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Articles Posted in Misdemeanor Crimes

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Police set up an undercover sting where they contacted the suspected prostitutes through the website Craigslist.com and arranged to meet them at a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. When the two women arrived at the hotel and asked for $300 for their services, they were arrested on misdemeanor charges, according to an article on the local Atlanta newspaper’s website.

Craigslist is a website that allows people to advertise a variety of items and services for sale from homes and cars to lawyers and accountants. And prostitutes. The general Craigslist website has specific websites for particular areas and cities, including Jacksonville, Florida. While it is clear that escort services are advertised on Craigslist at times, I have not seen any articles or criminal cases indicating that the Jacksonville police are investigating and arresting people based on ads on Craigslist.

However, anyone advertising illegal services or the sale of illegal contraband, or responding to such an ad, should be aware that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office or other local police department may be monitoring the Craigslist website, and it may be a police officer on the other end of the transaction.

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With the 2009 spring break period coming up, police in St. Augustine and other areas of St. Johns County, Florida have indicated that they will increase their focus on underage drinking, particularly during the spring break weeks this month, according to an article on News4Jax.com. St. Johns County police have said that underage drinking has increased in their county and is more of a problem there than in Jacksonville, Florida and other surrounding locations.

Police in St. Johns County Florida have set up a hotline for people to report crimes involving underage drinking and plan to concentrate on high school and college parties and other locations where teenagers hang out. The police are also apparently going to focus on adults who sell or provide alcohol to minors. Police in St. Johns County, Florida will also test liquor store employees. They often do this by sending in an underaged person to buy alcohol at a particular store and citing or arresting the store clerk if he/she sells the alcohol to the teenager.

In Florida, it is a second degree misdemeanor crime for a person to sell or otherwise provide alcohol to a person under 21 years of age, and it is a second degree misdemeanor crime for a person under 21 to possess alcohol.

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Most people are familiar with Miranda warnings which warn a suspect that, among other things, he/she has a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney before the police ask him/her questions about suspected criminal activity. If the police are required to give those Miranda warnings and do not and then ask questions of a suspect, the suspect’s answers will likely be inadmissible at the criminal trial. However, it is not always clear when the police are required to give Miranda warnings. For instance, are the police required to give the Miranda warnings to a suspect during a routine traffic stop before the officer asks the suspect questions about a possible crime? It depends on the circumstances.

For instance, consider a situation that occurred near Jacksonville, Florida that involved two people racing their vehicles, which is a misdemeanor crime in Florida. A police officer observed the race and pulled both vehicles over. He questioned both drivers, and they both admitted to racing. Both drivers were then given notices to appear in court to answer to criminal charges for racing. The police officer did not give the Miranda warnings to the drivers before asking them questions about the suspected racing crime.

The criminal defense lawyers tried to have those statements thrown out of court because the defendants were not given their Miranda warnings before being asked about the racing. The criminal defense lawyers were not successful. Whether a police officer needs to give Miranda warnings before asking investigative questions of a suspect depends on the nature of the encounter between the police officer and suspect. If it reasonably appears to the suspect that he/she is in custody or is under such pressure that his/her right to remain silent seems compromised, the police officer must give Miranda warnings before questioning the suspect about a crime. However, this is a fairly gray area. Some of the factors that determine whether a suspect is “in custody” are: the length of time of the questioning, the number of police officers involved in the encounter, whether the suspect is handcuffed, placed in the police car or otherwise moved to a different location and whether the suspect was searched. If some of these factors are present, the defendant likely has a good argument that he/she should have been given Miranda warnings prior to questioning and any answers he gave about any criminal activity are inadmissible in court. If, as in the racing case referenced above, the police encounter is more consistent with a normal traffic stop that is fairly brief and involves only a few questions while the suspect has not been constrained in any way, there is a good possibility that any answers he/she gives to police questioning could be used against him/her in court even if no Miranda warnings were given.

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A Jacksonville Jaguar practice squad player (Travarous Bain) was arrested Saturday morning for driving with a revoked driver’s license in St. Johns County, Florida, according to an article on Firstcoastnews.com. According to the officer, Bain was driving 99 miles per hour on State Road 16 near I-95 when he was pulled over.

According to the article, Bain’s license was suspended pursuant to an earlier DUI change. To learn more about penalties resulting from DUI arrests and/or convictions, click here.

The article does not say what the speed limit was in the area where Bain was stopped, but he was fortunate that he was not cited for driving 50 mph or more over the speed limit. Due to a new law that has recently become effective, people who are caught driving 50 miles per hour or more over the speed limit face significantly higher fines and lengthy license suspensions for multiple violations.

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The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is attempting to crack down on stores and store clerks who sell alcohol to people under 21 years of age, the legal drinking age in Florida, according to an article at www.News4jax.com. Jacksonville police officers are sending underage kids into various stores to try to purchase alcohol. If and when the store clerk sells the alcohol, the kid walks outside and hands the alcoholic beverage to the police officer waiting outside. The store clerk is then arrested or given a notice to appear in court for a second degree misdemeanor crime. Apparently, the Jacksonville police officers are targeting stores that have been the subject of a complaint, but they also check stores at random.

