Russell A. Spatz. Esq. is an experienced Trial Lawyer in South Florida and has been practicing as a Miami Criminal Attorney for over 35 years. He truly cares about his clients, and strives to help them not only resolve their legal problem, but also to help them find a better place in life.
Last week's blog post talked about what a gag order is and three important things you need to know about them. As a refresher, a gag order is put into place by a judge restricting the parties involved from talking about the case outside of the courtroom in an effort to keep the information away from the media in order to ensure a fair trial. One way to violate a gag order is to post case details or to talk about people involved in the case on social media.
Social media is used by billions of people daily, in fact it's how 68% of Americans get their news. Social media is an outlet for self-expression and sharing what's going on in ones life, but when there's a gag order involved there are certain details that just aren't allowed to be shared.
In the recent case of ex-presidential advisor, Roger Stone, a gag order was placed on him by Judge Amy Berman Jackson while he awaits trial this coming November. He is being accused of using social media to allegedly speak about the case. According to the an article by the National Law Journal, "Prosecutors accused Stone of violating Jackson's gag order by making statements on Instagram and Facebook about the special counsel's investigation. The posts were aimed at national media by tagging publications like The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Wall Street Journal." By doing so he is putting his ability to be out on bail at risk.
Is A Gag Order a Violation of the First Amendment?
Many argue that gag orders are a violation of one's right to freedom of speech or freedom of the press. A person's social media is their free space to express or share whatever information they feel comfortable showing the public, or their personal followers if their page happens to be private. When a gag order is set, these freedoms become limited, as case details become legally unable to be shared.
Before a gag order can be put into place, a hearing must be held where the nature of the case and type of information that could be published is considered. Other less restrictive options are considered and a gag order is usually the last resort and is only used if it seems clear that it would be effective in preventing an unfair trial. If a gag order is deemed to be unconstitutional, it's up to the ordering judge to lift of modify the order so that it is considered fair and within the proper guidelines.
What Happens When You Violate a Gag Order?
When you violate a gag order you're putting yourself at risk for stricter gag orders, jail time, fines, or the revoking of bail if you're currently out on bail awaiting trial.
If you or someone you know are being charged with a crime and have been placed under a gag order, it's best to make sure the order is followed. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to help guide you through the process is a wise choice. Give Russell Spatz a call today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can help you with your case.
Robson, Nate. "Roger Stone 'Continues to Fan the Flames' Despite Gag Order, Prosecutors Say." National Law Journal, 20 June 2019, www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2019/06/20/roger-stone-continues-to-fan-the-flames-despite-gag-order-prosecutors-say/.
Zantal-Wiener, Amanda. "68% Of Americans Still Get Their News on Social Media, Even If They Don't Trust It." HubSpot, HubSpot, 14 Dec. 2018, blog.hubspot.com/news-trends/two-thirds-americans-still-get-news-on-social-media.
"Gag Orders." Freedom Forum Institute, www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-the-press/gag-orders/.
You may have heard of a gag order before, but you may not know exactly what it is, who is affected by them, and what happens when you violate them.
Here are three things to know about gag orders: 1. What is a Gag Order?
A gag order occurs when a judge makes a ruling that a specific case cannot be discussed outside of the courtroom. This includes speaking of, writing about, or sharing any of the case's information. The main purpose of a gag order is to control publicity and protect the right to a fair trial. This is most common in high profile cases and is aimed at keeping press and other forms of media out of the case. There is often a debate about whether or not gag orders conflict with the first amendment's right to freedom of speech, but judges are careful to restrict only within the proper limits in order to not violate any constitutional rights.
2. Who is Affected By a Gag Order?
Gag orders are directed at both the defendant and prosecuting parties, the lawyers involved, the jurors, and any witnesses that may be testifying during the trial. These parties must adhere to the gag order as a way to restrict what information about the case may become available to media outlets in both civil and criminal cases. Court personnel who are in the courtroom during the trial are also typically expected to follow suit during a gag order.
3. What Happens When You Violate A Gag Order?
Recently, President Trump's former advisor, Roger Stone, was accused of violating a gag order that was placed on him in February as he awaits a trial of his own. Stone turned to social media and aired information that was considered to be under the gag order. According to NBC News online, Stone was charged with eight gag order violations. The article states, "Prosecutors argue that the posts amount to a direct violation of the order that Stone not comment "in the media or in public settings" about his criminal case or the special counsel investigation."
