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Per the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, “Operation flush out”, an undercover unlicensed contracting sting, was a smashing success…

Taking place between Saturday, August 4 to Monday, August 6, this secret operation took place on 54th avenue near 27th street in Saint Petersburg, Florida.  The deputies put out advertisements asking for contracting help.  When the operation was over, 29 people were arrested for over 60 counts including  unlicensed specialty contracting violations, worker’s compensation fraud, and various other criminal charges unrelated to unlicensed contracting such as drug possession and outstanding warrants.

What is unlicensed contracting?  It is exactly what it sounds like.  After the local newspaper  wrote a 2017 expose on the practice of painters, roofers and other construction practices working on people’s homes without the proper license, the Sheriff was quick to get involved.  This has been his third sting since last October and he claims that south Pinellas is a hotbed for this illegal activity.

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PoliceSometimes, Florida can be famous – or infamous – for news stories with strange twists. While some of those twists might elicit a chuckle or two, the possible legal consequences for the subjects of those news articles can be profoundly serious. If you are facing arrest, it’s no joke. Make sure you retain a skilled Tampa Bay defense attorney.

One possible takeaway from a recent South Florida news story is this: if you are going to cut off someone in traffic in Miami-Dade County, make sure it isn’t a law enforcement officer. One man made that mistake and found himself the subject of a traffic stop, according to a recent Miami Herald report. Once the police initiated the traffic stop, they found several things they deemed suspicious inside the man’s car. These included six guns, several bottles of strong cough syrup (without a prescription), suspected marijuana oil and nearly $20,000 in cash.

The Herald report also noted that the police proudly touted the bust on a local TV station. “It’s amazing how something as simple as a traffic stop can lead us to crack a lot of cases,” the police told CBS 4. There was one not-so-small problem: it wasn’t a “good” bust.

laptopSometimes, you may read in the news about a court case and have a viscerally negative reaction to the person accused of a crime. “That person is beneath contempt, so I am not sure I care if his rights were violated by the police,” some say. The problem, of course, is that once you allow the police to violate the rights of people just because they allegedly are contemptible human beings, then you potentially allow the police to violate the rights of anyone they suspect of a crime. Instead, our system establishes certain absolutes to ensure that all citizens are protected from overreach. If you or a loved are facing criminal charges, be sure you have skilled Florida criminal defense counsel to advocate for you and defend your rights.

One recent case that involved a question of fundamental constitutional rights began when police in Polk County identified an IP address that was associated with the sharing of child pornography. The police traced the IP address to a home, but discovered that none of the residents’ devices had been used to view or share child porn.

The police also discovered that the resident had not secured his network. That meant that anyone could “piggyback” off that person’s network simply by having a WiFi-enabled device and being close enough to his router. With the help of the resident, the police began monitoring that network’s usage. After that, they employed something called a “Yagi antenna,” that let them follow a signal that led them to a motorhome parked near the resident’s house. Inside, they found D. and his device, which was the one that had allegedly been used for the child pornography activities.

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A friendly heads up this weekend for those of us who will be enjoying the official beginning of summer.  The PCSO has announced that they are participating in a Memorial day enforcement operation.

Cleverly named the 2018 Memorial Day S.A.L.E. (Sea Air and Land Enforcement), it began 9:00 a.m. today and will continue until 5:00 p.m. Monday.

Per the official release ” The detail will utilize the Marine Unit to conduct vessel safety inspections and enforcement of marine laws to include impaired vessel operation. The Flight Unit will assist the Traffic and DUI Unit in the enforcement of speeding, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence.

The detail is part of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Strategic Policing through Education and Enforcement for Drivers (SPEED) highway safety grant and the DUI Enforcement Enhancement Program grant.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is committed to reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with crashes related to speed, aggressive driving, and the impaired operation of vehicles and vessels”.

