Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Recent News, Theft

Fort Lauderdale Bike Registration Laws

This article provides interesting insight on tickets in Fort Lauderdale stemming from bike registration laws: Fort Lauderdale Cops Are Still Arresting Dozens for Biking While Black

The article discusses that in 2003, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed an ordinance requiring residents to register their bicycles with the city for the charge of 1$ in an effort to reduce bicycle thefts (the fee was later dropped altogether):

“City commissioners said it worked, and bike thefts decreased. Police also found that stopping bikers to check whether their bikes were registered turned out to be an effective way of finding drug dealers and house burglars. It gave cops probable cause to stop people, check their identification, and check for outstanding arrest warrants.”

However, the data seems to suggest that the police may have used the ordinance as a pretext for stopping people in “primarily African-American neighborhoods”:

According to data provided by the [Broward] Public Defender’s Office, between December 2013 and September 2014, the Fort Lauderdale PD issued only 45 tickets for unregistered bikes. Yet 42 of the violators were black — 93 percent of the total. Only one ticket was issued east of Federal Highway.

The full article can be found here:  Fort Lauderdale Cops Are Still Arresting Dozens for Biking While Black

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 Family law.

Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

What Happens After A Person Is Arrested in Florida?

This educational guide provides a general summary of the basic legal process in a Florida criminal matter, and follows closely along with the infographic below.

50 (1)

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.

Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

What to Expect During Jury Selection

Many people are curious as to what they should expect when participating in jury selection – either as a potential juror or as a party in a trial. The following is a brief explanation of the Jury Selection process in Palm Beach County, Florida:

Jury Selection (2) - Copy

When jury selection begins, the presiding judge will typically begin with a lengthy explanation of the legal process. Then, the judge will usually have the jury pool (or, the potential jurors) read aloud and answer pre-printed questionnaires created by the judge. These questionnaires have generic questions, such as marital status, employment, prior jury service, prior involvement in law suits, and other similar types of questions to allow the State and Defense to learn the background of the jurors. Once the jury has finished answering these questions, then the State and Defense will begin asking their own questions, with the State presenting first.

As a criminal defense attorney, the way I choose which questions I am going to ask a jury really depends on the facts of the case and the charge my client is facing. My jury questioning (or “voir dire”) usually begins with an “ice breaker” and an introduction of the jury to the criminal process in general, which will vary depending upon the thoroughness of the Judge’s and the State’s explanations. I want to make sure the jury understands its job, and I want to make sure they understand I am looking for jurors who will be fair. I have a few standard questions that I like to ask, such as “what are your thoughts about police officers” or “have you ever been a victim of a crime” to get an idea of how these jurors view the criminal justice system. I want to know if there are jurors who love police officers and will believe them no matter what the facts are, just as the State wants to know if there are jurors who hate police officers. Then, I will ask specific questions based on what I think are the important issues in the particular case that is there for trial. For example, if my case involves a witness who has been convicted of a crime before, I want to find out if there are jurors who are going to discredit his testimony based solely on that fact. Or, if I have a case that involves a scientific process, such as a breath testing machine in a DUI case, I want to ask questions about who will blindly trust the science, and who will question it and make his or her own determination based upon the evidence presented.

Jury selection is sometimes jokingly referred to as “jury deselection,” because the goal truly is, not to eliminate jurors, but to eliminate bias against issues in your particular case. If there are jurors that have given answers that appear biased one way or another, criminal law attorneys will follow up with those jurors specifically to ferret out the impartiality. If a juror is wavering on an important issue, criminal law attorneys will ask follow up questions to determine that particular juror’s true feelings, and ultimately determine whether that person can be fair and impartial at the end of the day, or if that person should be dismissed from the jury. Judges often inform jurors that there is “no wrong answer,” and that is entirely correct – everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, and are encouraged to express them during jury selection. Not being selected as a juror is not an insult; it simply means that the particular potential juror did not fit the issues on the case. Everyone involved in a trial, State and Defense alike, is entitled to a fair trial with impartial jurors who will be able to follow the law.

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.

