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Jacksonville, Florida, Legal Issues Blog

Why does the Neptune Beach Police Department refuse to video traffic stops and DUI field sobriety tests?

Answer:  Because they don't want any independent proof (in the form of dash cam video) contradicting what their patrol officers say happened during car stops.  Most all police vehicles  in the Jacksonville area are equipped with dash cams -  cameras that are automatically deployed as soon as a police cruiser's lights and sirens are activated.  Why? Dash cams are simple, inexpensive, and corrorobrate the police officer's version of what happened. 

Can an ex-spouse be criminally charged for taking their child to a foreign country and not returning them to the U.S.?

Answer:  Yes, they can.  FBI agents this week arrested the parents of an ex-wife because they assisted in taking their grandchild from Texas to Brasil (supposedly for a wedding in Brasil) with the intent of keeping the child in Brasil.  The young child has not been brought back.  This is contrary to the ex-spouses' legal agreement, which says that the child shall be raised in the U.S.  

Can a Fraternity be criminally prosecuted for the actions of its members?

Answer: Yes, it can.  The facts are unfortunately familiar: a college pledge senselessly dies during a fraternity hazing ritual. But in this instance, not just individual members were held responsible - the fraternity itself, Pi Delta Psi, was also criminally prosecuted for murder, assault and conspiracy.  This is an unusual step in the direction of holding the fraternity itself responsible for the acts of its members.  The fraternity was found guilty, was banned from Pennsylvania for 10 years and ordered to pay $110,000. in fines.  Individual members were sentenced to prison for the death of 19 year old pledge. 

Can the police find out where I've been using the location records of my cell phone carrier?

Answer: Yes, they can, and they routinely do without having to get a search warrant.  However, the Supreme Court of the United States is now considering whether this is an unreasonable search of personal information in the digital age.  All the police now need to do to get someone's historical mobile phone location records, known as cell site location information, is to get a court order, which is easy.  The person's carrier then provides the information. The other way is to get the person's consent. 

Can the police seek forfeiture of all of my assets if I'm involved in criminal activity?

Answer:, No, they cannot.  In the past, the police or prosecutors could seek to forfeit almost any of a defendant's assets if he or she were involved in criminal activity (homes, cars, boats, etc.)  But in June of 2017, the Supreme Court (Honeycutt v. U.S.) ruled that forfeiture is limited to property the defendant himself actually acquired as the result of criminal activity.  Forfeiture is now limited to property flowing from, or used in, the crime itself.  In other words, the police cannot try to forfeit untainted property - it must be tied to the crime itself.  This is good news - if one has property that was not a part of criminal activity, it cannot be seized.  This important decision put the brakes on the "anything and everything" type of forfeiture proceedings and will no longer allow police departments nationwide to enrich themselves with a defendant's property that has nothing to do with criminal activity.  

Can a registered sex offender access social media websites?

Yes, they can.  Having to register as a sex offender severely restricts one's ability to live a normal life. Many States pile on unnecessary restrictions, like prohibiting access to social media websites.  Recently, in Packingington v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that limiting access to social media websites that we all use evert day, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, impermissibly restricts lawful speech, in violation of the First Amendment.  So if the Judge or your probation officer tell you that, as a sex offender,  you're not allowed to access social media, they are wrong.     

Can you actually be charged with texting someone to death?

Answer: Yes, you can. Teenager Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for sending a barrage of text message to her boyfriend, encouraging him to kill himself.  They texted about how he could kill himself with carbon monoxide.  In the last days of his life, she texted repeatedly, "You just need to do it". When he started to get sick from the fumes being pumped into his car, he got out - only to be told by Ms. Carter to "get back in".  He was found dead the next day.   

Why is the Jacksonville Sheriff's Department Union fighting the use of body cams for its officers?

Answer:  I suspect it's because the rank and file cops don't want the public to see how they make arrests, car stops and the like.  Many citizens complain that the police treat them rudely and act like bullies, especially when making an arrest. I have had clients complain of illegal car and home searches when the police suspect criminal activity - but then it comes down to the cop's word versus the suspect's word.  And the Courts often side with the cop.  Wouldn't it be beneficial for all to have an unbiased video and audio recording of all police encounters?  

If I'm smoking weed in my driveway, can the police come into my home and search it?

Answer: No, they cannot. And if they do, and find contraband (like a gun), the court will throw it out. Chris Marcus and his friends were having a party inside and outside of his open garage/rec room.  The police responded to a noise disturbance and saw Marcus smoking a joint in his driveway.  When he saw the cops, Marcus walked back inside his garage/rec room.  The police ran into his garage, tackled him and removed a gun from his waistband.  He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

Do I need a reason to fire my lawyer?

Answer: No, you do not. If you are dissatisfied with the job your lawyer is doing, you can replace your lawyer with a new one at any time. You do not need a reason. The right to counsel of choice includes the constitutional right to discharge your lawyer for any reason or no reason.  You do not need to show 'good cause".

However, don't wait until the last minute to do this.  In other words, if your case is about to go to trial and you try to fire your lawyer the day before, the Judge will probably rule that you have waited too long and that it would cause a significant delay for a new lawyer to be brought up to speed.  A Judge must rule on the replacement of counsel, unless it's early enough in the proceedings. Your lawyer has an ethical obligation to inform the court that you do not want him or her representing you any longer.  

Most every lawyer I know has been replaced at one time or another by another lawyer. So if your are dissatisfied or uncomfortable with your lawyer, do not hesitate to get someone who you believe will be a better fit for you. 

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