September 17, 2014

Minnesota Vikings Running Back, Adrian Peterson, Indicted for Child Abuse

Another NFL player has made headlines due to alleged physical violence. Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has been indicted in Texas for child abuse. Peterson allegedly spanked his four-year old son until the child bled. According to cnn.com, Peterson sent text messages to the boy's mother saying that Peterson felt bad about what he's done. Peterson went on to text, "Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don't play no games when it comes to acting right." However, photographs of the child's alleged injuries demonstrate that Peterson may, in fact, have gone overboard. Most disturbing is that Peterson was previously accused of abusing another four-year old son of his, reports espn.go.com.

140917_an-angry-and-scared-little-girl-695191-m.jpgAs a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I've defended clients charged with child abuse pursuant to Florida statute 827.03 in varying degrees. Child abuse in Florida, at a minimum, is a third degree felony that could land an accused in prison for up to five years, but can be charged as a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to thirty years.

Child abuse is committed when a person intentionally causes physical or emotional injuries to a child. Any intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in a physical or mental injury will be enough, even when there was no apparent desire to cause the resulting harm. The "should have known better" aspect gets many parents into trouble, especially since those that will be passing judgment will be doing so unaffected by the emotion that triggered the alleged excessive discipline.

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September 11, 2014

NFL Star Caught on Video Committing Domestic Battery; Implications Under Florida Law

NFL star running back, Ray Rice, has been all over headlines lately after a video surfaced that shows Rice punching his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in the face... knocking her out cold. TMZ.com first posted the full video on September 8, 2014. The video shows Rice hit Palmer inside an elevator, then drags her out after he knocks her unconscious.

Rice was indicted for aggravated assault as a result of the domestic violence incident that took place. The incident occurred in Atlantic City; Palmer was also charged with assault by Atlantic County, but the charges against her were later dismissed. Other States label offenses differently in some circumstances. In Florida, Rice's conducted would be labeled as battery, rather than assault. A battery occurs when a person is touched or struck against the person's will. An assault occurs when a victim is put in fear of being touched or struck. The fear has to be reasonable and the person threatening some sort of harm must have an apparent ability to follow through with the threat.

A battery or assault offense can carry a range of degrees in Florida, and accordingly there is a range of possible penalties that apply. Additionally, domestic battery convictions result in the loss of firearm rights, even in cases where the offense is not a felony offense. Criminal defense lawyers most often look to self defense as a shield against battery or assault charges. In cases like Ray Rice's case where the attack is on video and clearly shows that self defense is not an available defense, an experienced criminal defense attorney that can negotiate on behalf of the defendant is invaluable.

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September 8, 2014

Facebook Posts Lead to Criminal Charges

A criminal defense attorney's worst enemy is a confession, whether in writing or one that is video taped. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I've had my share of clients confess to crimes, even after they had been warned and told that they have the right to remain silent. At least these confessions came while they were being interrogated by trained detectives. I am completely baffled by the number of people that use social media to "confess" to criminal offenses by posting statements, and the ultimate confession... posting videos of themselves committing the crimes.

A teenager in Oregon was arrested after he made a Facebook post concerning a crash that occurred while the teen was driving under the influence, according to abcnews.go.com. The teenager posted, "Drivin drunk... classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P". After the messages were sent to the local police station, the teen was arrested for hitting two parked cars, but not for DUI.

140908_capture-1046263-m.jpgNydailynews.com reported that Facebook also led to a North Carolina mother's arrest after a video was posted on her son's Facebook page. The video showed the teen's mother helping him attempt the "fire challenge". The forty-one year old mother was arrested for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor after her son had to be treated for the burns he received while attempting the challenge.

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August 27, 2014

Million Dollar Marijuana Operation Discovered in Countryside Home

A Tennessee power company's investigation into a neighborhood's power shortage issues led to a large drug bust in the Tennessee countryside. Beneath the average looking countryside home was a million dollar "pot cave". Marijuana was being grown in buckets, with an elaborate water and light system in place to maintain the plants, according to secretsofthefed.com. (Read the story here.) A secret entrance through the garage led to a cave that went back 50 yards into the hills the house was built against. The entrance was protected by a steel door, which was operated by a hydraulic motor.

The men that were running the marijuana operation had spliced into power lines, and stole an estimated $61,000 worth of electricity. In, Florida, this drug bust would have led to Grand Theft and Trafficking in Cannabis charges, among other things. Florida law calls for minimum sentences that apply in Trafficking cases, with three years being the lowest minimum that applies and fifteen years as the highest minimum. The maximum sentence allowable under Florida law is 30 years in Florida State Prison. Mandatory fines range from $25,000 to $200,000.

