SHOULD THE GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA BE INDICTED AS PART OF A CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY TO RESTRICT VOTING?

was governor Scott of Florida doing a crime by  restricting voting in Tampa Bay, Largo and Clearwater Florida
Florida Governor Rick Scott?

Just after the Florida election an unusual note made its way to my office. The letter looked at first to be a prank; like a blackmailer’s note every word was cut out from magazines and pasted to the page. The envelope bore a Tallahassee postmark yet no return address. 

Who would go to so much trouble of disguise in writing to a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney? Was there something sinister afoot in the State of Florida?

Here’s the note:

Dear Sir:

 I’m a hard-working entrepreneur, a people person, a man of character and integrity, a reformer as well as a powerful former CEO indirectly involved in a $400 million health care fraud, which was a mere misunderstanding I had nothing to do with, as I was never indicted. Since then I’ve done my best to lead a law abiding lie, errr… life.  

I was doing fine until the people swept me into office making me the Governor of a desolate, backward Southern State with some 29 electoral votes and no high speed rail. I enjoy being Governor except for the foul tasting seafood  people eat here and the damn elections folks demand every few years.  My god, these people are always wanting to vote instead of just finding jobs!  

Recently some friends in the Government and I made voting more orderly by restricting the number of polling places, reducing the number of voting days and making it possible for some folks to wait up to eight hours to vote – no wonder they don’t have jobs!

Now I’m worried about investigations and indictments. Could even a people person’s Governor be indicted for being part of a criminal conspiracy to restrict votes? Would it be a better defense to say I didn’t know what I was doing, that I knew what I was doing but didn’t know it was unlawful or that I’m just incompetent

While we all can agree that you’re incompetent, it still might be difficult for you to avoid an indictment if criminal conduct was  established at Grand Jury hearings where absolute immunity could be granted for those testifying against you. If the Grand Jury found you were in fact part of a criminal conspiracy with others to restrict voting among minorities, women and those who enjoy Florida seafood, you could face indictment and a lengthy term in prison.
Many Americans are under the impression that the right to vote is one of the cherished rights of a democracy that unites us as Americans and protects us from people like you. 
Clearly, your best defense is that you and other co-conspirators in the Florida Government were making broad political decisions to reduce the vote among minorities rather than conducting a criminal conspiracy. Even more than the restrictions on voting you implemented, criminalizing politics by punishing the losers, folks like you and your friends, with jail terms could undermine democracy. Anyway, to the anonymous letter writer, good luck and if you ever find yourself as an indicted Governor in need of Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers feel free to call.

WITHOUT RESTORATION OF RIGHTS A FELON RISKS ARREST FOR ACTS OF FAMILY MEMBERS IN FLORIDA

Sometimes our criminal law chews up folks who never meant to commit a crime. When someone inadvertently violates Florida law, Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys often are called too late, unable to prevent an arrest followed by a long tough journey through Florida’s difficult Criminal Justice System.

So it was heartening to speak over the phone yesterday with the cheerful yet dignified man who in my mind’s eye had the appearance of a Japanese Zen Master. Maybe our conversation will keep him from that ultimate pilgrimage to the Pinellas County Jail. Here’s a recap of what he asked me:

Even a zen master could be in trouble in Tampa Bay Florida if a family member has a gun or firearm.
NO GUNS FOR ZEN MONKS

I’m a convicted felon. I haven’t been in trouble since the conviction. I’ve successfully turned my life around. I have a good job, gotten married and have a great family. I’ve not yet had my civil rights restored. I know that I can’t own a gun with the felony conviction. Will I get into trouble with the law if my wife buys a gun and keeps it for her protection?

The answer is yes, you’ll likely get in lots of trouble. Clearly the Florida Criminal Statute he wants to avoid violating is Felon in Possession of a Firearm, plus there could be an additional violation of the Federal Criminal Statute with a possible fifteen year minimum mandatory sentence. Here’s a short excerpt of the Florida Statute:

790.23 Felons in possession of firearms, ammunition, or electric weapons or devices:
(1) It is unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been:(a) Convicted of a felony…

Anyone in Florida who has a conviction for a Felony from any jurisdiction should he be concerned if a family member wants to bring a gun (or even just ammunition or an electric weapon such as a taser) into his home or car because if the firearm is found to be in his “care, custody, possession or control…” he is in violation of the law. The language of the statute is very similar to that of the Florida Drug Statutes which equates possession with knowledge and close proximity with possession. It means that it wouldn’t much matter who technically ‘owns’ the firearm, what matters is who has knowledge and the ability to control the gun. Based on this information he wisely told me that his wife won’t be keeping any firearms in their home.
In speaking further with him we talked about the process of how to have his rights restored and obtaining a pardon or clemency under Florida Law so that he could legally possess a gun in the future and commended him on calling a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer before bringing the firearm into his home risking an arrest.

WHEN LIVES ARE ENDANGERED SHOULD CRIMINAL LAW PROVIDE A DUTY TO HELP & RENDER AID?

A St. Thomas University law professor has written a provocative essay which argues that bystanders who fail to help others should face criminal charges. 

shouldn't the law require us to render aid to children if their lives are endangered in Florida?
Van Gogh, Two Children

What set him off is the true story of two children’s lives lost needlessly to hurricane Sandy when they were caught in fast moving waters as their car stalled even while their mother begged neighbors for help. 

