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Monday, September 2, 2013

The Hemisphere Project (the govt is tracking your cell calls)

For (@ least) the last six years the US govt, in an effort to thwart drug dealing, has been tracking your cellphone usage. The program is called "the Hemisphere Project" and you can read about it here: (

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

George Zimmerman's Attorneys Seeking Costs

The latest in the Zimmerman saga: his attorneys are seeking to have such costs as depositions and expert witness fees expended in the course of defending his case reimbursed by the State of Florida post-verdict.  The entire article (as published in USA Today) can be found here.

In the instance you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Friday, June 21, 2013


 Federal Mandatory Minimums Get a Facelift: Alleyne v. United States

Alleyne was charged with using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence which carries a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence, that increases to a 7-year minimum “if the firearm is brandished,” and to a 10-year minimum “if the firearm is discharged.” 

“In convicting Alleyne, the jury form indicated that he had “[u]sed or carried a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence,” but not that the firearm was “[b]randished.” When the presentence report recommended a 7-year sentence on the §924(c) count, Alleyne objected, arguing that the verdict form clearly indicated that the jury did not find brandishing beyond a reasonable doubt and that raising his mandatory minimum sentence based on a sentencing judge’s finding of brandishing would violate his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The District Court overruled his objection, relying on this Court’s holding in Harris v. United States, 536 U. S. 545, (In 2002, the Court decided in Harris v. United States that Apprendi (see below) did not apply to facts that would increase a defendant’s mandatory minimum sentence, and therefore that a judge could constitutionally decide to apply a mandatory minimum sentence on the basis of facts not proven to a jury) that judicial fact finding that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is permissible under the Sixth Amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Alleyne’s objection was foreclosed by Harris.”

The Court in a five-to-four decision by Justice Thomas (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan), held (on June 17, 2013) “that the defendant’s seven-year mandatory minimum sentence violated his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury because the question of brandishing was never submitted to the jury.  The Court’s opinion explains that the logic of Apprendi (Apprendi v. New Jersey stands for the fact that any facts which increase a criminal defendant’s maximum possible sentence are considered “elements” of the criminal offense that must be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt) requires a jury to find all facts that fix the penalty range of a crime.  According to the Court, the mandatory minimum is just as important to the statutory range as is the statutory maximum.  The Court made clear that its holding was not designed to limit the discretion of the trial judge in imposing sentences within the range defined by the statutory maximum and mandatory minimum.  The Court therefore vacated Alleyne’s sentence and remanded the case for resentencing in line with the jury’s verdict.” See ScotusBlog for full cite.

What does this mean to you and me?  It means that the Court finally recognized that all of the evidence of a crime must be presented to the jury in order that the judge consider the same in the sentencing phase (if you are found guilty that is).  If you believe that you are facing an illegal sentence, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A bizarre twist on your right to remain silent (or suspension of the Fifth Amendment)

A bizarre twist on your right to remain silent:

The Fifth Amendment Provides: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

However, in Salinas v. Texas, the Supreme Court held yesterday that silence during a "pre-custodial" interrogation is admissible as evidence of guilt.

The Court further stated that: "Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self- incrimination in response to the officer’s question. It has long been settled that the privilege “generally is not self- executing” and that a witness who desires its protection “ ‘must claim it.’ ...Because petitioner was required to assert the privilege in order to benefit from it, the judgment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejecting petitioner’s Fifth Amendment claim is affirmed.."

What does this mean to you?  In order to invoke your right to remain silent you now may need to speak up.

If you have been charged with a crime, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney and remember, you do have a right to remain silent, however, apparently you must now first invoke it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fourth Amendment Nullified By the Supreme Court

On June 3, 2013  the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Maryland v. King (12-207) that “When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” (at 28) 

The 5-4 majority opinion of the Court was delivered by Justice Kennedy and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito and Breyer. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.

It is the opinion of the majority, as is evidenced above, that upon arrest we have not 4th Amendment right (against search and seizure) to prevent DNA testing.

In the dissent (written by Scalia) he stated:

"The most regrettable aspect of the suspicionless search that occurred here is that it proved to be quite unnecessary. All parties concede that it would have been entirely permissible, as far as the Fourth Amendment is concerned, for Maryland to take a sample of King’s DNA as a consequence of his conviction for second-degree assault. So the ironic result of the Court’s error is this: The only arrestees to whom the outcome here will ever make a difference are those who have been acquitted of the crime of arrest (so that their DNA could not have been taken upon conviction). In other words, this Act manages to burden uniquely the sole group for whom the Fourth Amendment’s protections ought to be most jealously guarded: people who are innocent of the State’s accusations."

Scalia concluded stating:

 “ ... I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection. I therefore dissent, and hope that today’s incursion upon the Fourth Amendment, like an earlier one, will some day be repudiated.”

The link to the case can be found here. If you have been arrested in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach or Broward County, you can find your attorney here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is the content on your cell phone protected by the 4th Amendment?

The Florida Supreme Court recently visited the topic of whether or not the content on your cell phone is protected by the 4th Amendment and answered the question in the affirmative in Smallwood v. State of Florida. (SC11-1130, May 2, 2013).

The answer: 'NO.'  
The Court began with the premise that "searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions."  The court further stated "we have carefully reviewed and considered the decisional law that addresses this unresolved Fourth Amendment issue, and we conclude that the line of cases requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before accessing the data, information, and content of an electronic device cell phone that is removed from a defendant at the time of arrest is, quite simply, more persuasive."
If you have been arrested, you have rights against unreasonable search and seizure.  If you think that your rights have been violated, contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

Friday, April 26, 2013

Correcting an Illegal Sentence

What is an illegal sentence?  An illegal sentence is one which, when imposed is violative of our Constitution in that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed.

The Third District Court of Appeal, State of Florida on April 24, 2013 most recently advised us as to what exactly constitutes an "illegal sentence" and the manner in which to go about rectifying the same in Lightsey v. State of Florida.

Here, the trial Court imposed a life sentence on a juvenile (16 years of age) for a robbery.  The Court stated that this sentence clearly constituted as an illegal sentence.  Further, it instructed as to how one may correct the same providing a procedural framework for all of us in the criminal field (see Rule 3.800(b)).  "Rule 3.800(b)(1) provides that a motion to correct an illegal sentence may be filed in the trial court during the time allowed for the notice of filing a notice of appeal of sentence...  If a motion is filed under subdivision (b)(1), the motion shall stay rendition of the sentencing order.  Further, rule 3.800(b)(2) provides that if an appeal is pending, appellate counsel is permitted to file and serve a motion to correct illegal sentence in the trial court before the party's first appellate brief is served, and it a motion is filed in the trial court, appellate counsel shall file in the appellate court a notice of pending motion to correct an illegal sentence, which notice extends the time for filing the brief."

Accordinly, on should: (1) Bring the sentencing error to the attention of the trial court at the sentencing hearing OR in a motion filed post sentencing; (2) If this is not accomplished, file a motion to correct an illegal sentence under rule 3.800(b)(1) BEFORE a notice of appeal is file; (3) Under 3.800(b)(2), prior to filing the defendant's initial brief, file a motion to correct illegal sentence in the trial court AND notify the Appellate Court of the pending motion to correct illegal sentence.

If you think that you have been illegally sentenced, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.