st. pete theft lawyer
Meet 20-year-old Jarious Tremayne Mock.  Thanks from a tip from the smoking gun website, we all learn a valuable lesson as to how to turn a bad day into something much worse.

The night started with Mr. Mock leaving a nightclub and drunkenly shouting “F–k the police” as he saw nearby officers.  The cops responded by giving him a citation for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.  Per usual regulations, the officers ran the North Carolinian man for warrants and they discovered he had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear on a possession of marijuana charge!

This cost him an arrest.  He was taken to jail where he was then told that he could make bail of only $200 if he wished.  He told the cops the money was in his wallet.  What the police found instead earned him a felony charge.  The police discovered a counterfeit $100 bill and a fake $20 bill!  His bail was increased to $2,000 and he is now facing a load of charges.

clearwater dui defense

In a case of justice delayed but (finally) not denied, the case of the “affluenza teen” may finally have come to an end…

Ethan Couch, who killed four people in a DUI manslaughter case, but received no jail time in a case that outraged the nation finally received his punishment.

A Texas judge just sentenced him to two years in the Tarrant County jail-180 days per each person he killed.  While this seems light, it is the maximum punishment he could receive based on the conditions of his parole.  The judge announced that Couch’s terms of probation would be similar to what he was previously doing including no drugs/alcohol and he must get a job.

Ethan Couch was front page news in 2013 when a now retired judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation only after he drove into a crowd of people.  Though only 16 at the time, he was legally drunk on stolen beer and the crash killed four people including a youth pastor and  a mother and daughter.

The judge at the time listened to Couch’s criminal defense attorney who hired a psychologist.  The psychologist claimed that the boy was a victim of “affluenza” and that he was so spoiled from his family that he never learned the difference between right and wrong.  The court was told that the “child” never learned that actions have consequences.

The judge bought it and Couch stayed out of trouble…for a while.  Video last year showed him playing beer pong at a party which was a violation of his probation.  Rather then face the court, Couch and his mother Tonya fled to Mexico.  They both changed their appearance with Couch sporting dyed blonde hair and his mother holding tens of thousands in cash.  They were arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December and he was deported in January.

As of this writing, his mother still faced a third-degree felony charge.

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pinellas policeA government report that was just released showed that state laws/regulations regarding teen driving has actually contributed to a large decrease in crime.

Starting in the early 90’s a few states passed GDL (graduated driver licensing) laws, making teenagers gain experience driving before they could become fully licensed drivers.  As of this writing, all 50 states have some form of GDL.  Now, research has suggested that these laws have contributed to fewer teenagers being arrested for nontraffic-related crimes.

State GDL laws, limiting teens ability to drive at night, have led to fewer kids being arrested for battery and burglary.  In effect, driving curfews have cut down teenagers being out in the dark when the majority of violent crimes and home invasions take place.

When these laws were first being passed, the effect on crime was not a consideration.  The sole purpose was to improve teen safety.  These findings, if correct, are just a happy bonus.  This protects both the public and keeps kids out of the juvenile criminal court system.

Still, this study is new and more correlation is needed.  Yet so far, studies have shown that introduction of the GDL has reduced total arrests of 16- and 17-year-olds between 4 and 6 percent.

It appears that the nighttime driving restriction is the main reason behind the crime reduction.  States in which driving curfews are not lifted until 17 or 18 see an even larger drop in arrests for 16-year-olds.

The study also shows certain crimes drop more then others.  The FBI tracked nine of the most serious crimes and found various degrees of change.  For instance, theft crimes dropped between 5 and almost 7 percent.  Aggravated assault charges dropped between 4 and 6 percent.  Even murders saw a decline.  However, other crimes such as grand theft auto and sexual battery saw little to no change.

These results were determined by comparing arrests between juveniles and 18-24-year-olds acting as a control group.  They were then cross checked between each state and particular age groups for each year between 1995 and 2011 while taking into consideration other law changes.  The conclusion?  Fewer teens driving at night means fewer arrests.

The report also found that traffic enforcement by police played a role as well.  Depending on the state and the particular rules, many teens were ticketed or charged with driving at night.

One final bit of good news.  It appears that the GDL restrictions had a part in lowering teenage traffic deaths.  The study showed that the longer kids had to wait for their driving licenses or permits, the lower the state’s teen driving fatalities.  The much stricter nighttime driving restrictions also yielded lower auto deaths. Continue reading

pinellas criminal defenseAnother hat tip to the Smoking Gun website who found this arrest report of a man who took his wife on the trip of her lifetime…

69-year-old Richard Addy and his wife Elizabeth were both allegedly intoxicated when they began to argue early Tuesday Morning.  Richard told police he decided to leave the house and cool off.  His 50-year-old bride had other plans.

Elizabeth jumped on the roof of their 2011 Toyota when Richard took off.  He was stopped by Stuart police six miles away.  He told the arresting officer that he drove off not knowing his wife was on the hood!  He first became aware of her when, while at a light, she started banging on his roof!

He chose not to stop as he had no cell phone so he kept driving.  He drove a total of six miles before being stopped by the police.  During his drive, he claimed he drove by a closed government building in the hope that their would be help.

