Published on:

adobe-spark-post-8A twenty seven year old soccer coach has been arrested for interference with the custody of a minor after leaving Jacksonville, Florida with a 17 year old girl.  Mr. Rodriguez’s criminal defense lawyer will surely challenge any allegation that the girl was taken against her will or that there was any nonconsensual sexual contact, but does that matter?  What is the age of consent in the State of Florida?  Is it a crime to have a sexual relationship with a 17 year old?  What if it is consensual?  Let’s break down the law in the State of Florida as it relates to sex offenses between two consensual people, one of whom is younger than 18 years old.


What is the age of consent in the State of Florida for a sexual relationship?


In the State of Florida, the age of consent is eighteen (18) years of age.  This means that anyone younger than 18 years old cannot consent to sexual contact.  It is a crime for any person of any age to have any sexual contact with a minor that is 15 years old or younger.  There are specific requirements for minors that are between 16 years of age and 18 years of age.  So, two minors or one minor and one young adult that engage in willing sexual contact could be in violation of very serious sex offense statutes, which could result in incarceration and being labeled a sex offender.

Published on:

adobe-spark-post-6
Bernandino Bolatete has been arrested and charged by criminal complaint in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida after threatening to a mass shooting at a local mosque.  But what he has initially been charged with might surprise you?  Rather than a charge related to a terroristic threat, Mr. Bolatete has been charged with knowingly receiving and possessing a silencer that was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.  26 U.S.C. §5861(d) makes it a federal offense to receive or possess certain unregistered firearms.  Included in the definition of a firearm under the applicable section is a silencer.  Mr. Bolatete is charged with receiving and possessing a firearm provided to him by an undercover officer.


What is the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR)


The National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR) is a national registry of certain firearms that are subject to the National Firearms Act.  It is a federal criminal offense to possess or receive certain firearms that have not been registered to you in the NFRTR.  The Act only applies to certain firearms.  The registry includes:

Published on:

adobe-spark-post-4
One of the more common cocktail party questions criminal defense attorneys get asked is whether you can get a DUI while driving a golf cart, or even riding a bicycle.  In Florida, the answer is yes.  You can be arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced for DUI (Driving Under the Influence) for operating a golf cart or a bicycle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired.  This will become more and more of an issue with the creation and expansion of golf cart communities, like our very own Nocatee in Ponte Vedra, Florida, where you will see scores of golf carts traveling between residences and local bars and restaurants on a daily basis.


Surely I can’t get a DUI on a lawn mower or a horse?


AdobeStock_117707955-300x200Believe it or not, yes, you can.  Florida’s DUI statute, Fla. Stat. §316.193, prohibits a person from driving, or being in actual physical control of, a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or while having a .08 BAC level or more.  Notice that the word “motor” is not present before the word “vehicle.”   The legislature specifically wanted the DUI statute to apply to more vehicles than just motor vehicles.  So, what is the definition of a vehicle for purposes of the DUI statute?

Published on:

adobe-spark-post-1
The criminal defense attorneys of SLG Law often get calls from people asking us what they can and can’t do when it comes to recording people.  A mother in Virginia recently found out the hard way that recording someone without their knowledge can lead to felony charges.  According to the article, the mother was concerned about another child at school bullying her child.  She wanted to get proof of the bullying, so she sent her child to school with a recording device.  Recording devices are prohibited at the school and school officials discovered the device.  Subsequent to an investigation, the mother was charged with a felony for violating state law relating to recording someone’s communications without their knowledge.  So, what about here in Jacksonville, Florida? What is the law in the State of Florida as it relates to recording people?


What is the law in Florida relating to recording other people’s conversations?


