Posted On: January 31, 2010

Federal Criminal Lawyers: Federal Criminal Trials vs. Florida Criminal Trials

This will get your blood pressure up for sure. If you are arrested you can be tried in a federal court under a federal criminal statute, OR the jurisdiction (State) in which you were arrested. Yep! Double jeopardy? No, the law says its not double jeopardy, but many don’t agree. Being a federal criminal lawyer means specializing in federal criminal trial rules, evidence and procedures. Federal criminal charges come from the federal criminal code (title 18) and differ from (for example) Florida criminal laws and rules. If you are arrested and charged in federal court your first need is pre-trial release: for that you are brought before a federal magistrate. Federal criminal courts have several pre-trial release methods, from standard monetary bonds to corporate surety bonds, personal surety bonds, or stipulated agreements between the United States Attorney and your federal criminal lawyer. Rules of court vary from federal criminal district (Southern District of Florida vs. Middle District of Florida) and from region to region. If you have been arrested in South Florida and are in the preliminary pre-filing stage: are the feds going to “pick up the charges” or the State of Florida?? There are many things your South Florida federal criminal lawyer can do to help you. Call Ralph Behr for a free consultation.

Posted On: January 30, 2010

Identity Theft on the Rise

When the economy goes 'south', some crimes go through the roof! Identity theft, always a major problem, is again making headlines and on YOUR dime! (dollar??).
The Attorney General of Florida has posted an identify theft protection kit, which I highly recommend. Press on identify therft and it will take you to the webpage.
Credit card fraud, bank fraud, falsification of credit information....all is increasing in frequency, and your South Florida criminal lawyer sees it every day! To protect yourself from identify theft follow some basic sensible precautions. First; keep your (article continues on page two)

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Posted On: January 30, 2010

Bail Bonds: The "How’s" and "What’s" about Bond and Bail in Fort Lauderdale

Anyone arrested in South Florida (Fort Lauderdale or any community in Broward County) is brought before a Magistrate and bail (bond is bail) is set, (or denied) according to the type of crime charged and the persons’ personal situation. The bail or bond sets conditions and/or the money which must be posted for release. Once released from incarceration, you are free to go home. (the article continues....go to page 2)

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Posted On: January 30, 2010

US Leads the World in Prison Population

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Our next competitor is China. Here are the numbers for the USA:
-Over 7 million people are in prison, probation or parole
-With 5% of the world’s population the USA has 25% of the world’s incarcerated
-70% of US prisoners are “non-white”
-1 of 3 non-whites males between 20 and 29 years of age are in prison or parole
-In Federal prisons 57% are in on drug related charges
-93% of prisoners are male

In Broward Count Florida (composed of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano, Davie, Weston, Hollywood, Coral Springs, etc)
-in 2008 there were over 90,000 arrests

Posted On: January 29, 2010

Kingpin Trafficking in Cocaine Ring in South Florida Convicted

A joint task force originating in Tallahassee under the control of Florida’s Attorney General, Bill McCollum, sought and obtained a conviction of Samuel Johnson and over 30 others for Drug violations and for cocaine trafficking. The task force announced the drug trafficking ring operated in South Florida from Miami to mid-Florida (Flagler County and St. Augustine). The conviction resulted in a 35 year prison sentence followed by 30 years of probation. The mass arrest and trial involved more than 30 individuals. The prosecution was done by the Office of Statewide Prosecution. Many of the individuals were charged with trafficking in cocaine from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Hollywood. The court also imposed a one million dollar fine on Johnson. The cocaine trafficking charges alleged at least 25 kilograms of cocaine was distributed over a six to eight month period covered in the trafficking in cocaine prosecution. Law enforcement agencies from South Florida, Broward, Miami, Flagler County and Putnam County Florida were involved in the investigation and prosecution. The street value of the cocaine was estimated at between 1.5 and 2 million dollars.