The neighbors did nothing though they could easily have saved the two toddlers with no risk to themselves. Clearwater Criminal Lawyers note that the neighbors can’t be prosecuted because of the “no duty” rule which states that people are not required to help others.
Here are whittled down portions of the professor’s essay:

The “no duty” rule can be traced to the spirit of rugged capitalist individualism, the Darwinist idea that the common good is advanced through the struggles of selfish individuals…One defense of the no-duty rule is that common law exists to prevent people from harming one another, not to compel people to help one another. But modestly impinging on the individual freedom to do nothing seems reasonable when a life hangs in the balance…
A duty to help would not require bystanders to endanger themselves or provide help beyond their abilities; it could simply require warning someone of imminent danger or calling 911. It wouldn’t bring back the two boys, but … to accept our fundamental moral duty to help those in grave peril.

My first reaction, like yours my crazed reader, is to throw him a brick. Yet on second thought don’t we want to live in a society where the law supports morality, a place where moral cues can be obtained from what we as a society outlaw? Could there be anything more amoral than a society that allows anyone to stand by as children die? 
With some derision a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney recently noted the new law in Florida making it a Felony not to report suspected child abuse. How can this new law be squared in allowing people to watch children die without being a good samaritan by at least calling 911 and not facing some criminal consequences? To be effective criminal law must be reasonable, but is should also be consistent.

THE GOVERNMENT PURSUES CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CASES WITHOUT PROOF OF ANY OUTLAWED IMAGES

Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys often find that Child Pornography cases are among the most difficult cases to successfully defend. If outlawed pictures are found on a Defendant’s computer the Government’s burden of proof is very low. By the very nature of these cases no victim contact need be proven and the amount of prison time established by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is often greater than it would be for actual child molestation. In fact the Government need not establish that the Defendant actually looked at any picture as mere possession of the image on the computer hard drive is sufficient for a conviction.  

child pornography can often lead to more time in prison than child molestation in tampa bay, florida
Van Gogh, Schoolboy, 1888

Yet even when the Federal Government can’t find any outlawed pictures on a computer that hasn’t stopped them from pursuing criminal cases. 
Barclay Johnson, defense attorney in the District of Vermont sent me a new Motion to Suppress in Child Porn prosecutions based on challenging the software used by the Federal Government to snare users of peer-to-peer networks using outlawed images. Here’s an excerpt from his email concerning the Motion to Suppress based on problems with the search warrant:

Government agents used to use an enhanced version of a peer-to-peer program to conduct key-word searches in an effort to find suspect outlawed child pornography files. Using the peer-to-peer program the Government would download files directly from the Defendant’s computer/IP address. However, recently the Federal Government began using a new software program to match secured hash algorithm values of files on the network with hash values of known child pornography in the Government’s database. 

What concerns a Clearwater Criminal Lawyer is the due process violations for Defendants when Government Agents are no longer actually downloading the files from a Defendant’s computer, but relying only on the match between the hash values to establish probable cause. Yet many Government Agents may be misleading Judges into signing incomplete Search Warrants when the Agents’ sworn affidavits fail to accurately depict the fact that they are merely matching hash values rather than having any direct knowledge that there is likely to be outlawed pictures on suspects’ computers. 

IS FLORIDA’S CRIME GOING UP OR DOWN: EVEN MARK TWAIN DOUBTS RELIABILITY OF FDLE CRIME STATISTICS

FDLE released its semi-annual crime report yesterday indicating that the crime rate for Florida was down except for a few types of violent crimes such as murder. In the Tampa Bay area which includes Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg the crime rate declined even as it rose in other parts of the state. 

mark twain was right about lies damn lies and statistics in fdle report showing crime down in tampa bay florida
However, as Mark Twain once noted there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Though Twain gave credit to British Prime Minister Disraeli for coming up with the ubiquitous phrase, it was this quote from Twain’s Autobiography, that made the phase popular:

“Figures often beguile me,” he wrote, “particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'” 

Anyway, back to your Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer’s task of defaming the FDLE and the reliability of FDLE crime statistics which even FDLE concedes as unreliable:

…numbers reflect the crimes reported by the local agencies (primarily Sheriff Offices and Police Departments) to FDLE. The UCR does not include all offenses reported to the police, but is limited to a well-defined list of reportable offenses… a number of factors influence the reporting of offense incidents to local agencies. For example, some communities are more likely to report a crime to the police than others are. Other factors may include local report-writing policy, manpower allocations, training received by officers on report writing… As you can see, there are many reasons for variability in reporting between jurisdictions, counties and even states.
Again, UCR is not reporting total crime, but, rather, a select list of crimes reported to the police.
 

Also, the FDLE notes that some crimes are no longer even reported. Clearly, this was done to drive down the crime numbers. The Orlando Sentinel analyzed the dubiousness of the FDLE statistics  as follows: 

Some of the percentages in smaller municipalities are inflated by relatively low crime rates such as the city of Windermere, for example, saw a 550-percent increase in reported offenses — 26 in the first half of 2012, up from four. Most were thefts.

Ouch! Well if nothing else at least we don’t live in that criminal hell hole of Windermere. 
But let’s assume that FDLE is correct that crime is going down, then why are the jails filled to the brink in Tampa Bay with ever higher rates of arrests? So when reading the FDLE crime statistics keep in mind the recent study by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project showing that the prison and criminal justice system has failed to deter crime in Tampa Bay, Florida. And if you’ve been charged with a crime in Tampa Bay and don’t want to be another FDLE statistic contact a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney.