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Clearwater Criminal Defense Blog

Recent SCOTUS decision broadens privacy rights

A landmark decision that may have a huge impact on people in Florida was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 22. The decision will greatly expand the privacy protections that people enjoy under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear an appeal of a conviction by a man whose charges largely rested on location information from his cell phone carrier. Cell phone companies gather location information for business reasons. Under the third-party exception to warrant requirements, law enforcement officers have been able to gain access to this information without warrants.

Underage DUI charges may be filed for low alcohol concentrations

Some minors who are under the age of 21 in Florida may be surprised that they can be charged with a DUI when they have very little alcohol in their systems. Like all of the other states, Florida has a zero-tolerance law in place that establishes a much lower blood alcohol concentration limit for minors than for older drivers.

Drivers who are ages 21 or older are able to drive as long as their blood alcohol concentrations are below 0.08 percent. For drivers who are younger than age 21, federal law has mandated that states establish limits of 0.02 percent or lower.

Former NFL player accused on drug charges

A Florida man was arrested on June 25 and accused of possessing crack cocaine. Alvin McCants, 50, formerly a defensive end for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was pulled over in his car as he drove near St. Petersburg in the early morning hours. Once pulled over, he was accused of possession of crack, a felony charge, as well as driving with a revoked or suspended license.

McCants was released from custody after posting bond. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and will return to court on July 10 for trial. McCants' early life was characterized by a promising athletic career, but his post-retirement life has been more troubled. As a young man, McCants was an All-American college athlete at the University of Alabama. After graduation, he was drafted into the NFL in 1990. He played three seasons with the Buccaneers and two seasons with the Oilers and Cardinals. Injuries due to sacks brought his career in professional football to an end in 1995.

Florida man allegedly asked police to test illegal drugs

Police officers in Florida and around the country often hear strange questions from members of the public. However, the request allegedly made by a 49-year-old Hawthorne resident to deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office on June 12 was unusual even by law enforcement standards. According to a PCSO social media post, the man told deputies that he wanted to press charges against the drug dealer he believed had sold him fake methamphetamine.

The deputies say that they responded to the strange telephone request by asking the man to bring the suspicious methamphetamine in for testing. The man is said to have told deputies that he came to the conclusion that he had been duped after reacting badly to drugs that he had purchased a week earlier. According to reports, the man then drove to a PCSO facility and handed a plastic bag containing a clear crystalline substance to deputies.

Eyewitness identifications may not always be accurate

Evidence against some people in Florida facing criminal charges might be based on eyewitness identification, but this is not always reliable. In one case in California, a man spent eight years in prison on a rape conviction and was released after being exonerated on DNA evidence.

The man was convicted after being identified by the victim and a witness. When the victim first identified the man in a photo lineup, she said she was 70 percent certain of his identity. By the time of the trial, she said she was 100 percent certain. However, the co-director of the California Innocence Project said this is not unusual. He said that eyewitnesses often identify the person in a photo lineup who most resembles the one who committed the crime. That person is then identified a second time in a police lineup. These multiple identifications solidify the idea of this person as the perpetrator, and by the time the trial occurs, the witness is fully confident.

How will a conviction for DUI affect your future?

You may think that getting behind the wheel of a car is no big thing after enjoying a beer or two or a couple of glasses of wine. You have done it more times than you can count.

However, it only takes one conviction for driving under the influence to seriously complicate the plans you have for your future.

2 arrested for meth possession in Florida

On May 26, a Florida woman was arrested for alleged possession of crystal meth. Ironically, her first name is Crystal, and her last name is spelled similarly to the drug.

According to St. Augustine authorities, police were dispatched to a one-story office complex on Dixie Highway in response to a report of an unlicensed driver. Once on the scene, officers observed the defendant, age 40, a male friend, age 41, and a third individual sitting in a vehicle. They asked the trio for consent to search the vehicle, and it was granted.

Narcotics operation leaves 5 facing drug-related charges

Florida deputies arrested five people following a drug bust in Hendry County on May 22. According to authorities, sheriff's deputies discovered illegal drugs, drug money and firearms inside a Labelle home on Bridle Way during the operation. The deputies also found narcotics in three vehicles that were parked in the yard when the operation took place. One of the handguns recovered by law enforcement officials has been confirmed stolen out of Palm Bay.

Reports indicate that two handguns, four rifles, $3,500 in drug money, nine Xanax pills, 281 grams of marijuana and 7 grams of cocaine were found on the property. The cocaine is valued at $375. A 26-year-old man, a 25-year-old woman, a 19-year-old man and two 18-year-old men are each facing charges of possession of drug equipment and intent to sell marijuana and cocaine as well as other possible drug-related charges.

Study looks at frequency of wrongful convictions

Some people in Florida who have been convicted of a crime might be innocent. In around 3 to 5 percent of cases involving capital crimes, such as rape and murder, people are exonerated when new DNA evidence is discovered. However, several researchers wondered what the percentage was for other types of crimes ranging from drug possession to aggravated assault and armed robbery.

Their study, published in April in The Journal of Quantitative Criminology, surveyed almost 3,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania and found that 6 percent claimed they had been wrongly convicted. According to researchers, this is viewed as an upper limit. In other words, any error is likely to be in the direction of over- rather than underestimating the number of people wrongly convicted.

Underage DUI comes with higher consequences in Florida

Alcohol and youth seem to go hand in hand in Florida, whether at a beach, home or college party. As part of our culture this may be, it is important to follow Florida laws on drinking.

Treating alcohol consumption lightly can lead to unintentionally driving while intoxicated, and the penalties for underage DUI come with high consequences in Florida.