Restorative justice is the process of repairing harm resulting from a crime: holding offenders accountable, while allowing them to correct their wrongdoings. In general, restorative justice programs have had a positive impact on both criminals and victims. Criminals, for example, may be given reduced incarceration time in exchange for committing a victim-focused restitution. Studies suggest criminals who participate in restorative justice programs are less likely to commit future crimes. Inversely, traditional incarceration tactics fail to address any harm done to victims, instead focusing solely on punishing those who perpetrated the crime against them. Thus, restorative justice benefits victims by attempting to mend or repair damages inflicted upon them.

Types of restorative justice programs across the United States vary widely and are found across many different settings. The practices in one state may look vastly different than practices in another.

Colorado: A Benchmark for Restorative Justice Success

Colorado has developed and implemented the most comprehensive state restorative justice regime. Colorado’s Restorative Justice Council is made up of 19 state-appointed representatives who provide guidance and technical assistance to the state’s ground level restorative justice programs.

The Colorado Department of Corrections offers criminals and victims the opportunity to participate in a variety of restorative justice programs, including: a victim-initiated dialogue between the victim and the offender, a letter bank that allows offenders to submit apology letters to victims, while simultaneously allowing victims to decide whether to read the letters, and a 12-week long Restorative Justice Education Group where victims and inmates collaborate with facilitators through a restorative justice curriculum. In Colorado, programs are usually offered to inmates who have been in prison for at least one year without any disciplinary action.

Colorado has the most comprehensive statutory framework for restorative justice in the United States, as well as the most comprehensive completion standards. These factors and more have led Colorado to become the pioneers of United States restorative justice programs.

Florida’s Developing Approach to Restorative Justice

Florida law does not provide a comprehensive framework for restorative justice practices. Under statutory law, there are few provisions relating to restorative justice practices, and even fewer providing uniform guidelines. In the criminal justice field, there are some programs and organizations charged with promoting restorative justice practices. For juveniles, some programs exist at the local, county, and residential level of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). For adults, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) have no restorative justice regime, instead relying on pilot programs and informal practices to promote restorative justice practices.

For Florida, there exists significant barriers to crafting a successful restorative justice program, including: a lack of guidelines, no contact orders limiting contact between victims and offenders, logistical issues connecting victims to offenders when they are located far apart, funding, and staffing.

As it stands, Florida lawmakers face significant implementation barriers; however, they should take solace in the fact that other states have faced similar barriers and managed to overcome them. Florida should use the successful roadmap of other states, such as Colorado, to their advantage while crafting a restorative justice strategy.

Florida: Following Colorado’s Lead

While Florida faces significant barriers in the future, other states have utilized strategies that represent solutions for the state. Lawmakers and administrative officials from Florida have discussed the necessity for a formal, concrete, and uniform restorative justice program throughout the state. Colorado, for example, has already addressed this issue by creating statewide guidelines, either through statutory or administrative rules.

Floridian administrators also expressed their concern that no-contact orders would stand in the way of restorative justice programs. Colorado lawmakers have addressed this issue by requiring any criminal protection order or civil no contact order to be modified or lifted for the purpose of offender-victim dialogue, before the offender and victim are permitted to meet face to face.

Funding always poses a threat to the implementation of restorative justice programs. Some states have reported using the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding to bankroll their restorative justice programs. VOCA funding is generally available for two purposes: (1) for victims of crimes facing crime-related expenses, and (2) for states to make awards to the criminal justice system. Restorative justice falls under this category, meaning states are eligible for restorative justice funding by the federal government.

In sum, Florida’s current restorative justice program faces significant barriers to entry; however, the successes of other states create a roadmap for Florida lawmakers. Colorado has developed a significant body of statutory and administrative rules, procedures, and guidelines, representing an effective restorative justice regime.

Consumer interest in cryptocurrency spiked in 2021, with $100’s of billions in total sales taking place. To compensate for this spike in interest, cryptocurrency trading networks and platforms have grown in popularity, allowing consumers to easily buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

Unfortunately, this rapid growth in the cryptocurrency industry has led to vulnerabilities in the platforms. Hackers have taken notice of these vulnerabilities and started taking advantage by launching increasingly sophisticated attacks. As a result, over $1 billion dollars was compromised or stolen from cryptocurrency trading platforms in 2021.

