Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed an executive order in July of 2021, banning vaccine passports. A vaccine passport occurs when a business or other entity requires their patrons and customers to present proof of vaccination. Since the bill was passed in July, enforcement has been sparse, and businesses caught requiring vaccine passports faced little tangible consequence.

Recently, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature has approved and passed the law signed by Governor DeSantis earlier this year. This allows the Florida Department of Health to begin harsher enforcement of the vaccine passport ban. According to the Department of Health, any Florida business found requiring proof of vaccination from patrons, customers, or any other member of the public will face a $5,000 fine. Once the fine is issued, businesses will have a brief thirty-day period to appeal before payment is due.

Critics to this bill make three main arguments. First, they argue the law violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Pundits argue the state has no authority to restrict a business or individual’s expression. Second, they argue vaccine passports violate the very same free market principles that Governor DeSantis champions. Finally, they argue the ban goes against the greater health interests of the public.

Despite heavy criticism, Governor DeSantis argues he is making decisions based on empirical evidence, upholding individual rights principles. DeSantis stands by the notion that this to be a legitimate use of state executive power.

Florida Federal Courts Create a Contentious Legal Divide

In August 2021, a federal judge temporarily sided with Norwegian Cruise Lines, ruling that Florida’s law banning vaccine passports was unconstitutional on free speech grounds. The ruling held that the First Amendment prohibits the enactment of laws abridging freedom of speech, and that vaccine passports fell squarely into constitutionally protected waters. In response, Governor DeSantis stated he would appeal the ruling.

What Now?

Beginning September 16, 2021, the Florida Department of Health will begin enforcing the ban on vaccine passports. After that date, Florida businesses will face $5,000 in fines for requiring the public to present a vaccine passport. The law allows the Department of Health to begin collecting payments immediately, and whether the courts will find the law unconstitutional is yet to be decided.

The Federal Sentencing Alliance and Attorney Ralph S. Behr have co-authored “Prison Term Reduction Recidivism Reduction Programs and Inmate Early Release Under the First Step Act,” a book analyzing and critiquing the First Step Act. The book is the most comprehensive analysis of the First Step Act time credits system published to date. Attorneys will find this publication to be a resourceful utility when dealing with time credit disputes.

The authors analyze the numerous pitfalls of the act, ranging from individualized time credit disputes to systematic claims of undermining. Since the act’s inception in 2018, hundreds of prisoners, attorneys, and lawmakers have claimed of the shortfalls, disparities, and discrepancies apparent in the system created by the act.

For example, in 2019 Illinois State Senator Dick Durbin accused the Bureau of Prisons of undermining the First Step Act by intentionally resisting retroactive sentencing relief. According to Senator Durbin, of the 31,000 inmates who requested compassionate release during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Prisons approved a mere 36.

Numerous claims have been made regarding the ineffective nature of the First Step Act. Pundits assert the Bureau of Prisons has shortened the date spans for prisoner release, arbitrarily shortened the timing of awards, and failed to make a timely implementation of earned time credits. The result: the Department of Justice and Bureau of prisons have joined forces to arbitrarily implement policies that squander any chance of success under the First Step Act.

In their book, Attorney Ralph Behr and the Federal Sentencing Alliance examine the failures of the First Step Act. This book is the premier guide for prisoners, prisoner’s families, and prisoner’s attorneys who are facing time credit disputes.

The Authors

Attorney Behr is a board certified criminal trial attorney located in South Florida. He practices in Florida and New York state and federal courts. His practices concentrates on major white collar crimes, major felonies, drug trafficking, and tax fraud. Attorney Behr is passionate about criminal defense and prisoner’s rights.

The Federal Sentencing Alliance is a national consortium of federal sentencing mitigation experts. The Federal Sentencing Alliance is an expert team of attorneys specializing in all aspects of federal sentencing mitigation, offering full investigative services nationwide at all stages of prosecution. The Federal Sentencing Alliance has several publications relating to key provisions of the First Step Act of 2018 available at www.federalsentencingalliance.com.

The Federal Sentencing Alliance is prepared to assist attorneys in sentencing mitigation.

Ralph S. Behr

General Counsel, Federal Sentencing Alliance.

The NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH published …. “As of December 2015, approximately 30,000 fighters from at least 85 countries had joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” 

Taliban fighters are young men and women, many (possibly most) from other countries.  They come from nations that signed-on to the Treaty creating THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT.  Most “fighters”  return to the land of their birth.

Hold them accountable for their actions in THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT and the next generation of “fighters” may not show up.

The Undertaking:

FACEBOOK builds a Registry, a record, of the murders,   Let everyone in Afghanistan with a phone, a camera, or a pen, upload their victimization to the FACEBOOK REGISTRY.

THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT can, and will  prosecute individuals on the record in the REGISTRY.   Hold the men and women who do it responsible in the INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT.   When the recruiting stops  our world be a better place.

Light a candle.  Be a witness.

Had any responsible politician done this twenty years ago (the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 20 years) this would be gone. The U.S. and The Allies did this to Nazis in Nuremberg Trials after World War II.

Cryptocurrencies are best described as a high risk, high reward investments. While crypto traders may be willing to accept the risks of trading such a volatile commodity, they need to be aware of a growing threat to their wallets: crypto theft and scams. Most cryptocurrencies run without connection to government or centralized agency, creating an aura of uncertainty and intrigue for crypto enthusiasts. For investors and crypto users, this may seem an exciting prospect, but it also means your cryptocurrency account is not insured by the United States government. If assets are stolen from your crypto account, your account is compromised, or your digital wallet manager goes out of business, the United States government has no obligation to repay your losses or help retrieve your money.

Scammers and thieves have also taken note of the lawlessness surrounding cryptocurrency, taking advantage of those unprotected or unfamiliar with common scams. According the Federal Trade Commission, almost 7,000 crypto traders lost over $80 million between October 2020 and March 2021. (FTC Report – Consumer Protection: Cryptocurrency buzz drives record investment scam losses) Crypto-based crimes are on the rise. In 2016, Crypto Head, an international organization dedicated to cryptocurrency research and education reported 340 total reported crypto-related crimes in the United States, compared to the 82,000 reported in 2020. (Crypto Head – Crypto Crimes, Comprehensive Overview)

Cryptocurrency scams and thefts can manifest in a variety of ways, ranging from large scale Ponzi schemes that trick wealthy investors, to more individualized cases involving blackmail. In May 2021, the SEC charged six department heads from BitConnect, a cryptocurrency that devised a scheme to defraud billions from investors and traders. BitConnect was widely traded, with 1.5 million people holding stock in the currency. In a two week period, the founders of the currency made off with over $2.5 billion in profits, causing the coin to fall from $432 per coin to just $26. (BitConnect Scam: The $2.6 BN Ponzi Scheme)

In order to protect themselves from cryptocurrency scams, consumers should follow the age old rule: avoid offers that seem to good to be true. Companies offering generous or multiplying profits with little risk are usually scams. Also, if business or individual insists payment be made using a cryptocurrency, it’s best to steer clear. Finally, be aware of schemes that promise a “better way to earn money” through crypto, you may just find yourself at the bottom of a crypto ponzi scheme.

The recent wave of crypto-related crime has caused serious trouble for lawmakers and the SEC as they look to play catchup with clever criminals. Congress is currently considering a bill that would require the Financial Stability Oversight Council to treat cryptocurrencies as financial markets. Additionally, corporations who hold cryptos and enjoy revenues from them would need to gain bank holding classification from the Federal Reserve. This bill represents a much larger plan for governments to reign in and regulate cryptocurrencies. If you have been charged with a cryptocurrency related crime, contact an experienced and competent criminal trial lawyer with an understanding of this developing field of law.

As voters and lawmakers continue the trend of relaxing Marijuana laws across Florida, a contentious debate has evolved surrounding the drug’s fourth amendment implications. Now that some uses of marijuana are legal, the question is whether a police officer smelling marijuana coming from your vehicle is enough to justify a search of the car. For now, the consensus is yes, the odor of Marijuana is enough evidence for the cops to search your vehicle.

The issue is decidedly more complex, striking at the heart of a decades-raging fourth amendment debate over what evidence is necessary to permit a warrantless search. Each case is different and an experienced Miami criminal law attorney should be consulted if possession of marijuana charges, or possession of marijuana with intent to distribute charges are filed against you.

A Fourth Amendment Issue

Under Florida law and in line with the fourth amendment, the general rule is that an officer must have at least an objectively reasonable basis for suspecting criminal activity is afoot before conducting a warrantless search.

Until recently, all forms of Marijuana were illegal in Florida. This made for relatively easy police work and a clear fourth amendment policy: if police smell marijuana coming from your vehicle, they can search it. For decades, this stood unchallenged.

The problem arose with the legalization of hemp, CBD, and medical THC. CBD and Hemp are both derived from the same plant as illegal cannabis, and both look and smell the same as cannabis. Someone smelling marijuana would have no way of determining whether the scent was legal hemp, or illegal cannabis. When the Florida legislator legalized hemp in 2019, police could no longer rely on their sense of smell to determine whether illegal activity was taking place. In 2019 and 2020, criminal defense attorneys were poised to argue that searches stemming from the odor of marijuana should be ruled unconstitutional.

Florida Law: A Changing Tide

Following the 2019 legalization of hemp, Miami and Florida law enforcement agencies and State Attorney’s adopted an “Odor Plus” standard. Under the new standard, cops were forced to detect the odor of marijuana, plus another indicator of illegal activity to overcome the probable cause standard and search a vehicle.

