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Should I cooperate with the Feds in Jacksonville?


No, you should not. I wrote about this subject, generally, back in June of 2014, where I discussed the pros and cons of cooperating with prosecutors in order to get a better deal. Based on my recent experience, however, I am now firmly of the opinion, as a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, that cooperation, or informing on your friends and co-defendants in order to get a better deal, is a waste of time and counterproductive in in Jacksonville.

What happens if I fill out the paperwork incorrectly when buying a gun?


You could end up in prison or with a federal felony conviction, is what could happen. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have represented those charged with gun crimes. Consider the case of United States v. Pierotti, decided by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on February 3, 2015. A few weeks before the start of the deer-hunting season, David Pierotti decided to buy a .243-caliber Remington rifle at his local Walmart. There, the clerk asked him to sit down at a computer to fill out an electronic version of ATF form 4473, a required step in the firearm-purchase process, and part of the background check. The form poses a series of questions for any potential gun buyer, including one that asks whether the purchaser has ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Is it legal for doctors to pay referral fees for patients?


No, it is not. Referral fees are illegal and are prosecuted by the federal government as kickbacks, especially if government medical insurance (Medicare and Medicaid) is used. Consider the case of U.S. v. Babaria, decided on December 31, 2014 by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Dr. Babaria, a radiologist, owned a business that provided diagnostic testing, including MRI's, CT scans and ultrasounds. From 2008 through 2011, he paid other physicians to refer their patients to his facility for diagnostic testing. He then billed Medicare and Medicaid for the testing procedures he performed. There was no evidence that he falsified patient records, billed for testing that was not medically necessary or otherwise compromised patient care. In other words, Dr. Babaria did everything right...except he paid the doctors who referred their patients to him referral fees. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have represented doctors and those involved in the health care field with these types of issues.

How is 'actual loss' calculated in a fraud case in federal court?


One would think that in a case involving the theft of money or a financial fraud, the 'actual loss' would be the amount of money taken or stolen, right? It's not. 'Actual loss' is a term of art and it means not just real loss, but intended loss. Why does this matter? Because, under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the more the actual loss (or intended loss), the higher the sentence. But what if the actual loss is zero, that is, what if no one lost any money or had any money actually taken from them? As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have seen cases where prosecutors try to inflate loss figures, even when the real loss is minimal.

What is willful blindness?


Willful blindness is a concept in federal law that says you cannot make yourself willfully blind, that is, ignore, an obviously illegal situation you are involved in. And if you do, you do so at your peril. Consider the prosecution of Annette Bongiorno, the 66 year old secretary of master Ponzi schemer and investment fraudster, Bernard Madoff. Bongiorno was a high school graduate with no skills other than shorthand and typing. She handled the books for hundreds of investment advisory accounts, most of them fraudulent. But, as she told a federal judge, she did what she was told by Madoff and didn't know what was going on. However, the judge determined that she should have known that her boss's financial success was a sham. She was told to fabricate and backdate a number of fictitious trades, which she did on her boss's orders. She claimed that she never figured out the truth of what was going on. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have represented people charged in criminal conspiracies that claimed not to have know what was going on.

Can I be held after I serve my sentence for a sex crime?


Yes, you can, under Florida's harsh civil commitment laws. Those convicted of sex offenses are often detained indefinitely for crimes they haven't yet committed. After serving their sentences, they are transferred to the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia. It doesn't sound like a prison, does it? Well it is, only worse, because the inmates there never know when, if ever, they will be released. As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I have represented those who have been subjected to involuntary civil commitment.

Can the police track my whereabouts when I use my cell phone?


Without a search warrant police tracking is illegal . The Supreme Court of Florida, in Tracey v. State, ruled, on October 16, 2014, that the police cannot access real time cell site location information in order to track a person using his or her cell phone without first having probable cause to do so (and a search warrant). The Court held that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the location signals transmitted by his or her cell phone - even on public roads. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I can tell you that the police use this type of surveillance every day.

Is a plea agreement an enforceable contract?


Yes, it is. Most criminal cases end in plea bargains. These plea agreements are contracts. Once signed, the obligations of the agreement must be honored. The accused agrees to plead guilty and give up certain rights, such as the right to appeal to a higher court. And the prosecutor agrees to a certain reduced sentence so that the accused knows what he getting. The judge, however, is not bound by this agreement and can reject it. What happens when the prosecutor argues to the judge that the agreed upon sentence is too lenient? This should never happen with a plea agreement, right? Unfortunately, as a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have seen prosecutors who have attempted to do this.

Can I sue the police for using excessive force when they arrested me?


Yes, you can. When the police use gratuitous and excessive force against a suspect of a crime who is under control, (this usually means handcuffed) not resisting and obeying commands, it is a violation of their Fourth Amendments rights and the police are liable for the damages they cause. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I represent people injured at the hands of the cops. In Sanders v. Duke, decided by the 11th. Circuit Court of Appeals on September 8, 2014, just such an allegation was made. The court held that Mr. Saunders, who alleged that his head was slammed against the pavement with extreme force after he had been handcuffed and was lying prone on the ground , stated a valid Fourth Amendment claim for excessive force against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. The court further held that the police were not entitled to qualified immunity, which is what the police always claim after they've injured someone during an arrest. Mr. Saunders met with a couple of individuals at a gas station in Orlando, Florida to sell them oxycodone pills. Those individuals turned out to be an undercover cop and a confidential informant. The drug sale took place inside the undercover cop's car. After the sale took place, the officers drew their weapons and ordered Saunders to place his hands on the car and not move. Saunders immediately complied. Saunders was then jerked down to the hot pavement and handcuffed. He was held down on the pavement for a long period of time on his stomach and was not resisting, posing a threat or attempting to flee. He told the police he was "getting burnt" and held his face off the pavement to keep from being burned. Then, one of the cops slammed his face onto the pavement with extreme force. When he was brought to his feet, blood was pouring out of his mouth and face from the impact. Saunders suffered lacerations, injuries to his teeth and jaw, damage to his left eardrum and emotional distress. The federal district court dismissed Saunders' Fourth Amendment claim after he brought suit there. Why? Because people that are arrested make claims of injury at the hands of the police all the time and the police claim qualified immunity. What's that? It means that a person acting within their scope of authority or official capacity has a certain amount of discretion and authority to act a certain way. In layman's terms, it means the cops can use an acceptable level of force against criminal suspects. The courts often side with the police against criminal suspects in these type of cases. But here, the appeals court ruled that the cops went too far. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to be free from the use of excessive force in the course of an arrest. What amount of force then is proper? The force used must be "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts confronting the officer. Here, the appeals court ruled that the district court should not have dismissed the claim. The appeals court cited cases where, for example, a police dog was unleashed to attack a suspect after the suspect complied with the police, and other cases where suspects heads were slammed against pavements and car hoods and trunks. In all those cases, the police were not entitled to qualified immunity. In the end, the appeals court found that the force used against Mr. Saunders was "plainly excessive, wholly unnecessary, and indeed, grossly disproportionate".

Can I be prosecuted for just for talking about having sex with a minor over the internet?


Yes, you can. The prosecution of those looking to have sex with a minor over the internet has exploded in recent years. These cases are easy to prosecute: police officers pose as underage minors (or the minor's parents) and get people to make incriminating statements. Then, they arrest them; the prison sentences are long. And the entire crime is a complete fiction, since there was no possibility for the minors or those seeking them out to actually meet, because the 'minors' are actually police officers. But how can someone be prosecuted for attempting to commit a crime which could actually never come to pass? As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I have seen it happen.

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