Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force

The primary mission of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering operations in the United States, including those that are most responsible for the nation’s drug supply. In order to accomplish these goals, the task force works closely with units throughout the country to conduct coordination, nationwide investigations into the major drug trafficking routes and participants.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force also collaborates with eleven federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and more. Proponents of this task force believe that this program will result in a disruption of the drug supply and also bolster the efforts of law enforcement agents in the fight against terrorist groups that are supported by profits from the drug trade.

Since the creation of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, it has been responsible for more than 44,000 drug-related convictions. A recent task force investigation called “Operation Sooner or Later” focused on international cocaine trafficking from Mexico to Florida and brought about the arrests of 41 people. These 41 suspects were convicted and $1.1 million in U.S. was recovered, as well as $750,000 of property, $200,000 worth of vehicles and 45 firearms. The investigation started with the discovery that two defendants had obtained large quantities of cocaine from several supply sources, including a network of Mexican cocaine distributors. The cocaine had traveled a long path from Mexico to Marion County to traffickers in Ocala, Jacksonville, Tampa and South Georgia, before it was apprehended by law enforcement.

There are many other task forces that have been created by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and other government agencies, and these agencies tend to operate in and around the 32 high intensity drug trafficking areas in our country. These designated areas are typically major cities or border crossings that have been identified as major highways for the trafficking of illicit drugs, and four counties were added to this list in the last year. Brevard County in Florida was added to the list, and law enforcement continues to keep a tight watch on Florida.

Due to the geographic location of Florida, its substantial tourism industry, and its large and efficient air, land and sea transportation system, there is high potential for drug trafficking and other illegal drug-related activities. If you have been arrested on suspicion of a drug crime, you must take action immediately to protect your rights.

You will face harsh prosecution in court, and it is vital that you seek legal representation from an Orlando criminal defense lawyer who can fight for you.

Move Over Law and the Sometime Tragic Consequences of Helping Others

I am sure that we can all agree that breaking down on the side of the road sucks, but it is bound to happen to most of us if we drive long enough. Don’t think that a fancy new car always ensures this doesn’t happen to you. It doesn’t only occur to people who drive clunkers or to those who think they can squeeze another five miles out of the gas in their tank. Sometimes the mishap that leaves you stranded can be something as simple as picking up a roofing nail in your tire from the roadway. Not everyone carries a spare tire or has the equipment or ability to replace a tire even if they do have a spare.

Fortunately for those of us who are unprepared for such eventualities, the Florida Department of Transportation, in conjunction with other partners, formed a service patrol group back in 1999 called Road Rangers. The Florida Road Ranger program is a state funded project which offers assistance to drivers who find themselves in just such situations of distress as previously mentioned. Initially started to help ease the problems that occur in construction areas, the Road Rangers who are hired now are currently trained to respond to a variety of incidents and patrol heavily traveled sections of highways to help minimize the number of incidents. The training that the Road Rangers receive and their willingness to do what they do make this one of the most effective tools used by the Florida Department of Transportation in its incident management program.

These Road Rangers often act as first responders to incidents that occur on South Florida highways. Although the Road Rangers do not receive medical training, they are provided with a wide variety of equipment to help drivers who may be in need of assistance. The type of trucks they drive may vary depending upon which contractor they work for, but they all are equipped with certain safety equipment and tools that include the following:

2 Ton Jacks
5 Gallons of Sand
Air Compressor
Auto Fluids
Booster Cables
Cell Phones
Fire Extinguishers
First Aid Kits
Flashing Arrow Board
Public Address System
Radiator Water
Reflective Cones
Wood Blocks
Basic repair tools

The primary purpose of Road Rangers is to reduce accidents, but they also help Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)to reduce the length of incidents, assist stranded drivers, remove debris from the roadways to prevent incidents from occurring, and improve safety at the site of accidents. All of these efforts are made in order to minimize the possibility of traffic accidents. Sadly, these efforts can often end in tragic consequences.

