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

The Florida Supreme Court made it clear in a recent ruling that a criminal suspect’s silence is not to be used against him or her in court. Of course, not using one’s silence as proof of guilt is an established legal principle, but one that was recently expanded in the court’s May 5th decision in Florida v. Horwitzpolice

The court was asked to decide whether, per article I, section 9 of the Florida Constitution and Florida evidentiary law, prosecutors are prohibited from using a defendant’s pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence as some substantive evidence of his or her guilt when defendant chooses not to testify at trial. The 4th District Court of Appeal had ruled the answer was “No,” but certified the question to the state supreme court as one of great public importance.

A high-profile murder suspect, Donna Horwitz was accused and ultimately convicted of fatally shooting her ex-husband, Lanny.  Continue reading

The son of a man serving nearly three decades behind bars following his conviction for methamphetamine distribution has now himself been sentenced to more than three years after a judge found he was guilty of retaliation against a witness. socialmediakeyboard

According to the U.S. Justice Department, defendant was charged with obstruction of justice after the man sent threatening Facebook messages and memes to a witness who testified in his father’s drug trafficking trial. The fact that the son’s alleged missives were delivered via social media didn’t matter. Although the judge misstated the exact form of the messages at sentencing, referring to them as “emails,” he made it clear that witness tampering and intimidation is a crime no matter the method of delivery.

“This is obstruction of justice. It is what it is,” the U.S. District judge told the defendant at sentencing. “…You must not interfere with the judicial process. It’s a serious crime.”

And with that, the judge sentenced defendant to 37 months in prison.  Continue reading

Florida’s new death penalty law is unconstitutional, ruled a Miami-Dade judge recently, because jurors aren’t required to agree unanimously on the execution.prison1

The decision in Florida v. Gaiter is the just the latest in legal wrangling over the death penalty in Florida.

Death penalty cases have been on hold since January, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Hurst v. Florida. In that case, the court declared Florida’s death sentence system unconstitutional because it didn’t entrust jurors with enough power. For the last several decades, jurors have been responsible for issuing “majority recommendations” when it comes to the death penalty, while it is ultimately the judge who imposes the order of execution. Continue reading

In this age of digital technology, it’s rare to find someone without a Smartphone. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, it’s estimated that in four years, 70 percent of the global population will use smartphones. That means use will grow by 55 percent per year until then.iphone3

People are heavily reliant on these phones to do everything from track their work appointments to FaceTiming with a cousin overseas to checking their social media accounts and bank balances.

This information has become exceedingly valuable in court cases – both civil and criminal – where this kind of wealth of data can help to verify or disprove a given narrative. But who owns this information? Who can compel it to be brought forth and under what circumstances? How much should be divulged?

These are the kinds of questions being raised in a number of high-profile cases that have cropped up recently. But although they involve big-name technology companies such as Apple and Yahoo, don’t think they don’t involve you. Continue reading

The crime of Driving Under the Influence, commonly referred to as DUI or DWI, can have very serious consequences. Many times, DUI offenders have never been arrested before and their mistake may have led them to their first brush with law enforcement. Recently a judge in West Palm Beach, FL gave a 1st time offender a 32-year sentence for a DUI conviction. That DUI did result in a crash that led three people dead but similar convictions have led to far more lenient sentences. For the defendant, Mr. Keith Richard Jenkins, the sentence seemed overly harsh and he has blamed his attorneys for the lengthy sentence. Of key importance to the sentencing decision was an investigation after the conviction was secured which revealed that Mr. Jenkins continued to party after the DUI incident playing a game of beer-pong. Sometimes a lawyer must explain more than just the law to their client and provide counseling beyond that of what the law entails. Unfortunately for Mr. Jenkins, his counsel may have failed to provide him with advice that could have helped him avoid such a lengthy sentence.

Continue reading

On Jan. 7, 2016, a man named Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. was executed by the state for the murders of three South Florida women in the mid-1980s. The U.S. Supreme Court had declined to hear his final appeal in a final effort to save his life. Among the arguments his lawyers had made: The court’s pending decision in Hurst v. Florida, weighing the constitutionality of Florida’s death penalty scheme. needle1

Five days after Bolin was put to death, the Hurst decision was released. The high court declared Florida’s jury-recommended death penalty system unconstitutional. It didn’t come in time to save Bolin, but it may just be the beginning of the end for the death penalty.

In 2015, there were 28 prisoners in the U.S. put to death. That was the lowest number of prisoners executed since 1991, and evidence from the Death Penalty Information Center suggests this is part of a larger trend involving a sharp decline of death penalty cases.  Continue reading