Nearly a year ago a woman sped off after striking and killing a pedestrian in Pinellas Park, resulting in a classic unsolved hit and run case. The cold case could have remained unsolved if the woman herself hadn’t called the police to her home.

Foolishly, she called police to her house because she said she was afraid of her live in boyfriend, recently released from jail on worthless check charges. Maybe she was right to be apprehensive of him because he told the police she was the perpetrator of the hit and run also known as leaving the scene of an accident with injury, that she’d told him everything and when police confronted her they say she confessed.

Even though police believe the pedestrian violated the driver’s right of way that night, the driver had a legal duty under Florida Statutes to stop and identify herself and to render aid.

The St. Petersburg Times noted that a Pinellas Park police inspection of the accident vehicle revealed that it was still heavily damaged after almost a year from the fatal crash. 

“We found pieces of the turn signal and the passenger side mirror at the scene (of Fisher’s death),” said Pinellas Park police Sgt. Brian Unmisig, “and they matched the parts that the vehicle was missing.” She was booked into the Pinellas jail, where she was being held Tuesday in lieu of $52,250 bail
Criminal Defense Attorney and Trial Lawyer for Drug Crimes & DUI in Clearwater, FL

The purpose of this law is not to establish who was at fault in the accident nor to apportion blame. The idea is that anytime there is a crash involving injuries the driver must stop, identify herself and render aid if necessary. Clearly, if the driver at the scene was impaired then a DUI Manslaughter investigation will take place, if at fault without impairment a Vehicular Homicide investigation will begin, or if the accident was the result of premeditation possible Murder or Homicide charges. (see statute below)
316.027 Crash involving death or personal injuries.

(1)(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. Any person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in statutes.
(b) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in the death of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of the law.

The Clearwater Police ask your help in solving this very Cold Case. 

Things have changed since this Model T was the fastest – and only – car on the road in 1910.


Stand your ground is the law in Florida. Recently in Tampa a man stabbed another man in the head with an ice pick after a traffic dispute leaving the stabbed man in critical condition. His defense was that he was standing his ground.

In Clearwater the police determined there would be no arrest of a man who shot his neighbor after a shouting match over putting out garbage.
In Hillsborough a jogger shot and killed an unarmed man eight times, yet the jogger was not prosecuted after establishing that he’d been struck in the face first and believed the other man to be armed. But eight shots, you’d think he might have stopped at seven…
The Florida law gives people the right to use deadly force against intruders entering their homes or vehicles, no longer needing to prove fear for their safety, only that the person who is stabbed, shot with a firearm or even killed intruded unlawfully and forcefully. Thus making a defense to charges of aggravated battery or murder.
Previous Florida law and common law required that a person attacked in a public place must retreat if possible. Now someone attacked in public, “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” The law also forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of the people covered by the law, and it prohibits civil suits against them.
The central innovation in the Florida law is in expanding the right to shoot intruders who pose no threat to the occupant’s safety. According to the International Herald Tribune, one professor of law noted, “In effect,” Professor Sebok said, “the law allows citizens to kill other citizens in defense of property.” At least the Florida Supreme Court has ruled in its standard jury instructions that the Defendant must actually believe that the threat and danger is real.
 Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine


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776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or
(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

Members of the Florida Supreme Court rest after a hard day’s work in the Fields of Justice.

Alfred de Dreux: Pug Dog in an Armchair, 1857


The victim’s family forgives if not forgets. Despite their pleas for mercy – even for no jail time for the Defendant in a DUI Manslaughter case – a local Jazz Singer’s family members found that only the Judge has the power to sentence a convicted man.
The Jazz Singer, a preacher’s daughter, was known for her beautiful voice, her kind forgiving heart and a keen sense of jazz tempo while performing in Tampa Bay, Clearwater and Pinellas County, Florida.