With these kinds of punishments as possibilities, finding the best criminal defense attorney available is a must. If you or a loved one have been arrested for a criminal offense in the Jacksonville area, experienced criminal defense lawyers are available for a free consultation at the Law Office of David M. Goldman. Call us today at (904) 685-1200.

August 21, 2014

Police Use Tricks to Get Confessions: Major Reason to Remain Silent

Remaining silent is a right that should be exercised more often by people suspected of committing crimes, but unfortunately, people's desire to explain themselves and tactics used by police oftentimes overcome a person's better judgement. The best time to contact a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney is before you've talked to the police. In an ideal situation, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer even before you're ever arrested.

The U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution, both, protect a person's right against self-incrimination, meaning that a person can't be forced to testify against himself or herself. In essence, a person cannot be forced to confess wrongdoing. These provisions are the source of the "Miranda" warnings that you often hear recited to suspects in crime dramas, such as "Law and Order". The most prominent and important part of the warning is that the suspect has the right to remain silent; remaining silent is a great idea! For you protection, other than basic information like your name, etc, the only thing you should communicate with police about is your desire to have an attorney present.

Clients often think that there is no harm in speaking with an officer or a detective if the client has nothing to hide or hasn't done anything wrong. The truth is that officers and detectives are searching for any information that can be used to solve the alleged crime, and a confession is the grand prize, even if you don't realize you've confessed.

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August 8, 2014

Resisting A Law Enforcement Officer: More Trouble Than Its Worth

If you were to ask a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer when was a good time for his or her client to resist an officer, the most likely answer you would get is, "never". Most of the time, resisting an officer invites unwanted trouble. Over the years I've seen many clients who could have avoided arrest all together by simply relaxing. Whatever the reason was that the officer had to "harass" the client went away, but the Resisting Without Violence offense that came as a result of the client walking away when the officer had a legally valid reason for the stop would still stick around; often leading to a night in jail and unnecessary court costs and other fees.

In a July 23, 2014 article entitled Know Your Rights Under Florida Law, I discussed some of the basics regarding what you should do (and not do) when you encounter police. That article also contains a link to an ACLU rights card that is available as a free download and is very informative about your rights. It is never a good idea to physically resist an officer, with incredibly limited exception. Usually, the consequences of not putting your hands behind your back as directed means an additional offenses being charged, additional fines, and the like. Well, in the case of 43 year old Eric Garner, the ultimate price was paid after Mr. Garner refused to be taken in to custody in New York.

Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by police while officers tried to subdue Mr. Garner, who pulled away when they attempted to arrest him for illegally selling cigarettes, according to FindLaw.com. An eyewitness recorded the entire incident.

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August 4, 2014

Does The Prohibition Against Openly Carrying Guns In Florida Combine With the Concealed Weapons Law to Limit Floridians'' Constitutional Right to Bear Arms?

There are probably people that would say, "Yes!" if asked whether Florida's current legal climate unconstitutionally limits the rights of citizens to carry guns; while some will disagree with that opinion. Lawyers in Florida, politicians, anti-gun groups, pro-gun groups, and all others in between have different opinions on the issue because the answer isn't straight forward.

gun-and-bullets-1146529-m.jpgBoth extremes, pro- and anti-gun groups, alike, have validity to the concerns that they have surrounding the issue. As a United States citizen, I want the full protections and benefits of constitutional rights that have been guaranteed to each of us, although, I feel somewhat uneasy at the thought of people walking around openly with guns in their hands or on their hips like cowboys. However, my feelings and the feelings of those that agree or disagree is not what are important. The important thing to consider is what the law requires, specifically the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution.

The 2nd amendment to the United States Constitution declares, "[. . .] the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Florida's Constitution, in Section 8 of Article I, states, "[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law." Exercising it's police powers, the State of Florida in its own constitution puts a qualifier on the right to bear arms granted in the U.S. Constitution by adding that the State may regulate the manner in which it's citizens bears arms.

Continue reading "Does The Prohibition Against Openly Carrying Guns In Florida Combine With the Concealed Weapons Law to Limit Floridians'' Constitutional Right to Bear Arms? " »

July 28, 2014

Appellate Court Protects Florida Gun Owners From Prying Doctors and Gun Control Lobbyist

How often does the answer to the question, "Do you own a firearm?" make a difference when you visit your doctor because of a sore throat? I'm willing to bet that "never" is the reply that comes to mind for most people. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals apparently shares this opinion as shown by its ruling upholding a law signed by Florida governor, Rick Scott, which prohibits doctors in Florida from asking patients whether they own guns.

medical-doctor-1314902-m.jpgIn response to the bill signed by Gov. Scott and backed by the National Rifle Association, several individuals and groups from the anti-gun community, such as the Florida chapters of the American Academies of Pediatrics and American College of Physicians, filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, "the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters."

