Category Archives: Legal

Comsonics Texting Sniffer

Have you ever been illegally texting behind the wheel, seen a marked police car, and lowered your phone until the “threat” had passed?  Of course you haven’t.  The California Highway Patrol is now testing a device that may end up putting thumb cuffs on texting outlaws.  Comsonics Sniffer Sleuth II can detect cell phone emissions and identify among texting, calling, or emailing from inside a moving vehicle. We all know that distracted driving leads to car crashes.  Whether it be texting, sightseeing, or eating a McWhopper, taking your attention away from safely operating a motor vehicle is dangerous.  While not a primary p/c stop, the Florida Ban on Texting While … Continue reading

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Florida Protects Children From Identity Theft

I found this information in a post on the Pinellas County Victim Rights Coalition website.  It should be of particular interest to the parents of children under 16 years of age.  The new law will enable a parent to put a “security freeze” on their child’s personal identification information to prevent criminals from opening illegal lines of credit in the child’s name.  This legislation is sorely needed, especially as we are currently witnessing an unprecedented spike in frauds committed through identity and account thefts. Excellent news to help keep our minor children safe:  Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (DACS) Commissioner Adam Putnam worked with the Florida Legislature this … Continue reading

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Federal Agents to Begin Recording Suspect Interviews

The Justice Department has issued a policy change that will direct federal agents from the FBI, DEA, BATFE, and the U.S. Marshals Service to begin electronically recording suspect interviews. Welcome to the 1980’s, G-Men!  Seriously, this will be an important credibility boost for the Feds. One of my cyber-crimes detectives was recently on the stand in a federal trial.  As a task force agent, he was questioned on cross-examination about his lack of a recorded suspect interview.  In the gallery, I squirmed when the savvy defense lawyer pointedly asked him, “In your capacity as a local law enforcement officer, isn’t it true that you would have taped your interrogation of … Continue reading

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U. S. Supreme Court Addresses Anonymous Tips

This week, the United States Supreme Court decided upon the validity of an anonymous tip precipitating a vehicle stop.  Prado Navarette v. California was a 2008 case which involved an anonymous tipster calling in a 911 complaint to the California Highway Patrol of a pickup truck that had run her off of the road.  CHP officers pulled over a truck matching the vehicle’s description and subsequently arrested the occupants for possessing 30 pounds of marijuana in the truck’s bed. In a 5-4 decision, the majority opinion concluded that an anonymous tip can constitute reasonable suspicion for police to effect an investigative traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment.  Citing United States … Continue reading

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Florida is First in Bitcoin Money Laundering Arrests

The Miami-Dade State Attorney is the first local prosecutor’s office in the United States to charge suspects with money laundering related to the transfer of Bitcoins for illicit purposes.  Mitchell Abner Espinoz and Pascal Reid were arrested for providing unlicensed money services (FSS 560.125) and for violating Florida’s Money Laundering Act (FSS 896.101). For the uninitiated, Bitcoins are virtual currency used for online trading of goods and services.  The trading is done peer-to-peer and can be anonymous.  It is the anonymity and lack of government oversight that have made Bitcoin popular for drug dealers and money launderers.  A Bitcoin tutorial video is posted below. Espinoza was a trader of Bitcoins … Continue reading

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The Future of Police Narcotics Dogs and Marijuana

Supporters of legalized medical marijuana will have their opportunity in November to let the voters decide on whether medical marijuana will be available to patients.  The controversial ballot initiative was approved by the Florida Supreme Court.  Four legislative bills have been introduced which deal with defining, authorizing, and regulating medicinal cannabis and its infrastructure.  How will all of this affect law enforcement?  Not much…for now. Most recently, though, in Colorado and Washington State, decriminalization of recreational marijuana has changed the way police narcotics detector dogs go about their business.  The obvious issue is whether a narcotics dog’s alert still constitutes probable cause to perform a warrantless search of a vehicle … Continue reading

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FRS Recoups $28 Million in Settlement

The Florida Attorney General’s Office announced a settlement in the qui tam fraud complaint filed against the Florida Retirement System’s custodian financial institution, the Bank of New York Mellon.  BNYM is accused of overcharging the FRS by millions of dollars.  This should be a relief for those of you in FRS.  According to a statement released by AG Pam Bondi: “Every penny that state and local employees entrust to Florida’s pension fund is hard-earned. Today, we announced that we reached a $28 million settlement with Florida’s custodian bank, the Bank of New York Mellon, resolving allegations that the bank overcharged the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund by millions of dollars … Continue reading

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Search Incident to Arrest? Not for Cell Phones.

