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July 2014 Archives

Should I ever consent to having my computer searched by the police?

Answer:

No, you should never consent to having your computer searched, even if it's for a limited purpose. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have seen all to often criminal charges brought for what the police find on someone's computer. The 11th. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the case of USA v. Watkins (July 28,2014) is an example of this. Mr. Watkins agreed to assist law enforcement in a murder investigation after the body of a seven year old girl, with whom Watkins was acquainted, was found in a landfill. Watkins was not a suspect in the murder of the child. The child was friends with Watkin's grandchildren and the children occasionally used the Watkins home computer. The police wanted to search for clues by visiting the websites the children had visited. Watkins agreed, but told the police that he had downloaded some child pornography on the computer. The police assured Watkins that they had no interest in the child porn; they were only interested in evidence relevant to the murder investigation. So Watkins agreed to allow the police to search his computer, but only as it related to the murder investigation.

Is it a crime to be untruthful to federal agents who questioned you?

Answer:

Yes, it is, and in the federal system, you can be charged with the crime of "knowingly and willfully" giving false statements in any matter under federal jurisdiction. This means that federal agents investigating a crime can knock on your door, interview you, not give you Miranda warnings and prosecute you for making an inaccurate or false statement under 18 United States Code 1001. You can be charged with making false statements and no other offense. I have represented people this has happened to as a Jacksonville criminal lawyer.

Can I get my federal drug sentence reduced?

Answer:

Yes, you can get your federal drug sentence reduced. The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently lowered the offense levels for drug crimes by two levels and made the new law retroactive. That means those convicted and sentenced in the federal system for drug crimes can now apply to have their sentences reduced by about 25 months. This will apply to more than 46,000 inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will notify inmates of their eligibility to apply for a sentence reduction. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have begun the process of helping clients get their federal drug crime sentences reduced. Why is this being done? In large part, to ease the burden of overcrowding of the prison system and to reduce costs. Will all of those serving a sentence for possessing or distributing drugs automatically have their sentences reduced? No. First, a federal inmate must apply for a reduction. Then, the inmates probation officer will re-calculate the inmates current sentencing guidelines as if the new law applied. The application will then come before a judge for review, to decide whether the applicant would be a danger to the community and to determine whether the applicant deserves a sentence reduction. The applicant's lawyer and the prosecutor will also be involved in the process. No one can be released before November 1, 2015.

If the police mistakenly find contraband in my car, will the case be dismissed?

Answer:

It should be, as it stands right now, but the law may soon change. Florida police officers pull motorists over every day based on mistakes of law. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer,I represent people every day who are the victims of police 'mistakes of law'. In the case of Damian Leslie v. Florida, the police pulled over Mr. Leslie because he did not have a center rearview mirror. The cop believed this to be a traffic violation; it was not. When Leslie pulled over, the cop observed three baggies of marijuana in his lap while he was sitting in his vehicle. The cop then searched the car further and found some cocaine.

Should I cooperate with the prosecutors to get a better plea deal?

Answer:

The decision to become a government informant or a cooperating witness (or a snitch, as they would say on the street) is one of the most difficult decisions for a defendant to make. As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have often seen this decision hastily made, sometimes without the input of counsel, leading to disastrous results. The biggest problem with becoming a government informant, whether on the State or Federal side, is that you must put your trust in the prosecutor and hope he or she does the right thing by you. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

Can the police use a stingray to track the location of my cell phone?

Answer:

A stingray is not just a fish that glides around the ocean floor with a long tail. It's also a shorthand term for an IMSI catcher, which simulates a cellphone tower to trick nearby mobile devices (like your cellphone) into connecting with them, thereby revealing their location. A stingray can see and record a device's unique ID number and traffic data, as well as information that points to it's location. By moving a stingray around, the police can triangulate a device's location with greater precision than is possible using data obtained from a carrier's fixed tower location. And yes, the police in Florida can and do use this controversial surveillance tool to track your cell phone. I have seen it done as a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

Can I be charged with a crime if I use drugs while pregnant?

Answer:

Yes, you can be charged with a crime if you use drugs while pregnant but only if you live in Tennessee. As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I have seen the police threaten drug addicted pregnant women with arrest, but that's the most they can do. Mallory Loyola, a 26 year old Tennessee native, was arrested after both she and her newborn tested positive for the drug methamphetamine . The law, which just went into effect in July of 2014, makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant, calling it "assault". It allows a woman to be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant if the infant is harmed or addicted to the drug. Ms. Loyola admitted to smoking meth days before giving birth.

Can the police search my car because of it's color?

Answer:

No, they cannot police search your car because of it's color. The Florida Supreme Court recently decided State v. Teamer (July 3, 2014), in which a person was charged with drug trafficking and possession after the vehicle he was driving was stopped by a deputy sheriff who noticed an inconsistency between the actual color of the vehicle Mr. Teamer was driving and the color indicated on the vehicle's registration. How would a cop know this, you might ask, from his police cruiser? The police are told that, when sitting in traffic, or watching a vehicle stopped at a light, for example, to use their on-board computers to run random license plates to check if there are any outstanding warrants or other discrepancies. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I can tell you that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office does this routinely.

Can I get my charges dismissed based on outrageous government conduct?

Answer:

Yes, it's possible, to get your charges dismissed, especially if you're in federal court. Reverse sting operations are all the rage these days (think police posing as underage girls on- line in order to get people to agree to meet with them for sex). The police are always coming up with ingenious ways to ensnare people who normally wouldn't be inclined to commit crimes. Of course, sometimes they go too far. As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have witnessed the various police agencies engage in what I believed to be outrageous government conduct.

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