Such is the case with the recent incident of a Road Ranger who was struck and killed on I-95 on October 26 by a hit-and-run driver while he was attempting to assist a stranded motorist. The man was working to help get a disabled vehicle back on the road at approximately 1 a.m. when he was struck by another vehicle. According to evidence found at the scene, the investigators believed that the vehicle was a 2006 – 2007 model Jeep. Fortunately for the man’s family, the FHP believe that they have found the person responsible for the tragedy, but had made no arrest at the time this was written.

Unfortunately, what happened to this Road Ranger is not an isolated incident. More recently, a firefighter was standing beside his vehicle preparing to replace a tire. In a series of unanticipated events, a vehicle slowed when the driver saw him standing beside his car. Another driver didn’t see the slowed vehicle until it was too late to react. She struck the slowed vehicle and the firefighter in the process. He succumbed to his injuries several hours later.

Dozens of law enforcement officers are killed every year by other vehicles while handling traffic stops or assisting drivers who are stuck on the highways. When you add this number to the amount of construction workers, tow truck operators, highway workers, and other emergency personnel who are struck by vehicles while in the service of their given fields, the numbers are staggering. It is the deaths and injuries that occur in such circumstances that are the reason for Florida’s Move Over law.

Many drivers are aware that when they see an emergency vehicle they are supposed to do something, but are often unsure of what the law requires. Simply put, when an emergency vehicle is stopped off to the side of your lane of travel, you must reduce your speed to 20 mph under the posted speed limit. If the speed limit is already 20 mph or less, you must reduce your speed to 5 mph. If, however, you approach an emergency vehicle while traveling on a roadway that has more than one lane of travel going in the same direction, you must move out of the lane that is closest to that vehicle when it is safe to do so. If you are unable to move over safely, you must slow your speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Of course, whenever given directives by a law enforcement official that are contrary to these guidelines, you always follow the instructions of the official.

Not following the Move Over law can result in a fine of $120 and three points on your license. There are, however, some circumstances when drivers are unsure of just how to proceed. Many times, drivers think that they need to adhere to these practices when on a divided highway and the emergency vehicle is assisting someone going in the opposite direction. This is only the case on a two-lane road. Additionally, some drivers don’t know exactly to which type of vehicles this law applies. Although originally intended for emergency vehicles, as of July 1, 2014, the law now applies to utility service vehicles and sanitation vehicles. A good rule of thumb is to apply the law to all vehicles that are stopped along the side of the road whenever it is safe and prudent to do so.

Not understanding the proper procedures when it comes to Florida’s Move Over law can, and often does, result in accidents. It is ingrained in us from our early driving education to react when we see flashing lights. Unfortunately, that training can result in panic on the part of motorists. When you encounter such a scenario, react calmly and in a safe manner by slowing appropriately and then moving over. Slamming on your brakes or behaving indecisively can cause more harm than good.

It is not uncommon for the average person to take a dim view of attorneys. Often our job requires us to do things that some people may find objectionable, such as defending someone who is guilty of committing a crime of which he or she has been accused. Even though many people don’t agree with this practice, every American citizen is entitled under the law to a legal defense. Not all of us are in this field to make the most money we can; in fact, most attorneys practice law because they believe in our justice system and want to ensure that everyone gets the fair defense to which they are entitled. That having been said, we are still human and are just as deeply moved when we hear of a tragedy as everyone else.

It is nearly impossible to follow the Move Over law correctly on South Florida’s busy highways. Additionally, you many not feel that it is safe to move over, but a law enforcement officer may feel otherwise and write you traffic ticket. If you have received a traffic citation as the result of a violation of Florida’s Move Over law or been accused of reckless driving as the result of such a scenario, give our office a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation.

3 Essential Components Every Florida Business Contract Must Have

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties that’s enforceable by law. However, not all contracts are created equal. In fact, some contracts aren’t even valid.

Contract laws can vary from state to state. A contract that is valid in California may not be enforceable in Florida. A form contract downloaded from an online source, although properly formatted and full of legal terminology, may not adhere to the contract law requirements in the state in which you operate your business. As a businessperson, it is imperative that the contracts you’re relying on to protect your business are doing just that, and not leaving your company vulnerable.

Under Florida law, a contract must have three (3) essential components to be considered valid and enforceable. Those components are: an offer, acceptance of offer, and consideration. Let’s take a moment to discuss each must-have component below:

Component #1: An offer

The first required component of a contract is the offer. An offer is a written or verbal statement of either party indicating their intention to act upon acceptance. An offer can be renegotiated, withdrawn or rejected at any time prior to acceptance. However, once the offer has been accepted and the contract signed, your company’s considered a party to the contract and will be obligated to perform or not perform as agreed.

Component #2: Acceptance of the offer

The second required component of any Florida contract is acceptance of the offer. Once an offer has been presented, all parties to the contract must fully and openly accept the offer. An offer can be accepted in writing, verbally over the phone, or via the U.S. mail. In the latter, the offer is deemed accepted from the moment the mail is placed inside of the mailbox; not from the time the recipient receives the mail.

Oftentimes, in response to an offer, a party will suggest revisions or attempt to change the conditions of the original offer. In these instances, the original offer is considered rejected, and the revisions and/or new conditions are deemed counter-offers.

Component #3: Consideration

The third must-have component of a contract is consideration. Consideration describes the value that will be given to the parties of the contract in exchange for their performance. There are various forms of consideration including, but not limited to, money, services, and tangible items. Without consideration, the performances promised in your contract are merely gifts. In order to satisfy the validity threshold, your Florida business contract must evidence some form of consideration on behalf of all parties involved.

As a business owner, you’re probably no stranger to contracts. Regardless of the nature of your business, doing business with an ironclad business contract can prove to be essential to your company’s success. With the decline of the U.S. economy and rise in the number of breach of contract claims, now is the time to reevaluate the contracts you’re using to protect your business.

Mark S. Schecter is the founder of Schecter Law, a South Florida law practice that emphasizes commercial litigation and real estate law in the Ft. Lauderdale area. The business law attorneys of Schecter Law have decades of experience negotiating and drafting ironclad contracts for small and large businesses, as well as defending and enforcing contract terms. Retain a firm of experienced Florida contract attorneys that specialize in business law to prepare ironclad business contracts that will protect your interests and your business.

Violation of Probation in Florida

Probation is a form of punishment given to those who are trusted enough to be placed outside of a prison facility while they are completing their required punishment and rehabilitation. Violating this privilege comes with severe sanctions, one of which is the possibility that you will go back to jail, sometimes for longer than your original sentence required.

Being aware of the penalties and process involved in a probation violation, will either allow you to refrain from committing a transgression that will imperil your probation terms, or will give you an understanding of how to approach the situation if you have been found in violation.

Violation of Probation under Florida Law

Florida Statute §948.06 states that: whenever within the period of probation there are reasonable grounds to believe that a probationer or offender has violated his or her probation in a material respect, any law enforcement officer or parole/probation officer may arrest the probationer without warrant and return him or her to the court granting the probation.

A proceeding that involves a violation of probation in Florida is tackled in a slightly different manner than being charged with a crime in general. Considering that you were already convicted of a crime, and have yet to satisfy the requirements of your probation, a violation will garner less protection for you as an individual in the process due to the fact you are still paying your debt to society. This means that there is no statute of limitations, no right to a bond while awaiting a hearing, and no right to a jury trial. In addition, simple hearsay (word of mouth) can be used against you and guilt does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

With these limited rights, the state will have an easier time proving that you violated your probation. This makes your defense much more important in keeping the freedom that the state allowed for in your prior conviction.

As for the types of probation violations, the state of Florida defines two:

Technical Violation – this is when the individual in question violates a specifically stated requirement in their probation. Some examples of this include not paying restitution, fines or court costs, not completing community service, missing or skipping a meeting with your probation officer or leaving the jurisdiction.

Substantive Violation – this violation will stem from a new criminal offense. If the new charge was successfully defended and they are proven not guilty, they may still be punished for that crime during the violation of probation hearing. At this time, since traditional criminal trial rules do not apply, the prosecution only needs to have a “preponderance of evidence,” and the offender will not be eligible for a trial by jury.

