School zones are heavily monitored. Therefore, in traffic ticket defense, we see several citations issued to people for failing to stop at a red light (or behind the stop bar), failing to yield, failure to obey a traffic control device and of course speeding through a school zone. The cities on US Highway 301 (Waldo and Lawtey) still write a bunch of tickets even though their signage has improved over the years.
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.
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.
The firm represents individuals who have received traffic tickets or criminal accusations in Columbia County, Florida, located in North Florida. Several people receiving citations in Columbia County are from out of state. This is because Interstate 75 and Interstate 10, both heavily traveled by tourists and visitors to Florida, intersect just north of Lake City in Columbia County. The Florida Highway Patrol or FHP monitors traffic along both I-75 and I-10 corridors.
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.
The city of Waldo, Florida issues a lot of traffic tickets. In fact, Waldo has been designated a speed trap. Waldo traffic ticket cases have attracted national attention recently due to the suspension of the police chief and his replacement. Just days after I blogged about how officers regularly deny the existence of traffic ticket quotas, news broke that the Waldo police chief and a corporal did in fact have and enforce a citation quota.
When it comes to traffic tickets, several people claim to 'know' that officers have quotas on how many tickets they are supposed to write in any given month. If you ask any Florida local law enforcement officer, they will assure you that there are no quotas in their department. At least that is what they all tell me. The fear of traffic infraction quotas is that the officers are writing to meet quotas and not for the traffic violation itself.
The Florida Move Over Law requires that a driver move over or slow down to 20 miles per hour under the speed limit when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle that is using any visual signals and is parked on the side of the road, or a wrecker displaying amber or flashing lights that is performing a recovery or loading on the roadside, or sanitation vehcile peforming its function.
Many criminal drug cases begin at a traffic stop sometimes with a dog sniff leading to a search. Another case of a traffic stop leading to drugs being found has made it all the way to United State Supreme Court. This particular traffic stop led to a dog sniff which when the dog supposedly alerted caused the police to search the vehicle, of course drugs were found.
Many criminal cases such as drug possession, drug trafficking and not just DUI or other criminal traffic charges begin with a mere traffic stop. Until recently, clients were advised that if they are driving a blue car and the registration states the registered vehicle is white then, that alone is a sufficient basis for a stop. This would mean that if a person purchased a used car that was white, registered it and then had it painted black with red flames the mere fact that the car was painted would cause an inconsistency with the registration sufficient to justify a traffic stop. Many times, this is where the officer says they smell marijuana or they have a dog that alerts to cocaine or other drugs. When drugs are found a person is charged with possession or drug trafficking. In other words, painting your car is going to get you stopped but only at the discretion of the officer's suspicion. While it may seem outrageous that you can be stopped merely for painting your car, that may appear suspicious to a government worker driving a government car who is not responsible for the government paint job. That and people who steal cars tend to switch the plates of similar make and model cars. Obviously, in the eyes of law enforcement officers anyone who paints their car is suspicious.