Ruiz case from the 4th DCA

Hamlet: “My words fly up my thoughts remain below, thoughts without words never to heaven go”. Too subtle for the 4th DCA? In a long awaited response to judges who find all cops credible and all defendants not, the 4th missed its chance to send a clear message to Judges in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and the 4th District. The court of appeals pulled a case from the trenches and said that a judge must not “be a rubber stamp” for law enforcement, but little more. File this case under “too subtle for me” because I, and most other criminal defense lawyers in South Florida, can’t see why the 4th DCA came so close to saying something then backed off. How about a do-over?

Defenses: Insanity Criminal Culpability and Competency

In South Florida, as in most states; criminal responsibility for the vast majority of crimes requires intent. A person who is under a mental disease or defect, or is incompetent to stand trial, has the defense to criminal charges of competency or insanity. In South Florida, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, very few successful insanity defenses have been litigated in South Florida criminal courts. The reason is insanity has fallen in disfavor with the legislature and most judges and juries. A South Florida criminal defense attorney can explain the trends in the charging and prosecuting of drug crimes, burglaries, robberies, and violations of probation, where the defense of incompetency or insanity has been rejected. Do not confuse insanity with competency. Insanity is the inability to form the requisite criminal intent due to mental disease or mental defect. Competency goes to an individual's current state at the time of the prosecution: if a person under arrest and facing a criminal trial in South Florida cannot effectively assist counsel, and is unaware of the function and role of the judge, a criminal defense attorney, and a jury, then the defense of incompetency to prosecution is raised by the criminal defense attorney. Incompetency merely delays the prosecution for up to two years, during that time the state has the duty to assist in the restoration of competency. For more information call or e-mail your favorite South Florida criminal defense attorney, or contact my office.

Fort Lauderdale Pre-Trial Release Program Extends Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Program to Non-Indigent Criminal Defendants

In these hard economic times it is a welcome gift for criminal defendants in Fort Lauderdale jails to be offered GPS bracelets and let out of jail without posting bail. The Pre-Trial Release Program, originally intended for indigent defendants, has broadened itself to embrace criminal defendants who have the financial resources to pay for their bond. The explosive growth of the government financed program has become the focus of a major political struggle. Supporters of expanding Pre-Trial Release are maligning Bail and Bond agents who insist they can do the job of getting criminal defendants to court for less money. Bond Agents say Pre-Trial Release should be pared back and limited to indigents only. State Senator John Thrasher (Republican from Jacksonville) has introduced a controversial bill in the Florida Senate that will curtail Pre-Trial Release. The bill would limit the program to the indigent. National Public Radio shined a national spotlight on this issue in a radio report aired in late January 2010 which did little to calm the waters. The broadcast inflamed the already heated fight by allegedly airing false statistics about the program’s success rate and cost.

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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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.

Florida Drug Cartel Man Caught and Standing Trial

Fabio Ochoa Vasco, 48, was arrested and charged with drug trafficking by US authorities in South Florida. He will be looking at 10 years to life in prison for a drug operation involving the smuggling of tons of cocaine by speedboat, cargo ship and airplane from Columbia into the U.S. Federal prosecutors and authorities are looking to cut a deal with the man for forfeiture of assets including apartments around the world owned by Vasco, a $1 million island, as well as a bunch of other assets named by Vasco. Vasco is claimed to have been involved in the drug trafficking industry and the Medellin cartel for three decades.

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I Get 'Caught' With a Little Help..From My Friends (Miami-Dade)

Alphonso Tyrone Pitts, 24, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in connection with a Florida City shooting that left one person dead and another wounded. Pitts allegedly targeted Tyrone Louis, 31, and Charlie Brown, 32, in the 1200 block of Northwest Eighth Court. Louis died immediately and Brown was airlifted to the local trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition as of last Wednesday. Pitts was riding in a car with a friend and his girlfriend when he saw the two men walking along the street. Police said he told his girlfriend, who was driving, to circle around them as he pulled out a rifle and shot them.

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South Florida Woman Mixed Poison in Baby Food

Very distressing and repugnant news out of Tamarac... a 50 year old South Florida woman, Shirley Ybarra, was arrested and charged with poisoning food or water and violation of probation. She was caught by supermarket employees after having nearly 15 minutes of uninterrupted mixing time in the baby food section of Publix. A customer finally notified an employee before that employee intervened and called the police. Her first comment was "she was mixing baby food for her son" but she doesn't have a baby son, but instead a 21 year old son who lives outside the area. In response to this, all baby food was taken off the shelves and sent to the FDA for testing. Reports say no other stores were targeted by this sick and sadistic woman.

Two charges emerged from this one case. First a violation of probation and second, a first degree felony charge of poisoning food or water. Violation of probation is a common offense among people charged and convicted of certain crimes and can be dealt with accordingly and quickly by a lawyer who you entrust with your case.