Posted On: January 28, 2010

Florida Continues to Lead the Charge Backward in Refusing to Restore Felons’ Rights

It came as no surprise that a case coming out (of all places!) the 2nd Circuit: Hayden v. Paterson, (Federal) refused to restore civil rights to felons even after re-stating the obvious racial disparity in our prison populations: “Blacks and Latinos are sentenced to incarceration at substantially higher rates than Whites, and Whites are sentenced to probation at substantially higher rates than Blacks and Latinos. For example, in 2001 Whites made up approximately 32% of (continued on page 2)

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Posted On: January 28, 2010

When is Abortion Not Abortion: South Florida Criminal Law News

Accused of the crimes of Unlawful Termination of a Pregnancy and Practicing Medicine without a License a South Florida Criminal Defendant from Miramar, Florida pled guilty to five felonies and two misdemeanors. The defendant’s 16 year old daughter gave birth on a toilet in her home to a fetus that was found in the garbage. The defendant, who was not charged with murder or homicide, worked a plea bargain with the Office of the State Attorney for Broward County and was sentenced before a Broward County Circuit Court. The felony charges called for a 26 year sentence which was reduced by the prosecutor and agreed to by the court so that the 39 year old mother could avoid a lengthy prison term.

Posted On: January 23, 2010

South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers and Bondsmen Call for Reform of Pre-Trial Release Abuses

Emptying jails by putting defendants on Pre-Trial Release (ankle monitors) has saved South Florida jails a lot of money, but has also made lots of issues come up…. Hot!
South Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys want Pre-Trial Release for indigents, but not for those who can afford to post bail money. Many doubt that more bureaucrats are the answer and want to see bondsmen return to their historical and dependable function: assuring defendants come to court.
The posting of financial bonds has always worked in South Florida. Bondsmen will hunt down and find their clients.....and they do!
The Pre-Trial Release program believes that an ankle monitor and a bureaucrat peering into a computer monitor will work better. NO says Jacksonville Bail Agents Association and Bondsmen throughout South Florida.
The issue has reached the Florida Legislature with a proposed Senate bill from Sen. John Thrasher (Republican from Jacksonville). The bill is supported by bondsmen throughout South Florida. It sets the correct balance: let indigents (those arrested who have no money) be out on ankle monitors and let those with assets post them to assure their appearance in court.
South Florida Criminal Defense lawyer Ralph Behr has announced his support of Senate Bill 8-00784B-10 believing it will go a long way to make defendants show up in court without burdening the State with the expense of having bureaucrats watch them on GPS monitors. If it aint’ broke don’t fix it: let Bondsmen do it right, better, and cheaper than Big Government!

Posted On: January 22, 2010

SENATOR VICTOR CRIST WANTS TO STOP THE STATE PROVIDING FREE LAWYERS FOR DEFENDANTS WHO LIE ON THEIR FINANCIAL AFFIDAVITS

State Senator Victor D. Crist (Republican Senator from Tampa) is doing some heavy lifting in trying to eliminate or reduce the number of Public Defender clients who should not be in the Public Defender’s office as clients. {read article in Florida Bar News} At this time of cut-backs in State funding for public services the Office of the Public Defender is under severe pressure. These pressures come from under-funding in the face of a major increase in their caseloads.
Many believe the Public Defender is accepting many “indigents” who have lied on their financial affidavits applying for “free” Public Defender attorneys.
Many criminal defense attorneys in Broward County have seen their former (private-pay) clients are now represented by the Office of the Public Defender. Since the Public Defender began in 2007 sending staff personnel into the jails to “pre-interview” arrestees their caseload has exploded.
The lack of oversight and lack of asset checks is the most likely cause and should be investigated.

Posted On: January 19, 2010

Florida Man Kills Bicyclist During a DUI

Carlos Bertonatti was arrested in the manslaughter of a bicyclist on the Richenbacker Causeway in Miami this past Sunday. Miami-Dade Police stopped Bertonatti in his silver Volkswagen as he dragged the crushed bicycle for blocks. Christopher Lecanne was the bicyclist killed in the incident. Bertonatti was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter. Bail was set at $32,000.

An arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense, and a driver can be charged with a DUI offense if his or her blood alcohol level tests at .08% or higher. The state of Florida has some of the toughest DUI laws in the United States.

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Posted On: January 15, 2010

Florida Detention Deputy Gets a DUI

Steve Sestokas, 33, received a DUI on State Road 54 in New Port Richey. Sestokas reportedly leaned over his passenger seat to retrieve a music-playing device that had fallen. As this happened, he hit a guard rail and came to a complete stop. A Pasco County deputy intercepted him and found the accident. Sestokas was incapacitated and continued to voluntarily press down on the gas pedal despite orders by the approaching deputy to cease. Eventually the deputy got Sestokas out of the car despite refusing to follow orders. Florida Highway Patrol arrived on the scene soon after to continue the investigation. Sestokas was charged with driving under the influence and resisting an officer without violence.

