ST. PETERSBURG POLICE PURSUITS ARE UNDER REVIEW FOR ENDANGERING LIVES IN TAMPA BAY FLORIDA

This blog recently noted that St. Petersburg police policy on high speed pursuits and chases for nonviolent felonies endangers lives, causes serious automobile crashes and is a threat to the safety of the community. Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney agrees with most rational police pursuit policies in other Florida cities that allow high speed pursuits only for violent crime where the risk of endangering lives is less than the risk posed by the perpetrators of crime. This was the policy in St. Petersburg as well before the mayor decided to get tough on crime two years ago by endanger every citizen’s life. 

St. Petersburg Police should stop high speed chases that endanger lives maybe they'd be better off on Charles Towne's Chart Horse
St. Petersburg Police in Pursuit of Crime

News sources note that city council members are now demanding a high speed pursuit policy update because statistics show an increase in pursuits since the policy shift was implemented two years ago. The policy should be to put citizen’s safety first. 
Rather than ‘crack down on crime’ by endangering a  Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer every time he ventures forth to Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Peterburg for the blissful fistful of hot homemade biscotti as fast as they can bake them. Why not just do good honest police investigations and make the arrests later when other driver’s will not be placed at risk?

WHEN CAN A DEFENDANT HAVE HIS FELONY OR MISDEMEANOR PROBATION TERMINATED IN CLEARWATER & TAMPA BAY, FLORIDA?

This Blog recently received a question from a father asking if his son’s drug probation could be terminated early. Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney told him that in St. Petersburg, Largo and Tampa Bay, Florida a Judge will rarely, if ever, grant a motion to terminate probation until the Defendant has successfully completed at least have of the probationary period.

Father in Clearwater Florida asks criminal defense attorney Robert Hambrick  how son's probation can be terminated
Cezanne, Portrait Artist’s Son, 1890

Once half of the probation period has been completed the Judge will ask the probation officer at a hearing if all of the terms and conditions of the probation have been met successfully, including any restitution for the victim, court costs, fines, court ordered classes, counseling and mowing the Judge’s lawn. Being poor will no longer result in a violation, but the Court will not terminate a probation where money is owed under the conditions of the probation. 
Beyond the statutory Florida standard terms and conditions of probation the Judge at sentencing may have imposed other special conditions either required by Florida Statutes or imposed due to the facts and circumstances of the case; these requirements must also have been met.

If all of the conditions of the original probation have been met, the Judge will look to the following factors to determine whether to grant the motion:

  1. The nature of the underlying offense. Was the underlying offense a violent crime, a sexual crime or a crime that put others at risk
  2. Is the community in need of having the Defendant watched by a probation officer?
  3. Is the Defendant likely to commit another crime?
  4. Has the Defendant been punished sufficiently?

Once the probation has been terminated If you have a family member who needs help with probation issues  call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer.

DON’T LITTER – LITTERING LEADS TO MURDER CHARGE IN CLEARWATER FLORIDA

A man arrested man in Clearwater should have learned to never litter, because as Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys will tell you littering is often just the first small step to a murder charge.

Munch SelfPortrait with BurningCigarette...in Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg & Tampa, Florida a disgarded cigarette can be used to match DNA
Munch, Self-Portrait with Cigarette, 1895

 During a recent Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) investigation into a grisly rape and homicide case police found DNA evidence on the victim’s body as well as the mattress of her bed despite the fact that the perpetrator had cut out part of the bed sheet in an apparent attempt to remove incriminating evidence. The Sheriff’s office even found a prime suspect, linked to the victim by videotape at a bar, but they had insufficient evidence to make an arrest. 
Was the DNA found at the crime scene a match for the suspect’s DNA? 

To find out the Sheriff’s Deputies followed the suspect. And finally while driving only a few blocks north of the apartment where the senseless crime occurred the Defendant made a mistake. He flicked his still moldering cigarette out the window. Deputies picked it up. Experts tested it and found a match to the DNA found on the victim. As your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer would happily tell you while drinking your best wine, no search warrant is necessary for personal objects which someone throws away because the act of discarding something shows that the person has forfeited his ownership interest in the property.