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Detective in Fort Lauderdale in Trouble With Ecstasy Connection

Fort Lauderdale police detective Jeremy Aguayo, 32, is in deep water after a connection to a convicted Ecstasy dealer and pimp is discovered. He has been suspended without pay a month ago, and is scheduled to be fired today. According to an internal affairs report, Aguayo checked on Reyes' driver's license status in March after a prostitute driving his car illegally ran through a SunPass toll; checked on warrants for Reyes' arrest days before he was arrested in August; and gave Reyes information on a bogus police sting mentioned by another detective. The two men exchanged hundreds of phone calls and spent nights out at strip clubs and nightclubs, according to Internal Affairs.

Drug charges and prostitution or sex crimes are prosecuted firmly in the state of Florida.

A person arrested for a drug crime can be charged with at least one of the following offenses:

* Possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia.
* Delivery of illegal drugs.
* Trafficking/Distribution of controlled substances.
* Manufacturing narcotics.
* Cultivation/growth of a narcotic.
* Fraudulent sale or possession of prescription drugs.
* Possession of drugs with intent to sell them.
* Illegal use of a drug.

Prostitution is defined by Florida Statute 796.07 as:

the giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire but excludes sexual activity between spouses.

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Fort Lauderdale Robbery Attempt Ends In Knife Injuries

Philip Danforth, 32, is in stable condition at Broward General Medical Center following an attempted robbery at knifepoint. He tried to escape two men approximately 30 years old at around 7:50 am last Tuesday. The robbery attempt took place in the 900 block of NE 16th Avenue in our very own backyard, Fort Lauderdale. No suspects have been apprehended, but if anyone has tips for police to follow they should call Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.

This is a horrific incident where a deadly weapon was used to gain leverage on an innocent citizen and steal their property. Knifes, guns, and other deadly weapons should be properly stored if you own them. The use of them in any robbery attempt increases penalties from minor felonies to major felonies. Armed robbery and armed battery in Florida are serious offenses and will be prosecuted usually to the fullest extent of the law in your area. Do not play around with a public defender on these sort of cases because you will get a hefty time in sentencing.

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South Florida IHOP Manager Caught in Fake Robbery Scheme

In a brazen lie to take just $3300 in cash from his own business, Phillip A. Collins, a South Florida IHOP manager, was taken into custody over charges stemming from a fake robbery report.

On the 21st of December last year, Collins went to complete the night deposit drop of his restaurant's income for the day when he decided to fake a robbery. Soon after the direct incident, police found the claimed robbers which Collins said to have him at gunpoint.

Detectives began to become speculative of Collin's story as inconsistencies were found along the investigation. Soon after, Collins confessed to making up the whole incident. North Miami detectives immediately released the formerly accused while detaining Collins under the charges of False Accusation of Armed Robbery and filing a false report as well as grand theft.

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Fort Lauderdale Hit By Armed Robberies

Fort Lauderdale is shaken up by a string of shootings and robberies committed by who police believe to be one man. The first incident occurred at a Subway on Sunrise Blvd. The individual leaped over the counter and discharged his firearm randomly while demanding the register till. The second incident took place at the Sea Beach Plaza Hotel. A black male entered and gained the cash from the counter as he pointed a gun at him forcing the clerk to comply. Police are still looking for the suspect and can use any help the community can supply.

He is described as a man in his mid 20s, 5' 8" and around 135 pounds with a scar on his right side of face. He was seen driving a '96 Nissan Maxima with dark tint. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Donald Gauntner at 954-828-5527 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.

Robbery and burglary are felonies. Florida Statute defines robbery as:

the taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.
Being armed only adds more to the final sentence and results in:
a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life imprisonment or as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Thats a first degree felony!!

If you have committed any form of burglary or robbery and only want to be defended by the best, Attorney Ralph Behr is here to serve you. He will be with you in court through all precedings and trial meanwhile making sure you get the lowest sentencing possible. You can't do it alone; you need a lawyer that knows how to get your case heard.

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Vegas Fugitive Finds His Way Back Home to Florida


Ryan Michael Cataneo, 40, was taken into custody without incident by U.S. Marshals this month at the Wild Wild West casino-hotel several blocks off the Las Vegas Strip. He was a fugitive in the murder of his wife in Florida.

Assistant Chief Deputy Marshal Javier Jimenez says Cataneo was wanted on a warrant issued in Pinellas County of Florida in the November murder of Deana Cataneo, 39. He was pending an extradition hearing in the state court system out of Clark County.

It was not immediately known if Cataneo had a lawyer.

