In criminal defense and traffic defense much is made about the initial seizure or traffic stop. This is because if you fight the traffic stop and win, evidence is excluded which can lead to the entire case being dismissed. In regards to fighting a traffic stop, some people argue that there is a fundamental right to travel which is a defense to whatever violation of the traffic law that led to the seizure or the accusation itself. Essentially, the argument is that the fundamental constitutional right to travel invalidates whatever statute, law, rule or regulation the government is attempting to enforce or even the court's jurisdiction. In court, unrepresented defendants can be heard to argue things such as:
Part of the traffic ticket practice is clearing suspensions in the best possible way. Common reasons for suspensions are for failing to address the citation within thirty (30) days, failing to pay, failing to complete traffic school, failing to appear in Court in a criminal case, warrants, child support etc. Of course there are many other reasons a driver's license can be suspended and each case is unique.
In the drug defense subset of criminal defense an amazing number of cases begin at a traffic stop. One example is issues with the license plate or tag, whether it is the infamous tag light, expired tag or an obscured tag. These stops are difficult to defend without a video showing the cops to be incorrect (or worse).
Tampering with evidence is a criminal offense in Florida. Tampering with evidence is a third degree felony; the maximum penalty is five (5) years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. To prove tampering, the State has to prove that a person while knowing that a criminal trial, proceeding or an investigation has begun or is about to be started, then alters, destroys, conceals or removes anything with the intent to impair its credibility, availability or use-ability in trial. Many times tampering is not what is shown by the entertainment industry like fabrication or threatening a witness; instead several tampering cases begin at the all important traffic stop and escalates when an officer thinks that evidence is tossed, thrown or eaten.
Arrests and the resulting criminal accusations happen every day. Common questions are how can they arrest when there are conflicting stories or can they arrest for whatever just happened. Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. If someone was just arrested, then the answer is yes the cops can and in fact they did just make that arrest. Now the accused has to defend themselves but the only place that happens is at a trial and that will not be for several months.
Recently the 5th District Court of Appeal held that a passenger of a vehicle is lawfully seized and not free to leave a traffic stop. Therefore, if evidence of a crime is found, it can be used against the passenger. A large amount of drug possession cases and other criminal cases start with a traffic stop and subsequent search of passengers.
Solicitation of prostitution is illegal in forty nine (49) states including Florida. Florida Statutes section 796.07(2)(f) declares it unlawful to "solicit, induce, entice, or procure another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation". The legislature recently enhanced the punishments for engaging or soliciting a prostitute and instituted a mandatory civil penalty of $5,000.
In August 2014 I wrote about a Florida Court finding that in criminal cases of solicitation of prostitution the mandatory civil penalty ($5,000) is unconstitutional. Since then the matter has continued to be fought in courts. People who picked up charges of soliciting could still have imposed this penalty but depending on their representation, the sentencing court could have deferred imposing the penalty, left open the possibility of removing the fine or refused to impose the penalty all together.
Though the Stand Your Ground law was enacted a few years ago, the burden of proof had never been ultimately decided by the Florida Supreme Court. The procedure in a Motion to Dismiss based upon immunity had been established.
Criminal and traffic defense can be a difficult area to practice. It seems that every time a constitutional protection might favor a person, the government finds a way to circumvent or change the law. A recent criminal traffic case of driving on a suspended license reminded me of a stop that the fact that it is a legal stop absolutely blows my mind.