It has yet to be determined if Stone's Instagram posts do in fact violate the gag order. But if they were deemed to be in violation Stone could find himself in a situation where his bail is revoked, causing him to be placed in custody until his trial takes place in November. Other penalties for violating a gag order include jail time, fines, or potentially a stricter gag order to be put into place. Visit next week's blog post to find out more about gag orders and social media.
If you or a loved one are accused of a crime, they may find themselves put under a gag order during the duration of the case. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to lean on during this period can make the huge difference in how your case is handled. Russell Spatz has decades of experience and is available to advise you on your next move. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200.
_DanMangan. "Trump Associate Roger Stone Tells Judge His Instagram Posts Didn't Violate a Gag Order." CNBC, CNBC, 28 June 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/06/27/roger-stone-says-instagram-posts-dont-violate-gag-order.html.
"Roger Stone Violated Gag Order in Mueller Case: Prosecutors." NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/roger-stone-violated-gag-order-mueller-probe-prosecutors-n1020001.
Driving while under the influence should always be avoided, but with a holiday like the Fourth of July coming up, it's good to be reminded about the dangers of drunk driving. Around the holidays, no matter how big or small the celebration is, party goers tend to consume a bit more alcohol than usual increasing the chances of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
What Happens When You Get A DUI
Under Florida law, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substances is one offense, proved by impairment of normal faculties or an unlawful blood alcohol or breath alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or above.
If you get pulled over while under the influence, you'll likely be arrested and taken to jail. You may be required to sober up completely before someone is able to post bail and get have you released. While dealing with the DUI, your driving privileges will likely be suspended. This length of time will depend on the outcome of your case.
First conviction: Not less than $500 or more than $1,000. But if blood/breath alcohol level (BAL) was .15 or higher, or if there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000.
Second conviction: Not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000. But if BAL was .15 or higher, or if there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $2,000 or more than $4,000.
Third conviction: Not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000. But if BAL was .15 or higher, or if there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $4,000.
Fourth or subsequent conviction: Not less than $2,000. But if BAL was .15 or higher, or if there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $4,000.
How To Avoid A DUI
If alcohol is part of your celebration, your best bet is to plan for transportation ahead of time. That may seem fairly obvious, but it's often overlooked in party plans. A single DUI can not only affect your future, but the lives of others as well.
Here are some options you can plan for:
Ride-sharing apps have become very popular over the last few years with options like Uber and Lyft. While prices for these rides continue to increase, it's significantly less expensive than a DUI would be. There's always the option of using the pool feature to lessen the expense for those looking to stick to a budget, but also keep from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Consider planning ahead with a family member or a friend that's not drinking for the evening. That's always a safe way to be sure you have a sober designated driver.
Get a hotel room or stay with the party host to avoid driving until you've sobered up. If you decide to sober up in your car, do not have your keys in the vehicle with you because even if the car is in park, you can be charged with a DUI based on the intention to drive.
Leave your car keys at home or put them in a place you won't have access to.
Driving under the influence is completely avoidable. By getting behind the wheel after drinking you're putting your life and the lives of other in danger, and setting yourself up for a potential DUI charge.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, it's imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Russell Spatz is standing by ready to take your case. With over 40 years of experience, Russell has handled numerous DUI cases and can help you with yours. Give him at call today at (305) 442-0200.
"Florida DUI and Administrative Suspension Laws." Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, www.flhsmv.gov/driver-licenses-id-cards/education-courses/dui-and-iid/florida-dui-administrative-suspension-laws/.
A new law in Florida will now charge some drug dealers for murder. A state law that was put into place just under two years ago, is now being implemented and could lead to drug dealers being put behind bars for more than just possessing and selling illegal substances. The law signed by Gov. Rick Scott is aimed at those dealing in Fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a prescription drug that is often used illegally. It's a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Like morphine, it's typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery. Fentanyl is most often abused by drug users who are seeking a stronger high.
