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Florida Criminal Defense Law Blog

U.S. House passes federal law banning animal cruelty

On Oct. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it a federal crime to commit acts of animal cruelty. The bipartisan legislation, which received unanimous approval, was introduced by Florida Reps. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Republican.

In 2010, Congress passed a law banning the creation and distribution of videos depicting animal crushing and other forms of animal cruelty. However, that bill failed to outlaw general acts of violence against animals. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT, closes that loophole by making it a federal crime to "intentionally engage" in the burning, drowning, impaling, suffocating or harming of animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The law would only apply to interstate and international cases and wouldn't interfere with state and local laws on animal abuse.

Florida authorities bust major heroin ring

On Oct. 9, Florida authorities announced that they took down a major drug ring that had been operating in the counties of Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton. The bust led to the arrests of four people.

According to a report, law enforcement officers from multiple agencies executed an arrest warrant at a resort in Destin and a search warrant at another location in Miramar Beach. These actions led to the arrests of two men, ages 38 and 43, and the seizure of a large quantity of drugs. Two other men, ages 37 and 40, were previously taken into custody.

Parent pleads guilty in college admissions scandal

A scandal has drawn attention to the desperate measures taken by wealthy, well-connected parents in Florida and around the country to get their kids into high-ranking colleges. One businessman was sentenced to four months in prison and 500 hours of community service after being convicted of playing a role in an admissions fraud scheme. The 53-year-old man was also fined $95,000. He admitted to paying $250,000 to a man providing services to doctor a student's history in order to help his son gain admission to the University of Southern California.

While the man's son did not receive an athletic scholarship, he was admitted to the university as a fake recruit to the water polo team. This meant that he had to meet lower standards for admission than a non-athlete student. The man is one of 15 parents who have pleaded guilty in cases related to the allegations of college admissions fraud. Actress Felicity Huffman was another parent caught up in the scandal. She was sentenced to two weeks in prison after paying $15,000 to an administrator of a test to correct her daughter's SAT answers before submitting the test for scoring.

Police say cell phone store was used to distribute drugs

Law enforcement officials in Florida say that a Clay County cell phone store was used to distribute significant quantities of methamphetamine and heroin. The narcotics investigation led to at least a dozen people being taken into custody on Sept. 11. Initial reports do not reveal how many of the individuals taken into custody are alleged to have sold drugs and how many are suspected of being customers.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office gathered evidence by sending an undercover deputy into the store to arrange narcotics transactions. A CCSO representative said that drug users would begin gathering outside the store before it opened and become impatient when they were forced to wait. The representative compared the daily occurrence to a Black Friday shopping crowd. One of the store workers taken into custody is said to have told deputies that he never sold a cell phone or any cell phone accessories.

Almost 300 people arrested in Florida opioid sweep

In late August, Drug Enforcement Administration agents conducted a series of drug raids across Florida, resulting in the arrests of almost 300 people. The raids, which were dubbed "Operation Cazador," targeted doctors and pharmacies that allegedly played a role in America's opioid crisis.

According to the DEA, agents seized around 600 pounds of illegal drugs, including over 200,000 opioid pills, during the operation. They also confiscated 35 weapons and assets totaling around $3.3 million. One of those arrested in the raids was a pharmacist who was allegedly dealing opioids out of her pharmacy in Ormond Beach. She was already awaiting trial on similar charges and had lost her license. Another of those arrested was the manager of a Winter Garden convenience store who was allegedly operating a heroin and cocaine ring on the property. Drugs from the store have been tied to several overdose deaths.

Florida teacher facing drug possession charges

A Florida middle school teacher faces an uncertain future after being taken into custody on drug charges during the early morning hours of July 29. An Escambia County official said that the 44-year-old woman has been suspended with pay. The outcome of a Florida Department of Education investigation will determine whether she retains her teaching certificate. She has been charged with marijuana and cocaine possession and possession of a Schedule III controlled substance without a prescription.

According to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, the woman's silver SUV was pulled over by deputies on Kipling Street in Ferry Pass for an expired tag at approximately 1:00 a.m. During the traffic stop, deputies say they observed narcotics in plain view inside the SUV. They also say they discovered that the woman behind the wheel was driving with an expired driver's license.

Do you understand what Florida considers assault or battery?

If you recently got into a verbal or physical altercation with another person, you might wind up surprised to find out they want to press charges. Perhaps it was simply an aggressive social altercation in which nothing really occurred. It's also possible that you both wound up hurt because of the fight, and you assumed that you both shared responsibility.

If you find yourself facing assault or battery charges after a hostile social interaction or physical fight, you have the right to defend yourself. Familiarizing yourself with the laws in Florida about assault and battery can help you determine if the charges in your case make sense and how best to defend yourself against them.

Man sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking

On July 26, a Florida jury found a Pensacola man guilty of multiple drug trafficking charges. A judge sentenced him to 15 years in state prison on the same day.

According to prosecutors, deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office attempted to serve an arrest warrant on the defendant at the Quality Inn on New Warrington Road on Dec. 8. He was not there, but they were able to track him down at a barbershop on Chief's Way. As they took him into custody, they asked if he had anything illegal in his possession. He said he was carrying illicit drugs. They searched him and found a black sock containing less than 20 grams of marijuana, 51.03 grams of methamphetamine, 7.75 grams of fentanyl, 18.14 grams of heroin, and an unspecified amount of cocaine.

Man facing multiple charges after drugs found

On July 11, Florida authorities arrested a man for allegedly hiding illegal drugs. The stash was discovered during a traffic stop.

According to media reports, deputies from the Flagler County Sheriff's Office executed a traffic stop on the 36-year-old defendant after he was observed speeding and failing to wear a seat belt. They also checked his license and discovered he was driving on a suspended license. After noticing that he seemed to be acting nervous and smelled like marijuana, they asked him to exit the vehicle and patted him down. While conducting the pat down, deputies claimed they felt a bulge near the seat of the defendant's pants. They also noticed he seemed to be clenching his buttocks to keep the bulge in place. They asked him to stop clenching, but he refused.

What the law says about selling drugs

Individuals who are found to be in possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute in Florida will likely be charged with a crime. The exact charge that a person may face depends on the substance, the amount that a person intended to sell, and his or her prior record. In many cases, drug possession on its own is a misdemeanor. However, possession with the intent to distribute is generally treated as a felony.

A defendant could be subject to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines depending on the circumstances in a given case. For instance, if a person sold a controlled substance near a school, he or she could face enhanced penalties if convicted. Penalties may also be enhanced if an individual is found to be in possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance. Penalties could include a lifetime ban on owning a weapon or having to disclose the conviction when applying for a job.

Mark J. O'Brien's cases have been featured in:
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