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Florida State and Federal Maritime Criminal Laws – What Boaters Need to Know

November 25th, 2020

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and many Florida law enforcement agencies, such as the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Martin County Sheriff’s Office and many more law enforcement agencies enforce Florida state and federal maritime and fishing laws, including maritime criminal laws such as Boating under the Influence (BUI). Although many boaters are familiar with general boating safety laws, most are not aware of even a small percentage of state and federal maritime regulations. This article discusses just a few of the laws more commonly enforced by law enforcement.

Law Enforcement officers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (formerly the Florida Marine Patrol), sheriff’s deputies of all Florida counties, and any other authorized law enforcement officer, has the legal authority to enforce all boating safety laws, including laws relating to personal watercraft, and has the right to inspect all boats and personal watercraft according to Florida law. It is significant to note that a law enforcement officer may stop any vessel for the purpose of checking the boats safety equipment.

Because of the complexity of state and federal maritime criminal regulations, if you are arrested or cited for violation of such laws, it is important that you contact a Florida maritime criminal defense attorney.

Florida maritime criminal laws are found in Sections 327 and 328 of the Florida Statutes.Below is a sampling of some of the laws contained in Sections 327 and 328.

Boat and Personal Watercraft Accidents and Injuries

The operator boat or personal watercraft in an accident where a passenger or other boat operator is injured (other than those that may be dealt with by basic first aid), or involving death or disappearance, or if there is damage to the vessel ($2,000 or more), under law has the duty to give notice to a local sheriff’s office or police or the FFWCC. It is illegal for any operator of a boat or other vessel to leave the scene without providing aid and for failing to report the incident.

Recklessly Operating a Boat or Personal Watercraft

It is illegal to operate a boat or personal watercraft in a reckless manner. An operator is guilty of reckless operation of a vessel if he or she operates the vessel in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manger as to endanger, or likely to endanger other persons or to damage other’s property. Any operator who violates this law is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor and may be sentenced up to a year in jail.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

It is illegal in Florida to operate a boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Just like a driver or a car, a boat or personal watercraft operator must submit to sobriety tests and breathalyzer (or blood or urine) exams to determine BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). Under Florida law, an operator is presumed to be impaired if the BAC is .08 or above. Note that operators may still be arrested and convicted with a BAC less than.08 if they are impaired. Florida takes a tough stance on underage boating and drinking. Any operator under 21 years who is found to have a BAC of.02 or higher while operating the vessel is guilty of a BUI. Further, enhanced jail sentences exist for BAC levels of .15 or above and for operating a boat or personal watercraft with a BAC of .07 or above with a minor (under 18) on board.

Manatee Laws

Manatees are protected by under Florida state and federal law. The penalties are significant. Under Florida law, it is unlawful to harass manatees. Meaning, you may be arrested for chasing or feeding manatees. If you are found to disrupt a manatee’s normal behavior, you may be fined up to $50,000 and/or one year in jail.

Many other state and federal maritime regulations exist, which may subject you to prosecution, from violations of the Endangered Species Act to immigration laws at sea. If you are the subject prosecution for any state or federal maritime criminal statute, it is important to you exercise your right to remain silent and speak to an attorney right away.

Is a Dog Sniff a Search Under Florida Law

November 5th, 2020

A recent case from the Third District Court of Appeals (Florida) created an interesting issue on the use of dog sniffs without a warrant. The Fourth District Court of Appeals has previously ruled that, in certain situations, a dog sniff is a search and therefore a warrant is necessary. The Third District disagreed and certified a conflict to the Florida Supreme Court.

This issue is this: When a police officer receives an anonymous tip, can he take a drug sniffing dog to the address of the tip and use that dog to search for drugs? Does that dog sniff infringe on a person’s right to privacy? Previously, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in Kyllo that “sense-enhancing” technology cannot be arbitrarily used to search for drugs.

In Kyllo, police would use infra-red, heat sensing technology to scan houses in a particular neighborhood. If the sensor recorded a elevated heat source emanating from within the house, the police would conduct further investigation as to a possible marijuana grow-house. The lights used in grow-houses heat up to well above 100 degree Fahrenheit, and would thus be detectable by the heat sensing technology.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this practice by law enforcement as an improper encroachment on the privacy rights of US citizens.

Turning to a dog sniff: Is this like the heat sensing technology as used in Kyllo? The Fourth District said “yes,” a dog sniff is a search (thereby triggering 4th Amendment protections) because a dog, like a thermal imager, is sense-enhancing technology that intrudes into the constitutionally-protected area of the defendant’s house.