The Florida Medical Examiner's Commission says Fentanyl is one of the leading causes of drug overdose deaths in Florida, only being surpassed by cocaine. According to the Florida Medical Examiner's Commission's report in November 2018, fentanyl caused 1,743 deaths in 2017, 1,390 deaths in 2016, and 705 deaths in 2015. These numbers are what ultimately led to the passing of the law.
What The New Florida Law Means
The law states that drug dealers could face murder charges if their customers overdose and die using Fentanyl. It also imposes a minimum three year sentence for anyone caught with at least four grams of Fentanyl or other similar drugs like carfentanil, which is 100 times more potent than its more common variant. In addition, those caught with 14 or more grams of Fentanyl will be imprisoned for at least 15 years and those caught with 28 or more grams would serve minimum 25-year prison sentences.
Lawmakers have decided Fentanyl is a murder weapon in the same way a gun or knife can be perceived as one and they mean business. While many overdoses may be accidental, there are plenty of situations where they aren't. One case going to court at the end of this year involves the parents and siblings of Thomas Matuseski, a Boynton Beach man who died at age 36 on January 28, 2018, now have a chance to obtain justice for their son and brother, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinal. His dealer, Calvin Warren Jr., became the first person to be indicted for first-degree murder after the law changed.
These are some pretty strict laws, but Governor Rick Scott told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "I'm proud to sign this important piece of legislation today to help fight this national epidemic, which has taken the lives of too many Floridians."
Do You Know Someone Who Is Being Charged For Drug Dealing?
If you or someone you know is being accused of selling drugs or being at-fault due to someone's overdose, having an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a huge difference when it comes to your case. Contact Russell Spatz today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can help. Russell has decades of experienc and always puts his clients first.
Velzer, Ryan Van, and Ryan Van Velzer. "Gov. Rick Scott Signs Fentanyl Trafficking Bill into Law." Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4 June 2018, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-reg-fentanyl-trafficking-law-20170614-story.html.
Freeman, Marc. "Florida Now Treats Drug Dealers as Killers - and the Law Is Going after Them." Sun, 14 June 2019, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-ne-fentanyl-murder-cases-20190614-5durlgxbcnch5cqs3ossqrbr3m-story.html.
With the rise of social media, the desire to film private moments of our lives is growing rapidly. The increase in social media use has led to a large jump in crimes being projected on live streams since the mid 2010s. Live streaming is the use of an Internet enabled device, like a smart phone or computer, to broadcast video in real-time to an audience over the Internet. These videos can be seen by anyone who has access to the user's platform. Sometimes, whether on purpose or not, individuals live stream a crime for all to see.
What Happens When You Live Stream A Crime
It goes without saying that the streaming of a violent crime like murder or rape can be used to find one guilty of the crime they've committed, but what about the streaming of a seemingly innocent moment that quickly spirals out of control and is caught on camera? When those moments are caught on a live-streamed platform, it's tough to take it back. That's what happened in a recent Florida Walgreens when Ryan Greenlee walked in to buy beef jerky while streaming live on Facebook and ended up leaving in handcuffs.
Ryan Greenlee's Live Streaming Incident
On a Wednesday night in May, Greenlee entered a Walgreens with his camera live streaming on his Facebook. He flashed his cash at his camera, but didn't have enough for his purchase. He got belligerent and was asked to leave the store. That's when the trouble started. Greenlee started tossing things around, including a box that hit a nearby infant in the head - all while still live streaming on his own device.
He was arrested for on six different counts including child abuse, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, and resisting arrest with violence. Due to his violent outburst and aggressive behavior, he is being help in the healthcare wing of the jail, according to a report on KMOV4.
Always Pay Special Attention To What You Allow To Live Stream
Social media and being able to live stream what's happening around you can be fun, but always make sure to be on your best behavior, because you never know when your actions streamed on the Internet can be used against you.
If you or someone you know are in trouble with the law because of something that was seen in a live stream or social media video contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like Russell Spatz to see how you can get assistance in clearing your name. Russell Spatz has decades of experience and is ready for you to give him a call at (305) 442-0200 for your consultation.
Grigg, Nicole. "Florida Man Arrested as He Live Streams His Own Crime, Hits Baby in Head." KMOV.com, 18 May 2019, www.kmov.com/news/florida-man-arrested-as-he-live-streams-his-own-crime/article_70cd6fc8-7989-11e9-9a7e-13cd35dcc080.html.
