There are many ways in which law enforcement officers can overstep or misstep in conducting a warrantless search pursuant to a traffic stop. When they do, those errors may mean the search was unconstitutional and you are entitled to suppression of the proof they found. This blog post will look at a couple of ways that officers can err. Keep in mind that, when an officer missteps, a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer can be essential to success in court when it comes to the suppression of evidence seized in an illegal search.

An example of one of the ways police can violate your rights comes from one of our sister states… California. The accused was a man driving in the Bay Area when the police pulled him over for two minor traffic violations. The time required to check for outstanding warrants, confirm the validity of the driver’s license, registration, and insurance, and decide whether or not to write a ticket took roughly 3 1/2 minutes.

But the stop didn’t end there. Allegedly, an officer suspected the driver of being under the influence of drugs, so he ordered him out of the car and conducted field sobriety tests, which the driver passed. This took roughly six additional minutes. But the stop didn’t end there, either.

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A lot of criminal prosecutions — especially ones related to firearms or drug crimes — involve evidence seized as a result of a warrantless search. If that’s you, one of the most important parts of your defense is contesting the legality of the search and the admissibility of evidence seized in it. When it comes to suppressing evidence seized as part of a warrantless search, having representation provided by a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer can be critical to your success.

One exception to the search warrant rule is something called a “search incident to an arrest.” If the officer has made a valid arrest, the officer can conduct a reasonable search to ensure his/her safety, such as searching for weapons.

Arrests are not the only reason that law enforcement officers involuntarily detain people. Each year, many thousands of people are involuntarily detained across Florida based on mental health concerns. According to research from the University of South Florida, officers performed roughly 200,000 of these mental health (a/k/a “Baker Act”) detentions in each of the last three years. This raises a question critical for many of those people: how much warrantless searching can the officer do?

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Weapons crimes often can come with strict sentencing rules including, in some circumstances, sentence enhancements. If you are facing such a possibility, it is vital to have a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer on your side to help you establish that you do not qualify for the enhanced sentence and should not be subject to a longer time behind bars.

Here’s an example from Florida of how these things can unfold. In 2013, federal authorities indicted F.S. for “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Normally, this crime would carry with it a maximum sentence of 10 years.

F.S., however, received a sentence of more than 17-1/2 years, though. How? The federal court determined that a sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (18 USC § 924(e)) applied. That enhancement took F.S.’s crime from something with a maximum of 10 years to something with a minimum of 15 years.

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What is a Designated Driver?

Many methods are used to prevent drunk driving. One of the most important and successful methods is the designated driver concept.

In 1988, the Harvard Alcohol Project was introduced as a way to bring drunk driving fatalities down.7 The project introduced the Scandinavian concept of the designated driver to the United States.

Drug and weapons offenses represent some of the most commonly charged crimes in Florida. According to the FBI, drug crimes are the #1 basis for arrests, representing nearly 1 in 7 (14%) of all arrests. Sometimes, the way the police go about obtaining the proof necessary to make those arrests violates the law and your constitutional rights. To avoid becoming a statistic, you need a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer on your side to get illegally obtained evidence excluded from your case.

One common scenario where this comes up is after the police have made a stop due to a non-criminal traffic violation. A recent Hillsborough case — although technically a delinquency matter — is very useful because it illustrates how the police can overstep and, when they do, how a criminal suspect can get evidence suppressed.

The case originated when law enforcement officers stopped O.W. (a Hillsborough County teen) and another person for riding their bicycles at night with no lights on them. The teen stopped when the officer asked him to. He also gave his name, address, and date of birth when asked.

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Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” has been the subject of much public discussion. Many misunderstandings and misconceptions are associated with this statute. If you are someone facing criminal charges and need to present an argument for Stand Your Ground immunity, make sure you have an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer advocating for you.

One of the more common illustrations of a Stand Your Ground scenario involves an innocent bystander who is abruptly confronted and/or attacked. In reality, Stand Your Ground immunity may apply to a variety of circumstances, even if you were guilty of a criminal violation at the time.

A Manatee County attempted manslaughter case is a good example. R.J., a man who newspaper reports identified as a member of a Bradenton street gang, was part of a 2018 altercation involving a rival gang at a local bar. The bar fight spilled into the parking lot and, eventually, shots were fired. A member of a rival gang was dead, allegedly killed by R.J.’s ex-stepfather.

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Car accidents can be one of the most stressful and difficult experiences that a person can go through. From physical injuries to financial repercussions, the aftermath of a car accident can be a confusing and overwhelming time. That’s why it’s important to take the right steps to ensure that you have the best possible outcome. In this article, we will discuss the 10 essential steps to take following a car accident, as well as how a car accident lawyer can help.

What to Do Immediately After an Accident

Florida’s laws for people with prior convictions sometimes have the potential to inflict some severe penalties if that person gets arrested again, even if it is for something that normally would qualify only as a misdemeanor crime. If you’re someone facing possible felony charges because of your prior conviction, you need the right Clearwater criminal defense lawyer on your side to advocate for you both in court and, just as importantly, outside court in plea negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office.

J.D. was a Pasco County man who found himself facing that possibility following a heated dispute at a Clearwater dollar store. J.D. and his wife were shopping at the Dollar Tree on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard when a store employee and the wife became embroiled in “a verbal altercation over grocery bags,” according to the police report.

The arresting officer further declared that, as the argument escalated, J.D.’s wife pulled out her phone and began recording, the 20-year-old worker then called the wife a “Karen,” and J.D. responded to that affront to his wife’s honor by open-hand slapping the employee on her left cheek, The Smoking Gun reported.

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While the news is full of stories of violent and/or repeat offenders, the reality is that a lot of people who get arrested are nonviolent first-time offenders. For people falling into this latter category, the law in Florida has options, including one that may allow you to walk away with the charge(s) against you dismissed. This is called the “diversion program,” and the earlier steps are taken on your behalf, the better your chances of successfully getting placed in the diversion program will be. An experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer can offer essential assistance in getting that diversion assignment.

People often have lots of items on their “bucket lists.” Sometimes, some of those items are unusual. Rarely, though, does one’s bucket list say anywhere on it “get arrested.”

But that’s exactly what one Florida Keys woman facing felony charges told a Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy. She allegedly divulged that information right after he pulled her over in Key Largo after she avoided stopping for nearly five miles.

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Here in Florida (and around the United States,) you have the right to be free of intrusive interactions with the police unless the officers have a reasonable basis for detaining you. If the police confront you without the proper reasoning for doing so, then any incriminating evidence they seized in that interaction may be inadmissible against you at trial. Getting that evidence suppressed requires a properly timed motion, supported by a well-stated argument in support of it. Given how critical these kinds of motions and arguments can be to the success of your defense — and therefore to your ultimate freedom — it is vital that you have a knowledgeable Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer on your side.

A recent drug possession case from Pasco County shows how the police can overstep their bounds and what you can do when that happens.

In the summer of 2019, New Port Richey police officers responded to a motel where a housekeeper had found a gun in a vacant room. The motel manager provided the names of the man and woman who had last rented the room. The officers discovered that the man was a middle-aged white man named Keith, who was “of average build and height.” They also discovered that the gun was stolen and that Keith was a convicted felon.

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