“You’re very forgiving,” the Judge said softly to the religious family, then voice hardening the Judge looked toward  the Defendant saying, “But the court has decisions to make….You’re going to take responsibility.” 
The Judge sentenced the Defendant to the maximum amount of time, 15 years in prison for the conviction. The Defendant had a prior record, anger issues, a drug habit and on the night of the incident mixed prescription pain killers, Xanax, Vicodin with vodka before causing a terrible crash sending the Jazz Singer’s car airborne according to an article in the St. Petersburg Times. 
Billie Holiday, a great American jazz singer, songwriter and actress. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She died in 1959.


Our Florida Supreme Court was asked to decide this important canine Question of Law which has kept even your favorite crime attorney in Clearwater in suspense:  When does a drug-detection dog’s alert to the outside of a vehicle provide a police officer with probable cause to search the inside of that vehicle without a search warrant?

I tend toward the view that when brave Aldo (the famous dog you’ll read about in the case below) smells so much marijuana that he slumps down while eating lots of treats from the munchies that sufficient probable cause has been established for an immediate arrest of anyone in the vicinity, the Florida Supreme Court agrees:

Officer William Wheetley and his drug-detection dog, Aldo, were on patrol.  Officer Wheetley conducted a traffic stop of Harris’s truck for an expired tag.  Upon approaching the truck, Officer Wheetley noticed that Harris was shaking, breathing rapidly, and could not sit still (editors note: Harris is the Defendant, not the dog.)
Officer Wheetley also noticed an open beer can in the cup holder.  When Officer Wheetley asked for consent to search the truck, Harris refused.  Officer Wheetley then deployed Aldo.  Upon conducting a ‘free air sniff’ of the exterior of the truck, Aldo alerted to the door handle of the driver’s side.

Underneath the driver’s seat, Officer Wheetley discovered over 200 pseudoephedrine pills in a plastic bag wrapped in a shirt.  On the passenger’s side, Officer Wheetley discovered eight boxes of matches containing a total of 8,000 matches.  Officer Wheetley then placed Harris under arrest.  A subsequent search of a toolbox on the passenger side revealed muriatic acid.  Officer Wheetley testified that these chemicals are precursors of methamphetamine.  After being read his Miranda Rights, Harris stated that he had been cooking meth for about one year and most recently cooked it at his home in Blountstown two weeks prior to the stop.  Harris also admitted to being addicted to meth and needing it at least every few days.”

Here’s what the Court ruled:

Whether or not a drug dog’s alert to the outside of a vehicle provides an officer with probable cause to search the inside of the vehicle without a search warrant depends upon the dog’s reliability to detect illegal substances within a vehicle.  In order to establish reliability the following things must be established at trial or at a hearing before the judge:
 All records and evidence necessary for the trial judge to evaluate the dog’s reliability in detecting illegal substances so the trial judge can evaluate how well a dog (go Aldo go!) is trained and whether it falsely alerted during its training with a percentage of false alerts, including the dog’s successes and failures (no no no, not our Aldo!).
Sadly for our Brave Aldo, but happily for the Defendant, the Court concluded that the dog’s alert did not provide his handler with probable cause to search the inside of the truck without a search warrant because Aldo’s reliability was not established since his trainer failed to accurately keep records of Aldo’s false alerts nor was evidence presented about Aldo’s ability to detect ‘residual odors’ (my dog, Sancho, has those too).
After the case, Brave Aldo the Drug Busting Dog retired from his Police Duties to be adopted by a normal family in Tallahassee Florida. Here is a recent painting of Aldo with his new friend & master The Chief  Judge of the Florida Supreme Court. Odd, but neighbors complain that the Dog constantly alerts
File:Carl Locher with his dog Tiger (Ancher).jpg
Carl Locher with his dog Tiger by Michael Archer, 1909


A psychologist in California thought he had a great deal on a used van at $14,000. But 14 months later when he had his breaks fixed the mechanic found over half a million dollars of Cocaine. “My hands went numb,” he said.
He’s a lucky man. He’s lucky that the drug cartel missing the cocaine didn’t find him, then lead him toward a life ending accident.  

