OFFICERS WHO LIE IN POLICE REPORTS OR UNDER OATH SHOULD BE DISCIPLINED & PROSECUTED FOR PERJURY

If a law enforcement officer deliberately gives false evidence under oath the officer should not only be disciplined within the force, but lose his job. Shouldn’t that officer also face appropriate criminal charges? 

Pinocchio-1940-poster.jpg In Tampa Bay and Clearwater Florida police make up facts to become Officer Pinocchio lying on police reports and during testimony.
Officer Pinocchio smells Marijuana

Yet in Florida it’s very rare to find prosecutors willing to charge police officers with perjury. The problem often originates in the first incident reports created by officers after arrests are made. 

Prosecutors see that officers make many factual errors from the very beginning of each case. After all, no one is perfect. Nor could one reasonably expect an exact rendition of facts. 

Yet Clearwater criminal defense attorneys often find that the initial incident reports are replete with factual errors that place those arrested by officers at a disadvantage while helping police make easy arrests. Too often police are willing to break or bend the law based on their mere suspicions of wrongdoing. And officers know that most folks whom they arrest do not have the means to fight the criminal system in a quest for justice.

Police first learn to bend the truth to become effective law enforcement officers. In fact, while I was a prosecutor it was clear that officers were routinely taught that there was no need to be truthful to defendants during investigations. Further, officers are told that if they find evidence of crime they should exploit the discovery by searching for further evidence. 

Here in Tampa Bay, Florida officers are taught that if they smell marijuana they can search a vehicle or even someone’s home without a search warrant. Naturally every officer too lazy to get a proper warrant somehow smells marijuana even when it’s not at the crime scene. No wonder the typical officers’ nose is so very long, as for centuries they’ve been bred for smelling efficiency mixed with the wooden bearing of Pinocchio.

I had a client who was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine because the arresting officer searched the vehicle without a warrant after smelling marijuana. But miracle of miracles there was no marijuana in the car at all only a hell of a lot of methamphetamine. Was the Tampa officer lying? Here’s his explanation:

The car was clearly being used for trafficking drugs. The distinct odor of marijuana I smelled came from the trunk area of the vehicle. It’s clear that the trunk area must have been where the marijuana had been stored. 

The Defendant obviously had just made a delivery of the marijuana probably only minutes before I made the stop of the vehicle for a bad tag.

With a little prodding he’d have happily divined the quantity in each bag, the grade of marijuana and it’s unique hallucinogenic affects. 

In another case which the state attorney’s office no filed and dismissed, officers keen sense of smell helped them gain entry into a home where sure enough after turning the house inside and out they found that marijuana – one lone unlit joint in the bedroom far from the front door. Because the officers never lied under oath about the marijuana they were neither disciplined nor were they charged with perjury. The officers should also be disciplined.

It’s not enough when cases that originate based on a lie are no filed and dismissed. What can be done to correct poor police conduct? What is the best remedy that would require reliable, honest police investigations?

Here’s a solution that would bring justice to the criminal system. Every officer who writes a report must not only sign the report, but sign a sworn affidavit that everything in the report is accurate, honest and fair to the best of his knowledge. 

Law enforcement officers who are found to have violated the affidavit would be disciplined, fired and then charged with perjury. The threat of perjury charges based not only on sworn testimony under oath during jury trials, but also on investigations themselves as defined in police reports would go a long way toward solving the problem of dishonest law enforcement officers. The role of officers would be redefined as having the foremost duty of always abiding by the law.

UNRELIABLE POSITIVE MARIJUANA TESTS CAUSE HAVOC & CONFUSION IN FLORIDA DRUG COURTS

Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney answers a reader’s question on the legal consequences of the length of time marijuana can be detected in one’s system: 

even for van gogh's smoker marijuana residue can linger for over three months in clearwater, tampa, largo and st. petersburg florida defense lawyer robert hambrick argues to judges that  a positive drug test should not violate probation or ror
Van Gogh, The Smoker, 1888

I was recently arrested for possession of pot. Before being arrested I was a daily (yes and nightly) user, but since the arrest I stopped. Yesterday a random marijuana drug test come back positive when over a month has passed since that last blazing hit from my blue bong. Is there a way to argue the test is unreliable? Is this going to get me sent back to Pinellas County Jail? Will my ROR be revoked? Will I lose my job? What will the Judge do?