Blood Draw, Criminal Defense, DUI, Legal Blog, Recent News

Goodman Hearings Continued

The continuation of the Goodman hearings in advance of the October 6th re-trial date are underway again this morning. As discussed in last week’s article, Goodman’s retrial regarding the highly publicized 2010 Wellington crash that resulted in Scott Patrick Wilson’s death is scheduled to begin on October 6, 2014. Today, one of the issues to be discussed is the validity of the blood alcohol test results due to the methods used to collect Goodman’s blood after the fatal crash.

Laura Barfield, a former crime lab analyst at FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement), took the stand this morning to testify about the blood testing methods used in the Goodman case. Barfield was the manager of the alcohol testing program at FDLE in 2010 during the initial testing of Goodman’s blood. However, she resigned in April of 2013 in the wake of a scandal involving her alleged charging of personal expenses on her State credit card.

Barfield testified this morning that there are various steps necessary when taking a blood draw and testing that are all important to obtain the proper result. For example, the use a non-alcohol wipe is crucial so as not to introduce outside alcohol into the blood sample when blood is being drawn. Additionally, the Goodman defense team has raised the argument that Goodman’s blood alcohol test results are flawed because the wrong sized needle was used; however, according to Barfield, the testing rules do not require a certain sized needle to be used.

The hearings will continue today and go through Wednesday. The Palm Beach Post has a live feed of the testimony, found here.

In Florida, blood tests are typically the most accurate of the alcohol level tests, but also are considered to be the most invasive. As a result, blood draws are only permitted in limited circumstances (without consent), such as where there was an accident involving great bodily injury or death. In Florida DUI cases, defense attorneys are sometimes able to argue that blood results are invalid and should be suppressed for a variety of issues, including: the use of an alcohol swab to clean the skin before the blood is drawn (as discussed above); testing blood serum as opposed to a whole blood sample; the ingestion of certain prescriptions, medicines, vitamins and foods that could affect the blood results; fermentation in the sample vial; an insufficient sample amount due to blood coagulation; blood vial mix ups; and blood vial contamination.

A Palm Beach DUI lawyer can investigate these potential defenses when someone has been charged with a driving under the influence charge involving a blood draw.

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.

Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Retail Theft, Theft

Petit Theft of Retail Merchandise

In Florida, theft statutes provide different definitions of “value” depending on the type of theft involved. Theft of retail merchandise is prosecuted under the general theft statute found in Florida Statute 812.014, but is subject to the definitions of the specific retail theft statute found in Florida Statute 812.015.

The general theft provisions of Florida Statute 812.014 (and its definition section in Florida Statute 812.012), define the “value” of the stolen property as the market value of the property, or the cost of replacement of the property .

However, the retail theft provisions of Florida Statute 812.015, define the “value” of the stolen property as the sale price of the merchandise.

Therefore, in retail theft cases, the actual market value of the retail merchandise is not the price used in prosecution. Instead, it is the “sale price” as indicated on the price tag. That sale price will determine the degree of a retail theft offense. Retail theft is a second degree misdemeanor if the “sale price” is under $100.00 (punishable by up to 60 days in jail), a first degree misdemeanor if the “sale price” was between $100.00 and $300.00 (punishable by up to one year in jail), and it is a third degree felony when the “sale price” is over $300 (punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison). Retail theft can also be charged as a second degree felony if it is a second offense (punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison).

Another important distinguishing factor in retail theft cases is the fact that the prosecutor will have an easier time introducing evidence of the value of the merchandise during a trial. For example, if a defendant steals a pair of shoes from a store and the price tag says the shoes cost $100, the State Attorney will be able to use that price tag to establish the price during trial. However, if someone paid $100 for that same pair of shoes, and another person stole the shoes from the person instead of the store, the State Attorney would not be able to use the price tag at trial. Instead, the State would have to try to introduce evidence of the market value by having the victim testify what he paid for the shoes and the condition of the shoes when they were stolen.

Anyone who is arrested for a theft crime in Palm Beach County should contact a Palm Beach Criminal Defense attorney who understands the differences between the various theft charges and can explain the potential ramifications or outcomes of the criminal charge.

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.