Across Florida, defense attorneys began arguing that arrests stemming from the odor of marijuana should be dropped for lack of probable cause under the fourth amendment. In 2020, Florida courts were split on the issue. The Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida held in August of 2020 that marijuana odor alone cannot be the sole basis for a probable cause search. See State v. Nord, 28 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 511 (Fla. 20th Cir. Ct. Aug. 8, 2020 ). Just three months prior, the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida found differently, holding that an officer who smelled marijuana during a traffic stop had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search. State v. Ruise, 28 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 122 (Fla. 9th Cir. Ct. Mar. 20, 2020).

Can Police Search Your Car Based on the Odor of Marijuana in 2021?

While this area of law is still expanding, the answer is yes, as of March 2021, police can search your car if they smell burnt marijuana. The Second District Court of Appeals held that the recent legalization of hemp was not enough to overcome the precedent of permitting warrantless searches based on the odor of marijuana.

Each case is unique, and this area of law is continuously evolving. An experienced Miami criminal trial attorney should be consulted to spot the potential weaknesses in the case against you.

In 2018, Senator Dick Durbin championed the landmark First Step Act, by being one of its lead authors and advocates. The Act was a massive step forward in United States prison reform. Among other things, the Act granted judges more judicial discretion in the sentencing of low-level, non-violent drug offenders, while simultaneously supporting inmate societal reintegration through targeted reentry programs.

Fast forward to 2021, Senator Durbin has now drafted the First Step Implementation Act of 2021, or S. 1014, which proposes implementation enhancements to the First Step Act. The 2021 Act builds off the groundwork laid in 2018. The Implementation Act corrects interpretation errors, changes key United States code safety valve qualifiers, proposes that the First Step Act apply retroactively to those who previously received stacked minimum sentences, allows judges more discretion in weighing the seriousness of the defendant’s record, expands transparency, expands inmate standing to complain in court, and allows for more leniency in the granting of juvenile sealing and expungement.

Senator Durbin’s First Step Implementation Act of 2021 has the full support and commendation of the Federal Sentencing Alliance.

What is the Federal Sentencing Alliance?

The Federal Sentencing Alliance is a national consortium of federal sentencing mitigation experts and legal technical writers, specializing in all related federal sentencing legal writing, federal plea agreement assessments, PSIR objections, U.S.S.C. Datafiles analysis, and federal sentencing mitigation investigation. The Federal Sentencing Alliance is a team of experts handling all aspects of federal sentencing mitigation, offering full investigative services nationwide at all stages of prosecution. The Federal Sentencing Alliance has published several books in this practice area, including numerous analyses of key provisions of the First Step Act of 2018 available online or from www.federalsentencingalliance.com.

The Federal Sentencing Alliance is passionate about assisting attorneys and clients in federal sentencing mitigation, as well as advocating for legislative changes to prison reform.

Ralph S. Behr

General Counsel, Federal Sentencing Alliance

The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates Federal inmate detention facilities in the United States.  Federal detainees are kept in 127 prisons in 37 States.  The BOP operates 68 facilities that are called “satellite prison camps”, and there are some privately owned and operated detainee facilities that provide housing for Federal detainees, they number 12.  The BOP houses all those sentenced to prison upon conviction of a federal crime.  Federal detention centers house inmates based on several factors such as the serious nature of the crime, crimes involving property, those in which force or violence is an element of the crime, and other factors such as a persons’ recidivism rate, prior crimes, criminal history, age, health, location of their family and support system.   The BOP designates each facility as a Minimum, Medium, Low or High security facility. The number of inmates varies but as a working number you can consider the total detainee population as 154.000 at any time.

Keep in mind that every State has its own court system and prison system which operate independent of one another and independent of the United States Federal Court system.

The number of federal inmates (detainees) varies from day to day.  Every day federal courts convict and sentence inmates (detainees).  Every day men and women enter and leave the federal prison system run by the Bureau of Prisons.  The BOP is an agency supervised and run by the Attorney General of the United States.

The number of inmates who have died from Covid-19 and Covid-19 related causes is reported by the BOP as 240 dead as of mid-March 2020.  There are other sources that place the number much higher, as high as several thousand.   Because of the political influences pressed upon the Attorney General of the United States and the BOP there is a general consensus among federal criminal attorneys, both private and in the public sector (Federal Public Defenders) that the true extent of illnesses, deaths and related deaths on federal detainees will never be known.  Be that as it may, when men and women live in close quarters (such as a prison) and are exposed to populations that are exposed at higher levels than the general public to the Covid-19 pandemic there will, and is, a high rate of infection, disease related harm, serious illness and death.

During the early stages of the Covid-19 Pandemic several federal criminal defense attorneys undertook to force the Bureau of prisons to release inmates who were at high risk of infection and death due to the Pandemic.  Some very public persons such as President Trump’s former attorney Mr. Michael Cohen were released by filing Compassionate Release Petitions and other paths crated by the CARES Act and other laws.  Attorney Ralph Behr was one of many members of the federal criminal defense bar who successfully represented and succeeded in releasing inmates from federal detention during the pandemic.  Among the many books written and released during the pandemic Mr. Behr’s books (three) were published and widely used by other criminal defense lawyers as models for pleadings, petitions and  motions filed under the Compassionate Release program.

For more information on obtaining relief such as reassignment from a federal prison or detention center to home confinement, furlough or early termination of sentencing or federal probation contact an experience federal criminal lawyer near you.  One of many places to look for a qualified lawyer is the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in Florida the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, or any of the several national associations where you can find practitioners who can help with early release and or release from probation for those held in federal custody.

money-laundry-300x202

One of America’s most- loved and most-hated comedians and actors, Woody Allen, once said, “if you can’t do it, teach it.”  OK…to prove it is true, again, the US Attorney from New York indicted a Miami professor on money laundering. Professor Bruce Bagley, a professor of international studies, wrote books on money laundering and then lived it in Miami, and, soon likely in federal prison.

Maybe you read Professor Bruce Bagley’s book on drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime?  I know his book ‘DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZED CRIME AND VIOLENCE IN THE AMERICAS TODAY” is on my must-read list (when I need a good nights’ sleep).  The federal prosecutor’s office in New York must have read it because it’s in their press release on the indictment.

The federal criminal indictment was such a good-read that the professor pleads guilty to the federal charges before Federal Judge Rakoff.  Sentencing is next, and the sentencing guidelines have a long stay in federal prison as a future address for this recently minted money laundering defendant. You can learn more information on sentencing guidelines by clicking on the link below.

https://www.ralphbehr.net/lawyer-attorney-FE3EE6EE-4A7A-4048-8534E43FC1FC9A60.html

Professor Bagley of Coral Gables Florida (a part of Miami Florida’s district) pled and was found guilty in federal court of money laundering. Each count carries a twenty-year sentence in federal prison.  We’ll be there when the federal judge holds a sentencing hearing in New York Federal Court on October 1, 2020.

The federal criminal indictment in New York charges two counts of money laundering.  The federal charges allege that the Miami professor opened two bank accounts in Miami in the name of his consulting company and his personal account.  Then, as the indictment alleges, over two million dollars of proceeds of money from bribery crimes in Venezuela were deposited.  The deposit is the first step in money laundering.  For some information on money laundering go to:

https://www.ralphbehr.net/money-laundering-a-primer.html

The federal criminal indictment goes on to tell a great story of crime, intrigue, and money laundering…. It alleges that between November 2017 and October 2018, our money laundering professor received monthly deposits of approximately $200,000 from Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates into the bank account of his “consulting” company he had created, according to court documents.

The professor would then withdraw approximately 90 percent of the funds in the account in the form of cashier’s check, payable to an account held by another individual. According to the Miami Herald, that individual is a Colombian businessman.  Legal sources also suggest that some other nationals from Latin America with ties with President Maduro, some of whom reside in Miami, are involved directly or indirectly with this money laundry scheme.

This may suggest that others will be federally indicted here in Miami, Florida, or New York soon, perhaps in 2021?

More to come in future updates.  For now, keep tuned and watch for news from Miami federal criminal district.

 

 

IMG_6709-2-194x300UNDER 21CROWD

100 ‘most asked ‘  questions

DO I HAVE TO CARRY ID ON ME AT ALL TIMES?

No.

Should you?  Yes.

Some states require that you identify yourself to law enforcement upon demand. It is important that you be able to identify yourself sometimes to protect yourself from arrest.

If police officer has a BOLO (be-on-look-out- for…) for a person of your general physical type and description, he can lawfully detain you and possibly arrest you if you cannot provide adequate identification.

Do not confuse your personal dignity and privacy rights with practical realities of the world.

Carrying identification with you at all times can be both a sword and a shield to protect you. Do not leave home without it.

IMG_6709-2-194x300CARS AND COPS

100 ‘most asked‘  questions

CAN I GET A D.U.I. ON A BICYCLE?

Yes.

You can lose your drivers’ license if you are riding a bicycle impaired.

Although a bicycle is not a motor powered vehicle, in most states the DUI statutes provide the same punishments for operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle while impaired.

If you’re riding a bike without safety equipment, such as a working headlight to illuminate the road, you can be stopped by an officer and issued a citation.  Once you are stopped, lawfully the officer can conduct a DUI investigation if he observes any indication of impairment.

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