Most judges and probation officers have repeatedly been told by prosecutors that thirty days is sufficient time for the body’s system to be cleared of marijuana. And for the average user this is not a false statement. However, the science shows chronic long term marijuana users may test positive for much longer than previously thought, even as long as 77 days as can be seen in this extract from  Excretion Patterns of Cannabinoid Metabolites in a group of Chronic Users (really I’m not making this up):

Abstract: The urinary excretion patterns of 86 chronic cannabis users were examined after their last cannabis use by two common screening methods, the semiquantitative EMIT-d.a.u. and the qualitative EMIT-st (Syva Company). We demonstrated that under very strictly supervised abstinence, chronic users can have positive results for cannabinoids in urine at 20 ng/ml or above on the EMIT-d.a.u. assay for as many as 46 consecutive days from admission, and can take as many as 77 days to drop below the cutoff calibrator for 10 consecutive days. For all subjects, the mean excretion time was 27 days. Subject excretion patterns were clearly biphasic, with initial higher rates of excretion not sustained. During the subsequent period of leveling off, most subjects had one or more separate sequences of cannabinoid-negative urine test results, lasting a mean of 3 days each and followed by at least one positive result. Demographic, body type, and drug history variables proved to be only moderate predictors of excretion patterns. Findings were discussed in the context of potential clinical and forensic application.


If you, like me, got lost at those words ‘urinary excretion patterns’ here’s the bottom line: that blazing stuff you ingested on your glorious blue bong can still be detected months later, in fact up to 77 days later. The length of time detectable residue for marijuana can remain in the body varies by sex, height, weight, age and metabolism, but a significant factor is the amount and frequency of previous ingestion as seen in this excerpt from other related links:

There are many variables that determine how long THC will remain detectable in your system, including height, weight, age, metabolism, amount smoked/ingested, and methods to clean. Many drug tests, including urine tests, look for 9-carboxy-THC which is the by-product of your body metabolizing the THC in your fat.Marijuana Detection Times:
Frequent users blood drug test (defined as someone who smokes several times per week)
THC: 4-8 hours after smoking THC by-product: 2 or more weeks after smoking
Frequent users urine drug testTHC by-product: 2 weeks to a month after smoking (3 months for extremely heavy users)
Infrequent users blood drug testTHC: 3-4 hours after smoking THC by-product: 2-3 days after smoking
Infrequent users urine drug testTHC by-product: up to 10 days after smoking 

Getting back to my reader’s question, clearly the Judge presiding at your Clearwater Drug Court needs to be shown that harsh punishment like sending you to prison for drugs is not the best solution. Your Clearwater Drug Defense Lawyer will make the argument that because of your heavy use of marijuana it may take longer for the residue to leave your body; therefore this positive test is unreliable and after waiting an additional 77 days you should be given another test.

PINELLAS COUNTY DEPUTIES USED FAKE SUBPOENAS AFTER OBTAINING EVIDENCE IN CLEARWATER & PINELLAS DRUG CASES

New investigations of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reveal that narcotics officers gained inappropriate access to private electric power bills from Progress Energy.  Later the Deputies used fake state attorney subpoenas to cover their tracks according to the Tampa Bay Times. The narcotics officers are also accused of telling lies to gain entry into homes, of giving false testimony under oath to obtain warrants and of using secret video feeds to spy on shoppers at a store in order to gain investigative information for marijuana grow house cases in Pinellas County, a part of Tampa Bay where your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney warily lives a day to day existence.


Currently sixteen separate internal affairs investigations of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Narcotics Division are moving forward with six new investigations  launched within the past week as the newly anointed Sheriff, only in office for a few months, heads into election. Is the Sheriff throwing the narcotics division “under the bus,” as his recent, now resigned, former head of the narcotics division believes. Or is the Sheriff somehow an innocent bystander just trying to clean up the mess?


 “You know what you are doing is wrong and you are covering yourself on the backside,” Sheriff Gualtieri said. “You don’t fully inform the state attorney and have them go through hoops to get information on something you already have.


Here is a Training Bulletin for Police from a Jacksonville Florida Law Enforcement agency which clearly balances the rights of citizens to have personal information protected against the need of Law Enforcement to conduct appropriate criminal investigations as does this bulletin from FDLE. Should PCSO need help I know a Clearwater Criminal Drug Attorney who’d happily talk to the Deputies about the need for a proper balance if they’ll promise not to frisk me first.


The only certain thing is that laws may have been broken. When a law enforcement officer falsely swears under oath or steals personal information, that officer should be prosecuted just like anyone else would be. A GRAND JURY should be convened to investigate possible criminal acts as well as any systemic corruption within the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office and the Pinellas State Attorney’s Office, which is somehow still moving forward with the marijuana grow house cases despite the lies and illegal activity. All of the cases involving these dishonest Deputies should be re-evalutated.
  