HIGH SPEED CHASES ENDANGERING LIVES MUST BE STOPPED IN ST. PETERSBURG & TAMPA BAY FLORIDA

In the last ten days two high speed police vehicle chases have resulted in major traffic crashes with serious injuries in St. Petersburg and Gulfport, Florida. These accidents would have been avoided if the police were using reasonable criteria with a touch of common sense in determining when engaging fleeing vehicles in uncontrolled chases is a good idea. In the St. Petersburg case the suspects were believed to have engaged in a burglary, something their St. Petersburg Defense Lawyers can worry about defending later.

police play cat & mouse and endanger lives in st. petersburg, largo, clearwater & tampa bay florida in high speed car chases
Police Chase: Cat and Mouse

These accidents call into question the St. Petersburg Police Department’s competence as its response to criticism in the press was that if folks in a fleeing and eluding vehicle are believed to have committed a felony, then the police are permitted to further endanger public safety by engaging in a high speed chase. This rule does not protect the public by failing to take into account the most important role of the police which should be to not just protect the public from crime, but to protect the safety of the public, especially from police actions that could injure people, such as these type of high speed chases for crimes where no one’s safety would otherwise be at risk. Often chases are initiated because police can’t resist the cat and mouse aspect of the chase when made privy to a crime. In other words the police are being as stupid as the Defendants.

The question of what type of criminal act or mere suspicion of crime should give rise to high speed police chases shouldn’t require Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys, but only the following common sense rule: if the threat of harm from a crime endangers the public more than the chase (such as in a shooting spree), then conduct a chase; otherwise don’t.

BE SHERLOCK HOLMES – NOW YOU CAN HELP SOLVE ALL THE UNSOLVED MURDER CASES IN FLORIDA

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to solve a real unsolved murder? Here’s your chance to enter the criminal justice system by using The Florida Department of Law Enforcement database of unsolved murder cases in Florida. Of course if you show a little too much interest in an unsolved murder you’re apt to become the leading suspect, if so call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney to sort things out for you by reminding the cheerless officers about that near airtight alibi you have – you weren’t yet born when the murder occurred – as some of these cases go back quite a ways.

 Be Sherlock Holmes by  solving unsolved murders in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo &Tampa Bay, Florida with help from FDLE
Are you Sherlock Holmes?

Yet in truth the frowning officers would be right not cracking smiles, weighed down by such loss. Like withered flowers the somber faces of these many pages upon pages of victims greet you with the limitless pain of loss stretching forward till the end of time. 
The least we must do is remember. A Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer commends Florida’s Law Enforcement for honoring the murder victims by never giving up the search for their killers in these unsolved murders, perhaps knowing Sherlock Holmes would remind them, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.” 

CELL PHONE RECORDS & PERSONAL INFORMATION ARE NO LONGER PRIVATE IN AMERICA & TAMPA BAY FLORIDA

Almost 90% of adults in America own a cell phone. Cell phones not only contribute to the loud braying at your favorite restaurant, but they are leading to the end of personal privacy as we’ve known it, since cell phones hold an incredible amount of personal information which is readily accessible by law enforcement without proper warrants. Yet lately Tampa Bay officers have come under attack for giving false information in warrant requests to Judges in drug cases. Worse, much of the information being given to law enforcement is ‘dumped’ from cell towers including all of the thousands of cell phone users whose personal information happens to be logging thru at the moment, making police privy to vast quantities of private information without any court’s intervention, beyond the scope of judicial review and free from any objections for its use from Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys.

now we all have cell phones but no privacy
“I want a cell phone!”