The Stuart police department was not amused.  His wife was not charged with disorderly conduct.  Richard was not arrested for a DUI despite erratic driving and the odor of alcohol on his breath.  Rather he was arrested for reckless driving and a traffic citation.  He pled not guilty at his first appearance. Continue reading

dui 3Standardized field sobriety tests were developed in the 1970s. Even at the time, the science behind them was known to be a little bit unreliable. Unfortunately, says NY speeding ticket lawyer Zev Goldstein, they continue to be used across the country, in many cases as part of the evidence to convict otherwise responsible individuals. It is crucial, therefore, that lawyers attempting to fight a drunk driving charge are able to fully understand field sobriety tests, their roots, and why they might not be as reliable as many people believe.

Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary

Drivers who are stopped for a field sobriety test don’t have to take them. Taking a field sobriety test is voluntary. In many cases, however, defendants may not even realize that they’ve given permission for the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test—or that the officer has likely already decided on the verdict before the test is conducted.

Three “Reliable” Tests

There are a variety of sobriety tests that are actually used in the field. Many people have been asked to touch their noses, recite the alphabet backwards, or perform a variety of other tasks. However, there are only three tests that are even somewhat reliable in determining whether or not a subject is inebriated:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test requires the officer to evaluate the way the individual’s eyes move in response to outside stimulus. Typically, they’re asked to follow a pen or a small light while the officer looks for eye movements that are jerky, an inability to follow the pen, and when the eye begins to jerk.

The One Leg Stand test is exactly what it sounds like. The individual being tested must raise one leg off the ground, look at it, and hold the position for thirty seconds while counting by thousands.

The Walk and Turn test requires the subject to take heel to toe steps on a straight line, then turn and repeat it in the other direction.

Even if all three tests are used correctly—that is, conducted exactly according to the instructions and combined—they only have an 83% accuracy rate in predicting a BAC of more than 0.10. That allows for a 17% deviation based purely on other circumstances and doesn’t allow for tests that have been performed incorrectly.

Planting Seeds of Doubt

It’s the lawyer’s job to convince the jury from the very beginning of the trial that these tests aren’t as accurate as most officers would like for them to believe. Start with the knowledge that 98% of officers conducting the tests do them wrong. They don’t perform them under controlled circumstances: the ground at the side of the road is often uneven, and wind, the placement of the sun, or a variety of other conditions can impact the results. These seeds of doubt should be planted from the very beginning so that by the end of the trial, the jurors are already convinced of the defendant’s innocence.

Evaluating the HGN Test

The HGN test is the most misunderstood of the three tests and the one that it is most difficult to properly evaluate. Many officers don’t even know how to correctly administer it: they may move the pen too fast, hold it for too short a period of time, or fail to correctly identify the eye movements that can indicate intoxication. They may also fail to properly identify a 45 degree angle—something that you can ask the officer to do on the stand. Check the video and time it: if the test takes less than a minute, the officer has done something improperly. All of these steps are critical to ensuring that the client isn’t facing a DUI charge through no fault of their own.

In many cases, standardized field sobriety tests are designed primarily to incriminate, not to prove anything. By the time they pull over the driver, many officers have already made their decision. Once the case goes to court, however, it’s the lawyer’s job to ensure that those tests are not used to incorrectly convict someone who isn’t guilty.

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931789-Crimes-of-Violence-callout-08-20-10Saint Petersburg, Florida

What started as a simple disagreement led to a bar fight for two local men on February 10.  A 39-year-old man and the 52-year-old victim got into an argument at Angelo’s Bar and Grill in downtown St. Pete. The two men went outside and the older man was punched.  He then fell backwards, hitting his head on the curb.  He became unconscious.  He was hospitalized at Bayfront and the suspect was arrested and charged with felony battery.

This all changed March 7 when the victim, who was in hospice died.  The coroner determined that the blow to the head was the cause of death.  While the victim’s family mourned, the suspect got an enormous shock.  His charges were upgraded to manslaughter.

Based on the victim’s death, the defendant is now charged with his unintentional killing.  Despite the defendant having no intent to kill the man, his punching the victim was an intentional act done with “culpable negligence” and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in the state of Florida.

While this is an overall tragedy, it is also a powerful reminder- any argument can lead to a fight, any fight can lead to a death.  Teenagers fighting is ridiculous, grown men fighting is embarrassing.  Now because two men couldn’t settle their differences by walking away, one man is dead and another man is almost assured to go to prison.  These two men have left behind children and families…all because they couldn’t walk away. Continue reading

Saint Petersburg, Florida

From the Tampa Bay Times, what NOT to do when you have been drinking and driving

Last Tuesday, a 57-year-old local Saint Petersburg woman was arrested for a DUI.  The police first detected she may have been intoxicated when she crashed into a marked patrol car!

A SPPD officer was sitting in his cruiser on central and 31st street with his lights on.  Around 8:35 p.m., the woman rear-ended the patrol car with enough force that the officer had to go to Bayfront Health nearby to get checked out.  Both the officer and the suspect were later released from the hospital.