Pinellas Sheriff Discovers Fake Subpoenas even while bathing…
Jacques-Louis DavidThe Death of Marat, 1793

DEPUTIES LIE TO GAIN ENTRY INTO PINELLAS HOMES POSING AS UTILITY WORKERS

Deputies gained entry into Clearwater homes searching for marijuana without a warrant by donning the gear of utility workers according to the Tampa Bay Times. Apparently, it’s not unusual for Officers of the Law to lie to homeowners in an attempt to gain evidence of crimes in Pinellas, County Florida. If you’ve been falsely accused of a crime contact a Clearwater Criminal Law Attorney as soon as possible.


Think about it, our homes are our last refuge from the world. The one place in life where you’d hope to find rest, relaxation and peace. Yet rather than get a search warrant a Deputy lied to members of a Pinellas County family to clandestinely search for evidence of crime – marijuana plants in a home, which were not found.


“I was appalled by it,” Pinellas Conty Sheriff Gualtieri said Wednesday according to the Tampa Bay Times. “I think it’s wrong. It’s not what we should have been doing at all.” 


The Sheriff claims not to know what was going on. If he doesn’t know what his Deputies are doing he shouldn’t be the Sheriff. If he did know he and all of the Deputies who took part in this should be charged with crimes, including what you and I would be charged with, Burglary or Trespass or Identity Theft. It’s not the first time the Sheriff has had to apologize for his Deputies conduct. A few months ago this Blog noted that Sheriff’s undercover Deputies were giving false information to gain search warrants, using inappropriate video surveillance techniques and following shoppers at a horticultural store to look for evidence of pot growing all of which should not only offend your favorite Clearwater Drug Crime Attorney, but every citizen who understands that we must stand up for our freedom as Americans.


Maybe our Sheriff should read the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution, as that shredded piece of paper up in Washington still has some value as an historic relic even if law enforcement ignores the rights enumerated within or the Sheriff could read the Florida Statute below which he swore to Defend, then read it out loud so that one or two of his Deputies may hear it. The statute protects Floridians from unreasonable seizures and searches as only upon a showing of probable cause to a Judge based on an affidavit and sworn testimony then and only then can the sanctity of a Floridian’s home be violated :


Florida Statute 933.04  Affidavits.–The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable seizures and searches shall not be violated and no search warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation particularly describing the place to be searched and the person and thing to be seized. (for the complete Florida Law on search warrants and their proper application by law enforcement see, Chapter 933 Search & Inspection Warrants)


Maybe the real problem here is that there is not enough real crime for these Deputies and for our head in the sands Sheriff to uncover. Maybe we need to slash the budget of the Sheriff’s Department to reflect the real needs of our community – protection from violent crime such as rape, armed robberies and burglaries – especially those not carried out by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, also known as PCSO.

The Sheriff proudly wears his Utility Uniform.
Vincent van Gogh, At Eternity’s Gate, 1890

CAN DRUG DOGS GAIN PROBABLE CAUSE BY SNIFFING YOUR FRONT DOOR IN CLEARWATER FLORIDA?

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a drug dog sniffing detection case involving one of our favorite brave and faithful Florida canine friends, named Franky, whose unfortunate occupation is sniffing the front door of Florida homes for drugs so that search warrants can be obtained. The case is from an appeal of the Florida Supreme Court in Florida v. Jardines in which the Florida Court stated that,  “This Court has explained that a dog sniff is not a search because the sole knowledge that the dog obtains by sniffing is the presence of contraband, which a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in possessing in the first place.
It’s my strong belief that Florida Supreme Court is misguided, because a home – not being a public place but in some respects the only private place left for us – should be treated differently than say, an airport – where the immediate safety of all passengers may require greater scrutiny and the use of drug dogs to find drugs or explosives without a warrant. 
The case will resolve the constitutional issue of whether police must have probable cause, that is a strong belief that evidence of a crime exists and that the evidence will be found at the scene, before law enforcement officers can use a drug dog to sniff at the front door of a suspect home which the officers believe is a marijuana grow house (a home that has been converted into a virtual garden for marijuana plants).
Two important probable cause issues will be determined which your favorite Clearwater Drug Defense Attorney believes you’ll find of interest:


(1) Whether a dog sniffing at the front door of a suspected marijuana grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog is a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause. 
(2) And Whether the officers’ conduct during the investigation of the marijuana grow house, including remaining outside the house while waiting for the search warrant is in and of itself, a Fourth Amendment search.