Recent reports show that police in the United States obtained over 1.3 million cell phone records, call location, GPS tracking, text messages and call history information in the past year. This obtrusive tracking of citizens is what one might expect in a totalitarian country rather than in America.
How many cell phone information requests were made by local law enforcement? How many of the requests result in arrests, prosecutions and convictions in Tampa Bay? Who supervises the propriety of the cell phone requests to phone companies at each law enforcement agency?
Is it really too much for a Clearwater Criminal Lawyer to ask that the Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, the Largo Police Department, the Clearwater Police Department and the St. Petersburg Police Department give an accurate accounting for the number of requests they have for cell phone information? As Americans we demand transparency to protect our privacy rights from each local Tampa Bay law enforcement agency.

JUDGE REFUSES TO ACCEPT PLEA BARGAIN WITH APPEAL WAIVER THAT RAILROADS DEFENDANTS TO PLEAD GUILTY

This blog recently noted that the Florida Bar is set to release an ethics opinion that will re-define some appeal waiver provisions in plea agreements as unethical, something every Defendant and most Criminal Defense Lawyers in Clearwater should applaud. Now a Federal Judge has refused to accept a plea waiver that limits a Defendant’s right to appeal unless the specific facts of a case warrant a waiver provision being included.
Here are excerpts from the Judge’s opinion:

Marat needed a fair plea bargain with a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer in Largo, Clearwater and Tampa Bay Florida
Fair  Plea Bargains Not a Bath

The pervasive waiver of individual rights has fundamentally altered the function of the courts. The act of judging, once central to the determination of guilt or innocence, has been shunted to the margins. 

A defendant’s “guilt” is, more often than not, preordained by the grand jury’s indictment. To the extent judges actually participate in the criminal process, the push is to relegate us to approving or disapproving proposed plea bargains and, unless the plea contains a negotiated sentence, determining an appropriate sentence.
A rational defendant, even if innocent, may plead guilty to a lesser offense in order to minimize the risk of prosecution. Each plea bargain, therefore, and its concomitant prioritization of efficiency at the expense of the individual exercise of constitutional rights or the exercise of judicial responsibility, requires close scrutiny. 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s holding that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are merely advisory, not mandatory, see United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 247 (2005), no circuit court has revisited the enforceability of appellate waivers. Sentencing, post-Booker, requires a trial court to consider context and to apply criteria rather than perform a mechanical or clerical entry of a matrixed judgment…
The responsibility of appellate review is to decide how well the sentencing judge has established the sentence within this described discipline. That is fundamentally dissimilar to the pre-Booker function of determining whether an arithmetic calculation has been executed correctly. Rather, reviewing sentences under an abuse of discretion standard is a complex inquiry meant to assure that the judicial administration of justice is relevant to the values and expectations of society.

As much as anything it’s clear that the Judge is discouraged by the disproportionate power of prosecutors in a system that has become unhinged, where the a defendant’s guilt is “preordained by the grand jury’s indictment,” and where  “…the push is to relegate us to approving or disapproving proposed plead bargains….” Florida Judges should take this Federal Judge’s opinion to heart by taking power into their own hands away from overzealous prosecutors and shaking the system by delivering fair and just sentences in every case before them. At least one Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney thinks it’s Judges not prosecutors who should be sentencing defendants.

FLORIDA JUDGE PERFORMS MIRACLE CURE IN COURTROOM HEALING

A Florida Judge may want to look into becoming a faith healer should he ever tier of listening to Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys. Judge Hurley was conducting what are known as bond advisories, where he determines bond for recently arrested inmates via a video link into the jail. Looking at a Defendant named Carl Funk, charged with Trespass, the defendant said that he is gravely disabled, in a wheelchair and bedridden even requiring the help of two deputies to sit at the hearing before the Judge.

Here are excerpts from the Sun Sentinel describing Judge Hurley’s healing ways:

Judge helps Defendant with bond and plea deal and even helps him walk again, bonding out of jail in Clearwater, Largo, Petersburg
Masaccio, Healing with his Shadow, 1424

“I am disabled and it’s really a problem for me to move around, I really need to be in my bed and that’s where I’ll be for the rest of my life.”The judge read from the police report that stated Funk was trespassing on private property on South Ocean Drive.“It didn’t look like you were in bed at that time,” Hurley said.