Biggest Cryptocurrency Hacks of 2021

Poly Network – $611 million

In August, the popular crypto platform Poly Network was hacked, resulting in the largest cryptocurrency exploit of all time.

Over $600 million in assets were stolen from the blockchain platform, including: $264 million worth of assets from Ethereum wallets, $250 million from Binance Smart Chain wallets, and $85 million from Polygon.

The fallout from this cryptocurrency heist proved to be an example of comradery throughout the crypto industry. After the hack, crypto users and platforms partnered together to ensure the stolen funds could not be used or laundered by the hackers. Shortly after, the hackers willingly returned over $260 million in stolen funders after being pressured by security firms.

Poly Network later offered the hacker a role as Chief Securities Adviser, before he returned the entirety of his stolen bounty.

BitMart – $196 million

In December, BitMart was hacked, resulting in significant losses from the platform’s Ethereum and BSC wallets.

This hack resulted in losses mostly in memecoins, utilized for their high-risk, high-reward investment opportunities.

BitMart CEO Sheldon Xia confirmed that this security breach took place, but little is known about who performed the heist or what caused the exploit.

Cream Finance – $148 million

Popular DeFi platform Cream Finance was hacked twice in 2021. In August, hackers managed to exploit $18 million from the company, before a significantly larger sum of $130 million was stolen in October.

The August hack was a result of smart contract issues, while the second hacker took advantage of “flash loans,” allowing him to lend and borrow funds across multiple wallets, without issuing collateral. The hacker managed to get away with more than 2,760 Ethereum and 76 Bitcoin.

Vulcan Forged – $140 million

Vulcan Forged is a mobile game in which users play the game to earn NFT. In December, the game had $140 million worth of PYR tokens stolen from user’s wallets.

The hack resulted in the private keys of 96 addresses being compromised, allowing the hacker to drain the entirety of some user’s wallets.

While the hacker was never caught, the Vulcan Forged team reimbursed all exploited users.

Badger Finance – $120 million

In December, BadgerDAO was exploited, seeing more than $120 million in Ethereum and Bitcoin stolen from the platform and its users.

Hackers too advantage of vulnerabilities in the smart contract system, allowing them to send user funds directly into their own wallet.

Cryptocurrency Arrests

As governments look to crack down on this type of activity, individuals both innocent and guilty will be arrested for cryptocurrency – related offenses. If you were arrested, or are being investigated for a crypto-related crime in Miami or South Florida, contact a criminal defense attorney with experience handling complicated cryptocurrency matters.

The international community, including global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are growing increasingly concerned with cryptocurrencies. In sum, the prevalence and fast-growing nature of cryptocurrencies has created significant concern because governments and international actors across the globe have failed to regulate the industry.

According to the IMF, the total market value of all cryptos surpassed $2 trillion in September 2021. This means the total market value multiplied by ten in just one year.

In particular, the IMF is concerned that the assets “lack strong operational, governance, and risk practices,” because there is no regulatory structure in place to create a foundation of consumer protection. As such, the IMF asserts that consumers are at significant risk if they choose to trade cryptos. Further, they claim that cryptocurrencies create “data gaps,” which “can open unwanted doors for money laundering, as well as terrorist financing.”

Challenges Ahead

Moving forward, the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies will inevitably decrease the ability of central banks to effectively implement monetary policies, vital for the protection of a healthy economy.

The first step for international governments and regulators will be to monitor developments more accurately in the crypto ecosystem. This will require those in charge to tackle data gaps swiftly, accurately, and effectively.

Future regulations of the most stable cryptocurrencies should be proportionate to the threat which they pose on national and international economies. Rules, for example, should more closely align with industries that provide similar products, such as banks and monetary funds.

On an international scale, policymakers should be concerned with promoting transparency in cross-border transactions, while still allowing them to be fast, reliable, and cheap.

Miami and South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

As global governments, including the United States begin to crackdown on cryptocurrency crimes, individuals in Miami and South Florida may find themselves facing serious charges. Cryptocurrency crimes vary, but could lead to serious charges, resulting in severe criminal and civil penalties. Due to the complexity of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency related crimes, it is important to have an attorney on your side with experience in crypto related charges. Contact Miami criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr for a free consultation.

Two Florida residents were arrested in Ohio for defrauding banks and the United States Federal Government in a nationwide fraud scheme. On December 14, they pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges. The criminal partnership fraudulently requested, and successfully obtained over $35 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

James R. Stote from Hollywood, Florida and Phillip J. Augustin from Coral Springs, Florida obtained PPP loans for Augustin’s company, Clear Vision Music Group LLC. The pair falsified loan documents to convince administrators to extend lines of credit to them. The applications contained fake payroll information, IRS forms, and bank statements.

PPP loans were intended to support and aid businesses in keeping their doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic. These defendants, and others involved in this type of conspiracy, have taken advantage of a makeshift, vulnerable administrative system for their own profit. The defendants stole millions of taxpayer dollars intended to support struggling businesses, and instead spent it on themselves.

This case is just one in a slew of similar cases, cementing the Justice Department’s intent to crack down on theft of government funds. Cracking down on PPP loan theft remains an ongoing priority for the Justice Department.

Loan Fraud: Charges

In this case, the defendants each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Although they have not yet been sentenced, they each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, coupled with severe financial penalties.

Individuals facing charges of wire fraud, fraud, or a related charge face serious jailtime and criminal punishment. The federal judiciary has been particularly harsh in the prosecution and punishment of individuals charged with defrauding government entities.

For more information relating to your criminal fraud charges, contact Miami criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr at 800-761-3446 for a free consultation.

Each day in the United States, police conduct over 50,000 traffic stops. This adds up to more than 20 million vehicles being pulled over each year. In general, civilians are safe during traffic stops, however, traffic stops can quickly turn from an uneventful and insignificant annoyance to a more serious threat on your life.

In the past five years, police have killed over 400 people while conducting traffic stops, who were not suspected of a serious crime or in possession of a weapon. In 2020, the majority of traffic stop fatalities resulted from stops where police were investigating non-violent crimes.

The issue for police is one of uncertainty. When a police officer approaches a suspect’s vehicle, they are unsure of the situation they are walking into, often leading to increased tension and anxiousness amongst officers. Police are trained to observe and react to sudden movements and shoot when the suspect is in possession of a gun.

In the same vein, traffic stops represent a stressful event for motorists as well. Drivers stopped by police may be stressed or anxious, particularly if they are guilty of a crime. Unfortunately, when stressed out drivers are paired with uncertain police officers, tensions can quickly rise, leading to a potentially dangerous dynamic.

What can you do to ensure a safe traffic stop?

While the ideal solution would be for government and police agencies to enact policy that leads to safer traffic stops, such as the implementation of machine-based-technologies to monitor minor traffic violations. In the meantime, civilians can take steps to increase the chances of a safe and uneventful traffic stop.

First, drivers should slowly pull over to a safe location, keeping their hands on the steering wheel as the officer approaches. Do not exit the car. Second, drivers should follow the requests of the officer. If the driver suspects their rights may be infringed by the officer’s request, the driver will have the opportunity to present their side in court. Third, avoid arguing with the officer regarding the legitimacy of the ticket, arguments should instead be made in a court of law.

Making Arguments in Court

If you believe that you were unlawfully pulled over, or that the police officer conducted themselves in an unreasonable manner during the traffic stop, and the stop resulted in a criminal charge, contact Miami criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr at 800-761-3446 for a free consultation.

In November 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill containing provisions that restructure parts of the tax code for brokerage firms. If past indicators continue, the United States government would stand to yield $2.8 billion a year from taxed cryptocurrency transactions.

In an industry circulating over a trillion dollars at any given time, the U.S.’s taxes represent a proportionally very small amount of money. In writing this new infrastructure bill, lawmakers have missed the mark.

The crypto tax elements of the law are vague and ambiguous, but tend to be very narrow in focus, leaving out key elements of crypto trading. The infrastructure bill requires brokerage firms to keep track of certain transactions, and to pay taxes on certain profits. But what classifies as a “brokerage” is uncertain. Cryptocurrency traders, for example, can buy and sell their cryptos through the utilization of smart contracts, which do not require a broker. Moreover, cryptocurrency miners on their face would appear to share many of the same functions as a brokerage firm, but do not receive this classification under the new bill.

Essentially, this new bill applies blanket finance provisions to a cryptocurrency industry that is unlike anything lawmakers have seen before. Crypto law needs to be specially crafted to meet the demands of the industry.

Often, cryptocurrency transactions can be relatively simple to tax, or more complicated. For example, if a crypto trader exchanges a U.S. Dollar for Bitcoin, the transaction is simple and straightforward to tax. On the other hand, if a crypto user transfers their Bitcoin into a smart contract to hold an NFT, things get complicated. The current drafting of the Infrastructure Bill would require individuals dealing in complex cryptocurrency transactions to pay taxes as if they were a corporation, severely and unnecessarily complicating things. The minimum bracket to pay taxes as a brokerage is $10,000, like other financial regulations, but that threshold is low to deal with such complicated tax issues.

Complicating cryptocurrency tax transactions represents an issue for the IRS. The IRS will have to tie users to their transactions, something notoriously difficult for individuals trading outside of mainstream platforms.

Going forward, U.S. lawmakers should tread carefully before hastily implementing laws that could unnecessarily stifle a growing portion of the economy. The current drafting of the infrastructure bill risks hurting trading platforms and keeping the average American from trading cryptocurrency all together.

Worth mentioning, tax laws in the past have generally been problematic at the time of their inception, gaining clarity over time. As lawmakers gain a better understanding of digital currencies like Bitcoin, tax laws will inevitably become clearer. As cryptocurrency continues to grow in popularity, lawmakers will be forced to adopt more creative methods to regulate the industry.

Cryptocurrency Attorney

For more information regarding cryptocurrency law and crimes related to digital assets, contact Miami criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr.

President Joe Biden has released a 93 second video, outlining ten steps in his plan to reform the United States justice system. The plan claims to focus on brining equality, equity, and justice to the American incarceration system. President Biden’s ten step plan is an assertion of his commitment to altruistic principles, but it is little more than that. The plan falls short according to key-metrics. To briefly summarize President Biden’s ten steps:

(1) Passage of the Safe Justice Act (H.R. 4261);

(2) Discontinuing of minimum mandatory sentences;

(3) Ending the private prison system;

(4) Increasing drug court funding;

(5) Significant bail reform;

(6) Not allowing juveniles to spend time in adult prisons;

(7) Mandatory drug-treatment instead of jail for drug addicts;

(8) Decriminalizing marijuana offenses and expunging records of related offenses;

(9) Vocational training programs for prisoners; and

(10) No drug addicts go to jail.

Certainly a commendable list of aspirations, but which of these steps is likely to materialize into reality? For this to occur, a step will need either bipartisan support, or funding must be already available. Below, a short analysis of the likelihood of implementation for each step.

(1) The Safe Justice Act is unlikely to be passed at all. It was immediately killed by the House in 2017, and likely replaced by the First Step Act of 2018. President Biden including this as a step makes little practical sense. Instead, President Biden should focus his efforts towards implementing other important acts, such as the First Step Implementation Act of 2021.

(2) To discontinue minimum mandatory sentences, Congress would need to amend hundreds of United States Criminal Code provisions. This would require bipartisan support for an issue that has historically proven controversial. This is unlikely to gain enough support to even be drafted. The more likely and admirable implementation would be to allow judicial discretion in sentencing below the minimum mandatory sentence.

(3) In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order attempting to end private prisons. The order calls for the Attorney General to end private prison contracts when they expire, a date which is unknown. The order is also subject to appropriations, meaning another operation must be in place before private prisons can be defunded. While this is an admirable first step, it is unlikely to have significant effect.

(4) Increased drug court funding is practical and likely in the short term. If the funds are not currently available, this proposition is likely to achieve bipartisan support.

(5) President Biden does not have control over state bail systems and cannot force State to change their policies. He can push for reform to federal bail systems, but this is unlikely to gain bipartisan Congressional support. This is likely nothing more than a talking point.

(6) Keeping juveniles out of adult prisons is likely an achievable goal. It would likely require more funding to the juvenile prison system, along with the construction of more facilities. If this funding is not currently available, this step could gain bipartisan support.

            (7) Mandating drug treatment instead of incarceration for drug addicts would require significant legislation, planning, and funding. This is certainly a possibility, but the legislation would require bipartisan support. This would likely take years before being put into effect.

(8) The general rule is that criminal convictions cannot be expunged, let alone through national legislation. President Biden mass-expunging criminal marijuana convictions would be groundbreaking, making it unlikely to transpire. Moreover, decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level would create a slew of new issues, making the issue unlikely to gain bipartisan support.

            (9) The Bureau of Prisons is not a vocational school or technical program. For prisoners to receive training while in prison, the BoP would need to hire private vendors. This would be a significant undertaking. While training is provided to some prisoners at certain prisons, all facilities cannot reasonably offer this.

            (10) No addicts in jail would require significant legislation and bipartisan support, likely taking years to enter into effect.


President Joe Biden’s criminal justice reform plan is an admirable statement for its altruistic purposes, but many provisions are unlikely to transpire. The constraints, including: lack of time, legal issues, and lack of bipartisan support, represent a significant barrier to implementation.

The Bureau of Prisons (BoP) has been evading the implementation of the First Step Act of 2018 through false justifications, false narratives, and semantics. Core provisions of the First Step Act, including time credit incentives have not been implemented according to the plain language of the First Step Act, a clear violation of Congressional intent.

How are they Doing This?

Numerous provisions of the First Step Act were drafted vaguely, and some key words are undefined. Some of these terms were susceptible to either conservative or liberal constructions. The BoP was quick to recognize this fact, and the BoP chose the most conservative approach possible. For example, the definition they chose for productive activity incentive programming and recidivism reduction have completely changed the meaning of the act, resulting in little effect for inmate time-credit incentivization. To make matters worse, any provision in the First Step Act that is vaguely written has been completely diluted by the BoP, resulting in little practical result for key provisions of the Act.

Vaguely drafted provisions have effectively been muted by the BoP, through their subsequent administrative rulemakings, promulgated to define the undefined terms in the First Step Act. The BoP’s reading of the First Step Act’s provisions have been preposterous, completely ignoring Congress’s intent and the plain meaning of the words. Now, the Court must step in to correct the false narratives utilized in the application of the First Step Act.

Failed Court Decisions

District Courts have failed to consider and squash the false narratives pushed by the BoP. There has been a widespread failure amongst District Courts to consider the Congressional intent of the First Step Act, instead buying into the semantics pushed by the BoP. Many District Court opinions fail to utilize any legal analysis, instead arguing in circles before giving the benefit of the doubt to the BoP’s arguments.

Why is this Happening?

The First Step Act time credit provisions, if read according to the plain meaning with regard for Congressional intent, would result in tens of thousands of time credit provisions being filed across the United States. This would result in the early release of thousands of prisoners. The BoP seems to have promulgated their administrative rules to keep this from happening. Those in power at the BoP disagree with the First Step Act politically and are attempting to keep the Act from being implemented as a result.

District Courts on the other hand generally try to avoid embracing these types of issues head on. Traditionally, when these courts have been faced with such a substantial change, they stick with the status quo, likely for fear of being overturned by a higher court. For the First Step Act, this presents a substantial problem: by the time the Act is embraced and implemented, tens of thousands of prisoners are harmed by the delay.

More Information

For more information regarding federal sentencing reform, including that relating to the First Step Act, see the premier First Step Act – Time Credit Programs book authored by the Federal Sentencing Alliance and criminal defense attorney Ralph S. Behr.