This blog earlier discussed probable cause issues with vehicles involving another Drug Dog named Aldo whose sniffing was found by the Florida Supreme Court to not be up to snuff. Should you need expert legal defense have a Clearwater Defense Attorney take a look at your case. 

A Narcotics Detective enjoys teaching Police Dogs how to smell marijuana…

File:Ansdell Richard The Lucky Dogs.jpg
Andsell Richard, The Lucky Dogs, 1881

SOMEWHERE ORWELL IS SMILING: SECRET VIDEOS MADE BY THE PINELLAS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE WERE USED IN SEARCH WARRANTS BASED ON WHERE PEOPLE SHOP IN LARGO FLORIDA

Imagine a dark Orwellian world where everything you do is on video and everything you do is closely examined in the hope it can be used as evidence against you in the future.

Well, if you live in Pinellas County, Florida you don’t have to imagine that world anymore, as your Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office secretly put hundreds of customers under video surveillance for over a year at a plant store called Simply Hydroponics. Law enforcement then used identifiers of the customers, such as the tags on their vehicles to track them, spy on them and to obtain search warrants which contained at best highly unlikely information.

This should make every American angry and even makes your favorite Clearwater Defense Lawyer despair for the future of our country.
In one case law enforcement officers placed a plant store customer’s home under surveillance then swore under oath in a search warrant that they could smell the marijuana plants and heard the distinct noise of foliage being broken from within what they designated as a suspected marijuana grow house. Our intrepid detectives found a single marijuana plant upon forcing their way into the home.
If there’s one thing all of us as Americans should be against it’s unbridled government surveillance and the destruction of our privacy rights. Yet we should also agree that the inherent corruption which resulted in officer’s telling lies under oath must also be rooted out.
The surveillance, the lies, the misinformation and the failure of law enforcement to abide by basic American standards of Justice should result in the immediate investigations of every law enforcement officer and every prosecutor involved as prosecutors routinely draft, prepare and take the search warrants to Judges for signatures. 
A Grand Jury should immediately be convened by the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate he highest positions at the Sheriff’s Office and at the State Attorney’s Office, to find who was responsible for placing the video equipment near the store, to find what other stores or public areas are secretly under surveillance and to bring to justice all of those who did this or allowed this to be done under their watch.

Here are a few excerpts about smell as possible probable cause from the St. Petersburg Times Article: Young plants don’t emit an odor, but if a person were growing “hundreds” of mature plants in a structure that wasn’t properly sealed, it’s “possible” an officer very close to the home would notice the smell…James Woodford of Chattanooga, Tenn., an expert on the topic of marijuana odor, said a large operation vented directly outdoors could generate an occasional “whiff” of marijuana detectable up to 25 to 30 feet away [i.e., less than half the distance between the sidewalk and Underwood’s “alleged grow room”]….Law enforcement officers commonly use the smell of marijuana to establish probable cause.
Drug Crimes Trial Lawyer & Criminal Defense Attorney in Clearwater, FL
Times Editorial: America shouldn’t be a surveillance society
Video Surveillance – Are Hidden Cameras Legal?
933.07 Issuance of search warrants.
(1) The judge, upon examination of the application and proofs submitted, if satisfied that probable cause exists for the issuing of the search warrant, shall thereupon issue a search warrant signed by him or her with his or her name of office, to any sheriff and the sheriff’s deputies or any police officer or other person authorized by law to execute process, commanding the officer or person forthwith to search the property described in the warrant or the person named, for the property specified, and to bring the property and any person arrested in connection therewith before the judge or some other court having jurisdiction of the offense.

(2) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, based on grounds specified in s. 933.02(4)(d), may obtain a search warrant authorized by this chapter for an area in size up to and including the full extent of the county in which the search warrant is issued. The judge issuing such search warrant shall conduct a court proceeding prior to the issuance of such search warrant upon reasonable notice and shall receive, hear, and determine any objections by property owners to the issuance of such search warrant. Such search warrant may be served by employees or authorized contractors of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Such search warrant may be made returnable at any time up to 6 months from the date of issuance.

933.04 Affidavits.The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable seizures and searches shall not be violated and no search warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation particularly describing the place to be searched and the person and thing to be seized.

From Orwell’s novel 1984, The three slogans of the Party on the Ministry of Truth Building.