During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our commitment to giving you a safe and reliable place to receive legal services and advice is even more important to us.
The Florida Bar - Board Certified Badge
Martindale-Hubbell - AV Preeminent Badge
Super Lawyers - Michael B Cohen Badge

Nowadays, it is rare to meet someone who does not own a smartphone. It is normal to wonder if Florida police can search your phone for evidence. Can police officers scroll through the information contained on your phone without a warrant?

If you are arrested, officers are able to search you, and any “containers” that are in your immediate control. A “container” can be a wallet, bags, boxes or anything a person might use to store other items. Even a pack of candy could classify as a container.

However, the Supreme Court stated that a phone is not a normal container that is able to be searched with reasonable suspicion. This is because cell phones don’t contain physical evidence such as drugs, weapons or other things officers look for during a search. Our cell phones contain digital evidence—something that is treated differently by the law.

The U.S. Constitution protects you against unreasonable search and seizure. However, law enforcement gets around the need for a warrant by showing reasonable cause for a search. Usually, police need to show that they had reason to believe you were breaking the law. This generally happens during traffic stops. Before, officers in Florida could search your vehicle if they smelled marijuana. However, due to a change in Florida law, the odor of cannabis or hemp is no longer legal grounds for a police search.

This imposed a problem on police officers because figuring out the difference between marijuana and hemp is now vital. Due to this, any found substance has to go through testing to determine the THC content. Only substances above .3 THC content are illegal. Anything else is legal under the new law. Police have always relied on the distinct smell of marijuana to detect criminal drug use. However, there are now hemp-based lotions and textile products. The “smell of marijuana” does not mean anything illegal is taking place. An experienced lawyer can help you argue that evidence uncovered in a search under the basis that an officer smelled marijuana in your car can be suppressed.

Everyone is entitled to legal representation when facing charges. At Michael B Cohen Law, our priority is making sure that you receive the best legal representation for your federal crime cases. You can schedule a free consultation with us today and learn about your options and ways in which we can help you and your future.

“Do it for the gram” is a 21st-century phrase that refers to when a person does stuff for the sole purpose of posting it to Instagram for likes and attention. Recently, a 20-year-old Florida woman got in some serious trouble when she did just that by posting pictures of her riding on a sea turtle’s back. The photographs went viral and also caught the attention of Florida officials.

Florida is home to the biggest population of sea turtles and is very protective of these aquatic animals. Under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules, it is a felony violation to possess, sell, or molest a marine turtle or a marine turtle nest of eggs. These animals are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, due to their classification as an endangered species. Violations of the sea turtle regulations are classified as a third-degree felony, with possible imprisonment up to five years and/or a $5,000 fine.

When local police responded to a disturbance Saturday night, they identified Moore as a wanted felon. Melbourne law enforcement then arrested Moore and booked her in Brevard County Jail. Sitting on a turtle, as she did, not only limits its mobility but can also cause damage to its ribs or sternum.  A felony can bring serious consequences like losing your right to vote, your right to possess a firearm, or even a loss of employment.

In criminal law, mistake of fact and mistake of law are both defenses that can be used to exonerate criminal charges if deemed reasonable. To be convicted of relevant criminal charges the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal defendant acted with criminal intent rather than as an honest mistake.

What is a mistake of fact and how can it be used as a defense?

Mistake of fact is commonly referred to as a mistaken belief or understanding of an individual that has led them to commit an illegal act unknowingly. To use mistake of fact as a defense, the defendant must disprove specific intent and/or disprove elements of the crime as material to the investigation.

If you have watched any crime show, you are probably familiar with polygraph exams. However, they are nearly never used in court cases, especially in Florida. Florida law is clear that a polygraph is never admissible in court because it has not been shown to pass scientific standards to be proven reliable. The State can possess a polygraph you have given in your case, but it cannot and will not be used against you at trial or hearing.

The Supreme Court commented that there is no reliable scientific evidence about the accuracy of polygraph exams. However, the Supreme Court has not forbidden it.

Did you know a polygraph exam can be used against you by law enforcement during interrogation? Even if you “passed” the polygraph, law enforcement can lie and say that you failed and you might as well confess or tell them the “truth”. Although this is dishonest and deceiving, it is allowed under Florida case law. In the end, the best thing to do is not take a polygraph. If you fail it, law enforcement can confront you about your lies; if you pass it, law enforcement may say you lied anyway. Some think that taking a polygraph is a way to convince law enforcement that you are innocent, but police often use it as a way to get a confession.

Lying, or willingly making false statements to a United States federal agent, is a federal crime. Under Section 1001 of title 18 of the United States Code (18 USC Section 10001), an individual or group can be criminalized for knowingly falsifying, concealing, and/or covering up pertinent information with a trick or scheme intended to derail any investigation. All false statements, spoken and written, that are or are not made under oath are subject to similar penalties.

