Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fourth Amendment Supreme Court Warrantless Entries into the Home

Tampa Criminal Attorney, warrantless searches, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, Stanton v. Sims , hot pursuit, Fourth Amendment,
Fourth Amendment
Tampa Criminal Attorney notes, On Monday, November 4, 2013, the Supreme Court laid down a decree that further minimizes a person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures by law enforcement. The case in question is Stanton v. Sims. While the case was a civil claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Civil Rights, it will have ramifications in criminal cases as well.

The circumstances surrounding Stanton v. Sims are that Officer Mike Stanton responded to a call regarding an unknown disturbance involving a person with a baseball bat. As Stanton neared the area where the disturbance had been reported, three men were walking in the street. The neighborhood had a reputation for “violence associated with the area gangs.” Two of the men ran upon seeing Stanton’s marked police vehicle. The third man, Nicholas Patrick, crossed in front of the marked vehicle, and he moved quickly towards a residence. The residence was owned by the Plaintiff, Drendolyn Sims, which it does not appear Stanton knew.

Stanton did not see Patrick with a baseball bat or any other weapon, but wanted to detain him because of Patrick’s suspicious behavior and to investigate the disturbance. Stanton identified himself as police and ordered Patrick to stop, but Patrick did not. Patrick did appear to hear the order but ignored Stanton’s lawful command and went through a gate of a fence. The gate closed and Stanton kicked open the gate to continue pursuit of Patrick. However, Ms. Sims was behind the gate when it flew open. The swinging gate struck Ms. Sims, cut her forehead and injured her shoulder. Stanton felt that Patrick committed a jailable misdemeanor by disobeying Stanton’s order to stop.

Sims filed suit against Stanton in Federal District Court, alleging that Stanton unreasonably searched her home without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment. On appeal, the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court’s ruling suggests that when an officer is in “hot pursuit” of somebody who allegedly commits even a minor offense, a warrantless entry into the home is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment and did not subject Stanton to personal liability to damages here. 

The Supreme Court had previously found, where an alleged felony occurred, and the officer was in hot pursuit, a warrantless entry into the home does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The ruling here seems to say hot pursuit of alleged offender trumps the sacred boundaries of a person’s home. This case reveals a distancing from the sanctity of the home and seems at odds with the 2013 case of Florida v. Jardines (front porch sniff by drug dog deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment) which only seemed to bolster the importance of this core constitutional right.

Guest Author Adam Dinsbier

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Court in Hillsborough - PTSD

As of October 1st, there is a new court division in Hillsborough County- Division V. This court division will allow honorably discharged veterans to “get qualifying misdemeanor charges dismissed if they successfully complete a treatment and assessment program.” The Tampa Bay Times reported on this court back in August which can be read here:

Veterans Court, PTSD,  misdemeanor, Judge Weis,
Veterans Court
To be eligible to have a case dismissed, the veteran must volunteer to enter the program and also be eligible to receive VA benefits. After meeting the eligibility requirements, the veteran must successfully complete a treatment program tailored to the veteran’s unique situation, such as substance counseling and other programs. Once admitted to the court, the veteran must abide by the following conditions: he/she must complete the treatment, must not be arrested on any new charges and must appear at all court hearings. Once these conditions are met, the charge will be dismissed.

Judge Weis, who is the presiding judge of this new court, said “A veterans court is necessary and appropriate because it is designed to identify and treat a unique class of individuals suffering from unique issues stemming from a unique causation for which unique resources are readily available for treatment." The formation of such a division is a right step toward social justice for folks who have sacrificed and served for our country.

Register as a sex offender for the rest of your life - Remove From List

943.0435(1)(a), FDLE , Florida Department of Law Enforcement, sex offender ,
Register as a sex offender
Being told you have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life is a difficult pill to swallow. After moving to Florida in 2011 an individual received a letter from Florida Department of Law Enforcement FDLE requiring that he register as a sex offender due to an out of state conviction. This had an immediate and negative impact on his life. He was plastered on the FDLE sex offender website, required to get a driver’s license that designated him a sex offender, and was unable to continue with his normal life. He retained the services of a lawyer to try and help him remove his name and information from the sex offender registry. The lawyer correctly interpreted the dense sex offender statute and successfully sought his removal from the registry. 

Register as a sex offender for the rest of your life - Remove From List
Remove From List
The sole basis for FDLE requiring this person to register was an out-of state conviction. Although, section 943.0435(1)(a) defines a "sexual offender" as a person convicted of committing specified sexual offenses in Florida or similar offenses in another jurisdiction. The citizen was never required to register as a sex offender in his home State. Additionally, his out of state record was eventually sealed. Without a valid out of state “conviction” there is no basis to designate someone as a sexual offender in Florida. Sometimes people can have FDLE remove name, address, and photograph from the sex offender registry and direct the Florida Department of Motor vehicles to issue a license without a sex offender designation.

Video - Should Parents be Held Legally Responsible for the Actions of Their Children?

A nine year old boy was ARRESTED today for bringing a gun on the school bus.  When the parents were notified they said their son took the gun from home without their knowledge.  He is NINE years old. 

Why was the handgun stored in a place that the child could access? And access without their knowledge?  Was arresting the CHILD the right thing to do in this situation?  I don’t think so. A parent is the first teacher a child has in her or her life.  Children learn what they live. 

The Youth Handgun Safety Act Notice States, “Safely storing and securing firearms away from children will help prevent the unlawful possession of handguns by juveniles, stop accidents, and save lives.”   It is very sad that adults need to be reminded on this safety measure.