And he’s especially lucky he doesn’t live in Florida. In Florida, Knowledge of the Cocaine is not required for arrest, prosecution and conviction of Trafficking in Cocaine
In Florida the innocent psychologist could be subjected to life with a 15 year Minimum Mandatory prison sentence, despite a Federal Judge making a finding that the law violates the United States Constitution. Drug Law Unconstitutional

“This insulation isn’t supposed to be here,” the mechanic said, digging behind the panel. But it soon became clear that the tablet-sized objects wrapped in purple and clear cellophane weren’t installed by the manufacturer.
“I’m, like, dumbfounded,” said Preston, who works at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “Honest to God, my hands went numb.”
Police quickly arrived and found 14 packages of cocaine hidden in the doors. After impounding the van for closer examination, they found five more above the back wheels, Preston said.
“They told me, ‘You’re so lucky, you’d be in jail for the rest of your life if you got searched in a traffic stop and they found this.’ “
But they also told him something chilling: Take the van back in to the repair shop to check for tracking devices because somebody is probably looking for it. Then get rid of it.
When Preston tried to return the coke-mobile to Thrifty Car Sales this summer for one without drugs, he said a manager was anything but solicitous. She told him he could trade in the van, but only for the current Blue Book value — about $4,000 less by his estimation than he originally paid. He had put about 6,000 miles on the van.
Chrysler van comes fully loaded — cocaine included – San Jose Mercury News
Criminal Defense Attorney and Trial Lawyer for Drug Crimes & DUI in Clearwater, FL
Florida – Drug Laws Ruled Unconstitutional –
State drug trafficking laws ruled unconstitutional | ruled, state, city – The News Herald

Tampa Bay Police ask your help in finding the original owners of this Vehicle:
Italy: Sicilian working cart,1890.


The grim war on drugs continues in Florida. Rather than attempting to get treatment for drug abusers the State of Florida and the Federal Government continue to destroy lives with harsh penalties and harsh sentencing. While the people’s true drug of choice – alcohol – kills more people than other intoxicants whether legal or not, undermining the very premise of the War on Drugs, that the Government is attempting to save lives.

The Miami Herald details the fall in Cocaine as the drug of choice in Miami, Tampa Bay and Pinellas, Florida, because of its high price per dose compared to relatively cheaper prescription drugs which are easier to obtain. 
Given that the purity of cocaine has been reduced by drug smugglers and dealers, users pay more and get less of the drug, while the drug users are increasingly turning to cheaper prescription drugs such as oxycodone that are easier to get, experts say.

Cocaine is “not disappearing, but it’s definitely declining,” said James N. Hall, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse. “People are getting half of what they used to get — and this is occurring in the middle of the economic downturn. Cocaine, the most expensive drug on a per-dose basis, is costing more,” Hall said.
Below find a link to James Hall’s alcohol study, which establishes that alcohol is much more destructive even than cocaine and methamphetamine, as cocaine is ranked fifth in causes of drug deaths, behind crystal methamphetamine and alcohol.

A Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer enjoys a small libation while awaiting a Jury Verdict.

Picasso Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, 1903


Florida’s harsh Drug Laws and outrageous penalties are making headlines in Britain. The latest case involves a girl who just turned 18 a few days after her arrest for bringing in cocaine as a clueless mule. Mercy? Justice? Leniency? 
Of course not, this is Florida, where even your favorite Clearwater Drug Attorney never fails to be amazed and astonished that Prosecutors – not impartial Judges – ultimately determine the length of drug sentencing by how the Prosecution initially files the charge. 
Do the Prosecutors believe that the Juvenile did this on her own? Clearly she was a witless drug mule. Incredibly, the girl would face less time if accused of a murder in the cracked sentencing structure of the State of Florida.
Our Beautiful Sunshine State has politicized prosecutors who determined that Justice could best be served by treating the girl as an adult although she was just a mule and although she was a minor at the time of the crime. She faces up to life in prison with a 15 year Mandatory Minimum Sentence in Florida.

