Articles Posted in Misdemeanor Crimes

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The Florida Times Union just reported on a road rage case on Thursday in St. John’s County.  According to the article, a newly licensed teen driver was with her mother and teenage brother when the vehicle behind them honked, flashed its lights and the driver gestured and yelled at them.  The second vehicle then rammed the young driver’s car three times.  The incident was witnessed by others who reported it to police.  The offending driver subsequently was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated battery, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and one of leaving the scene of a crash, a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail.

This rather egregious example of road rage is not uncommon in Florida.  Furthermore, the number of road rage incidents involving guns is on the rise.  A study by the nonprofit news organization The Trace found there were more than 1,300 gun-related road rage incidents nationwide from January 2014 to December 2015.  And, the study found Florida reported 146 incidents during that time frame.  That is the most in the country.

In a recent interesting case reported in the Palm Beach Post, a priest was driving his red corvette (I’m not making this up) on the Florida Turnpike when he “brake checked” a pickup truck closely following his vehicle.  When the pickup driver then tried to go around the priest’s ‘vette, the priest allegedly pointed a handgun at the driver (again, I’m not making this stuff up).  When questioned by police, the priest reported the pickup driver had pulled up beside his vehicle whereupon someone rolled down a window, started screaming and then threw a drink at his vehicle.  While the priest confirmed he had a gun in his vehicle, he contended it was not loaded and it was under the passenger seat during the entire incident.  Nonetheless, the priest was arrested and charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Continue reading

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The purpose of a bail in Florida criminal proceedings is to ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant.  Under Florida law, when determining whether to release the defendant on bail or other conditions and what the amount of bail should be, the court must consider numerous statutorily delineated criteria.  They are: (1)  the type of offense charged; (2) the extent of evidence of guilt; (3) the defendant’s ties to the community; (4) the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and any previous incidents of flight or failure to appear; (5) any danger to the community posed by defendant’s release; (6) whether defendant’s offered bond funds are derived from unlawful activities; (7) whether defendant is already on release pending resolution of another criminal proceeding or completion of a sentence; (8) the street value of any drug or controlled substance related to the criminal charge; (9) the nature and probability of intimidation and danger to victims; (10) whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed a new crime while on pretrial release; (11) whether the crime charged is for a gang-related offense or one for which defendant would have to register as a sexual offender or predator; and (12) any other factors the court considers relevant.

The practice of requiring money bail for pretrial release is common in the majority of jurisdictions in the United States.  But, a series of recent lawsuits and an increasing body of research has raised concerns about its effectiveness and potential to discriminate based on race and income.

On April 29, 2017 a federal judge in Houston ordered Harris County to stop the pretrial detention of people arrested on misdemeanor charges because they cannot afford bail.  The ruling occurred in a case where a woman arrested for driving without a license spent more than two days in jail because she could not make her $2,500 bail.  In a 193 page order, Judge Lee H. Rosenthal wrote “Harris County’s policy is to detain indigent misdemeanor defendants before trial, violating equal protection rights against wealth-based discrimination and violating due process protections against pretrial detention.”  The judge pointed to statistics indicating 40 percent of those arrested for misdemeanors in the county had been detained until their cases were resolved.  Continue reading