A vacuum device created in Idaho has found an unexpected use in criminal cases. The M-Vac is a wet vacuum that's being used to extract DNA from rough and porous surfaces creating the ability to identify previously unknown suspects in cases all over the country. It's even been able to prove the innocence of convicted suspects who were wrongly imprisoned.
The vacuum was machine was invented in 1993 in Idaho by Bruce Bradley, who at the time was inspired by the E. Coli breakouts at Jack In The Box. According to Bradley, the weakest point in the detection process is in the collection or sampling of the cells. When it comes to meats or plants, a typical swabbing technique isn't able to pull the bacteria, so he created the wet vacuum as a way to collect the information he needed. Little did he know, the food industry wouldn't be interested in his device, but it was exactly what the criminal justice system was looking for.
How Does M-Vac Work?
According to its website, the M-Vac is a sterile wet-vacuum. A collection solution is sprayed onto the surface while it is being simultaneously vacuumed off of the surface. During this time a "mini-hurricane" is created that loosens the DNA material. The device doesn't identify DNA, but does a great job at collecting it.
How M-Vac Has Overturned Cases
The M-Vac has been helpful in cold cases as well as current cases where blood and other DNA evidence is in tough to reach locations. The M-Vac has been successfully used to prove the innocence of several people who were wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Jared Bradley, the son of Bruce, says the oldest successful case he knows of involves 52-year-old evidence from a man's shirt.
In 1996, Christopher Tapp was arrested and charged for the rape and murder of 18-year-old Angie Dodge. At the time Tapp was 20 years old and coerced into confessing to a crime that he didn't have any involvement with. Carol Dodge, the mother of the victim, was convinced that Tapp wasn't the right man and in 2017 requested the use of an M-Vac on her daughter's clothing and teddy bear. The M-Vac was able to collect identifiable DNA that not only lead to Tapp's release, but also the arrest of Angie's actual attacker.
If you or a loved one have been wrongfully committed of a crime, it's in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney with the experience that's needed to help you through your case. Russell Spatz has over three decades of experience in criminal defense law and is here for you. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200.
Ferraro, Julie A. "System That Aided in DNA Sampling of 1996 Murder Originated in Jerome." Twin Falls Times-News, 27 May 2019, magicvalley.com/news/local/system-that-aided-in-dna-sampling-of-murder-originated-in/article_c40793dc-adb6-552a-b4fa-4ec94ea1b0cb.html.
You're at a bar to unwind and enjoy some time with friends and family. Maybe you're there to watch a sporting event, relax, or just let loose. Whatever the ocassion, when alcohol is involved, bar fights can happen unexpectedly as tensions rise between friends and often strangers.
Bar fights are easy to avoid, but with their violent nature, they can quickly be more trouble than they are worth. Here are four criminal charges you may face if you're involved in a bar fight.
Disorderly intoxication occurs when someone under the influence of alcohol becomes a threat or danger to those around them. While engaging in this kind of behavior, the bar's management or law enforcement have the right to ask you to leave before the situation gets worse. If there is an incident where someone is hurt, it can result in a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
According to Florida Statues, this is known as a "breach of the peace." This law is made to help create a sense of public decency. If you are in a bar fight in public view, you can be charged with disorderly conduct, as you're disturbing the peace. This kind of charge begins at a second-degree misdemeanor and could lead to large fines or jail time.
An aggravated battery charge means that there was intent to cause serious bodily harm to another person while engaging in the bar fight. This charge is amplified by the use of a deadly weapon, whether it is a pocketknife or a bottle that's been picked up from the table. This can lead to a second-degree felony charge, according to Florida Statutes.
The loss of ones life during a bar fight is tragic and completely avoidable, but it has happened before. This crime can either be categorized as voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter means intentionally committing a murder while in the middle of a provocation. Involuntary manslaughter happens in the heat of the moment and is passion-fueled or emotional leading to immediate intent to commit an act that leads to ending a person's life. Involuntary manslaughter means someone is accidentally killed during a struggle or in this case in the middle of a bar fight. An example of this would be if during the fight a person trips or is pushed and hits their head on the bar causing an injury that leads to their death. Both forms of manslaughter are likely to result in prison time.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a bar fight that's resulted in one or more of these charges, it's imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney like Russell Spatz. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can assist in your case.