In summary, have fun and be careful.  Know that there will be heightened police presence on most major roads and waterways.  If you are drinking, then Uber.  If you are boating, be careful and make sure you have all the proper boating safety equipment at hand. Continue reading

crime scene tapeThere are many different ways that you or a loved one can avoid a criminal conviction in a felony case. One way that this can occur is if the trial court concludes that the defendant is not mentally competent to stand trial. If a trial goes forward against an incompetent person, that person may be entitled to a reversal of his conviction. All of these things require a detailed understanding of criminal law, so if you have a loved one facing this type of circumstance, reach out without delay to a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney.

A news-making case from Orlando became a trial that touched upon this issue of competency to stand trial. Antoine was scheduled to go on trial for murder in 2015 after he allegedly killed his girlfriend in the condo they shared shortly before Christmas 2011. The man allegedly slit the victim’s throat and stabbed her repeatedly. He admitted the killing. Antoine, though, had schizophrenia and asserted that he heard voices in his head. Prior to the start of the trial, Antoine’s lawyer submitted to the court a document known as a “notice of incompetency.” When that happens, the law requires the court to stop the progress of the underlying case and hold a hearing to determine whether or not the defendant is legally competent to stand trial.

The trial court ordered a competency hearing to assess Antoine. Before the hearing, two court-appointed experts analyzed the defendant and determined that Antoine was not competent. A few months later, mental health providers determined that Antoine’s competency had been restored. Another hearing was scheduled, and, at the hearing, Antoine’s attorney reported to the judge and the prosecutor that the newest court-appointed expert had deemed the defendant to be competent. Without reviewing the expert’s report and without taking any evidence, the court declared that Antoine was competent and that the case should go forward.

Cocaine PowderSometimes, one might find oneself in an uncomfortable encounter with law enforcement. The officer suspects you of a crime. The officer is questioning you. The facts look bad, and you do not have a clear reply to dispel the officer’s suspicions. You have a couple of options at this point. You can invoke your right to legal counsel and refuse to explain anything, or you can go for a “far-from-run-of-the-mill” explanation. More often than not, if an officer is questioning you toward the end of possibly arresting you, the less you say the better. Instead, retain counsel and let your experienced Florida drug crime attorney handle the interactions with the police.

A woman recently stopped by police in Fort Pierce went with a long shot of an explanation in her interaction with police, according to a news report from Local10.com. Law enforcement officers allegedly noticed her vehicle driving erratically and made a traffic stop. According to the police report, the officer detected an aroma of marijuana upon approaching the vehicle. The officer searched the woman’s car. The officer also searched the woman’s purse. Inside the purse, the officer found marijuana and cocaine in separate bags inside the purse.

The woman informed the officer that the marijuana was hers, but the cocaine was not. What’s more, she professed not knowing for sure how the bag of cocaine found its way into her purse. Instead of leaving it there, she attempted to offer a possible alternative theory of the case. “I don’t know anything about any cocaine. It’s a windy day. It must have flown through the window and into my purse,” the woman theorized, according to the police report.

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Are you a military veteran with court costs, fines or even warrants?  Then this Saturday, April 14, 2018 may be for you!  The annual VA stand down event is taking place at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, Bay Pines Fl 33744.  This event is from 8:30 a.m.-1:00p.m.

You must register via phone at 727.464.6446 or email pdvastanddown@wearethehope.org before April 11, 2018.

What is this event?  This once a year program helps veterans by reducing/eliminating certain court costs/fines and they may be able to get minor warrants dropped completely!

By reducing/eliminating tickets, court costs or warrants, many veterans will be able to get their driver’s license back, avoid jail/arrest and may be free to start job hunting again. Continue reading

attorneyThere are certain rights guaranteed to every citizen. One of these is the right to legal counsel in your criminal matter. If you think that you or a loved one is suspected of a domestic violence crime, it just makes good sense to act without delay and retain the services of an experienced Florida domestic violence attorney. The police are very skilled at their jobs. Make sure that you have skill on your side by having counsel representing you.