At the scene of the crash, the suspect showed several signs of impairment and after a DUI investigation, she was arrested and later bonded out.

While the suspect IS innocent until proven guilty, a search of her public records show several prior drinking related charges including prior traffic infractions, a prior DUI and several counts of battery on a law enforcement officer.

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Pinellas violent crimes

I like the movie version better…In San Francisco, three Sheriff’s office deputies are charged with running their own “Fight Club” at a jail.  They would allegedly force inmates to fight each other while law enforcement watched.

Former Officer Scott Neu and Officers Eugene Jones and Clifford Chiba are now facing various felony and misdemeanor criminal charges.  The San Francisco DA claims that the deputies forced the fight between two inmates with a weight difference of over 200 pounds on March 5 of last year.

The two inmates, R. Garcia and S. Harris were threatened with a transfer to a stricter jail unless they fought each other.  Deputies also threatened the men with beatings and mace unless they fought.  One of the inmates suffered a cracked rib and both men suffered bruises and cuts.

Scott Neu was the ringleader and also forced inmates into gambling in exchange for cleaner clothing and food.  The losers were punished by solitary confinement and extreme exercise bouts.

These crimes came to light when an inmate told his public defender about them.  An investigation revealed all of the odd details.

“We call this sort of a “Game of Thrones” gladiator fight…they were betting money on the winner” the DA said in a prepared statement.

Neu’s criminal defense attorney disagreed, saying that there was never any fight club.  Rather he claimed his client allowed two inmates to wrestle in order to settle a disagreement.

Scott Neu was charged with four counts of assault, four counts of making threats and multiple counts of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

Eugene Jones is charged with two counts of felony assault and Clifford Chiba was charged with one count of obstruction. Continue reading

pinellas drug crimesThe Smoking Gun website has a brief blurb about a wheelchair-bound lady who was one of the main heroin dealers for a Florida gang!

Sweet 74-year-old Ruth Perez-Lopez was the largest heroin dealer for a local drug ring known for selling cocaine, prescription pills and marijuana.  According to the police, the lady sold her drugs in a fortified Orlando-area house featuring reinforced doors, high tech security and plenty of firearms.

Ms. Perez-Lopez was arrested after the culmination of a year-long state and federal operation.  The name?  Operation “Deals on Wheels” of course!

Perez-Lopez was arrested for heroin trafficking and conspiracy, both of which are felonies. As of this writing she is being held in the Orange County lockup in lieu of $650,000 bond.

Police are estimating that Ruth sold two kilos of heroin per month out of the Orlando home she shared with two co-defendants.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

As mentioned before, drug trafficking carries with it a “minimum mandatory” prison sentence.  This depends on the amount of the illegal narcotics but the minimum mandatory sentence ranges between three and 25 years in prison.  A “minimum mandatory” means NO parole, time off for good behavior or good gain time.  It means the prison sentence is served straight in prison.

With minimum mandatory sentences, even the judge has no power to go below them.  Only an agreed upon departure with the state attorney can reduce this sentence.  Many times the state attorney will agree to “depart” or go below the sentencing guidelines.  There are multiple reasons why the state may choose to depart.  These reasons include the defendant cooperating with the police or state, mental health issues, drug addiction, victim requests, etc.

In this case, a possible departure from the mandatory sentence may involve the suspect’s age.  A 74-year-old facing 25 years in prison is basically looking at a life sentence.  Depending on the defendant’s prior criminal history, reasons for selling drugs and possible cooperation with the police, the state attorney may agree to reduce her prison sentence considerably. Continue reading

Saint pete violent crimes defenseFrom the Washington Post, it looks like troubled singer Chris Brown is starting 2016 like he ended 2015…with allegations of a battery and yet another police investigation.

Talented but troubled pop/R & B singer Chris Brown is now being named a suspect of an alleged battery of a female fan in Las Vegas.  This comes right after his history of violence caused his overseas tour to be canceled along with a canceled television appearance.

In his latest incident, after Chris Brown performed in a Las Vegas nightclub, police received a call from the alleged victim.  The woman claimed that Chris stole her phone and hit her after she tried to take his picture.  By the time police arrived at the Palms Casino Resort, Brown had fled.  As of the time of this writing, he is a suspect in a misdemeanor battery and petit theft.

The singer has not commented on any allegations other then a cryptic instagram photo of himself with a caption that read “I’m going to be hella rich after all the lawsuits I file from these crazy individuals who keep lying on my name…”.

A spokeswoman for the singer has called the allegations completely false and said the alleged victim was escorted out of a private after-party for being disruptive.  Once kicked out of the party the woman began threatening people and slamming her purse to the ground.

The spokeswoman further claimed that the victim has a history of making false accusations.

As for Chris Brown, he is perhaps most well known for his beating of Rihanna, a fellow singer.  Brown pled guilty to assaulting her in 2009 and photos of her badly beaten face were all over the internet.  Despite the injuries, Brown only received probation.  He quickly violated probation by punching a man in the nose in Washington.  This led to multiple anger management programs, a few months in jail and a major lawsuit.  Not learning his lesson, Brown continued feuding with fellow singers Frank Ocean and Drake. Continue reading