Murders in the U.S. shot up by more than 10 percent in 2015, compared to the year prior, while violent crimes overall inched upward about 4 percent during the same time frame. That’s according to the latest statistics reported by the FBI. This was the highest violent crime rate in three years.Gun Close-Up

We must be mindful of the fact that these numbers are much lower than the crime levels reported a decade or two ago, but still a marked increase following several years of decline.

These figures were highly anticipated because violent crime in the U.S. has been given greater scrutiny the last few months, particularly as it’s an issue that has been noted repeatedly by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. While certain violent crimes like rape, robbery and assault have fallen, the rise of homicide and other serious crimes has drawn concern. Continue reading

President Obama recently announced the sentence commutation of more than 100 federal prisoners serving decades-long penalties under arcane cocaine trafficking statutes. Obama has commuted the sentences of nearly 600 people this year, and over the course of his term, more than the last 11 presidents combined.powder

Unfortunately, the vast majority of individuals arrested for cocaine trafficking in Miami will not be able to count on a presidential commutation or pardon. These charges potentially carry decades-long sentences, so it’s imperative that your Miami criminal defense attorney have the experience, skill and resources to properly defend your case.

F.S. 893.123 is the state statute on drug trafficking and outlines the minimum mandatory penalties for the various charges. Contrary to popular belief, cocaine trafficking is not primarily the work of criminal masterminds or even career criminals. In fact, one need not even sell the drug to be arrested for trafficking. Continue reading

Florida voters backed a constitutional amendment to approve medical marijuana, which broadens the very limited therapeutic uses lawmakers in the Sunshine State approved two years ago. The current law does grant permission for those with cancer or other serious conditions that cause seizures or spasms to use low-THC derivatives (so long as they aren’t smoked) for treatment of their conditions. Amendment 2 will mean people with many other conditions will be eligible to receive the drug. marijuana

Now, people can get the drug to treat not only cancer or seizures, but also: Epilepsy, AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, amytrophic lateral sclerosis, Chrohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The statute also allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for any similar type of ailment.

The measure was personally backed by a number of criminal defense and personal injury lawyers in the state. It passed with a noteworthy 71 percent of the vote. Still, it is likely to be months before any of the approximately 450,000 people who actually qualify for the drug will be able to get it. Continue reading

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s death penalty law, which does not require a unanimous agreement from jurors, is unconstitutional. What this means is that until state lawmakers can rewrite the sentencing procedure in Florida death penalty cases, there is no death penalty in Florida — at least for those awaiting trial. injection

Death penalty opponents applaud the decision, which comes not long after the law was recently-revamped. Previously, Florida did not require juries deciding on death penalty cases to reach a unanimous verdict as to the fate of the defendant. Only a majority was necessary to impose a death sentence. The law was rewritten to require a unanimous verdict. However, legislators decided to require, in a law passed earlier this year, that only 10 out of 12 jurors agree to impose death. That’s because the size of the jury in capital cases (as compared to other criminal matters) expands from 10 to 12.

However, the Florida Supreme Court in Perry v. Florida has now soundly rejected this arrangement. The U.S. Supreme Court had already determined back in January that judges in this state had far too much input in the decision of whether someone should be put to death. In fact, it should be the responsibility of the jury alone to make that call.  Continue reading

Most readers are aware that several states in the United States of America have legalized marijuana, which has led to a new industry being developed.  The problem many of these industry participants have is the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law as well as many states.  Though the federal government has not been actively and aggressively enforcing federal laws as it applies to marijuana.  This is welcome news to many, but those who choose to either conduct business related to marijuana should seek legal advice in order to avoid the many pitfalls of this contradiction in the laws within the U.S.  Recently, I was contacted by a Canadian law firm who shared the following chart and information with me, which I thought would be useful to any of my readers traveling to Canada and elsewhere.  If you run into any problems, our firm handles criminal matters throughout the U.S. and also we provide consulting services to anyone seeking to step into the marijuana (cannabis) industry arena.

Marijuana in Canada

 

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The Supreme Court has widened the door when it comes to unlawful police searches, following a divided 5-3 opinion in the case of Utah v. Strieff. policelights1

The outcome is deeply concerning to anyone who supports suppression of evidence gained as a result of an unlawful search, sometimes referred to as “the fruit of the poisonous tree.” As dissenting Justice Sonya Sotomayor passionately wrote, this ruling allows one’s body to be subject to invasion while the courts excuse the violation of rights. It implies, she said, that we are not citizens of a democracy, but rather “subjects of a carceral state.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagen also dissented.

Defendant was suspected of drug activity. After receiving anonymous tips, the officer in this case began staking out his home. On the day in question, officer stopped suspect, who had left his home to walk to a nearby convenience store. The officer requested identification and at that point discovered defendant had an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation. The officer arrested defendant and subsequent to that arrest, conducted a search of his person, at which time he discovered meth and drug paraphernalia.  Continue reading

If your child was arrested, would they know their rights?boy

The fact is, juveniles in Florida can face serious penalties, and in some cases, may even be tried as adults for felony offenses. But it seems in many cases, they do not fully understand the rights they have when they are taken into police custody. Authorities may take advantage of that.

Miranda warnings, also sometimes referred to as Miranda rights, is a notice that is supposed to be offered by law enforcement to criminal suspects in police custody or in custodial interrogation prior to questioning. It warns individuals that they have a right to silence – that they do not have to answer questions by law enforcement. Officers rarely deviate from the legal language of the warning, though varying version are used across the country. But a number of cases have prompted juvenile rights advocates to argue for the wording to be updated in terms that are easy for juveniles to understand. Continue reading

Miami-Dade county commissioners passed a measure eliminating red light cameras in the unincorporated areas of the county. Commissioners decided the cameras have been rife with controversy, and have proved very costly and ineffective.trafficlight2

The move will not affect red light cameras installed in municipal areas of the county, such as the City of Miami. However, in areas like Schenley Park, Kendall, Westchester and Fountainebleau, where residents spoke out fervently against installation of the cameras, the commission has ensured the technology won’t be installed.

Back in 2011, commissioners passed an ordinance that opened the door for red light cameras in Miami-Dade’s unincorporated regions. However, the system never actually got up and running. Continue reading

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in favor of a black man on death row in Georgia who alleged prosecutors violated his constitutional rights by ensuring an all-white jury by using their peremptory challenges during jury selection to strike potential jurors of color. jury1

The groundbreaking decision in Foster v. Chatman makes it clear that this kind of discrimination will not stand.

“Two peremptory strikes on the basis of race are two more than the Constitution allows,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Continue reading

Juvenile offenders who are serving sentences so long they essentially amount to life in prison are entitled to a judicial review, the Florida Supreme Court ruled recently. prison6

In Atwell v. Florida, the court ruled that reviews are in order even when the offender technically has a shot at parole.

It was not a decision the court reached easily, as the end vote  was 4-3. The decision by the majority will serve to greatly expand the number of juvenile offenders who now qualify for resentencing. In fact, hundreds of people convicted for crime like murder or rape while they were minors now have a second chance at sentencing. Continue reading