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Child endangerment charges are taken very seriously in Florida. From long prison sentences to losing custody of your children, these crimes can affect you negatively in several different ways. Unfortunately, it is possible to be wrongly accused of these crimes. This may occur during divorces or custody battles. The complaints may take months and even years to investigate. That is why it is best to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to make sure you know your rights and options.

Some examples of child endangerment are:

Having your children in the car while driving under the influence

We have heard many times from clients that police did not read them their Miranda rights. And trust us when we say we believe you. However, you might be shocked to hear that law enforcement does not have to read you your rights. “Miranda Rights” comes from a Supreme Court case in the 1960s called Miranda v. Arizona. The court stated that if police want to question a person in police custody, they must make them aware of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incriminating statements and their right to an attorney.

Miranda Rights are as follows:

You have the right to remain silent

The devastating Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass-shooting in Parkland, Florida is a day that will live on in our minds and hearts forever. 17 people were killed and several more, including staff, were injured. Scot Peterson was an armed officer at the school. On that day, he retreated into safety instead of confronting the gunman. Due to this, he found himself being criminally charged with eleven counts of second- and third-degree felony neglect of a child and a second-degree misdemeanor of culpable negligence. Additionally, Peterson’s name was dragged through the mud and he was even nicknamed “The coward of Broward”. The charges filed against him are not the norm. Police officers are not usually held criminally liable for not protecting the public. In fact, child neglect is typically a charge given to parents, teachers, kidnappers, babysitters, etc., not law enforcement. However, prosecutors argue that Peterson is a school resource officer and is essentially considered a caregiver. In court, he told the judge that he did the best he could at the time.

“I didn’t do anything there to try to hurt any child there on the scene,” Peterson pleaded. “I did the best that I could with the information.”

Earlier this year, a Florida judge ruled that a case may proceed against Peterson. This case could have a rippling effect on whether school officers and other officers in general have a constitutional duty to protect children in similar situations.

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.  
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