With regard to penalties for violating probation, the extreme case will be that the court revokes or terminates the probation, adjudicates you guilty of the underlying defense, and imposes a sentence of jail or prison time that can be up to the statutory maximum for the original offense. In less serious instances, they may either extend the time that you are on probation or impose special conditions such as additional community service or counseling.

Either way, the court has complete power in reinstating, modifying, extending or revoking your probation, so proper compliance is essential in putting yourself in the best light when it comes to your violation of probation case. This includes following all requirements to their fullest extent and making certain with your attorney that you are doing all that is necessary to satisfy your probation.

Florida Statutory Rape Laws – Ignorance Of Age Is Not A Legal Defense

Sexual intercourse in which one partner is an adult and the other a minor is legally referred to as statutory rape. In the case of one Florida sexual offense law, an adult is defined as someone aged 24 or older. A minor is defined as anyone under the age of 18.

Florida Statute Title XLVI Crimes Chapter 794 Sexual Battery 794.05 – Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors. This law makes it a felony for anyone 24 years of age or older to have sex with a 16 or 17 year old. Ignorance of age cannot be raised as a defense for this crime.

QUESTION: Does this mean that anyone between the age of 18 and 24 can have sex with minors under the age of 18?

ANSWER: No, it does not.

Florida Statute Title XLVI Crimes Chapter 800 Lewdness; Indecent Exposure – 800.04 Lewd or Lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age: This law makes it a felony of the second degree for “A person” 18 or older, to engage in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older, but less than 16 years of age.
Florida Statute Title XLVI Crimes Chapter 827 Abuse of Children 827.04 Contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child; states that a person 21 years of age or older who impregnates a child under 16 years of age commits an act of child abuse which constitutes a felony of the third degree.

Statutory rape laws are meant to protect young people.

Knowing that jail time is a possible consequence deters many (but unfortunately not all) adults from becoming sexually involved with minors. When the act on a minor has already been committed, protection comes in the form of punishing the offender, usually with a felony offense.

Problem is, most minors that have sexual relations with adults rarely feel victimized and therefore don’t feel the need for protection. As a result, parents who suspect their underage children of being sexually active with older adults face a dilemma. If they report their suspicions to authorities, the report sets in motion a long and complex legal process which usually alienates them from their children.

If they don’t report their suspicions, they may feel they’ve failed in one of their primary responsibilities as a parent: Protecting their child from potential danger.

Do you suspect statutory rape?

If you’re a parent and suspect your minor child is sexually involved with an adult you have every right to decide how to handle the situation. Depending on your child’s maturity level, you might decide to speak frankly about the possible consequences and then allow some time for them to seek a resolution themselves.

Or you may feel it necessary to take legal action. If so, start gathering evidence of the relationship now. Read your child’s journals, dairies, text message logs and email and make copies of any relevant information, especially anything that is dated, before your child has a chance to destroy evidence. If you think there’s evidence on a computer, be sure to make a backup copy of the hard drive, too. If you don’t know how to do that, find someone who does.

Reporting statutory rape in Florida

The general procedure for reporting suspected cases of statutory rape in the state of Florida is as follows:

Start by reporting the suspected statutory rape violation to the Sheriff’s office or local police department. Based on the evidence provided, the law enforcement agency usually will either dismiss the case if insufficient evidence is provided; place the case on hold until resources can be devoted; or initiate an investigation right away.

An investigation entails gathering the names of and interviewing everyone involved including witnesses and following up on leads and any new information learned as a result of the interviewing process. A review of all evidence is also undertaken.

If this investigation is inconclusive, the case likely will be dropped at this stage. However, if the investigation determines that a violation of Florida statutory rape laws has taken place, the case is forwarded to the appropriate district office of the State Attorney for prosecution.

Once under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney’s Office, district attorneys take sworn testimony from all witnesses. From there they will make a determination as to whether charges should be filed. If warranted, the specific charges are determined next. The district attorney’s office then files a case with the Clerk of Courts, an action that signifies the start of the prosecution phase.

No one really wins in court

If all this sounds overwhelming, remember there is a better way. Keeping the lines of communication open may help prevent statutory rape from developing in the first place. So do the right thing and talk openly, honestly and regularly with your child.

