Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

WarrantThe 2nd DCA recently heard the case of Jose Ferrer v. State of Florida over the issue of whether the Defendant’s consent to enter the gate of his property and to talk about criminal activity permitted the Officers to walk behind the house, up the stairs, and therefore smelling marijuana. The Court ruled the search was not withing the confines of the 4th and 14th amendments and therefore reversed the Defendant’s conviction.

The Court based its conclusions upon the premise that searches conducted without a warrant are per se unreasonable unless conducted within a recognized exception. The Court went further and stated Consent is one such exception to the warrant requirement. However, the Court noted when a Consent search is conducted the scope of such search must remain within the confines of the consent given. The scope is based upon an objective reasonableness standard; what would a typical person understand the scope to be when giving permission to the Officers. In this case, the Officers approached the Defendant who was located behind the locked and electrified gate at his house. The Officers proceeded to ask permission to talk with him on the other side of the gate. The Defendant complied. However, when inside two officers proceeded behind the house and smelled the aroma of marijuana.

The Court concluded the Officers actions taken after permission given to enter and talk were unreasonable. Furthermore, the Court concluded a typical person’s consent to enter and talk would not authorize Officer’s to roam about the property without a warrant. Therefore, the Defendant’s conviction was reversed.

With a weak economy, everyone is feeling the ramifications of a state with declining revenue. The Huffington Post reports:

More than 20,000 Texas prisoners have been eating two meals a day on weekends since April, in a bid by the prison system to cut food-service costs… The two-a-day weekend meal plan is part of an effort to cut the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s budget by $2.8 million; other cost-cutting measures include giving prisoners sliced bread instead of hamburger or hot dog buns and offering powdered milk instead of carton milk.”

Florida is also using cost-cutting measures, but this is more beneficial to decreasing the prison population. “Florida lawmakers passed two bills earlier this week that would expand the state’s prison rehabilitation program and reduce jail time for non-violent criminals in a bid to make some headway in the state’s $2.3 billion budget deficit.”

shotgun.jpgThis question stems from the recent Jacksonville Criminal Law case where Tyler Woody Willis, 18, has been arrested and charged with the attempted manslaughter, using a firearm under the influence of drugs, and use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia. These charges come from an incident between Willis and his friend, the victim, William Brandon Hodge, 17. However, my question is “what is using a firearm while under the influence of a controlled substance?”

Using a firearm while under the influence of a controlled substance is defined by Florida Statute § 790.151. The Statute states the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $500. Furthermore, this offense is defined as “discharging a firearm or to have a firearm readily accessible for immediate discharge, [the gun being] loaded and in a person’s hand, and for [such] person [to be] under the influence or alcoholic beverages or any controlled substance.”

But what does all this mean for a Jacksonville Criminal Defendant? First, if you are drinking, using drugs, or under the influence of a controlled substance and a firearm is near; you could be charged with this offense. Second, although just a second-degree misdemeanor, the penalties are still severe, but the crime is not absolute, there are possible defenses and mitigating circumstances. Was the act in self-defense or protection of one’s property? Did the Defendant have the gun in his possession? These and more are all aspects that a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer will take into consideration while reviewing your case and making the best determination in protecting your rights.

Bail-BondAs a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer many Criminal Defendants are out on bail. Bail comes in many forms and is determined by the judge during the initial appearances of the defendant. Furthermore, a bail can be set in a monetary amount, ROR, or surety. But, what happens if bail is paid and subsequently the Jacksonville Criminal Defendant does not appear at the required court hearing?

Florida Statutes Chapter 903 specifically deals with all matters relating to Bail. The Statute of particular importance in this blog is § 903.26 “Forfeiture of the bond…” According to the Statute, a bond can be forfeited for a breach of the conditions set forth in the bond and/or failure of the Defendant to appear at a required Court hearing. Failure of a Defendant to appear at a required Court hearing can have serious adverse consequences in your pending Jacksonville Criminal case. Additionally, up failure to appear the Court will issue a capias or a bench warrant for your arrest. A warrant will only compound the Criminal issues that are presently before you.

What about the person who paid the bond for your release? They will not have criminal or civil charges brought against them, unless they aided or assisted in your bail jumping. However, they will have lost the amount of money given to the Courts guaranteeing your return. This can be a substantial loss for some. It could mean the loss of your home, car, or a large sum of money. My advise for those who decide to post bail for another, make sure the Jacksonville Criminal Defendant is going to return to court before deciding to post their bail. It will not benefit either party if the Defendant does not return to Court.

Criminal Defense LawyerAnyone who has watched crime dramas on TV or heard a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer speak have heard a multitude of Latin words throughout their discussions, but some are not always completely understood. One such word is “corpus delicti.” Corpus delicti generally means the physical evidence of a crime, (i.e. the dead body in a murder). Recently, the 2nd District court dealt with an issue pertaining to corpus delicti in Reinlein v. State of Florida.

In this case, the Court had to determine whether the trial court erred in allowing the defendant’s post-Miranda testimony regarding his consumption of an illegal substance before the State established the corpus delicti of tampering with physical evidence.

The defendant was witnessed by police officers exchanging something in a high crime area. Because the actual transaction was not witnessed, they put a patrol car on the defendant’s vehicle to follow him; hoping he would commit a traffic violation and initiate a traffic stop. Several blocks from the drug transaction, the defendant was being pulled over when the officer saw the defendant make a motion as if placing an object in his mouth. The defendant exited the vehicle and was arrested. The only evidence the prosecution presented was the post-Miranda statement from the defendant that he purchased drugs and consumed the drugs before being stopped. The State charged the defendant with tampering with physical evidence.