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Posted On: January 14, 2010

Daughter of Famous Football Player Busted for Marijuana in South Florida

Olivia Namath, 19, was arrested by Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies during a traffic stop last Sunday. Deputies smelled marijuana upon stopping the car and a bottle of rum and beer in vehicle too. Namath told police on scene she did not know anything about the drugs. Namath was arrested for possession of liquor by a person under 21 and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. She is the daughter of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath.

A first degree misdemeanor: includes a fine of up to $1000 and up to one year in prison.

A first degree felony: includes a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.

Drug trafficking: can include up to life in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

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Posted On: January 13, 2010

Florida Gator Has Warrant for Domestic Violence

Wondy Pierre-Louis, a member of the Florida Gators football team, is being sought after by police on a warrant for a domestic violence charge. The former cornerback allegedly strangled his now former girlfriend after catching her in bed with another man. "I could kill you" was exclaimed by Pierre-Louis as he choked her with his shirt off. She attempted to run away during the entire incident and finally got away long enough to call the police. Gainesville Police Department's Lt. Keith Kameg officially stated that Pierre-Louis has a warrant issued for domestic battery by strangulation, burglary, battery, false imprisonment and hindering communication to law enforcement.

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Posted On: January 12, 2010

Self Defense Statute Litigated by South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Ralph Behr

Your host and writer, South Florida Criminal Defense attorney Ralph Behr appealed an adverse ruling on self defense in Florida and made new law.
The Florida legislature created a new statute concerning when it is okay to use force to defend yourself or others. The law formerly only permitted the use of self defense when you are standing your ground in a protected area, such as your home. The new Florida criminal statute said that a claim of self defense creates immunity from prosecution unless a determination is made that the use of self defense was wrong.
The statute uses the term immunity. South Florida criminal defense attorneys understand immunity means the State cannot prosecute. Immnity is a bar, not a defense. No means no, right? Well maybe.
The appellate court did not agree with south Florida criminal defense attorney Behr and ruled that the correct procedure is to file a motion to dismiss and argue law. Attorney Behr argued that immunity means immunity, not a hearing on the facts. No said the local court of appeals and now it's off to the races?
Two differing opinions came from two courts of appeals in the State which makes this ripe for review by the Florida Supreme Court, and so it shall be. If you are charged with a crime in South Florida contact attorney Behr: he just made some new law on a very important issue: self defense.

Posted On: January 12, 2010

Daughter of US Rep Gets a DUI in Florida

D'Anne Leigh Mica, 34, was arrested by police in downtown Orlando last Friday in the wee hours for driving under the influence. Her blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit in the state of Florida. She just left a Mexican restaurant and divulged to officers that she has downed one or two cocktails. A $500 bail was put on her release from Orange County Jail.

An arrest for Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense, and a driver can be charged with a DUI offense if his or her blood alcohol level tests at .08% or higher. The state of Florida has some of the toughest DUI laws in the United States.

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Posted On: January 11, 2010

Florida Cocaine Traffickers Busted in Sarasota

Eleven individuals were arrested in a major drug trafficking investigation undertaken by the Department of Justice's Organized Crime Drug enforcement Task Forces programs. Most of the individuals were felons found to be in possession of various types of firearms, as well as crack cocaine or cocaine derivatives. A major kingpin, "Antonio Marroquin", was indicted during the operation. He was one of the biggest distributors in the Manatee area. Total seizures obtained about four kilos of cocaine, $250K in cash and nearly $1 million in property and various assets.

Under Federal law, penalties for drug crimes can be more severe than if a person were found guilty of a drug crime under state law. A person found guilty of a drug crime under Federal law can face life imprison and be required to pay a fine of up to $8 million.

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Posted On: January 11, 2010

Violation of Probation Warrants in South Florida Criminal Courts

Violation of Probation can mean prison. In South Florida criminal defendants are often given the option of an extended probation rather than incarceration. It can sound like a safe alternative to a trial and possible incarceration…but it is more often a slippery slope glide to prison. The numbers don’t lie.
If you are arrested for a criminal charge in South Florida ask your Florida criminal defense attorney if probation is easy. It definitely is not. If Probation is hard, community control is almost impossible.
Probation violations come in two types: “technical” and substantive. A violation of probation warrant is requested by the supervising probation officer, sent to a criminal judge who, if he signs it, creates the violation of probation warrant which requires your arrest and detention. In South Florida criminal courts, particularly in Broward County, the jail holds you for ten days before the judge brings you up for a first violation of probation hearing. At the first hearing you are given an opportunity to read the violation of probation warrant and you either admit or deny. If you admit then the judge can do one of three things: 1) sentence you to a jail or prison term 2) modify probation or community control to add special conditions or a jail or prison term followed by probation or more community control, or 3) just return you to probation and reinstate all conditions.