Have There Been Any Changes in Personal Injury Litigation in Florida?

Personal injury litigation is determined by Florida law. Any changes in federal or state law will change the way a personal injury lawsuit is litigated. If an individual was negligent or purposely caused someone to be hurt, new laws may change the outcome of the case and the amount of damages the victim receives. Listed in this article are a few recent Acts amending current laws that can change a personal injury lawsuit.

• Seat Belt Usage – Effective June of 2009 – Traffic Accidents and Injuries

Florida’s seat belt law has been modified to include individuals riding in pick-up trucks. Unless you are medically excused from wearing a seat belt or are a newspaper delivery person, current law states you must wear one,

• Drug and Alcohol Abuse Program – Effective July 2009 – DUI

One of the top causes of personal injuries is caused by individuals driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol (DUI). The state of Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration is directed to license addiction facilities that act as integrated adult mental health crisis stabilization units and has set criteria for requirements for the treatment.

• Zero Tolerance Policies – Effective July 2009 – School Injuries

Schools are to attempt alternative dispute resolution, teen court, or referral to a law enforcement agency instead of automatic expulsion for committing an act that compromises student or school safety. Each case is handled on a case by case basis. Also, corporal punishment in Florida schools now requires that another adult be present, and that only teachers or the school principal is allowed to impose corporal punishment. Parents of students in Florida should be aware of the new Zero Tolerance policies and how they may affect your child’s health and rights.

• Physicians – Effective July 2009 – Medical Malpractice

This Act modifies responsibilities of physician assistants and the supervisory role the physician responsible for the assistant must take regarding care and medication. If you are involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, knowing the changes in this Act is important.

Retaining Your License After a DUI in Florida

An arrest for DUI (Driving under the Influence) in Florida is not an uncommon occurrence. A 2009 study by the Century Council found that roughly 53,000 men, women and minors under 21 were arrested for DUI in Florida. In 2009, there were 770 drunk driving accidents that resulted in fatalities. This figure does not include the hundreds of accidents resulting in serious bodily injury and property damage.

Given Florida’s high rate of drunk driving and the serious damage it can produce, it is not surprising that Florida’s Legislature has put in place consequences to ensure that the offense is not taken lightly. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is responsible for handling the administrative aspect of a DUI arrest, namely the license suspension. After a DUI suspect fails the breathalyzer test or refuses to take the test, the arresting officer will immediately confiscate their license. This is done even before the guilt or innocence of the driver is determined in criminal court.

Many people arrested for a DUI offense are deeply concerned with the fate of their driver’s license. Since people rely heavily on automobiles to commute to work, school and to perform necessary tasks for dependent family members, the loss of a driver’s license for any period of time is unthinkable for many. Fortunately, there are official processes that may be used to avoid an administrative license suspension or obtain a special limited license in the event of a criminal conviction.

After an arrest for DUI, a person has 10 days to challenge their administrative driver’s license suspension with the Florida DHSMV in writing. Law enforcement officers are required to explain this fact to those arrested for DUI, but it can be easily forgotten with the shock and confusion of the arrest. Note that this option is not available for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), though CDL holders may still challenge the administrative suspension of a non-commercial driver’s license.

The Florida DHSMV will schedule a formal hearing within 30 days after receiving the request to challenge the license suspension. This hearing is administrative in nature and is distinct from the criminal hearing. This hearing determines if an individual can keep their driving privileges, and if these privileges should have limitations. This is done by determining if the arresting officer had probable cause to stop the driver, examining whether the officer properly advised the alleged offender of the suspension for refusal or failure to pass an intoxication test, and reviewing the results of the blood or breath tests.

Many people facing this complex situation choose to hire an experienced DUI attorney. A competent criminal defense attorney can help a person through both the criminal and administrative aspects of the case. In fact, it is often advisable for the attorney to represent their client in the administrative hearing as well. During the administrative license suspension hearing, the prosecutor is not present, which can be beneficial to a person’s defense. Certain information may also be revealed in the administrative hearing that can prove useful during the criminal trial, especially details from uncoached witnesses or the arresting officer.