Florida Statute Section 934.03 lays out the law as it relates to recording someone’s communications.  Florida is a two-party consent state.  This means that all of the parties to the conversation must consent to recording of the conversation for the act of recording to be legal. A person who violates this law can be charged with a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Published on:

adobe-spark-postThe Florida Time Union released a story with some eye-popping statistics relating to the use of pedestrian citations in the city’s most crime ridden areas of Jacksonville.  Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys often challenge these pretextual stops, but the case law continues to generally support the use of profiling, as long as there is a lawful basis for the stop.  With so many pedestrian safety statutes on the books, it’s easy for a law enforcement officer to pick and choose who the officer wants to stop and question, under the guise of pedestrian safety.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers will often conduct a stop and talk or a stop and frisk search on individuals they believe are suspicious and if they uncover something illegal, they will make an arrest.  But what effect does their detention have on a citizen who has done nothing wrong?  Won’t that person feel profiled?  Unjustly singled out?  How big of a group is this?  How many citations do the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issue where the person was engaged in otherwise lawful conduct and possessed nothing illegal on their person?  How many African American citizens have been stopped for violation of a pedestrian safety statute and not issued a citation simply so the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer could investigate them further?  An African American law abiding citizen living in a high crime area is sure to carry resentment if he or she feels continually harassed or is cited for violations of pedestrian safety statutes that are not enforced in the low crime, white areas of Jacksonville.

Also disturbing, is the report that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been issuing hundreds of citations despite the person not actually violating the statute.  Whether this true or not, it seems like the end desire of law enforcement (to drive out crime in crime ridden areas of Jacksonville) is laudable, but some of the methods (pretextual stops and searches) may do more damage than good.  So many crimes in predominantly African American, low income neighborhoods require the cooperation of citizens who live in that community.   When those people don’t trust law enforcement because of what they consider constant, unjustified harassment, they are less likely to cooperate in a criminal investigation.  Murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries can all go unsolved or unprosecuted because the State lacks the witnesses and evidence to proceed.  It would seem that if the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spent more resources providing more law enforcement officers for those particular areas that need them the most and if those law enforcement officers developed, groomed, and maintained positive relationships with the citizens of those communities, more crimes would get solved and successfully prosecuted.

Published on:

In Florida, most DUI cases result from a police officer claiming to observe a person violate a traffic law.  The police officer conducts a traffic stop, claims to observe signs of impairment from alcohol or drugs and then initiates a DUI investigation.  DUI investigations normally involve various questions about where the driver has been, what the driver has been doing and how much the driver has had to drink.  The driver, of course, is free to refuse to answer any of these questions.  They are designed to discover evidence that can be used against the driver in a DUI case.  The police officer will also ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests.  These are completely subjective coordination tests that can be difficult and should be refused if the police officer does not have a video camera to record this critical encounter.  Finally, the police officer will normally ask the driver to submit to a breathalyzer test to measure the driver’s blood alcohol level.  Unfortunately, these tests are only given after the DUI arrest.  Therefore, a good number on the breath test will not change the fact of the DUI arrest.  The police officer has a right to request a breath test if there is probable cause to believe the driver is impaired.  While the driver can refuse the breathalyzer test, a refusal will likely result in a longer driver’s license suspension because of the Florida implied consent laws.

The police officer cannot ask for a blood test in normal DUI cases.  There are certain rules that dictate when a police officer can seek a blood draw alcohol test in a DUI case.  Failure to follow these rules will result in any blood alcohol test being thrown out of court.

A driver in a case just south of Jacksonville, Florida had wrecked his motorcycle, and the police officer arrived after the fact.  The police officer claimed to observe the standard factors such as odor of alcohol and slurred speech.  The police officer arrested the suspect for DUI and took him to the hospital due to a potential ankle injury.  At the hospital, the police officer requested a blood sample to test for alcohol content.  The police officer did not mention the possibility of a breathalyzer alternative.  The suspect agreed to the blood draw.  He was treated for an ankle sprain and released.  He was then taken to the jail.

Published on:

With some exceptions, police officers generally work for a county or city department.  In Florida, we do have the Florida Highway Patrol and officers who work for multiple agencies and federal law enforcement officers, but most cases of common crime, like DUI cases, will involve a county or city police officer.  Those police officers are generally only allowed to investigate crimes and make arrests for crimes that occur within their jurisdiction.  There are a couple of exceptions. One is when the police officer is pursuing a suspect.  For instance, if a police officer observes a crime occur in his/her county and the suspect runs or drives into the next county, that police officer can chase the suspect into the next county. The police officer cannot chase the suspect forever and should contact a police officer in the next county to take over, but the officer does not have to stop at the county line.  Another exception is when exigent circumstances exist.  These situations are rare and would almost never occur in a standard DUI case.  The third exception is when two police departments have a predetermined agreement in place to assist each other.  These agreements do take place in Florida, but they have to be set out in writing and the particular investigation and arrest have to comply with the terms of the agreement. Two law enforcement agencies cannot just agree to help each other allowing the respective police officers to go into the other counties and make arrests.

