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element5-digital-2i7Dn2uMEQE-unsplash-200x300A federal judge in Florida recently made a momentous decision that may cause a ripple effect as election season looms closer. The judge recently ruled unconstitutional a state law mandating felons to pay any outstanding court fines and fees they may have before they would be allowed to vote. The decision brings countless felons who have completed all prison terms including probation and parole closer to having their right to vote restored.

The case at the center of the decision is the result of a 2018 constitutional amendment by Florida voters that received strong approval. The amendment overturned a law more than 100 years old which permanently disenfranchised people that may have been convicted of a felony. Supporters embraced the result as the nation’s biggest expansion of the right to vote in years. However, Florida’s governor signed a bill seven months later confining the law solely to individuals who had paid the debt(s) they owed to the court.

To read more, visit https://www.npr.org/2020/05/24/861776313/federal-judge-rules-florida-law-restricting-voting-rights-for-felons-unconstitut.

larry-farr-BFJC05gzLXo-unsplash-300x201An inmate currently serving time in Miami-Dade jail is drawing attention after testing positive for COVID-19. A federal judge noted that the inmate appears to be adequately isolated, but she also ordered the parties to address alleged claims of insufficient care and why a hearing on bond revocation has not been held in state court.

A U.S. district judge in Miami has decided to wait on ruling on an emergency motion for the prisoner to be released immediately on bail, who is the designated plaintiff in a pending class action calling for medically disabled prisoners to be released from a detention center in Miami-Dade County. The judge also says that she was not yet able to answer the appeal for release on a habeas corpus writ from the inmates.

To read more about the case, please visit https://www.law360.com/articles/1274423/federal-court-won-t-release-miami-inmate-with-covid-19.

roberto-nickson-so3wgJLwDxo-unsplash-200x300The Governor of Florida himself is in the news, and this time it’s due to legal reasons. Ron DeSantis is being sued in federal district court by several different plaintiffs that own or manage Florida vacation rental properties. They argue that a COVID-19 pandemic ban on vacation home rentals has breached their equal protection and due process rights and their rights under the United States Constitution contracts clause. The plaintiffs are also alleging claims of free speech.

The argument stems from a series of executive orders released by the governor aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Florida. One of the orders released by the governor last month suspended all vacation rentals but exempted several others from the order including hotels, resorts, and non-transitory public lodging facilities, to name a few. The order was originally going to expire at the beginning of this month but has since been extended for the foreseeable future.

To read more, visit https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/05/florida-governor-sued-in-federal-court-over-vacation-rental-ban/.

colt-5102476_1920-300x200A federal judge has stepped in and denied a challenge by the National Rifle Association (NRA) aimed at a Florida law preventing people below the age of 21 to purchase firearms, including weapons such as shotguns and rifles. The law approved by former Governor Rick Scott was approved following the events that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where seventeen people lost their lives. The case is now scheduled to go to trial next year.

Despite the dismissal, the federal judge did emphasize that the ruling is not affecting the NRA’s fundamental claims that the statute violated constitutional second amendment and equal protection protections —- simply that the lawsuit will be allowed to continue.

A federal law also prohibited licensed firearms dealers from selling weapons to people under the age of 21, and according to legal records, the Florida bill broadened it to also prohibit private sales of weapons to people under the age of 21.

marijuana-300x200The Florida Senate is using a contentious new bill to reinforce claims against a possible constitutional amendment aimed at allowing individuals to use marijuana recreationally. Opponents, as well as Senate lawyers, have suggested that the state’s Supreme Court should prevent the amendment as it would create a conflict with federal laws regarding the illegal use of marijuana.

The Supreme Court plays a pivotal role in deciding if potential constitutional amendments are presented to voters, reviewing summaries of ballots and titles to decide if the proposals follow legal requirements, such as not being deceptive.