Not so, says the Third District. A canine sniff is not a Fourth Amendment search. A dog’s nose is not a “device,” nor is it sense-enhancing technology. A dog alerts to illegal activity only, so if the dog is otherwise legally present at the house and alerts to drugs, then the sniff is not a search.

Law Enforcement in Todays Society

October 26th, 2020

It wasn’t too long ago that you could be a police officer by getting hired. The training consisted of whatever your department considered important enough to train you on. You field training program also depended on what the department figured was necessary. I remember some older officers telling me that when they started, they were given a badge, gun, uniform, leather, a flashlight, a map and a law book. They were then told to hit the streets and if they needed help, to call the chief at home. This was even before cell phones were around so to call the chief took a stop at a pay phone and a lot of praying that you wouldn’t get more than you could handle. This has all changed now. There are the various police academies, college classes and field training programs that can go for 4-52 weeks depending on the department. If you worked in a small department you could go years without a serious offense such as a homicide call, a rape or even an armed robbery. By then, common sense should come in to play.

There are a lot of really good, caring officers that do a great job, but we still have too many that “the thin blue line” protects when they shouldn’t. Too many states can still seal the file of an officer investigation and this usually means that they resign their position and keep their mouth shut. This saves the embarrassment and even a possible arrest. What this does though, is allow the bad cop to move on and apply for a position in another department or even state. This problem is not unique to law enforcement. It happens in almost every profession even though it does happen less than it used to. In Florida for example, nothing is supposed to be hidden. The laws are supposed to be followed that make any investigation public record once the investigation is completed and charges are filed or decided against. This is kind of a double edged sword. A good officer that does his or her job can have a concerted effort against him or her in an attempt to remove the officer. It doesn’t matter how good or honest an officer is, if he or she gets 15 complaints in one month for the same problem, such as excessive force, the officer will look bad no matter if he or she is cleared of the charges. It should be noted that this can happen to the citizen too. That is why it is my opinion that is you are charged with a crime and found not guilty, the charge should be immediately removed from the persons criminal history. I am not saying this because I have even be investigated, but I had to investigate officers where the complaint was baseless or even turned out to be a concerted effort among friends or acquaintances to damage the officers reputation or to get them fired.

How do we fix this? First, every officer investigated should have the same rights as a regular citizen. He or she should have the right to face their accuser. All complaints should have to be in writing and notarized. If the investigation is handled in house, the evidence from the investigation should be corroborated by an outside, uninterested party. Finally, if the investigation is proven to be baseless or even worse, a total fabrication, the accuser should suffer the consequences. Just like an officer should be reprimanded or even charged if he or she does that to a citizen, it should be the same penalty for a citizen who is lying just to get attention or to cause an officer grief.

The whole idea of covering up an investigation or hiding it does nothing to establish trust and it certainly doesn’t do justice to all of the good, honest officers that are out their giving their all and doing their best to make a difference.

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First DUI and Florida Law

October 15th, 2020

A DUI arrest may come as a shock to a person charged with his or her first DUI. However, DUI arrests are more common than one might think. The Florida DMV states that in 2011, there were 55,722 DUI tickets issued, of which 33,625 (or just above 60%) resulted in convictions. One of the reasons for this could be Florida’s comprehensive DUI law.

According to Florida Statute 316.193, a person can be charged with DUI in Florida under if they exhibit one of two qualities, or both, while being in physical control of or driving a motor vehicle. These qualities are:

• Blood or breath alcohol level (BAC) is over the legal limit of.08%, defined as:
- .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood
- .08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath

• Normal faculties are impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Faculties include hearing, walking, talking, and depth perception

Physical control of a motor vehicle is a separate concept from driving it. A person can be in physical control if he or she is in the vehicle with it running, in the vehicle with it off but the keys close by, or close enough to the vehicle to operate it. With the statute’s consideration for impairment and physical control, an individual could potentially be arrested for DUI outside his or her car without chemical proof of intoxication. Even with a chemical test, the legal limit of.08% can be achieved or exceeded by an average person after just one or two drinks – a point at which many people still believe they are okay to drive.

Despite the fact that the scope of the law makes it relatively easy for anyone to be arrested and charged with a first DUI, it does not go easy on an alleged DUI offender punitively. Implied consent laws put the alleged offender in a tough spot when it comes to administrative license suspension (ALS). If you refuse a BAC test, you face one year of ALS; if you test for a BAC of.08% or higher, you face six months of ALS. Additionally, you only have 10 days from the moment of your arrest to request a hearing disputing these suspensions.