Wyoming is best known for its successful fossil fuel industries such as coal, oil, and gas. But the cowboy state has been looking to diversify its portfolio by welcoming businesses dealing in digital assets. In 2019, Wyoming state lawmakers created a special charter designed to attract cryptocurrency platforms.

The charter allows banks to facilitate cryptocurrency trading by its customers. For customers, this means seamlessly converting your Bitcoin to cash, without the traditional middleman. This will result in lower transaction costs for users, one of the largest costs associated with cryptocurrency trading. For banks, this means having the ability to hold bitcoin “keys” for bitcoin owners. Moreover, Wyoming laws enacted in 2018 and 2019 cemented the treatment of digital assets in commercial law, setting businesses up to create “smart contracts” under safe conditions. This law also allows cryptocurrency institutions to establish as “special-purpose depository institutions,” allowing them to handle, process, and store dollars and digital currencies throughout the United States.

Lawmakers also made it easier for out-of-state investors to create Wyoming limited liability corporations to invest cryptocurrencies thorough. This allows investors to take advantage of favorable Wyoming laws, without being present in the state.

Wyoming law in this field has been developing at a rapid pace compared to similarly situated states and federal lawmakers. Wyoming legislators have faced backlash from federal agencies, that have been forced to reconsider their own crypto-related laws because of Wyoming’s new legislative regime. The backlash largely stems from a 1978 Supreme Court case, Marquette National Bank v. First of Omaha, where the Court held that banks only need to follow interest rate caps of the state they are chartered within. Put simply, this means that Wyoming’s low interest rate cap effects the other 49 states.


Wyoming’s push to become the cryptocurrency capital of the United States seems to have paid off in some regards. Two major cryptocurrency companies have partially began operating out of the state: Ripple, with a valuation of over $10 billion, and Kraken, with a valuation of $4 billion. Whether these benefits will trickle down to Wyoming state citizens is another story. Because these crypto companies are largely untaxed, the strategy may take years to payoff.

Wyoming’s strategy has been to undercut competing states by offering tax cuts and unrestrictive regulation. This is not a new strategy, South Dakota utilized the same strategy in the 1980’s to incentivize credit card companies to move to the state. Delaware has long welcomed corporations to the state by cutting corporate tax rates.

More Information

For more information relating to cryptocurrency law, including crypto-related crimes, contact Miami criminal defense Ralph Behr.

In October 2021, the United States Department of Justice created a specialized task force to investigate crimes related to cryptocurrency. The task force, known as the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) will handle all crimes committed using virtual currency exchanges, mixing services, and laundering services. This team is the next step in the United States battle against digital criminals utilizing unregulated digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

Cryptocurrencies are implicated in a wide variety of criminal activities, such as electricity theft during the mining phase, tax evasion, fraud and theft, money laundering, the sale of illegal goods, and more. Last month, the treasury department issued sanctions against a cryptocurrency exchange for the first time, after the exchange failed to meet minimum standards against ransomware attacks.

The DoJ states the NCET will be made up of blockchain and cryptocurrency experts charged with aiding the Justice Department in investigating and charging digital criminals. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco stated NCET would build upon “the Department’s cyber and money laundering expertise to strengthen our capacity to dismantle the financial entities that enable criminal actors to flourish, and quite frankly to profit, from abusing cryptocurrency platforms.”

What does this Change?

The NCET was created to “assist in tracing and recovering assets lost to fraud and extortion, including cryptocurrency payments to ransomware groups,” and to investigate and pursue its own cases involving crypto-related criminal activity. This gives the task force broad jurisdiction to investigate many cases. However, cases of this type have been notoriously difficult for the Department of Justice to prosecute, and it is unclear what techniques the NCET will utilize to increase convictions. Users should expect an uptick in crypto-related prosecutions while NCET establishes itself.

During its early days, cryptocurrencies were largely unregulated and unsupervised by the U.S. government. The induction of the NCET likely signifies the end of cryptocurrency’s “wild west” era. This means that those active in the cryptocurrency industry will need to ensure their services meet relevant trading standards and practices. Cryptocurrency firms should be ready to respond to NCET demands for information.

Contact Information