In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, a police officer observed a suspect he thought was driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).  However, that police officer was occupied with another matter.  He called a police officer from the neighboring county to investigate.  The second officer came over, found the DUI suspect and ultimately arrested him for DUI.

The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to dismiss the DUI case because the arresting officer did not have a legal basis to investigate the DUI case and make the arrest out of his jurisdiction.  The state countered by showing the court that there was a mutual aid agreement between the two counties.  However, that is not enough.  There must be a specific agreement between the counties and the particular case must be one that is contemplated by the agreement.  In this DUI case, the agreement discussed cases of emergencies, special events or other situations where the two police departments would assist each other.  It did not cover a DUI case like the one at issue here.  Therefore, the arrest of the defendant out of jurisdiction was illegal, and the DUI case was thrown out.

Published on:

In Florida and other states, DNA can be a useful tool for the police and the prosecutors to use to determine who committed a crime.  It is not used nearly as often as one might expect from watching TV shows, but it certainly does come in to play in some cases.  The police might respond to the scene of a crime and collect samples of tissue in the hopes that they can compare the DNA of that tissue to a suspect, find a match and prove that the suspect either committed the crime or at least was present at the scene of the crime.

However, in order to make this comparison, the crime scene officers need to find usable tissue at the scene.  Secondly, the state needs to be able to collect DNA from a suspect to make the comparison with the evidence.  In the past, collecting DNA was more intrusive upon defendants and suspects.  More recently, a quick, simple and painless cotton swab of the inside of a person’s mouth can secure the DNA necessary for a comparison.  Because collecting DNA from a person is much less involved and intrusive than it used to be, courts are more likely to allow it since it is such a minor and unobtrusive procedure.

However, that does not mean the police or the state can just obtain a person’s DNA whenever they want or for whatever reason they want.  In a recent armed robbery case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the police collected a gun and a backpack that was apparently possessed by the armed robber.  They found a suspect and arrested him.  During the case, the state sought to obtain the defendant’s DNA by doing a cheek swab so his DNA could be compared to any DNA found on the gun or backpack.  However, due to the Florida crime lab procedures, probably based on budgetary concerns, the state could not say whether they had any DNA from the evidence to compare to the defendant’s DNA.  Apparently, the policy is to only determine if there is evidentiary DNA once they have DNA from a suspect.

Published on:

As many people know, the federal government classifies certain drugs according to a schedule.  In fact, the Drug Enforcement Agency is permitted by statute to make the rules which determine in which class a particular drug belongs.  Criminal statutes and penalties are enacted based on those classifications.   Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and the most addictive.  Examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin and LSD.  Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous.  An example of a Schedule V drug is the cough medicine Robitussin.

Despite Schedule I including the most dangerous and addictive drugs and substances that have no accepted medical value, cannabis, or marijuana, is still considered a Schedule I drug.  Basically, the federal government is saying  marijuana is just as bad as heroin and bath salts.  Also, despite the fact that doctors all over the country, and all over Florida, are prescribing marijuana to patients to treat a variety of medical conditions, the federal government is saying that marijuana has no accepted medical use. By definition, in order to be a Schedule I drug, a substance must have no accepted medical value.

This kind of government ignorance and corruption would be silly if it wasn’t resulting in people going to prison for having marijuana.  In some marijuana cases, criminal defense lawyers are making the legal argument that it is not constitutional to punish a person for having a Schedule I drug that has no medical use when we are dealing with a substance that medical doctors all over Florida and the country (and all over the world) are prescribing to patients for medicinal purposes.  That seems like an obvious and logical argument that cannot lose in any tribunal where logic and reason are considered useful tools for decision making.  However, anyone who believes logic should win the day underestimates just how backwards our government is, and just how addicted government officials are on campaign donations from billion dollar pharmaceutical companies.  Financial influence is a formidable opponent of reason and justice.