If convicted, you could face other penalties for first DUI in Florida in addition to the administrative license suspension. These are also defined in Florida Statute 316.193 and include:

• $500 – $1,000 fine
• Up to 180 days of criminal driver’s license suspension
• Up to 10 days of vehicle impoundment
• Installment of ignition interlock device
• Up to 6 months of probation and/or jail time

Penalties become more severe if the DUI offense included a minor, a BAC of.15% or higher, or an accident involving property damage, injury, or death. Some first DUI cases in Florida may be eligible and/or required to participate in an approved Florida DUI program designed to provide DUI and alcohol education, psychological evaluation, and treatment referral services. How your participation impacts your case is determined by the court on a case-by-case basis.

While the inclusiveness of Florida DUI law can help get drunk drivers off the road, it also gives law enforcement a lot of discretion when it comes to DUI arrests. If you have been charged with your first DUI and are concerned about your future, it is important to remember you are innocent until proven guilty and have certain rights available to you. A skilled Florida DUI defense attorney can protect those rights while fighting for a more favorable outcome.

New Florida Law to Prevent Doctor Shopping and Curtail Drug Abuse

September 25th, 2020

A new Florida law requiring doctors to register patients in a statewide database is showing signs of working. The law, which took effect in September of 2011, requires doctors to register their patients’ names who are prescribed controlled substances. The database is then made available to pharmacies statewide so those who attempt to abuse the prescription drugs can be identified.

Those who attempt to refill their prescriptions too frequently or who are found to be visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies, including “doctor shoppers,” will be denied refills by their pharmacists and can possibly be investigated by law enforcement. Law enforcement will have access to these records and can inquire further information at any time.

Some claim the policy Florida has adopted infringes on privacy violation, but the law is consistent with laws enforced by 36 other states. These states also face turmoil with what has become an epidemic and feel there is no choice but to adopt such a strict stance on prescription drugs.

Pharmacists in the state of Florida already feel that the new law is working. They claim that they rarely receive any phone calls inquiring about whether or not they have oxycontin and other painkillers in stock. These same pharmacies say they used to receive several phone calls per day asking about the drugs.

The database already has 15 million names on its list and will continue to be cross-checked by doctors, pharmacists, and law enforcement. Doctors are required to list their patient’s name within seven days of prescribing them a controlled substance.

Other drugs that are on the list include Oxycodone, Xanax, hydrocodone, Percocet, and other narcotics. Amphetamines such as adderall and Ritalin, drugs prescribed to children and a small number of adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are also closely monitored. Amphetamines, like narcotics, are another category of prescription drugs that can be highly addictive and are widely abused.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from prescription drug addiction, including painkillers and amphetamines, contact a local drug rehabilitation center or clinic for help. With proper counseling, you or your loved one can achieve and maintain long-term sobriety. Don’t let law enforcement be or a jail sentence be the reason you have to get clean. Make it a personal choice and do it on your own. Recovery is possible. When there’s help available, there’s also hope.

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Dealing With Traffic Stops and Law Enforcement Officers While Carrying A Concealed Firearm

September 6th, 2020

When being stopped by law enforcement for a traffic stop and you are carrying a firearm, it’s always wise to stand in the officers shoes and view the situation from the officers perspective. The following steps on how to deal with law enforcement during a traffic stop isn’t in the Florida 790 statutes, in fact the statute is pretty fuzzy on how an individual is expected to interact with law enforcement. Here’s where we’re going to apply a little common sense to make our lives easier.

When we see the flashing lights and hear the siren of a police car signaling us to pull over…

1. We should pull over as much as possible to the right of the roadway, giving the officer the courtesy of maintaining his/her personal safety. The officer getting out of his vehicle stands the possibility of being injured by passing vehicles, allow the officer as much space as possible, he will appreciate the fact you considered his personal safety.

2. Roll down all your windows, especially if they are tinted. If being stopped at night, turn on your interior light. This will allow the officer to clearly see in your vehicle. By doing this, you’re in essence demonstrating to the officer that you’re being polite, are ready to deal with him and have nothing to hide in your vehicle.

3. Turn off your vehicle and leave the keys on the dashboard. This will demonstrate to the officer you are not planning to flee the traffic stop.

4. Place your hands on the steering wheel at the 10 O’clock and 2 O’clock positions. This is a natural relaxed position that will demonstrate to the officer you’re not going to try to reach for something that may injure or kill him.

5. When the officer walks up to your window, “if you have a concealed weapons permit”, maintain both hands on the steering wheel and immediately inform the officer that you indeed have a concealed weapons permit and where your firearm is located on your person.