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution reads in part, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Institute for Legislative Action Director, Chris Cox, welcomed the court's ruling and described the ruling as "common sense". Cox went on to say that whether a patient exercises his or her constitutional right to own a gun is none of a doctor's business.

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July 23, 2014

Know Your Rights Under Florida Law

Criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville, and throughout the State of Florida, oftentimes find their jobs more difficult because their clients were in the dark about their rights and what to do during an encounter with police. Evidence that otherwise would not have been available against a client is used to hurt the client after consent was unnecessarily given to search a car, house, etc. I've found that the average person is often nervous when they come into contact with police officers, whether the person has done something wrong or not. Perhaps the most important thing to do is to stay calm so that you can think clearly.
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The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) provides general information that is very useful about the rights you should be aware of during police encounters-- this information is critical and should be known by all U.S. Citizens and non-citizens alike, even if you've done absolutely nothing wrong. Click here for a downloadable and printable card that you can carry with you, just as you carry your I.D. card or insurance card, everywhere you go.

Florida Statute 901.151 authorizes law enforcement, when there is a reasonable belief that there is a crime taking place, has taken place, or about to take place, to temporarily detain a person to find out who the person is and what are the circumstances that caused the person to be present. An officer may perform a pat down of the person detained, if there is probable cause to believe that the person is armed with a dangerous weapon. Under this type of encounter, a person would not be free to leave. However, an officer can only detain a citizen for as long as it takes to look into any suspicious behavior.

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July 20, 2014

Unreasonable Search Leads to Big Payout for Florida Woman

A Florida woman, unreasonably searched by being forced to shake out her bra when she was pulled over by a male Lakeland police officer, received a settlement of $25,000 from the city, according to theledger.com. The deal will keep the case out of court.

Florida constitutional law protects Floridians from unreasonable searches as and seizures. This protection from unreasonable searches mirrors the protections that are afforded by the U.S. Constitution. Click here to read the story.

Call the Law Office of David M. Goldman at (904) 685-1200 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense and Litigation lawyer, Markus A. Sermons, to find out how our experience can assist you or a friend/family member assert your rights after an illegal search or seizure.

Read also DHS Ransacks Florida Couple's Home Without Explanation, Strips Woman Naked.

July 18, 2014

Police Use False 911 Calls to Trick People into Consenting to Warrantless Searches

According to a recent article by policestateusa.com, police officers in Durham, North Carolina routinely lie to gain access to homes in search of wanted suspects. The "tactic is apparently legal--and commonplace - according to an officer's sworn statements", writes a policestateusa.com staff journalist.

An officer from the Durham Police Department admitted recently, under oath, that he told a resident at a private home in Durham that he was investigating a 911 hang up call in order to gain access to the private home. In reality, the officer was there to serve an arrest warrant on an occupant of the home.

DSC08925.JPGHow would this type of conduct by law enforcement hold up in Florida? Would this type of conduct be considered an unreasonable search or seizure under the U.S. Constitution or the Florida Constitution? Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers, along with defense attorneys throughout the state, are often faced with answering these types of questions in defense of their clients.

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July 16, 2014

Voting, Firearm, and Other Civil Rights Restoration in Florida; Requirements and Procedure

In Jacksonville, and throughout the State of Florida, a bad decision that leads to a felony conviction can strip a person of his or her civil rights for life. Without a restoration of civil rights, a convicted felon cannot possess a firearm, serve on a jury, vote, hold public office, and more. Perhaps the most hurtful rights to have taken from a convicted felon are the rights to vote and bear arms. The Florida Constitution takes the right to vote as a result of a felony conviction, while Florida Statute 790.23 makes it illegal for a felon to possess a firearm and creates a three (3) year mandatory minimum sentence that must apply for those convicted of the offense. Although it is possible to have one's civil rights restored, the number of convicted felons having their rights restored has dropped in recent years, according to News4Jax.com.

statue-of-liberty-2-1420901-m.jpgAutomatic restorations implemented by former Governor Charlie Crist were done away with soon after current Governor Rick Scott came into office in 2011. Since Scott took office, the number of civil rights restorations has dropped significantly. There have only been approximately 1200 since Governor Scott was elected to office, compared to more than 150,000 during Crist's administration.

The Office of Executive Clemency is the Florida agency that oversees the restoration of civil rights for Florida convicted felons. There are similar, but slightly different procedures that exist, depending on the level of civil rights restored and the seriousness of the underlying offense; each requires an investigation into the applicant that wishes to have his or her civil rights restored.