Funk explained that two men carried him out of his home to a neighbor’s property, triggering the trespassing violation.”I was [dragged] out by two unknown people,” Funk said.A sympathetic Hurley set bond at $100 but Funk said he could not afford it.”Your honor, I have limited funding,” he said.So the judge offered Funk a six-month payment plan for $50 and Funk accepted it in exchange for a guilty plea.“Sir, we are defendant-friendly in this courtroom,” the judge joked. “Good luck, Funk.”And with that, Funk stood up and walked away. The courtroom erupted in laughter and the judge looked up to see Funk was gone from the video monitor. He asked a jail deputy how the disabled defendant departed so quickly; the deputy explained Funk had used a walker that could not be seen on camera. Raising both hands, Judge Hurley declared, “He’s been cured.”

If you need help (other than with healing) in Largo, St. Petersburg & Tampa Bay call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer and we’ll get your bond reduced to have you walking out of jail as soon as possible.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT RULES NO KNOWLEDGE IS NEEDED TO PROSECUTE POSSESSION & TRAFFICKING OF DRUG CASES IN TAMPA BAY

The Florida Supreme Court ruled a few hours ago that Florida is a very special place. Here in Florida you can be prosecuted for possession of drugs without having any knowledge about the drugs. Despite a Federal Judge’s courageous opinion finding that Florida drug laws are unconstitutional because due process requires knowing possession in drug cases, our Florida Supreme Court begs to differ. The tragedy of Florida drug laws for  Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys is that there is no requirement of knowledge even in trafficking cases where harsh drug sentences of three, ten and fifteen year mandatory minimum sentences are typical.
In every other state in America except Washington (where no knowledge is required for simple possession in close proximity, say a joint found in one’s pocket) and in most civilized countries intent or knowledge of wrongdoing is the first requirement for any prosecution. The law destroys many more lives than the drugs ever could by creating a corrupt system of harsh punishments, prosecutions and false law enforcement drug investigations that remedies such as drug court have fail to correct.


Let’s let our Judges speak for themselves, here are extracts from the majority opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Florida Drug Laws and below that see extracts from the Dissent:

File:Gustave Moreau PAINTING OF PROMETHEUS KNOWLEDGE OF DRUGS IS NOT REQUIRED IN LARGO, CLEARWATER, ST. PETERSBURG & TAMPA BAY FLORIDA
Moreau, Prometheus, 1868

It is within the power of the legislature to declare conduct criminal without requiring specific criminal intent to achieve a certain result; that is, the legislature may punish conduct without regard to the mental attitude of the offender, so that the general intent of the accused to do the act is deemed to give rise to a presumption of intent to achieve the criminal result. The legislature may also dispense with a requirement that the actor be aware of the facts making his conduct criminal…. 

The elements of a crime are derived from the statutory definition. There are some authorities to the effect that infamous crimes, crimes mala in se, or common-law crimes may not be defined by the legislature in such a way as to dispense with the element of specific intent, but these authorities are suspect… In enacting section 893.101, the Legislature eliminated from the definitions of the offenses in chapter 893 the element that the defendant has knowledge of the illicit nature of the controlled substance and created the affirmative defense of lack of such knowledge. The statutory provisions do not violate any requirement of due process articulated by this Court or the Supreme Court. In the unusual circumstance where a person possesses a controlled substance inadvertently, establishing the affirmative defense available under section 893.101 will preclude the conviction of the defendant.

And from the take no prisoners Dissent:

I cannot overstate my opposition to the majority’s opinion. In my view, it shatters bedrock constitutional principles and builds on a foundation of flawed ‘common sense.’ (the majority opinion)…makes neither legal nor common sense to me, offends all notions of due process, and threatens core principles of the presumption of innocence and burden of proof….