It is stated in the United States Code that those found in violation of 18 USC Section 1001 can receive a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison for tax evasion and lying with intent to derail any investigation, and eight years if any false statements are linked to acts to terror, human trafficking, and certain sexual offenses. However, in order to successfully convict an individual or group of committing such crimes and being in violation of 18 USC Section 1001, United States government officials must prove three things:

  • That any false statement(s), written or spoken, by the defendant is/was “material” to the investigation. A “material” false statement is one that “has the natural tendency to influence or is capable of influencing” a federal agent receiving the information. A “material” false statement does not have to be believed by the federal agent receiving the information but if the false statement(s) made was intended to prevent locating, charging, and convicting  any suspects, it is considered a crime.  

Over 100 million Americans have gotten at least one or both doses of a coronavirus vaccine and have received a free proof-of-vaccination card with the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there has been no clear indication or protocol on how to confirm if someone is vaccinated or not. The Biden administration declared it would not create a federal vaccination database, citing privacy concerns, making the CDC-issued cards the country’s default national way to verify if someone has been vaccinated. Since the cards are marked by hand, don’t contain much information, are printed on easily obtainable heavy white paper, and are impossible to quickly verify, it leaves an opportunity for the anti-vaxxer community to beat the system by forging them. In March, the FBI released a public warning that creating or buying a fake vaccine card is illegal. “If you did not receive the vaccine, do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information,” the warning from the FBI said.  Individuals might use them to misrepresent their vaccination status at school, work, or in various living and travel situations, potentially exposing others to risk. Crimes associated with making or using fake vaccination record cards include wrongfully using government seals, the FBI said in its warning. That’s because fake cards often use the CDC and Health and Human Services seals seen on the real ones. That’s punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine. Other penalties could include possible termination of employment and be thrown off-campus. If you are caught and charged with having or selling fake CDC Covid Vaccine cards, do not try to fight these charges on your own.

If you have any questions about your case or other legal advice, we are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us fight for your freedom.

The court system is divided into two types, federal and state. Both systems have different cases assigned to them accordingly. The state court is mainly responsible for clarifying state law while federal courts have a wider variety of cases to handle. Many do not know what it takes or how a case goes from state to federal court, so we will take a quick look at how cases get to federal court.

The Levels

The federal system continues to evolve as the years go by and from its initial acknowledgment in Article III of the Constitution, which allowed the Supreme Court to create different court levels below as they felt necessary. Therefore, we now have three levels in the federal court system:

The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional funding, and in December 2020, another $284 billion. Now that the pandemic feels a bit more handled and businesses are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the government is now making a sweep of people who abused PPP loans. Several people are being accused and charged with fraud for claiming businesses and payroll expenses that do not exist. A recent notable case is Jeremie Saintvil, a Florida man who allegedly obtained more than $1.5 million in PPP loans from credit unions and banks. This includes committing identity theft against eight elderly individuals. Before leaving office, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida coined South Florida “the fraud capital of the world” and she may have a point. Over the past year, 38 criminal cases with $75 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief claims have been filed. This is the highest number of any region in the country. A few things that fall under the umbrella of PPP fraud are:

  • Spending PPP funds for unapproved purposes
  • PPP loans from multiple lenders

Perhaps the country’s founding fathers did not mean to create a constitution that can be as polarizing as it is and yet, that is the case for a few of the amendments. One that always seems to get feathers riled up on either side of the aisle is the second amendment. It clearly states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, this is not the case if you are a felon. It is illegal in Florida for convicted felons to possess firearms, unless the convicted felon has had his/her civil rights restored and firearm authority restored by the state’s Clemency Board or the gun qualifies as an antique firearm under Florida statute 790.001(1). However, a deciding factor in the severity of the punishment is if the firearm was actually possessed or constructively possessed. Actual possession of a firearm means the firearm was in the person’s hand or on them, in a container in the hand or on the person, or is so close that it is under the control of the person. Constructive possession means the firearm is placed somewhere the person has control over. Possession of a gun by a felon is considered a second-degree felony. Actual possession brings a three-year minimum mandatory sentence with it and the judge can impose a combination of up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, or up to $10,000 in fines. Constructive possession of a firearm does not have a minimum mandatory sentence however a judge can still impose a combination of those three listed penalties. 

The consequences of a conviction, especially a felony, can have a wide range of negative effects on your life. Therefore, you need to contact a defense attorney immediately. Michael B. Cohen can help you fight a gun charge by thoroughly investigating your case.

Contact Information