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July 11, 2014

What to Expect in a Florida Criminal Preliminary Hearing

Navigating through Florida's complicated labyrinth of criminal law is a task best left to the trained professional-- someone that speaks the language and can even walk the walk when it comes down to it. In the area of criminal law, knowing the rules regarding what is supposed to happen and when it is supposed to happen is a very valuable tool to possess. A criminal defense attorney that is knowledgeable of the rules will prove to be your greatest ally in the unfortunate event that you are arrested.

gavel-2-1409592-m.jpgFlorida law, under Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.133, requires a nonadversary preliminary hearing within 48 hours of a person being arrested; this is commonly referred to as "first appearance", since it is typically the first time that a person appears before a judge after being arrested. At this hearing, the presiding judge will determine whether there is probable cause to believe (1) that a crime has been committed and (2) that the defendant is the person that committed the crime.

The amount of a bond required is usually set during the first appearance. It is important to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf to help ensure that a reasonable and appropriate bond amount is set. Moreover, if it can be demonstrated that no probable cause exists, a defendant can be released without a requirement to post a bond. Another situation that could lead to release without a bond requirement is where the hearing is not held within the time frame that is required by Florida law, which is 48 hours; however, in extraordinary circumstances two separate 24-hour extensions may be applied.

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July 10, 2014

Will Florida's Evolution of Legal Marijuana One Day Allow You to "Party" with the President?

Under the current status of legal marijuana in Florida and the long road traveled to arrive at Florida's limited medical use of legal marijuana, it doesn't seem likely that the near future makes Florida a place where people can freely offer marijuana to the president without the threat of criminal prosecution and the need for services of a Florida criminal defense attorney. This past Tuesday, President Obama spent time in Denver, Colorado, and reportedly made his rounds, taking advantage of the Denver's nightlife. While spending time at a bar formerly owned by Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, President Obama shot pool with the locals, spoke with citizens, and was even offered marijuana on more than one occasion before finally calling it a night. According to the Florida Times-Union, the President refused each time and was back in his hotel room by 9 p.m.file0001430681570.jpg

In June, Florida governor, Rick Scott, signed a law that allows limited use of marijuana for medical purposes. Specifically, a low THC strand of marijuana will be allowed to treat diseases such as epilepsy and cancer, according to The Huffington Post. The law is not yet effective and still has details that must be worked out. However, one thing is crystal clear: Florida's newly signed law does not allow recreational use of marijuana. Colorado, for example, allows residents over the age of 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants for private use, but the marijuana is required to stay where it is grown. Residents of Colorado are also allowed to travel within the state while possessing up to one ounce of marijuana, and may give up to one ounce as a gift to another person, as long as the recipient is also 21 years old or older.

Possession of marijuana is currently illegal in the state of Florida. In fact, possessing more than 20 grams is a felony that could potentially land a person in prison for up to five years; while possessing less than 20 grams puts a person in jeopardy of spending up to a full year in the county jail. As the amount of marijuana increases, the consequences and severity of potential sentences increase, as well. At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, we have experienced criminal defense attorneys available for free initial consultations in the Jacksonville area. Call us today at (904) 685-1200 to learn how our experience can go to work for you or a loved one in drug related offense and other legal matters.

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July 9, 2014

Stand Your Ground Law and Convicted Florida Felons: Can Felons be Immune to Prosecution for Possessing and Firing Guns?

Currently, a controversial question has come about in Florida: Should a convicted felon, who because of his status as a convicted felon has lost the right to legally own or possess a gun, be afforded the chance to claim self-defense and be immune from prosecution if he shoots someone while defending his home? More scenarios exists that create legal justification, but the defense of one's home is the most recognizable situation that comes to mind for most people. The Florida Supreme Court is currently awaiting legal briefs and oral arguments from attorneys so that the high court can decide if Stand Your Ground applies to convicted felons, each side hoping to sway the court in its favor.

If reasonably justified under the facts relating to a particular situation, the average non-felon Florida citizen will be afforded the benefits and protection of the Stand Your Ground law when forced to use the lethal force of a gun for protection from a home invader, for instance. Depending on the Florida Supreme Court's ruling on this issue, Florida criminal defense attorneys may have a new tool in the defense of some clients.

There is no requirement to quiver in fear or run away, tail tucked between your legs, when someone attempts to use lethal or deadly force against you in Florida under the state's Justified Use of Deadly Force statutes. This principle is commonly referred to as Stand Your Ground. Under the proper circumstances, Florida law makes a person immune from criminal and civil liability after lawful self-defense is exercised.

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