Here’s are excerpts from the recent article from England’s Daily Telegraph:

Niles, a student, told police she did not know what drug she was carrying but suspected she was involved in some illegal activity, according to an arrest report. The cocaine was hidden in cake mix boxes found in her luggage.
Miami-Dade detective Nubia Azrak wrote that Niles “suspected that the activity she was involved in was suspicious but she did not question it”.Police said the teen, who is from London, was picked for screening by customs agents. A police source said: “She is a classic drug mule who thought she could easily bring the drugs through an airport undetected.”
Prosecutors said Niles was a “poster child” for how easily drug smugglers can corrupt young people.
In a follow up the Telegraph later reported: Her mother Sonia said:”She was stitched up. She a teenager who fell into a trap.” Miami Judge Jose Fernandez set Niles’ bail at $505,000 and her trial for February 6, 2012
British teenager caught smuggling 30lbs of cocaine into America – Telegraph
Attorney for Juvenile Pinellas County Florida
The American War on Drugs – The Becker-Posner Blog
Global war on drugs has failed,’ key panel says – US news – Crime & courts –
Judge Napolitano – The War on Drugs has been a Disaster
British teen ‘poster child’ for American drugs war faces life in jail | Parent Pages
London teenager accused of cocaine smuggling 
London teenager accused of cocaine smuggling in US – Americas – World – The Independent
Pictures from Alcohol Prohibition |

A recent photograph shows the Mayor of Miami with Law Enforcement destroying illicit drugs.

Prohibition in the United States (sometimes referred to as the Noble Experiment) was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating liquors, in place from 1920 to 1933. The ban was mandated by the 18th amendment to the Constitution. As with the modern “War on Drugs” the law destroyed more lives than the intoxicants ever could.


Recently, FBI agents with local assistance made arrests for charges of Human Trafficking at a Chinese Buffet in Largo, Pinellas County, Florida involving workers at the restaurant on East Bay Drive. The raid netted a large group of 27 illegal aliens who according to authorities were allegedly being used improperly with little or no wages, unfit working and living conditions that including being hauled in vans to and from work. 
The restaurant reportedly offered exceptional values to customers, but I know at least one Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer who won’t be eating there anytime soon.
Often Human Traffickers make false promises to lure illegal aliens then use fear and differences in culture and language to entrap them.
File:Boulanger Gustave Clarence Rudolphe The Slave Market.jpg
Gustave Boulanger, The Slave Market, 1882
A boy slave in the slave trade market of Zanzibar punished by his ‘Arab master’ by being chained to a 32 pound log.


We all know about Drug Smuggling, but Smuggling Baseball players, that’s a new one. 
Here’s a recent Federal Appeal from a conviction for Smuggling Cuban Baseball players to Florida that is hard to believe even for a Clearwater Defense Attorney who thought he’d seen everything. 
Although this case seems benign with complete consent from the Cuban Baseball players, there have been other Human Trafficking cases involving human smuggling for illicit purposes such as child prostitution or slave labor where lives are routinely destroyed. 
Clearwater Area Task Force Against Human Trafficking – Home
Here’s the Cuban Baseball Smuggling Appeal, below find a link to the entire opinion:

United States v. Gustavo Dominguez, No. 07–13405 

( October 31, 2011) Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida  Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part, and Vacated in Part Gustavo Dominguez, a professional sports agent, was convicted of smuggling five Cuban baseball players into the United States, transporting the players from Miami to Los Angeles, and harboring them there until they applied for asylum. 
The theory of prosecution was that Dominguez, and several codefendants conspired to bring, unsuccessfully attempted to bring, and then successfully brought, five Cuban baseball players to the United States so that the players could pursue professional baseball careers. And the prosecution’s theory was that Dominguez had a role in transporting and harboring the players after their arrival in the United States. Dominguez anticipated that, after the players arrived, he would represent them as their agent, negotiate any potential baseball contract, and collect a percentage of their earnings as a fee. The indictment alleged, and the jury found, that Dominguez smuggled the players for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain. Based on this finding, the district court imposed a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the evidence did not support Dominguez’s convictions of transporting and harboring aliens, because the government did not prove that he transported the Cubans “in furtherance” of their illegal status as required by the transporting statute, or that he “knowingly concealed, harbored, or shielded from detection” as required by the harboring statute. The Court further noted that Dominguez arranged the immigration process to start shortly after the players arrived to the U.S., and himself arranged to have them taken before and report to immigration authorities. 
The Court concluded, however, that the evidence supported Dominguez’s convictions of conspiracy to smuggle, aiding and abetting an attempted smuggle, and aiding and abetting a smuggle.  The Court held that a specific intent to violate the law is not required, only that a defendant know or recklessly disregard “the fact that an alien has not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States,” and that the defendant knowingly bring or attempt to bring an alien to the United States. 
Full Text of US v. Gominguez
Criminal Defense Attorney in Clearwater, FL
Florida | Free the Slaves BLOG

Smuggled Cuban Baseball Players recently found wearing Chicago White Sox uniforms.

