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Are more government agencies using undercover operations?


Yes, they are. In a front page article in "The New York Times", dated November 16, 2014, the federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors and ministers to ferret out wrongdoing. At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover cops dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protesters to look for suspicious activity. At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers, accountants, drug dealers or yacht buyers. At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud. As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I have seen undercover cops used in many different situations.

Can police keep cash they find in a car stopped for a mere traffic infraction?


Unfortunately, yes the police can keep the cash and they do, every day. The law enforcement practice is known as civil asset forfeiture, in which the police seize cash or goods from a person suspected of a crime, even if no charges are ever brought against that person. Since 2001, police have seized a staggering $2.5 billion in cash from people who were never charged with a crime. As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I represent people fighting civil asset forfeitures.

Can I get my federal drug sentence reduced?


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.

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


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?


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 be charged with murder if I sold someone heroin and they overdosed?


No, you cannot be charged with murder for the heroin overdose. The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin, cocaine and prescription drug overdose in his New York City apartment on February 2, 2014. This tragic event led to a public outcry that those who sold him these drugs should be prosecuted for murder. And, of course, several people who were known to have sold Hoffman heroin were arrested. Holding a drug supplier criminally responsible for the death of a drug user is though to be supported by many State's felony murder laws. What is felony murder? As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I represent people charged with felony murder.

Can the police to pull me over and search my car for no reason?


No, they cannot search your car for no reason. It is against the law for the police to use a 'pretext' (a made up reason) to pull you over and then use that pretext (whether it be a broken taillight, a cracked windshield, a failure to signal a lane change or speeding) to search your car for contraband like drugs and guns. But of course, this happens every day on our Florida highways. As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have seen cops come up with some very original reasons for why they pulled over certain motorists. The cops know that drugs and guns are routinely transported on the Florida interstates. But that doesn't mean they're allowed to pull you over based on a hunch. They have to have a reason - probable cause of criminal activity - to initiate a full blown search. I recently represented a young man who was pulled over near the Georgia border in Nassau County because he had several chains hanging from his rearview mirror, supposedly "obstructing his view' out the front windshield. He was even given a traffic ticket for this by the Nassau County Sheriff's Office. That was the 'pretext' the cop was going to use to conduct a search of my client's car. The real reason he was pulled over was that he was a young black man with long Rasta dreads driving a white Cadillac Escalade...in other words, Driving While Black. But the police aren't allowed to profile this way, so instead, they came up with the nonsense reason that my client's view out his front windshield was obstructed. They did this to justify the stop of my client's car in the first place.

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