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South Florida Car Theft in The News

Jamie M. Stringfield, 22, faces felony charges of grand theft auto out of Collier County. Officers say she stole a doctor’s car from a North Naples hospital parking garage while he was tending to a sick child. The keys were left on the counter and she simply took them.

Deputies arrested Stringfield after video surveillance footage showed her entering and stealing the Infinity, which was parked in the hospital parking garage, reports said. One of Stringfield's family members told deputies that Stringfield had accompanied her to the hospital Tuesday, reports said.

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Fort Lauderdale Vandalism Stirs Up Local Community


Residents of a quiet community in the area were disturbed by graffiti found on the white wall separating Shady Banks from Davie Road and I-95. ''It's a big surprise,'' said Paul DaCosta, 56, who has lived on the street for the past 36 years. ``What was written is really offensive.''

Swastikas and various slurs against police were found painted in bright orange. Phrases like "No police state" and "Cops kill" were found scattered on the wall in this small dead-end road. ''I can't imagine it being a real hate crime,'' said Blake Plyler, 25, who moved into the neighborhood last May. Plyler did find the messages "troubling" but hasn't seen gang activity in the area since he moved in.

Neighbors in the community said they have never seen something like this before and equated it to a threat on the homeowners. ''That's what got everybody up in arms,'' said Flak, 42, who called police after seeing the orange scribbling when retrieving something from his car.

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The FBI announced that violent crime dipped nationwide in calendar year 2007.

Robbery, murder, armed drug trafficking, manslaughter remain among the most “popular” crimes for prosecutors in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.

The report states that two years of increases in murders, robberies and other kinds violent crimes in U.S. cities decreased by 0.7% from 2006.
Burglaries and armed home invasions, carjacking car thefts, arsons and property crimes decreased 1.4%.

If you or a family member has been arrested, you need representation. Contact a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney for a free consultation.



Fort Lauderdale Florida news broadcasters are howling for justice.

A narcotics undercover officer from Coral Springs left his canine police officer dog partner in a hot car and the dog died.

It's now a hot topic: do we arrest and convict the human cop who is responsible for the death of a canine cop?

Do the authorities let him cop a plea?

Should he be sent to prison for canine murder? Is this a homicide? A dogicide? Is it the same as causing of death of a human police officer? Will it be swept under the proverbial rug?

Stay tuned. Your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr is watching this case closely.

If you are reader, look up Florida statute 849.19, it makes it a third-degree felony to injure or cause the death of a canine police officer through negligence or criminal intent.



The US Department of Justice announced it is awarding $19,000,000.00 to States that focus or arresting drunk drivers.

Fort Lauderdale prosecutors are very aggressive in arresting and criminally charging drivers who are stopped for a DUI investigation.

The money will be spent in South Florida to support compliance checks and enforcement of under-age drinking laws.

If you are arrested in South Florida for a DUI contact a local criminal defense lawyer for advice and assistance. Your best defense is knowledge of the law, so get informed now!



Fort Lauderdale is the county seat, so you will find the Circuit Court in downtown Fort Lauderdale. There are two courtrooms which handle only domestic violence crimes: a misdemeanor courtroom with Judge Gonzales, and a felony courtroom presided over by Judge Cohen.

If you are arrested in Fort Lauderdale for any battery crime on a domestic partner, spouse, or roommate you will most likely find yourself in one of those two courtrooms.

Bail (bond) is the first issue. Bail is posting money to assure you will appear at all court-set hearings. The Domestic Violence courts in Fort Lauderdale usually require a high bond, and sometimes will not allow bond at all.

Speak with a Miami or Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer for more information on how domestic violence matters are handled in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach and South Florida.


Florida and Georgia unite to fight crime.

A joint effort between law enforcement officials in Georgia and Florida to collect and share criminal intelligence will bring criminals to justice. Criminal intelligence…? Oxymoron, dumb oxen, or just police-talk?

With this news criminal defense lawyers throughout Florida now know the task force is functioning and its focus.

Law enforcement agencies in Florida and South Georgia announced they will share leads on unsolved crimes.

Focusing on murder, drug trafficking, theft and sex crimes this joint effort to cobble together criminal intelligence is a new attack on crime.

Major cases from Fort Lauderdale north to the Georgia state line are targeted for joint state efforts to find the criminals and bring them to trial. Stay tuned for more news!

Criminal Law Judges in the News

South Florida, Miami and Fort Lauderdale have more judges on TV than any other State. Why? Miami and Fort Lauderdale have more colorful judges hearing more criminal trials then the TV moguls can shake a TV ad rate card at high rolling sponsors.
Among our now famous South Florida crime stoppers are: David Young,Cristina Penya, Judge Alex Ferrar, Judge Karen Mills. Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyers are awating news from our former Judge who sent one of the Seminole Indians most famous hotel guests into the Broward coroner's freezer.