If the outcome of the case is that the person’s license is revoked or if the person did not request a formal license review hearing, the following Florida license suspension laws apply:

Driving a non-commercial vehicle with alcohol level of.08 or above

1st suspension – 6 months
1st suspension (refusal to submit to blood, urine, or breath test) – 1 year
2nd or subsequent suspension – 1 year
2nd or subsequent suspension (refusal to submit to blood, urine, or breath test) – 18 months

Driving a commercial vehicle with blood alcohol level of.04 or above or under the influence of drugs

1st disqualification – 1 year disqualification
1st disqualification (refusal to submit to blood, breath, or urine test) – 1 year disqualification
2nd disqualification – permanent disqualification
2nd or subsequent disqualification (refusing to submit to blood, breath, or urine test) – permanent disqualification

Driver under the age of 21 with a BAC of.02 or above

1st suspension – 6 months
2nd or subsequent suspension – 1 year
1st suspension (breath test refusal) – 1 year
2nd or subsequent suspension (refusal to submit) – 18 months

The administrative suspension is effective immediately. However, if the driver is eligible, the arresting officer will issue a temporary permit. This permit is valid for 10 days from the date of arrest, the same length of time that the driver has to challenge the license suspension.

There is also the option to apply for a special hardship license with the Florida DHSMV before the end of the license revocation period. This license is extremely limited in nature, allowing only for commute to work, school and other pre-determined locations. Should a law enforcement officer discover the driver outside of these locations, the temporary license privileges will be immediately revoked. Eligibility is not easy as proof must be submitted that the lack of driving privileges impose a severe hardship on current employment or education enrollment. Additional restrictions may apply.

In order to reinstate a driver’s license after the end of the license suspension period, an individual must also pay a license reinstatement fee.

The processes described above to mitigate a suspended license are not easy, automatic, nor do they come with a guaranteed outcome, but they can help a person retain their driving privileges after a DUI in Florida. With the potentially severe consequences of a revocation, it is often in the best interests of the DUI driver to pursue every available option, preferably with the aid of a criminal defense attorney.

Melinda Morris is a St. Petersburg DUI lawyer with experience as a former State Prosecutor serving on the DUI Manslaughter Squad. She has represented, men, women and juveniles in hundreds of drunk driving cases. As a former Florida State Prosecutor, her clients receive the benefit of her experience having tried criminal DUI cases in court and knowing where to look for weaknesses in the State’s case. This experience, combined with her knowledge of the science behind field sobriety tests and breathalyzer testing, allows her to confidently defend clients in misdemeanor and felony DUI cases.

Facing Your First DUI Charge in Florida

Many individuals facing a DUI charge are facing their first criminal offense, and the process ahead can be overwhelming. With over 60,000 DUI arrests in 2013, Florida ranks in the top 5 states to prosecute drunk drivers. Any DUI conviction carries serious consequences, as Florida law allows for strict penalties to deter both residents and visitors from driving while drunk. Even a first charge of DUI can lead to jail time, fines, and negative consequences outside the courtroom.

If a driver is detained by law enforcement on a suspicion of driving under the influence, the officers may request a breath, blood, or urine sample to determine their blood alcohol content (BAC). The driver legally is not required to give this sample, but they will face consequences if they refuse, including a suspension of their driving privileges. However, if the individual’s BAC is shown to be.08 or above, the driver can then be arrested for DUI.

Fla. Stat. 316.193 outlines the potential penalties for those convicted of driving drunk in Florida. These consequences grow in severity based on the offender’s prior conviction record. For a first DUI offense, the driver faces any of the following consequences:

• Up to 6 months in jail
• A fine between $500 and $1000
• Suspension of driving privileges from 6 months to 1 year
• Requirement to install an ignition interlock device(IID)
• Community Service
• Probation
• Requirement to participate in an alcohol treatment program

However, if the offender’s BAC was above.15 at the time of the arrest or if a minor was in the vehicle, they face even more severe penalties. The consequences include up to 9 months in prison and an increased fine between $1000 and $2000. There will also be a mandatory period of 180 days in which the offender must have an interlock ignition device installed on the vehicle. This system requires a clean breath sample in order to operate the vehicle, and the offender will be responsible for the installation, maintenance and removal fees, which can total into the hundreds of dollars.