The Florida crime of selling or serving alcohol to a person under 21 years of age can be found at section 562.11, Florida Statutes. A person who is convicted of this crime faces a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail.

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In the St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida area, police officers conducted a sting and caught several store clerks selling alcohol to a minor. Apparently, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office had a 17 year old investigative aid go into various stores and attempt to purchase alcohol, according to an article on Firstcoastnews.com. In seven of those stores, the clerks sold the alcohol to the minor and were arrested.

Under Florida law, it is a crime to sell, give or serve alcohol to a person under the age of 21. A violation of this law is a second degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum prison sentence of 60 days, a $500 fine and the possible loss of driving privileges.

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A Jacksonville, Florida mother was recently arrested after an incident at Sadie Tillis Elementary School where she allegedly threw objects at the principal, broke a table and made threats to come back and shoot up the school, according to a news article on www.News4jax.com. Clearly, if true, her conduct was inappropriate and needed to be taken seriously to ensure that the children at the school were not placed at risk, but the nature of her remarks provides an opportunity to look at what elements must be present to commit the crime of assault, a term often used in everyday discussion but rarely truly defined.

The Florida crime of assault is committed when a person: 1) makes an intentional and unlawful threat by word or act, 2) to do violence to another person, 3) coupled with an apparent ability to commit the threatened act, and 4) doing some overt act that reasonably creates fear in the other person that the violence is imminent. As a result, words alone are insufficient to form the basis of an assault. There must be some corresponding act that reasonably would put another person in fear that the violence is coming fairly soon along with circumstances that indicate the person has the ability to commit the threatened act. Additionally, threats to do violence that are conditioned upon some other factor typically do not form the basis for an assault as the violence would likely not be imminent.

Looking at the facts of this reported criminal case, if the woman threw an object at the principal, that could form the basis for an assault. However, any verbal threats made, however horrible they may be, would not fit the definition of an assault unless the woman had the apparent ability to follow through with the violence and another person was in reasonable fear of being the victim of imminent violence.

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In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, a DUI can be bumped from a misdemeanor crime to a felony crime if the offender has three prior misdemeanor DUI convictions. If the state prosecutors can prove that the person committed the fourth DUI after three prior misdemeanor DUI’s, that fourth DUI can be classified as felony DUI conviction, which carries greater penalties than a misdemeanor DUI conviction.

However, as a recent Florida criminal case illustrates, there is a speedy trial issue that can affect how and when the felony DUI can be prosecuted. When a person is charged with a misdemeanor crime, the state has 90 days to bring the case to trial. Failure to try the case within that time period means the misdemeanor charge must be dismissed. For felony crimes, the speedy trial period is 175 days.

How does this work in Florida when a DUI starts out as a misdemeanor and then the prosecutor bumps the charge up to a felony? Which speedy trial period applies? It depends on how the transition of the DUI charge from misdemeanor to felony is done. If the state dismisses, or nolle prosses, the misdemeanor DUI charge, the felony court has sole jurisdiction of the DUI charge and the 175 day speedy trial period applies. The same is true if the state files a motion to consolidate the misdemeanor DUI charge into the felony DUI charge. However, if the state merely transfers the case to the Circuit Court (the felony court) then the County Court (the misdemeanor court) keeps jurisdiction of the misdemeanor DUI charge, and the 90 day speedy trial period is still in effect for that charge. As a result, if the DUI case is not tried within 90 days, the misdemeanor DUI charge must be dismissed. Then, the felony DUI charge must also be dismissed because the felony DUI charge depends on a conviction of the current misdemeanor DUI charge, which is impossible since it has been dismissed in misdemeanor court.

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Fifteen Jacksonville, Florida area (Duval, Clay and Nassau County) parents were arrested recently pursuant to the Florida habitual truancy law, according to www.News4Jax.com. The Florida law provides that all kids age 6 to 16 must go to school. A kid is habitually truant, or absent from school, if he or she has fifteen unexcused absences in ninety days. In this case, Jacksonville area police officers indicated that each of the children of the parents arrested had at least twenty unexcused absences from school this year.

Duval County, Clay County and Nassau County police arrested the parents on charges of failing to comply with the compulsory child attendance laws and contributing to the delinquency of the children, which are misdemeanor crimes in Florida.

Jacksonville area police officers and school officials cite the serious nature and effects of truancy in support of the truancy crime laws and the arrests. One study by the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention indicated that, in addition to the negative academic consequences, truancy is also a risk factor for other problems like drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity, serious criminal behavior and chronic unemployment. Literature from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports that kids who are habitually truant from school are at greater risk as adults for poor physical and mental health, poverty, incarceration and raising children who have the same problems.

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