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Posted On: January 11, 2010

South Florida Criminal Conviction of "Pain Clinic" Owner

The owner of an internet site which sold prescription pills online based in Miami was convicted in Miami of selling adulterated prescription meds. The South Florida criminal charges were filed by the Attorney General of Florida against Abel Rodriguez. Criminal defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale and Miami have seen both an increase in the number of so-called “Pill Mills” and an increase in criminal charges of trafficking. This recent conviction by the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor is one of many now threading through the criminal courts of Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Several counts of conspiracy were also included in this prosecution and these alleged co-conspirators were included in the prosecution. The controlled substances involved were hydrocodone, alprazolam and phentermine: all controlled substances under Florida criminal statutes and all requiring a physician’s prescription.
South Florida criminal lawyers in Fort Lauderdale and Miami count the number of such cases in the hundreds in South Florida Criminal courts, both Federal and State. Increasingly lawful providers are feeling the heavy handed sweep of the Attorney General’s Office in arresting and seeking convictions of doctors working in clinics and private offices throughout South Florida.
Prosecutors also use trafficking statutes when arresting those who obtain prescriptions for pain killers in South Florida and Palm Beach. Those arrested are often in possession of prescriptions from physicians and can only defend themselves by presenting their prescriptions to prosecutors after they are arrested and charged.
If you have been arrested in South Florida or arrested in Fort Lauderdale for charges arising from the possession of controlled substances, contact South Florida criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr. Mr. Behr has been in practice since 1976, practices in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Palm Beach County State and federal courts.

Posted On: January 11, 2010

Trafficking in Cocaine: A Florida Criminal Attorney's View

One of the most commonly charged criminal offenses in South Florida is Trafficking in Cocaine. Of the most serious crimes charged in Fort Lauderdale criminal courts, Trafficking has become much more common. South Florida criminal lawyers practicing in Fort Lauderdale carry a heavier caseload of these cases in recent times. The charge has become more common due to the increase number of criminal arrests in Fort Lauderdale of people who enter Florida to obtain controlled substances such as pain relief medications from the increasing number of “Pain Clinics” in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.
The charge of trafficking in cocaine requires the prosecutor prove the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of and possession of the drugs, further that he had a “trafficking amount” of the controlled substance, and that there was a transaction or a sale. Possession of cocaine is charged when the amount of cocaine is a “personal use” amount: which is determined by the weight of the cocaine. Crack cocaine, although not pure cocaine is weighed and treated like cocaine for the purpose of determining the weight of the cocaine when the charge of trafficking in cocaine is filed.


Posted On: January 11, 2010

Florida Rejects Death Row Inmate's Claims

A Florida Supreme Court opinion clarified Florida criminal law as it concerns ineffective assistance of counsel in death penalty cases. The case of RANDOLF v. McNeil was ruled upon December 2009 by the Florida Supreme Court wherein the court rejected Randolph’s claims. In Florida the criminal laws concerning a criminal attorney’s level of competency standard holds that unless there is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different, the lack of investigation or other shortcomings of the criminal trial attorney would not justify a new trial. Florida follows a generally accepted analysis when a conviction is appealed and the basis of the demand for a new trial is ineffective assistance of counsel. Florida criminal defense attorneys who represent defendants in homicide cases in which the death penalty is sought must have a special license from the Florida Supreme Court that he/she is “Death Qualified”. In South Florida, specifically in Broward County there are 18 attorneys who have Board Certification in Criminal Trial Law. Attorney Ralph Behr is one of the Fort Lauderdale Criminal defense attorneys who are both Board Certified and Death Certified in death penalty cases.

Posted On: January 8, 2010

Florida Boy Gets Probation for Infant Death Case

A 12 year old child will be on a 2 year probation in conviction of the death of his 5 week old cousin. A judge in Georgia gave out the sentence in astonishment of the parents and family. Prosecutors claimed that the boy was left in a car unattented last July 4th. The boy was left with the child as the mother went away for a brief moment. Upon returning to the vehicle, the infant was found to be unresponsive. Medical examination documented head fractures and bruising on the baby likely to be caused by being slammed into a hard surface at least a few times. The boy was found to be unaware of the severity of the matter and was given a charge on two lesser counts of battery.

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