Outside of the courtroom, a conviction for DUI can have other lasting consequences. The offender will likely face a greatly increased auto insurance rate, or they may be dropped altogether from their current policy. Those in certain professions, such as a teacher, pilot, law enforcement officer, or doctor, can face disciplinary actions in their career or may even in be in jeopardy of losing their jobs.

While a defense attorney may be able to negotiate lesser sentencing in some areas, DUI charges include several mandatory consequences in Florida, including a suspension of driving privileges. The abundance of negative consequences make is easy to see that driving drunk is never worth it.

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Aggressive Driving In Florida

Statistics show that most accidents are caused by the driver being distracted. A distraction can come in many forms when behind the wheel of your car, one of them is anger. Being human people get angry and being angry in your car is just one more distraction you do not need. It could cause you to make some rash decisions. Avoiding a driver behaving aggressively is also a major distraction that could cause actions putting you and the drivers around you in a serious situation.

Aggressive driving is defined as: “A form of automobile operation in which an operator will deliberately behave in such a manner as to increase the risk of an automobile accident” (Wikipedia). Aggressive driving includes behaviors such as speeding, running red lights, frequent or sudden lane changes, following too close, flipping off the other driver, and just general stupidity.

A driver acting aggressively becomes not only a danger to themselves and the driver who is the target of their anger but everyone around them. Aggressive behavior and distractions lead to mistakes and accidents. Incidents of aggressive driving can also quickly escalate in to “Road Rage” which usually leads to physical violence. According to statics aggressive driving is a key factor in 56% of crashes with fatalities. Insurance payouts to claimants of accidents caused by others bad behavior, especially uninsured drivers is passed on through insurance policy rates.

More than costly, Aggressive Driving is dangerous and could lead to much more serious charges, such as manslaughter or murder. Eleven states have passed laws that address aggressive driving behavior. Interestingly enough, Florida is prohibited from enforcing their aggressive driving law by state statute.

In Florida to be considered driving in an aggressive manor you must be ticketed for at least two of the following: speeding, unsafe or improper lane changes, following too closely, failure to yield right of way, improper passing, failure to obey traffic control devices. I tried to find exactly what Florida state statute prevents Florida from enforcing their aggressive driving law but without luck. I did learn that there is a check box on the traffic citation indicating it was Aggressive Driving. If an officer should write a ticket for one of the qualifying traffic offences he can check the box but it would be for data collection only.

As always the best defense is not to get in a situation in the first place, there are steps you can take to

Avoid being the target of an aggressive driver and they can be summed up as: Don’t offend, Don’t engage, and Adjust.

Don’t offend, avoid cutting someone off, don’t tailgate, don’t make a gesture, stay off the horn and if you do…. apologize!

Don’t engage, steer clear if you see a situation starting to develop. If you are being followed pull in to a safe or crowded spot and ask for help or dial 911. Don’t react back, avoid eye contact, avoid anything that would cause the aggressor to take a next step. If you see a driver who is acting dangerously report it, you may save a life.

Adjust, again simple things like leaving enough time to get where you are going. You won’t have to speed, you won’t have to tailgate to push people out of your way. Defuse, if someone should cross your path, take that deep breath or count to ten.

Aggressive driving bad behavior behind the wheel affects us all by putting us in danger. And we pay for it through increased auto insurance rates. Driving is hard enough but it is really nothing to get angry about.

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Florida Traffic Tickets: Public Safety or Big Business?

Four million – that is approximately how many traffic tickets the state of Florida issues every year. FOUR MILLION! Think about what a huge number that is. That averages out to almost 60,000 traffic citations for every county in the state, although the amount number issued differs tremendously from county to county. Some counties issue a great deal more traffic citations than others based upon population and how stringent the law enforcement is in that specific county, but no matter how you look at it, that equals a huge amount of revenue for the state.