You may have heard yesterday that the Florida Supreme Court ruled a police search of a cell phone incident to arrest violates a person’s right to privacy and is therefore illegal.  In Smallwood vs. State (No. SC-11-1130), justices decided 5-2 to eliminate the practice. In reference to Smallwood vs State, Cedric Tyrone Smallwood was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for a convenience store robbery.  Ofc. Ike Brown looked in Smallwood’s cell phone in a search incident to Smallwood’s arrest. Seeing possibly incriminating photographs of Smallwood with a handgun and what looked like the stolen money, packaged as described by the victim clerk, JSO investigators applied for and received a … Continue reading

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Gov. Rick Scott Literally Shoots Down Police Drones

Okay, not literally, but I get a kick out of when people misuse the word.  Anyway, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law this week legislation which will, in essence, keep law enforcement drones grounded by way of severe restrictions. Effective 6/1/2013, the Florida Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using an unmanned aerial vehicle (defined as a drone in the act) to gather evidence or other information, or from using evidence obtained or collected in violation of the act in any state court of law. A drone is defined as a powered, aerial vehicle that: 1.  Does not carry a human operator; 2.  Uses aerodynamic forces … Continue reading

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Poor Judgment Leads to Police Sergeant’s Firing

This is a sample of the target that Sgt. Ron King of the Port Canaveral, FL Police Department wanted to use as a “training aid” during an April 2nd department firearms training.  He was fired on Friday.  The text of his explanation, which was posted on YouTube, is below.  King’s version doesn’t quite jibe when you actually see the target.  Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea?  With a crosshair reticle?  Come on… Randall  “Good Evening, my name is Ron King and I am the focus of some recent media attention based on lies, false information and political agendas. “First, you’ll have to excuse me if I refer to my computer … Continue reading

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SCOTUS Rules K9 Sniff of Home is an Illegal Search

In a move I think we all saw coming, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a K9 sniff to the exterior of a house constitutes a warrantless search and as such is a violation of the Fourth Amendment in Joelis Jardines v. State of Florida (SC08-2101).  As I had written in my earlier article, the interesting argument posed by the State of Florida in this case was that the sniff of the K9 dog detects only illegal substances, not the legal activities of an ordinary citizen.  It also does not “illuminate” the residence to public examination, as would a search of the residence. SCOTUS addressed the State’s … Continue reading

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1st District Court of Appeals Rules on Facebook Threats

This week, the 1st District Court of Appeal, State of Florida, upheld a trial court ruling that a defendant who posted, on his own personal Facebook page, a tirade of profanity and promises to hurt a relative violated Florida Statute 836.10, Written Treats to Kill or Do Bodily Harm, a second degree felony. O’Leary v. State, Slip Op. No. 1D12-0975 (Fla. 1st DCA, 2013). Timothy Ryan O’Leary wrote the anti-gay diatribe, aimed at one of his relatives and her same-sex partner, on his Facebook page. Because O’Leary is Facebook friends with his cousin Michael and Michael is also related to the threatened relative, it broke the law, even though the threatened … Continue reading

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U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Florida in K9 Records Case

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court in the 2006 K9 narcotics detector case of Florida vs. Harris.  Siding with the trial court, the Supreme Court ruled that K9 training and testing documentation are sufficient trial evidence to support the probable cause of a drug dog’s alert.  The Florida High Court had ruled that the State must provide “an exhaustive set of records, including a log of the dog’s field performance, to establish the dog’s reliability.” The Supremes disagreed and cited Illinois vs Gates 642 U.S. 213-239 (1983):  “Finely tuned standards such as proof beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence have no … Continue reading

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Florida International Drivers Permit Law Causes Stir

Our Dispatch Center was recently besieged with calls from upset Canadian citizens seeking information on how to obtain an “International Drivers License.”  This rush was apparently was spurred by letters sent to the Canadians by their government urging them to apply for these licenses immediately based upon a new Florida law requiring all non U.S. residents to carry this new document when driving.  The situation was made worse by the fact that no one in our Dispatch was clear about what the frantic Canadians were talking about. There is no such thing as an “International Drivers License.”  The document in question is an International Driving Permit (IDP) that translates a … Continue reading

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U. S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Missouri Implied Consent Case

The United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments today in a forcible blood draw case from DUI case Missouri vs. McNeely.  At issue, from the Supreme Court’s website: “Whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream.” A majority opinion in the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Schmerber vs. California opened the door for a nonconsensual, warrantless blood draw when there are “special facts” involving a DUI suspect and a car crash.  This ruling allowed for officers to involuntarily have blood … Continue reading

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