Once you’ve retained counsel, you have a right to have that attorney present when being questioned by the police, in many situations. If the police fail to follow this rule, you may be entitled to get statements you’ve made to them excluded from evidence. An example of this was the case of a Manatee County man named Cornelius. On the afternoon and evening of June 6, Cornelius had been acting strangely while visiting his parents’ home. By 4 a.m. on June 7, the parents took Cornelius to the hospital, and he was committed under the Baker Act. The Baker Act is a state law that allows for involuntary confinement of an individual due to mental illness. This commitment can be initiated by a judge, a police officer, a doctor, or a mental health professional.

That meant Cornelius was in the hospital and was not free to leave. On the evening of June 7, Cornelius’ mom returned to the hospital. The staff there told her she couldn’t see her son. Cornelius’ girlfriend, she was told, had been found murdered in her home, and the police were coming to question Cornelius. Cornelius’ mother did what a wise mom in her shoes should do:  she immediately retained legal counsel for her son. Cornelius’ lawyer arrived at the hospital sometime later, but the staff didn’t let him talk to his client. He left a business card with the staff.

double barrelEveryone is entitled to receive justice, whether they are perfectly innocent or less so. The not guilty are entitled to acquittals, and the guilty are entitled to punishments that fit their crimes. To this end, it is important to ensure that criminal defendants are not charged with (and convicted of) more severe crimes than the actual facts dictate. A skilled Florida gun crime lawyer can help you make sure that the result of your criminal case is a just one.

One recent example of a case in which the facts didn’t support the crime was the trial of Phillip. One night in Orange County, Phillip waved a man over to his car, and, when the man approached, Phillip brandished what looked like a double-barrel shotgun. He demanded that the man give him his wallet, and the victim complied. Police caught up to Phillip later, and, when searching his car, they found the double-barrel of a shotgun. What the police did not find, however, were any other parts to a shotgun. No receiver. No stock. No firing mechanism. Just the barrel.

The accused man admitted that he robbed the victim but denied that he used a real gun in the process. The state, however, still charged Phillip with the crime of robbery with a weapon in violation of Section 812.13(2)(b) of the Florida Statutes. At the conclusion of the trial, Phillip was convicted.

Raymond Eugene Furr, 51, faces charges of armed burglary, criminal mischief and petty theft of less than $300, according to Treasure Island police, after he broke into a garage and made himself coffee. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]

File this one under “why not”?  Per the local paper,  a local transient man found himself in hot water for brewing some hot water.

Treasure Island Police arrested 51-year-old Raymond Eugene Furr for multiple charges when he broke into a garage and started making coffee.   When the homeowner discovered his garage door opened and damaged, he also found the suspect helping himself to the coffee selection.  Raymond fled when he was confronted by the owner who quickly called the police.

It did not take long for the police to find Raymond Furr as he was arrested less then 45 minutes later. When he was caught, he was found with a pair of scissors in his front pocket.  The police charged him armed burglary, petit theft (of the coffee) and criminal mischief (for the garage door).

LEGAL ANALYSIS

Why ARMED burglary when there was no proof that the suspect  was armed at the time of the break in?  Could he have been unarmed and then found the scissors in the garage?  There are two separate issues here. Burglary is covered under Florida Statute 810.02.  It specifically states that one is guilty of armed burglary if during the course of the “break in”, the suspect either comes with a dangerous weapon or becomes armed with one during the course of being in the dwelling, structure, or conveyance.  This means that the state would have to prove that the suspect either broke into the garage while in possession of the “dangerous weapon” or while in the garage he found and armed himself with the scissors.  

The state would have to prove that the scissors were on the suspect or stolen from the garage during the course of the burglary.  Being in possession of the scissors 45 minutes later when he was arrested would not be sufficient to sustain an armed burglary charge.  On a side note, the question if the scissors would even be considered a “dangerous weapon” per the statute is another issue.

Finally, Armed burglary with a firearm    is considered an extremely serious crime.  As shown above, a suspect can break into a home unarmed.  If during the course of the burglary, he/she finds a gun and steals it, the charge is immediately upgraded to burglary with a firearm.

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