It was almost unthinkable: players throwing the World Series? Yet, allegedly that’s what happened in the fall of 1919 and America’s Game was never the same. At least the Chicago White Sox didn’t smuggle Cuban players into the game to the best of our knowledge.


From time immemorial Pickpockets and Thieves have thrived by diverting someone’s attention by any means then going in for the kill. Pickpockets aren’t only operating on St. Petersburg and Clearwater tourists they’re after anyone who is vulnerable in the Tampa Bay Area. And you’re vulnerable as soon as your attention is diverted, even if only for a moment while reading what your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney is typing, so hold onto your wallet.

Clearwater Police say there’s been a spike on Clearwater Beach of Beach Blanket Bandits stealing cell phones, ipods, wallets and especially car keys while the victim walks the beach or swims. Possibly the downturn in the economy is creating more criminal activity than usual. 
It’s best to keep as many valuables safely locked in the car as possible and if walking on the beach to keep valuables with you.  In Florida any amount over $300 is a Grand Theft punishable by up to 5 years in prison; while an amount under $300 is Petty Theft. Anyone breaking into a vehicle with the intention of stealing is also guilty of a Burglary (A number of Beach Thefts occurred on the west side of the Clearwater Beach island, stretching from the 300 block of S Gulfview Boulevard on the south end to Rockaway Street farther north.).
Clearwater police see spike in beach blanket thefts
Here is a short excerpt from the always optimistic New York Times about Lush Workers who cut the pockets of those who are disoriented perhaps from that one drink too many at the end of the night. Many victims don’t report the crime because they’re too ashamed or inebriated:

The lush worker sounds like a monster in a bedtime story, a stooped creature with a razor blade in one stealthy hand. Don’t drink, children, or the Lush Worker will get you.
But he is actually a middle-aged or older man who has been doing this for a very long time. And he is a fading breed.
Lush workers date back at least to the beginning of the last century, their ilk cited in newspaper crime stories like one in The New York Times in 1922, describing “one who picks the pockets of the intoxicated. He is the old ‘drunk roller’ under a new name.” While the term technically applies to anyone who steals from a drunken person, most police officers reserve it for a special kind of thief who uses straight-edge razors found in any hardware store… the good ones practice at home with mannequins.

There’s even a Chicago-based group of pickpockets who like something out of Oliver Twist, calling itself ‘Cannon to the Wiz’ have been merging low-tech pickpocketing with the modern scheme of choice, identity theft. The group has been active since at least 2007, “marrying high-tech fraud techniques with the Dickensian art of pickpocketing,” reported.

The Tampa Police Department does not have a rough estimate of how many lush workers are out working lushes, but they sent me this recent painting of a lush mush tush that occurred recently at Old Hyde Park in Tampa, Florida.

The Pick Pocket - Charles Edouard Edmond Delort
Charles Delort, The Pickpocket

Is the lady part of the scam with the boy or is she merely an innocent flirt who enjoys being helped by older men on soggy afternoon walks? 
    Scholars, Art Experts & Lushes agree that the boy appears to be coming not from behind the couple but from the front, then smartly turns around to do the quick trick of cutting the man’s money bag, which easily is within the young lady’s view as she distracts the target, the innocent man, well maybe not so innocent, man. Also, their stances match, their facial expressions match and even the color of their clothes match. Recent DNA evidence from the FBI taken of pigment samples on the surface of the painting conclusively reveals that the young lady and boy are in fact brother and sister, thus proving a pickpocketing conspiracy.