What will become of the innocent? The answer to that question in the present context is as inevitable as it is disturbing. Under the majority’s decision and the above examples, the innocent will from the start be presumed guilty. The innocent will be deprived of their right to simply deny the charges and hold the State to its burden of proving them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The innocent will instead be forced to assert an affirmative defense, whereupon the possession of a controlled substance, whether actual or constructive, shall give rise to a permissive presumption that the possessor knew of the illicit nature of the substance…

There are many examples of drugs being in close proximity to someone where there was no knowledge such as the case of a man whose mechanic found a stash of half a million dollars worth of cocaine while fixing the breaks of a used van. The owner on being told what had been found in the used car said “my hands went numb,” he’s a lucky man because there’s a Clearwater Criminal Drug Defense Lawyer who knows that if that man had been stopped in St. Petersburg, Largo or in Tampa Bay Florida he could be spending many years in prison or paying a hefty price in time and money to prove his lack of knowledge

WHEN CAN ILLNESS RESULT IN COMPASSIONATE RELEASE FROM FEDERAL PRISON OR TAMPA & PINELLAS JAILS IN FLORIDA?

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is known for rarely if ever allowing early release for Federal prisoners for medical illness. As a general rule only FDA approved drugs with a proper Doctor’s prescription are allowed within Federal Prisons, even if your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer tries to hide some in a birthday cake with the nail file.

 An Experiment on a Bird. Prisons allow no Experimental Drugs but may release an inmate for compassionate release in Petersburg, Largo and Tampa Bay Florida, when a Clearwater Crime Lawyer files a Defense Motion
Joseph Wright, Experiment on Bird, 1768

It’s important for defense attorneys to understand the BOP regulations for drugs that can be administered in Federal Prison. I had a client who had committed in access of half a million dollars in fraud, scored a minimum of 96 months in jail on the Presentencing Report and had a pending Trafficking in Marijuana from New Orleans; he was also a very sick man with hepatitis C.
At sentencing I argued that the Defendant was bravely being a human guinea pig by taking experimental non-FDA approved drugs from Shands Hospital. And further at sentencing we established that he’d bravely been testing the new drugs which could kill him yet at the same time could be the only thing keeping him alive. Further, since the experimental drugs were not FDA approved, no Federal Prison could give the drugs to him and the kind Doctors at Shands wanted to continue their experiments on the Defendant. The Judge over the Government’s strong objections did not sentence the Defendant to any prison time at all.

But what if a Defendant is already in Jail. How do you establish that he is so gravely ill that he should be released? Here from defense attorney Amy Baron-Evans is a success in forcing BOP to release an inmate based on compassionate release:

BOP rarely files a motion for early release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) when an inmate has a terminal illness or for other extraordinary and compelling reasons under USSG 1B1.13.  In this case, the inmate, Phillip Smith, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in August 2011, but BOP twice refused to file the motion because, it said, his criminal history outweighed his medical needs (and imminent death). Phillip contacted his lawyer, Ruben Iniguez, and Ruben and Steve Sady filed a motion with the court, contending that BOP was putting itself in the position of the judge, not filing the motion unless it thought the motion should be granted. After a couple of weeks of litigation, BOP agreed to file the motion, and the judge immediately ordered Mr. Smith’s release on March 12, 2012, seven months after the motion should have been filed.  Mr. Smith gave a videotaped interview from home on April 2 and died April 9.  Hundreds of people die of natural causes in BOP custody every year but BOP filed only 55 motions from 2009 to 2011.  This was an unusual case in that the client called his lawyer and the lawyer took action that put pressure on BOP to file the motion. 

 The standards for Federal Prisons and State of Florida Prisons vary. For information on the process for releasing inmates early in Florida Prisons, Pinellas Jail or Hillsborough because of life threatening illness or for other reasons humane contact a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney.