Articles Posted in Florida Law

As a former prosecutor, current veteran criminal defense attorney, adjunct law professor, with over 30 years of experience litigating cases, I felt compelled to write this article. It’s in response to all the misconceptions, lies, and ignorance surrounding the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial. Here’s four critical things you need to know:

1) IT’S NOT ABOUT ‘#TeamDepp’ AND/OR ‘#TeamHeard’

Most in the “Court of Public Opinion” have treated this trial as if they are picking their favorite sports team. They decided what side they are on and root for their pick with passion and zeal, often regardless of the facts and circumstances. They erroneously think that the jury will decide this trial the same way, deciding who they like better and then rewarding them with a favorable verdict. That’s not how this case will be resolved. Who the jury likes is not the issue that will determine the outcome. Likeability is always important to jury in a trial. However, they can actually despise Depp and/or Heard and/or both of them, yet still rule in their favor. The “#TeamDepp” and “TeamHeard” mentality is fine for the Court of Public opinion yet holds little legal weight in an actual court of law.

(Thanks to Elizabeth Chailosky for her work on this post)


You see your teenager being arrested by police. You approach police who tell you to get away. You feel thoroughly scared and helpless. With the Derek Chauvin trial still fresh in your mind, you pull out your phone and begin recording officers. The officers see you standing across the street recording them. They shout, “Stop recording us or we will arrest you!” You continue to record believing that you have a legal right to do so. Even though you’re keeping your distance and not interfering with the officers in any way, you are stripped of your liberty and charged with obstruction. This arrest must be an unlawful, right?

After filing a series of copyright lawsuits in federal courts aimed at pursuing legal action again antonymous individuals illegally downloading its movies, a film company has switched gears and is now looking to try a new strategy to try and unmask the people pirating its films: the company has begun filing cases in a Miami state court instead.

The change in strategy comes after the film company experienced resistance from federal courts as it sought to unveil the identities of the people illegally downloading its films. The move also allows the company to target a broader group in a single case versus having to file individual federal court cases.

According to the source article, lawyers for the film company state that piracy is a widespread problem for the company, and the Miami cases are a more successful way of prosecuting it. Others argue that the approach is legally dubious. Lawyers for those being accused call the actions thinly disguised copyright moves that are better suited for federal court.

neonbrand-AOJGuIJkoBc-unsplash-300x200Among the various changes and laws affecting Florida next week, the minimum wage will be seeing a bump. Florida is among the eight states that will automatically increase these rates on New Year’s Day, which is calculated by taking into account the annual cost of living calculations.

Per the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO), which calculates the annual adjustments, the increase will result in an increase of 1.12 percent, which is roughly a dime, or about $8.56 an hour beginning next year, up from the existing $8.46 hourly.

Tipped employees have a current rate of $5.44 hourly which will change slightly to $5.54 an hour, according to the FDEO.

daniel-ramos-suUs21vrCXc-unsplash-200x300The pressure may be mounting for Florida lawmakers to tackle the issue of vaping among teenagers. One Florida Senate member will be championing efforts to deal with the soaring use of electronic cigarettes when the 2020 legislative session kicks on the 14th of next month even as he receives pushback from state leaders. Among his goals he is considering, the minimum legal age for vaping would be raised to 21 and retailers would face stricter penalties for selling vaping products or e-cigarettes to minors.

The emphasis comes in the midst of a national outcry about what some health officials find a youth epidemic as the vaping phenomenon affects middle and high schools as well as college campuses. It also comes amid injuries and deaths in Florida and across the country due to vaping-related lung injuries.

Currently, under Florida law, a person must be at least eighteen years or older to legally use an e-cigarette or a vaping product, just like if they were to use tobacco products.

mj-300x199Lawmakers in Florida are working hard to keep pace with Florida’s constantly changing cannabis and hemp industries landscape. As lawmakers build the foundation for a vote on adult use next year (commonly known as recreational marijuana), some recently proposed bills may result in forbidding recreational marijuana, while others would focus on a less strict approach to drug sentencing.

Among these bills is SB 670, banning marijuana smoking in state parks. Miami Beach already took a stance on this by prohibiting marijuana smoking in public, including parks and beaches. A Florida lawmaker is now seeking to expand on this law and extend it to the entire state. SB 670 would ban all types of smoking as well as vaping within state parks. Should the bill become law, it would go into effect in summer 2020.

Another bill known as HB 399 would reduce minimum sentences for crimes involving marijuana. The House bill would permit judges to deviate from Florida’s minimum sentencing standards for crimes involving marijuana sales and trafficking. Although the legislation would still provide rules, more discretion would be granted to judges to make decisions case-by-case on sentences.

After a tough day at the office or an exhausting work week, you may decide to head to the bar for some drinks and unwinding. Speaking of drinks, altercations are common. This means there may be criminal charges involved depending on what happens during the fight, resulting in charges like disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, or aggravated battery, for example.

Disorderly conduct is a way of saying the peace has been breached. When you are out in public, you’re expected to behave in a way considered decent. Because bars are public places, becoming involved in a bar fight means it is possible to be charged with disorderly conduct for disturbing the peace. This second-degree misdemeanor charge may result in fines and a jail sentence.

When an individual consumes an excessive amount of alcohol and becomes belligerent to those around them, it may result in disorderly intoxication. Bar owners and law enforcement officers have the authority to ask a person to leave if they believe a situation may escalate. Should the situation turn physical and an injury occurs, a second-degree misdemeanor may be charged.

Our cell phones contain a lot of personal information, from credit card numbers to our bank info, photographs, text messages, call logs, and more. Should all of this information fall into the hands of the wrong person, it may be used against an individual.

A part of the Miranda rights states a suspect has the right to remain silent. But what about smartphones? Can your phone “speak on your behalf”? Are law enforcement officers allowed to force you to turn over your phone and online records?

The simple answer to this is no, a police officer cannot simply seize your phone. Since your phone belongs to you, a warrant is required for an officer to seize it or look at it. The same thing applies for access to phone records from your wireless provider.

textDrive-2-300x200Next week, several new laws will go into effect in Florida. Among these new laws is the expansion of the state’s texting while driving law. Motorists will be prohibited from using their wireless mobile devices while they are driving through designated school crossings, a school zone, or a construction/work zone. This means drivers are not allowed to even hold their phone or mobile device while driving through these zones.

In addition to the expansion of the texting while driving law, two additional laws are worth mentioning. SB 1080 is aimed at the issue of hazing in universities. Individuals who plan hazing acts or solicit others to participate in hazing may be charged with a third-degree felony if the hazing ends in permanent injury. The bill would also grant immunity to individuals who call security on campus or 911 to request medical assistance due to a hazing incident.

SB 96 would upgrade killing or causing great bodily harm to police, fire or search-and-rescue dogs or police horses from a third-degree to a second-degree felony. The bill would also increase the maximum jail sentence from five to fifteen years.

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