6. When the officer asks to see your, drivers license, insurance, registration and concealed weapons permit, have all the documents in one location, within easy reach and ready to hand the officer.

7. The officer may ask to inspect your firearm, he has every right to do so. Do not attempt to handle or reach for your firearm. Maintain both hands on the steering wheel and ask the officer how he/she would like to proceed and follow all orders.

Implementing the aforementioned 7 steps when being pulled over while carrying a firearm will calm the officers fear of the individual he just pulled over being a possible threat to his life.

This is something rarely discussed as part of a concealed weapons permit class but it’s an important topic never the less. I hope this article enlightens everyone on how to better deal with traffic stops while carrying a concealed firearm.

Law Enforcement and Legal Use of Force

March 13th, 2020

The line between legal and illegal use of force can be blurred in cases of violent crime. There is a distinct line between deadly force and legal force, but how can one be sure that force is excessive or necessary? Because of the complexity of this question, there are very thorough regulations and codes that work to define the legality of force and in which situations it is legal or illegal. These codes also regulate the use of force by law enforcement officers. Because of their responsibility to protect our communities, they are governed by specific regulations regarding force.

In some states, laws protect law enforcement officers right to use force if a person is resisting arrest or threatening to use force to deter an arrest. Not only can a law enforcement officer use legal force in these situations, but anyone they request to assist them in a moment can also be protected using the same guidelines as the law officer.

Law enforcement can use force to subdue a person resisting arrest in specific situations. Force is legal in self-defense if a person is threatening their health while resisting arrest. They may also legally use reasonable force to retake an escaped felon. These two reasons are often clearly defined and understood.

Force can also be used in overtaking a fleeing criminal, and even deadly force can be used in some states in these circumstances. If a police officer or other law enforcement officer has reason to believe that a fleeing felon is a harm to other people around them or has committed a crime in which they seriously injured another person, deadly force may be an acceptable means of ensuring their arrest.

Use of force can be a complex and situational action that often is contended by one of the parties involved in the crime or attempted arrest.

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Marketing, Promoting and Advertising Your Business

February 28th, 2020

One thing that goes without saying in today’s business world, is that regardless of the nature of your home based business, a website is an absolute MUST. Whether you have a product or service to sell, whether local or global, your business will go nowhere fast if you don’t have an online presence. If you need internet marketing help, you’ve landed on the right article. I’ll give you some home based business marketing ideas that will help you promote your business successfully.

The first step is choosing a domain name and getting it registered. You can build your own website (if you have the time) and host it yourself or you can have everything done by another company (if you have the money). Either way, you have many options and tools at your disposal that can align with your business plan and budget. Also note that you can still start your own home based business even if you don’t have a product or service to sell. There are thousands of individuals and companies that have products you can sell for them while earning a commission, called affiliate marketing.

Of the many business marketing strategies known to man, internet marketing is, hands down, the best strategy to use for promoting a home based business as it is the cheapest method and has the potential for reaching millions of people all over the globe. Driving traffic to your site through online resources is like killing two birds with one stone. You can tackle print advertising by writing articles and publishing them to directories and ezines and by submitting ads to the many available (and most of them free) classified ad sites. Online media advertising encompasses writing press releases and distributing them to press release sites. One of the biggest and most popular online advertising trends today is via social media advertising through sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn where you build relationships with your customers. Forums and communities are also great ways to build relationships which helps promote your home based business in the long run. Simply Google your market or industry with the word ‘forum’ or ‘community’ behind it and search for one or two that seem to be the best fit for you.

All of these methods of online advertising contribute to search engine optimization (SEO), which is to say improving your online visibility and escalating in the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Your goal is to claim the #1 spot in the organic search results (the results on the left, not the right side which are paid ads). This is where your traffic will come from. If you are 800 in the list of search results, no one is ever going to see your site because very few people have the time or patience to scroll through 800 search results. Research shows that people typically won’t even scroll past 4 or 5 search results, let alone 800.

Can you grasp the importance of internet marketing for any business? If you are new to the internet marketing phenomenon and don’t know exactly where to start, there are many great programs or systems online that walk you through every aspect of marketing your online business. A lot of these systems were created by online entrepreneurs who have spent thousands of their own dollars trying to figure it all out over the years and finally DID. Their sacrifices have made it easier for newbies to become successful at their own online home based business. If you are new to running your own home based business, I recommend you find a great system (do your research, read reviews, ask questions in forums) and start marketing your home business from there. Don’t waste the time and money that so many of us have in going it alone, without a proven system, as it will just set you back further and hinder your progress.