Keep in mind that most of these tickets are the result of speeding, therefore, they have widely varying fines depending upon the county you are in when you get the speeding citation and by how much you have exceeded the speed limit. When you combine the millions of traffic citations written and factor in the speeding ticket variable, this creates quite a prolific industry. In fact, although traffic citations are a multi-billion dollar industry on a national scale, one television investigation determined that from early 2011 through early 2012, the state of Florida alone received more than $101 million in traffic fines. This is just the amount that the state got and doesn’t include whatever portion of the traffic fines that was divided up with the cities or counties in which they were written.

Law enforcement agencies use much of these funds to hire more enforcement officers to keep the wheels of this financial machine moving, and it’s not just the law enforcement agencies who write traffic citations that realize financial rewards either. When you consider the number of entities that benefit from this revenue, it is easy to see that this is a profit-motivated system that thrives off of what is often just human error. Public and private agencies, just like law enforcement, get a piece of this financial pie. These agencies include court systems, city and state governments, insurance companies, and traffic ticket camera companies. Here just a few of the ways that these profits are used:

• The budget of the Clerk of Court in the areas in which the citation was written is frequently affected by the amount of fines and penalties it receives.

• The state anticipates a certain amount of revenue from traffic citations which is also uses to balance its budget.

• Insurance companies use these traffic citations as a means to classify someone as a “high risk” driver to justify raising insurance rates which is the catalyst for automobile insurance becoming a multi-billion dollar industry. This is certainly great motivation to claim to support safety programs and donate various speed detection devices to police agencies. The millions of dollars they may spend on these devices is just a small percentage of the profits they stand to gain by more traffic citations being issued. Additionally, although insurance companies often claim that enforcing traffic laws is in the interest of public safety, there is really very evidence to substantiate that there is a correlation between infrequently getting a traffic ticket and posing a greater risk of causing a traffic accident.

• Traffic ticket camera companies are, in my mind, the most odious of all of these as they are private companies that are strictly for-profit and cannot effectively argue that their interests are in “public safety.”

• Let’s not forget the ancillary beneficiaries such as the companies who make speed detection devices, traffic schools, and so on.

With all of these groups looking to make financial gains off of hapless drivers, it is not surprising that traffic tickets are just one more multi-million dollar Florida business. That’s right – a business, not a public safety concern. It’s a business that, at $150 or more per traffic citation, proliferates so greatly that many municipalities try to obfuscate the true numbers about how much profit is involved. Not only do they then have to share less of the funds received, but it helps to try to keep average drivers from becoming outraged at how much money they are bilked out of through traffic ticket practices that can often be less than ethical.

One such example of questionable ethical behavior on the part of law enforcement is when someone is stopped for a traffic violation, but is arrested on a greater charge such as marijuana possession. In such a case, the issuance of the traffic ticket would not be included in traffic violation statistical data. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of statistics quickly realizes that this practice skews the data that is presented regarding traffic citation information.

In effort to keep this tremendous profit-driven scheme in motion, the legislature has to pass laws that allow cops to stop drivers for any arbitrary reason they choose. Something as seemingly insignificant as “improper lane change” is legal grounds to pull someone over and allow the police officer to look for other possible reasons to write citations. When you couple this with other factors such as the legal system projecting the image that anyone with a traffic ticket or two as a bad driver and a menace on the roadways, it acts as justification to keep those ever-increasing fines to be continuously rolling in. If our lawmakers can keep these fines to a level that will curtail the majority of ticketed drivers from fighting back against the system, they can continue to expect this golden goose to keep producing to their benefit. They do so knowing that most drivers who receive traffic citations are at a disadvantage when fighting these tickets, which makes the inequity involved in the entire traffic law process patently clear.

Yes, it is true that even attorneys get their portion of funds created by the issuance of traffic tickets. Specifically, traffic ticket attorneys make our living by representing drivers who receive traffic citations. I do, however, believe that most do so for the same reason that we at the Traffic Ticket Team do – because we feel that the average driver is taken advantage of by the system because it is a system that is set up so that the odds are stacked against anyone who gets a traffic citation. This is why, unless you are quite savvy in the courtroom, it is usually beneficial to you to hire a traffic ticket attorney. We are here to make sure that you have every advantage possible when fighting a traffic ticket, so give us a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation.