deputy Ramires observed Mr. Taylor was indeed sleeping in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with a “fairly large knife” on his lap.

Taylor’s car was legally parked, it was not running, and no one else was in the vehicle. Deputy Ramires did not smell alcohol. The surrounding area was not a high crime area. Continue reading

Were you arrested based on items found pursuant to a search warrant?  Is so, the recent case of Hill v. State shows how your lawyer may be able to obtain and then review the affidavit underlying the warrant for errors and constitutional infirmities.  If such defects exist, your lawyer may be able to invalidate your warrant and have your case dismissed.

In Hill, the police obtained a warrant to search Hill’s former girlfriend’s residence where she lived with their children. Hill frequently stayed at the residence. The judge later sealed the affidavit that was submitted to get the warrant issued.

Law enforcement subsequently executed the warrant at the residence. Hill was present. The search yielded large quantities of cannabis and cocaine, drug paraphernalia, two loaded firearms, and $3,800 in cash. Continue reading

Were you arrested for possessing a firearm, drugs or other contraband found by dog sniff during a routine traffic stop?  If you so, you may have grounds to have all the evidence found by the State thrown out and your case dismissed.  A recent case shows how that can occur.

In Flowers v. State, Timothy Flowers was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over by Officer Josh Carswell for failure to come to a complete stop at a red light before making a right turn. The stop occurred at 10:15 p.m. While Officer Carswell was collecting the information he needed to write Flowers a citation, the K-9 unit arrived.  A dog from the unit subsequently alerted to the vehicle.

The dog sniff was completed within twelve minutes of the initial stop. During that time, while Officer Carswell was preparing Flowers’ traffic citation, Carswell learned Flowers was a convicted felon. A subsequent search of the vehicle based on the dog’s interest revealed a pistol and marijuana. Before he was read his Miranda rights, Flowers spontaneously uttered “all that shit in there is mine.” Flowers was then arrested and taken into custody. Continue reading

Were you arrested after the police discovered contraband while checking on your safety?  If so, you may have a basis to have your case dropped.  A case from the First District Court of Appeals shows how this can happen.

In State v. Brumelow, 289 So.3d 955 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019), an officer responding to a 911 call arrived at a bank parking lot around 10:20 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  He observed a male in the driver’s seat and a female in the passenger seat of a running car.  Both occupants appeared to be sleeping.

The officer knocked on the driver’s side window several times.  The male, Michael Jason Brumelow, was awakened and began talking with the officer.  The officer then asked Brumelow to wake up the female in the passenger seat.  Brumelow was unable to do so. Continue reading

Have you engaged in conduct totally out of character that led to your criminal charges?  Did you take acetaminophen prior to or near the time of the incident leading to your arrest?  If so, you may have a defense and /or mitigating circumstances to raise in your case to get your case dropped or your charges reduced.

Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, is a widely used drug used primarily to treat fever and mild to moderate pain.  It is generically available in the United States under the trade names Tylenol and Panadol.  It is also present in Acet, Excedrin, Triaminic and possibly other medications. Despite its wide use, recent scientific studies have indicated acetaminophen may cause or contribute to certain criminal behaviors, especially those crimes involving violence or aggression.

The first study, reported in the publication Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience in September 2016, examined the effects of acetaminophen on empathy.  There, researchers from the National Institutes of Health and The Ohio State University studied the effects of acetaminophen on empathy in undergraduate students.  Empathy is the ability to recognize, process and respond to others’ emotional states.  Empathic functions have been linked with numerous cognitive and affective processes. Importantly, impaired empathy has been linked to aggression and criminal behavior in society. Continue reading

People often ask what they should say to police officers who want to speak with them.    Other than simply confirming your identity, don’t talk with the police or any other law enforcement officers conducting an investigation without first speaking with a lawyer.

It may come as a shock, but the police can and will lie to you.  I don’t say that to disparage the police.  They certainly perform a vital function in our society and I’m personally grateful for most of what they do.

But, unlike in England and many other countries, the police in the United States are permitted to lie to you about many things when conducting an investigation.  I’ve had cases where the police have lied to my clients and then the clients unfortunately commented on, or tried to explain, the lie.  In those situations, many of those clients have made their case much more difficult to defend. In other cases, my clients made statements that seemed innocuous to them, but later proved to damage their case.  Under most circumstances it is therefore highly inadvisable to talk with the police for the following reasons.

You may have heard you can win your case if the evidence against you was obtained based on an invalid search warrant.  But, as a recent case demonstrates, that’s not always true.

In State v. Smith, Mr. Smith was charged with multiple drug offenses and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The evidence was acquired from a search of Smith’s property pursuant to a warrant based on his former girlfriend’s allegations he possessed illegal drugs and firearms.

Smith subsequently filed a motion to suppress challenging the sufficiency of the search warrant affidavit. The same judge who had approved the warrant concluded she should not have signed the warrant in the first place. The judge reasoned because the affiant was a disgruntled ex-girlfriend, independent corroborating evidence was required to establish probable cause.  The judge also rejected the State’s alternative argument the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule rendered the evidence admissible even if the search warrant lacked probable cause.  Smith’s motion to suppress was granted, meaning the State would not be able to use the evidence obtained during the search of his home and would therefore have to drop his case.  The State then appealed. Continue reading

Have you been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida even though your breath alcohol content (BAC) was less than 0.08?  If so, you’re probably wondering how you could still be arrested, given the “legal limit” of 0.08.  The answer is below.

Under Florida law, the State has to prove one of two things in your case to convict you of DUI.  First, the State must prove that while you were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent your “normal faculties” were impaired.  Normal faculties include but are not limited to the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies and, in general, to normally perform the many mental and physical acts of our daily lives.

Alternatively, to convict you of DUI the State must prove while you were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle you had a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. A BAC of 0.08 or higher results in a conclusive presumption you were under the influence of alcohol to the extent your normal faculties were impaired.  That is the primary reason most attorneys recommend not consenting to a breath test if there is any question about your BAC.

So if you blew less than 0.08, how can you still be subject to a charge of DUI?  It’s because of certain presumptions about BAC ranges and how juries can consider other evidence of impairment in addition to your BAC.  Continue reading

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If you’ve been arrested for false imprisonment in Florida you may become automatically registered as a sex offender at the conclusion of your case depending on the facts, even if registration was not part of your plea agreement or ever discussed in court.  A case from the First District Court of Appeal demonstrates how this can happen.

In Brinson v. State, 291 So.3d 620 (Fla. 1st DCA 2020), Mr. Brinson was charged with lewd or lascivious battery, aggravated battery, and false imprisonment. As a factual basis for the charges, the Information alleged Brinson “did unlawfully engage in sexual activity with S.T., a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age, by vaginal penetration; did unlawfully commit a battery upon S.T. and by slamming her into a parked vehicle and choking her did intentionally or knowingly cause great bodily harm; did unlawfully forcibly, by threat, or secretly confine, abduct, imprison, or restrain another person, S.T. without lawful authority and against her will.”

Brinson pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and false imprisonment. As part of the plea agreement, the State dismissed the lewd or lascivious battery charge.  Sex offender registration was not required by the plea agreement.  Continue reading

Have you been charged with the crime of grand theft of electronics or other depreciating assets?  If so, you may have grounds to have your charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, thereby avoiding a felony conviction, prison and/or substantial jail time.  The recent decision from the Florida First District of Appeal in Gallion v. State shows how.

There the State alleged Gallion had stolen two televisions and a stereo from the victim.  At trial, the victim provided a receipt for one of the televisions reflecting it had been purchased for $532.86 the year before Gallion stole it.  The victim provided an additional receipt showing she had purchased the stolen stereo for $699.99.  There was no evidence offered regarding the value of the other television. Except for the two receipts, there was no testimony regarding the condition of the items at the time they were stolen, or how much they may have depreciated in value after they were purchased.  Gallion was convicted of grand theft.  He then appealed.

The appellate court first stated that in a grand theft case, the State must prove the value of the stolen property is greater than $300 pursuant to Florida Statute § 812.014(2)(c)1. (The threshold value for grand theft has since been raised to $750.)  “Value means the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.” Id. at § 812.012(10)(a)1. Further, citing to its prior decision in Carter v. State, the court observed “[t]he value of tangible personal property may be proved with evidence of the original purchase price, together with the percentage or amount of depreciation since the property’s purchase, its manner of use, and its condition and quality.”  Critically, the court further noted under Carter the State’s evidence is insufficient where it “elicit[s] no testimony regarding the condition and quality of any of the items taken or their depreciation.” Continue reading

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