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Clearwater Criminal Defense Law Blog

Is probation a broadly fair and rational process?

We don’t mince words on our website at the established Clearwater criminal defense law firm of Hoskins & Penton when we address the reality of probation for legions of affected individuals.

We directly note this: “It’s like being sentenced without a trial.”

Reckless driving on social media and Florida highways

A 70-year-old Lakeland, Florida, man was recently arrested for reckless driving. He was barreling along I-4 while standing on the driver’s seat, much of his body protruding up through the moonroof of his Cadillac.

The incident received national attention, largely thanks to cellphone footage captured by a fellow motorist. Few casual observers would disagree with the reckless driving charge, even though most people are pretty unclear about what counts as “reckless driving.” In court, “I know it when I see it” is rarely an adequate standard.

Is my Florida criminal record going to be a lifelong impediment?

There is virtually no doubt among legal authorities in any American state, including Florida, that a criminal record relating to what is considered a major crime (a rape, robbery or drug trafficking offense, for example) should permanently attach to a defendant.

What that means for an affected individual is this: If your personal criminal stigma links with what officials deem to be unlawful conduct of notable magnitude, data relevant to your charge and conviction will always be available for third-party scrutiny in the future.

How to handle being pulled over after a couple of drinks

If you've ever been pulled over and questioned by a police officer, you've probably wondered about the best way to handle the situation. For instance, do you have to discuss where you are going, or where you are coming from? Are you forced to comply with field sobriety tests?

How you handle a traffic stop can be crucial during a DUI case. Even if you've only had a drink or two and are confident that you are below the BAC limit, giving out information to police officers can create probable cause to suspect you of driving under the influence. These are a few guidelines to help you navigate this situation and improve your chances at defending yourself.

What are the consequences for a Florida DUI?

Florida takes drinking and driving seriously, which is why the consequences for this type of crime are so severe.

Florida residents report driving after drinking too much at a higher percent than the national average, which is why it is important to know the consequences. What penalties will Floridians face for a first, second and third DUI?

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.

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