The recreational-marijuana proposal, which may appear on the ballot in 2022 does not conflict with federal laws nor the United States Constitution according to attorneys that support the bill. Under Florida statute, the bill will decriminalize the selling and possession of marijuana under the restricted scope of the bill.

ashkan-forouzani-ignxm3E1Rg4-unsplash-200x300As N95 masks appear to remain in short supply, a major supplier of the masks for those working in the healthcare industry has begun taking steps to counteract the rise of companies looking to sell the masks at a significant markup. The N95 mask supplier intends to file several lawsuits in Florida to tackle the issue of fake vendors.

One of the many lawsuits has already been filed in federal district court against a company that allegedly claimed it had access to the masks being supplied by the major company. What’s more, the fraudulent claims were accompanied by the company attempting to sell the masks at a massive markup above the list price.

As last month’s protective mask inventory in Florida fell to concerningly low levels, the Florida Emergency Management Division attempted to sign $500+ million in no-bid purchase orders with dozens of mask vendors, several of which had not received approval to sell N95 masks.

miguel-andrade-R3f2emOt1bU-unsplash-300x300Two people are finding themselves in legal trouble after they allegedly used a black rifle to steal nearly $220 in cash from a pair of popular fast food restaurants in Miami Gardens and North Miami-Dade. The robberies occurred as the two were in the drive-thru.

Both people are being charged with a Hobbs Act Robbery in Miami federal court and using a weapon in support of a violent crime. One of the two had already been charged with possessing a weapon as a criminal. In 2015, he was found guilty of burglary with assault, grand theft, and possession of burglary devices.

The pedestrian theft pair for a fairly small sum was upgraded to federal court by prosecutors who deemed the alleged crime as theft under the Hobbs Act. This is a theft that affects interstate trade. By principle, theft from a chain store, or any company that delivers or receives products or services across state lines, may be a Hobbs Act robbery.

prison-553836_1920-300x200The Florida lawsuit over felon voting rights is shaping up to be much, much larger than originally thought once it goes to trial. What was once a case involving seventeen felons will now extend to more than 400,000 felons across the state of Florida who were expected to have their right to vote under Amendment 4 restored. A federal judge recently ruled that whatever decision is made at the end of the trial will apply to all felons in Florida.

The landmark amendment passed by voters in 2018 extended the right to vote to almost all felons who served all prison terms but a bill later passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis mandated felons must pay back all court-ordered payments, penalties and restitution to victims prior to registering. As a result of this, thousands of felons remain unable to vote due to these obligations.

To read more, visit https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article241854741.html.

gavel-3577255_1920-300x165While most of the attention on the federal coronavirus relief bill has been placed on the money taxpayers will be receiving, it is also addressing the way courtrooms operate in the age of COVID-19. The bill has provided the power and resources to federal judges to hold most hearings by telephone or video.

At all initial meetings, preliminary and custody hearings, arraignments and releases of indictments, video or telephone conferencing is permitted. The technology is allowed for preliminary trial, probation and supervised revocation of release hearings. Furthermore, this technology will be used for plea-change and sentencing hearings for misdemeanors. However, these criminal trials can only use these tools if a judge determines that the proceedings cannot be postponed indefinitely without significant damage to the interests of justice and should the defendant consent.

Video and telephone technology will also be allowed for cases involving juveniles except for disputed transfer hearings (when a judge determines if a child should be charged as an adult or a juvenile), trials and adjudication.

https://www.floridacriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/files/2020/03/CO_2020.03.23_Web_Banner_COVID19_1440X960_image-1-2-300x200.jpgIt was perhaps only a matter of time. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced it is pursuing legal action in federal court against a fraudulent website allegedly taking part in a wire fraud scheme that aims to benefit from the uncertainty and widespread fear associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The action follows the DOJ decision to place illegal conduct associated with COVID-19 as a major priority to detect, investigate, and prosecute.

By paying a shipping charge of $4.95 using their credit card information, the fraudulent website was claiming to provide consumers access to World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine kits. However, such kits do not exist nor are they being distributed by the WHO.

The United States filed the expected suit recently to shut down the website right away while the website and its operators are being investigated. In doing so, the government uses a federal provision that requires federal courts to impose injunctions to prevent potential victims of fraudulent schemes from being affected.

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