Jose Padilla – Resentencing Today

UPDATE: Padilla was resentenced to 21 years on September 9, 2014, extending his original sentence by four years.

The only American citizen in history to be arrested on US soil and treated as an “enemy combatant,” Jose Padilla, is scheduled to be resentenced today in Federal Court in Miami after an appellate court ruled that Padilla’s earlier sentence of over 17 years (which included 12 years of solitary confinement and some of the most inhumane incarceration tactics ever reported, such as subjecting Padilla to extreme temperature changes, alternating between blinding lights and total darkness, involuntary injections of “truth serums,” being shackled in excruciating positions, being assigned to a windowless cell with no physical contact, and eventually being allowed only 1 telephone call a month) was not enough of a punishment. The appellate court also ruled that the trial judge erred in giving Padilla credit for three years of time he served in a South Carolina Navy Brig while awaiting charges to be filed. The interrogations of Padilla were reportedly filmed, however, the government claimed it “lost” the DVD of Padilla’s final interrogation.

Padilla made news initially in 2002 after being arrested in Chicago for allegedly plotting to detonate a bomb on American soil. However, after trial in 2008, the presiding judge, Judge Cooke, found that there was no evidence that Padilla personally planned attacks against the United States or that he personally committed any violence. Padilla was ultimately convicted of conspiracy to murder and kidnap, and of supporting the terrorism group al-Qaida. Prosecutors have reportedly stated that they will seek not more than 30 years in prison; however, the minimum sentence Padilla could receive under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines as a result of the charges and prior criminal convictions is nearly 21 years.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

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DUI Permanent License Revocation

A Broward DUI case (Calabrese v. State) was published this week wherein a permanent license revocation was affirmed by the Broward Circuit Court.

In the case, the defendant was arrested for DUI after she drove through an area that had been roped off by police for an unrelated criminal investigation. The defendant declined to perform field sobriety exercises, but agreed to submit to a breath test and blew a .089. The defendant was found guilty by a jury at trial. The court found that this was the defendant’s third DUI within 10 years. As a result, she was ultimately sentenced to 364 days in Broward County Jail, which was to be lowered to 180 days upon completion of the SAP program (the Substance Abuse and Life Skills Program which provides treatment services to inmates in Broward County’s Jail), along with other standard DUI penalties (such as community service, fines, etc.) and a lifetime driver’s license revocation. 

The defendant appealed the lifetime driver’s license revocation, arguing that it was improper for the court to order because Florida Statute 322.28(2)(a) only requires a 10 year minimum license suspension for a third DUI conviction within 10 years. However, the circuit court disagreed and found that because there was no maximum sentence limit within the statute, the trial judge was within his discretion to issue a lifetime driver’s license revocation.

DUIs in Florida have serious consequences, as seen in this case. Anyone who is facing DUI charges in Florida should contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss the possible penalties of a DUI conviction and determine the best defense route to attempt to mitigate those penalties. 

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

An interesting legal question was posed by the 1st DCA this week regarding the jury instructions for the charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Death or Serious Bodily Injury (Florida Statute 316.027). In the case, the defendant was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident causing death (and vehicular homicide), after drinking for approximately 7 hours, and then driving his car while a firework was exploding inside the car, crashing into someone causing death, and then driving away. 

During trial, the court read to the jury a jury instruction that stated the State must prove that the defendant either knew or should have known that he was involved in a crash. 

However, the statute for Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Death provided that it is only a first degree felony for the driver of a vehicle who causes a crash resulting in death to willfully fail to stop and remain at the scene.

Therefore, the defendant appealed, arguing that the jury instruction misstates the law: a person cannot willfully leave the scene of a crash without actually knowing that the crash occurred.

The 1st DCA agreed with the defendant, overturned the conviction, and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court as an issue of great public importance.

The 4th DCA in Palm Beach County has also certified this question in Dorsett v. State, where the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that the standard jury instruction for Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Death did not accurately state the law because a defendant must have actual knowledge of the crash in order to be held convicted for leaving the scene of a crash under the statute for Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Death.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Constitutionality of Solicitation Fines in Florida

A county court in Florida recently certified an important issue to the Second District Court of Appeal regarding excessive fines as a punishment for solicitation of prostitution.

In the case, the defendant was charged by Information with Solicitation of Prostitution, under Florida Statute 796.07(2). Solicitation for Prostitution is a second degree misdemeanor in the State of Florida, and second degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in county jail, and a fine of up to $500, except where a specific statute allows for a higher fine. In the case of solicitation for prostitution, as of January 1, 2013, the fine is mandated by statute to be $5,000 instead of $500 for a first offense. The Defendant filed a “Motion to Find Statute Unconstitutional,” arguing that the fine was grossly disproportion to the offense, and therefore excessive under (1) the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” and (2) under Article I, Section 17 of the Florida Constitution, which provides that: “Excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment, attainder, forfeiture of estate, indefinite imprisonment, and unreasonable detention of witnesses are forbidden.”

The court initially reserved jurisdiction on deciding the defendant’s motion. The defendant then entered a plea of nolo contendere (or “no contest”) and was sentenced to, among other things, six months of probation, twenty-five hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine. After sentencing the defendant, the court ruled on the defendant’s “Motion to Find Statute Unconstitutional.”

The court ultimately agreed with the defendant, granted the defendant’s motion, and struck the $5,000 fine, finding that a fine may be considered unconstitutional if it is so unreasonably excessive that it shocks the conscience of a reasonable person. The court then certified the question to the Second District Court of Appeal as a matter of great public importance, asking the Appellate Court to decide if a $5,000 fine for a first violation of solicitation of prostitution is unconstitutionally excessive. It will be interesting to see if and how the 2nd DCA rules on this question.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.