Constitution-In a recent case, Rozzo v. State of Florida, the 4th District Court heard an appeal from the Circuit Court for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County. The issue presented before the court was whether the consent given by the homeowners after and unlawful warrantless entry and protective sweep of the home was valid and therefore the defendant’s motion to suppress should be denied.

The issue arose after the trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence discovered inside the house following his arrest. In this case, the defendant sold drugs to an undercover officer on the street by his house. The officers arrested the defendant on the street. The officers then moved to the house, owned by the defendant’s parents. The officers proceeded to order the parents to stay outside during the “protective sweep.” Then the officers got a signed Consent form to search the house. The search revealed other drug related items in the defendant’s bedroom.

The U.S. Constitution, 4th Amendment has established a high reasonable expectation of privacy regarding one’s home. Furthermore, Florida Courts have established absent consent or exigent circumstances, police may not enter a home without a warrant. Additionally, Florida Courts have only permitted a “protective sweep” if the officers have reasonable, articulable suspicion to protect the safety of the officers or to prevent the destruction of evidence.

CocaineAs a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I scour the local, national, and world news to stay informed on current Criminal legal issues. Just recently a news article by Foxnews.com sparked my interest. The article titled “Cocaine Bust Lands Curvy Model in Italian Jail,” was a colorfully written article.

The article states a Spanish model attempted to smuggle Cocaine into Italy via prosthetic breasts and buttocks. The model’s plan was to distract the TSA by wearing tight-fitting clothes and her attractiveness would take suspicion away from the real task at hand. However, her “extra-large bosom and derriere” caught the attention of TSA and they investigated. After failing to provide sufficient answers to their questions, they conducted a strip search. The search revealed the model was attempting to smuggle 5.5 pounds of cocaine.

Currently the charges are pending and dependent upon Italian and international law, the charges could be quite severe. This article intrigued my legal mind because it shows the diminished expectation of privacy one holds while traveling through airports. At airports all the authorities need is reasonable suspicion before they can investigate. In contrast, inside one’s own home the expectation of privacy is very high. Police are required to have a warrant before entering your home, absent exigent circumstances.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor drug crime in Jacksonville, Florida, there are somethings that you should know. Although the crime is a misdemeanor, a drug crime is not a minor crime. For instance, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Florida. However, it carries serious ramifications. You can receive up to one year in jail for the charge. Even if you do not receive a jail sentence for possession of marijuana, it is still on your criminal record. Schools, potential employers, and the general public will be able to see your Florida criminal record and the misdemeanor drug charge. If you are convicted of the Jacksonville drug crime, you will not be able to seal or expunge the arrest. Therefore, discussing your case with a Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer before you enter a plea to the drug crime is crucial.

Under Florida Statute Section 322.055, your Florida Drivers License will be suspended for two years in you are convicted of certain drug offenses. While the court may direct the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue a hardship license, a hardship license is not available until at least six months of the revocation or suspension has expired. For most people, their Florida drivers license is crucial to maintaining employment, so even six months without a license can result in job losses. Also, if you get caught driving on a suspended license, you are looking at another Jacksonville criminal charge, Florida Driving with a License Suspended or Revoked.

As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I have sealed and expunged many Florida criminal records. Often, people ask me if they are eligible to have a felony drug charge sealed or expunged, in Jacksonville, Florida. The answer is “it depends.” It depends on the charge and the disposition. If you have ever been convicted of any crime, you cannot have your recorded sealed or expunged.  Therefore, if you were convicted of the drug charge, you cannot get it expunged.  Even if you were convicted of an unrelated criminal offense, you cannot get the drug charge expunged.  

It also depends on the crime. If you have pled guilty or no contest to certain drug offenses, such as manufacturing any substances in violation of chapter 893, you cannot get your record sealed, even if the adjudication was withheld. Section 907.041(4)(a) of the Florida Statutes gives a list of all the crimes that cannot be sealed in Jacksonville, Florida (See Florida Crimes that Cannot be Sealed). However, if the charge was dropped, you may be able to get the Jacksonville arrest expunged, even if it is listed in Section 907.041(4)(a), because you did not plea guilty or no contest to the Jacksonville criminal charge.

As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I can review your Florida Criminal Record and make the initial determination if your Florida Criminal History is applicable for a Record Seal or having your Record Expunged.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled on the standards and training required for automobile searches using drug detection dogs (Harris v. Florida, 36 Fla. L Weekly S163a (2011). This case has been applied by another Florida appellate court. In Sarasota County, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals addressed the drug detection dog’s reliability standards in Wiggs v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D1688a (Fla. 2nd DCA 2011). In Wiggs, the drug detection dog, Zuul, gave a positive indication at criminal defendant Wiggs’ vehicle during a Florida traffic stop. The police officer searched the vehicle and found cocaine.

Wiggs challenged the Florida K9 search on the basis that “Zuul’s alert to the exterior of Wiggs’ vehicle provided probable cause to support a warrantless search of the vehicle’s interior.” Although Zuul went through over 400 hours of training and did quite well, Zuul was not so effective in the field. He only had a 29% accuracy rate. Zuul had many false positives, including several instances of identifying drugs in areas where drugs had once been but no longer were.

In Harris v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly S163 (Fla. Apr. 21, 2011), the rule established by the Florida Supreme Court states “when a dog alerts, the fact that the dog has been trained and certified is simply not enough to establish probable cause to search the interior of the vehicle and the person.” The Florida Supreme Court adopted a “totality of the circumstances approach” that places the burden of producing evidence to establish the dog’s reliability on the state.” In this case, Zuul’s detection rate was too low for the court to consider “probable cause.” Therefore, the cocaine in this case should have been suppressed.

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