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Miami Legal Issues Blog

Mom was right: Always look both ways

The old adage to "look both ways before you cross the street" is even more important in Florida. According to a study published in the Huffington Post, Florida ranks second in pedestrian deaths. Only New Mexico has more pedestrian -related fatalities.

What does this mean for you?

In Florida, an average of 588 people are killed each year in pedestrian accidents. Couple that with the third highest number of traffic fatalities overall (2494), and Florida's roads are actually more unsafe than any metropolis, including New York City.

Conceal your weapon by securing it at home

In 2015, the state of Florida laid claim to the title of the state with the most concealed weapons permits on record. Filing nearly 1.4 million licenses, Florida's permit holders led those applicants in Pennsylvania and Texas. Addressing these 1.4 million permit owners who store their arms at home are campaigns to promote safety awareness. If you or someone you know stores a gun at home, here are three tips that will enhance security at your residence.

1. Be informed

To prevent accidental injury from discharge, it is recommended that gun owners enroll in a firearm safety class. This training is typically provided by NRA or state certified instructors who are qualified to teach others how to use firearms. Courses review firearm safety, loading and handling gun malfunctions. Having enrolled in these programs, permit holders learn about the responsibility that gun owners have to themselves and those around them when carrying their firearm. Additionally, when manuals are provided with the firearm, it's incumbent on the gun owner to read the literature to provide further education.

What to do after a slip-and-fall accident

Imagine you're walking through the grocery store. You are in somewhat of a hurry to get home, so you are walking quickly and focusing on getting everything on your list. Suddenly, you turn the corner into the produce aisle, slip, fall and wind up in serious pain on the ground.

In this scenario, most people would get up and just try to avoid the embarrassment of having fallen in public. They often assume it was their own fault for being careless and chalk up the incident to clumsiness. However, this could prove to be a costly mistake if the reason for your fall was not your fault, but someone else's.

The "potalyzer": Detecting marijuana intoxication with saliva samples

If you have read our February blog post that provided an update on potential changes coming to Florida's marijuana laws, you can add HB 307 to the list of Florida laws that relate to marijuana possession. This past March, Gov. Rick Scott signed into legislation HB 307, which legalizes the use of medical marijuana for select circumstances. Additionally, registered voters in Florida will be able show their support this November for Amendment 2, legislation that supports the creation of a medical marijuana program in Florida.

In the event that the legislation effectively expands Floridians' rights to smoke marijuana, law enforcement officials are searching for tools that can quickly and effectively detect an individual's level of drug intoxication. Such a machine is now being marketed as a "potalyzer." Developed in Stanford University, this device uses saliva to detect levels of THC, the main ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for providing the drug's mind-altering effects. In addition to obtaining a sample in a manner that is less invasive than drawing blood or collecting urine, this new device utilitzes properties of saliva can precisely reveal how much THC is in the driver's system.

Lessening prison's impact through the youthful offenders program

Perhaps your child was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong friends. When he was convicted of his crime, you knew that your son needed to make amends for what he had done; however, you know prison won't change his life for the better.

The courts in Florida recognize that there are opportunities to rehabilitate certain offenders without using incarceration to promote change. The youthful offender program was developed to benefit this group of people.

First time offender programs

If you have been following our blog, you know that there are ways to protect yourself from being charged with drug possession: challenging the validity of evidence, placing the burden of proof on the prosecution or verifying the illegal nature of the drugs seized. If you find that these defense tactics are unsuccessful, there is another option Florida makes available to certain individuals: the first offender program.

As is suggested in the name, "the first offender program" may only be utilized by those who have not been convicted of other crimes. Admission to the program is granted to individuals receiving approval from the victim, arresting officer and select officers of the court. The purpose of the program is to rehabilitate those accused of committing crimes, usually those resulting in a misdemeanor charge. Successfully completing a program typically requires an individual to enroll in drug or alcohol therapy, pay a fine, complete community service and maintain good behavior during a supervisory period. Some programs reward first offenders with an expungement of the conviction from the criminal record.

It's not mine! What to do if the drugs don't belong to you

Police officers rarely take people seriously when they hear the phrase, "It's not mine!" If you are charged with possession of a controlled substance that is not your own it can feel like someone pressed the mute button. Possession charges can affect your potential college, career, and family; therefore you should understand your rights within Florida law to protect your future.

The direct possession of a controlled substance can result in a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon how the drug is classified and how much was found. If a friend has their drugs in or around your property then you can still be charged with constructive possession, which can result in equally harsh penalties. Constructive possession means:

  • Knowing about the existence of the illegal drug
  • Having control over the illegal drug

Is assault and battery a felony in Florida?

Assault and battery charges are different and can mean anything from a verbal threat to harming someone with a deadly weapon. The type of charge will depend upon the severity of the injuries and are determined on a case by case basis. In Florida there are separate punishments for assault, aggravated assault, battery, and aggravated battery. Assault is typically a verbal threat whereas battery is added when the defendant is accused of making unwanted physical contact. Here are the four types broken down.

Simple assault

A basic assault charge means that you are accused of threatening a person with physical injury. This can mean that you have not actually touched the person but threatened them in a fight or even in writing. An assault charge can result in a misdemeanor in Florida.

3 Ways to defend against drug charges

When you have been accused of a drug crime in Florida, you may suffer immediate and long-term consequences, even in the absence of a conviction. Being charged with a crime can be very embarrassing and can impact your personal and business reputation.

This is one of many reasons why one of your first questions when charged with a drug crime may be, "What are my defense options for fighting these charges?" Here are three possible defenses, though every case will be different and require a unique approach.

How to recognize a spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries can result from many situations, but one of the most common is a motor vehicle accident. The force of the impact puts immense pressure on your spinal cord and, depending on the angle, can also cause your spine to twist or bend more than it should. While some spinal cord injuries are immediately discernible, others manifest in subtle ways -- especially at first -- which is why it's important to be aware of both the effects and symptoms of these injuries.

Effects of a spinal cord injury

At its most basic, a spinal cord injury interrupts the flow of information from the body's nerves to the spinal cord and the brain. The spinal cord is responsible for protecting the delicate bundles of nerves that go down the spine and branch out to the rest of the body. However, when the spinal cord is injured, those nerves can't work properly. This means that you could lose sensation and mobility in the area controlled by the damaged nerves - most often the limbs and extremities.

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