Texting while driving has always been frowned upon for obvious safety reasons, but due to a new law that's been passed in Florida there's even more of a reason not to text and drive. On May 17th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill making it a possible for law enforcement to stop and ticket drivers who are caught texting. Under the previous law, drivers on their phones could only be cited if they were pulled over for another violation first.
It's been illegal to text while driving for years in Florida, but law enforcement has never been allowed to stop drivers specifically for it - resulting in a law that's hardly been enforced. According to an article on Florida Trend, not even 1,700 tickets were issued for this offense in the last year.
This new law sets out to change those numbers. The goal is to make putting phones down as much of a habit as wearing a seatbelt.
The New Texting While Driving Law in Florida
Beginning July 1st, if your phone is in your hands while you are on the move then you are not only putting the your live and the lives of others in danger, you are also setting yourself up for a possible ticket. Phones can however be used while your vehicle is stopped.
The first violation is a $30 ticket, and the second violation is a $60 ticket. With court costs involved it could go up to closer to $100 per violation, as reported by Orlando Sentinel. These may not seem like steep costs, but it's a good reminder that texting while driving isn't safe. In order to make sure racial profiling won't be an issue with traffic stops due to this new law, law enforcement will be required to keep track of race and ethnicity for each person they pull over using their cellphone.
For the safety of yourself and others, it's always best to refrain from texting and driving. It's one of the main causes of accidents on the road and can be easily remedied by simply not using your phone while driving. Whatever it is can wait, or if it's of dire importance, pull over and sent the text while your vehicle isn't moving.
If you do find yourself in trouble for texting and driving, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like Russell Spatz for assistance. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can help you.
Mower, L., & Tampa Bay Times. (n.d.). Tougher texting while driving law in Florida approved by Gov. DeSantis. Retrieved from https://www.floridatrend.com/article/26877/tougher-texting-while-driving-law-in-florida-approved-by-gov-desantis
Maxwell, S., & Maxwell, S. (2019, May 16). Florida's new texting-while driving law: You have Q's. I have A's | Commentary. Retrieved from https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/scott-maxwell-commentary/os-op-florida-texting-driving-now-illegal-scott-maxwell-20190501-story.html
On Friday, May 3, Florida's state House of Representatives passed a 296-page criminal justice reform bill during the last day of the legislative session. This criminal justice reform bill had been months in the making covering a bevy of topics that were due for an update in the state of Florida. While many proposed changes didn't make it completely through, the changes that did pass are considered a small, but nice victory for the criminal justice system in Florida.
As said in the Sun Sentinel, "Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, said modest reform is better than nothing, but the bill that passed represents a 'baby step at best.'"
Here are four things you need to know about this new criminal justice reform bill passed by the House of Representatives in Florida:
Passed: The bill is named "Florida's First Step Act" and is similar to the one passed in the White House in January that takes small steps in lessening prison sentences at a federal level. It also encourages rehabilitation programs and early release for good behavior.
Passed: Previously, a felony theft was assigned to goods over $300, but has since changed to goods in the amount of over $750.
Passed: The new bill also reduces the penalty for the third violation of driving on a suspended license from a felony to a misdemeanor. Of course there are exceptions to this rule if the driver is intoxicated, causes injury to another person, or attempts to flee after being asked to pull over.
Did not pass: One item that did not pass during this bill has to do with minimum sentences. Had it passed, the change would have lessened the mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses and the early release of prisoners charged with nonviolent crimes, with minimum time served being lowered from 85 percent to 65 percent. Had this passed, it would have saved taxpayers roughly $860 million over the next five years and would have emptied thousands of beds in prisons.
If you or a loved one are being charged with a crime in Florida, it might be time to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Russell Spatz has years of experience and is always on top of his game when it comes to the current state of the law in Florida. Give him a call today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can help you.
Frazin, R. (2019, May 03). Florida legislature passes criminal justice reform bill. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/442053-florida-legislature-passes-compromise-criminal-justice-reform-bill
Swisher, Skyler, and Skyler Swisher. "Criminal Justice Reforms Headed to Governor, but Are They Enough?" Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3 May 2019, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-criminal-justice-reform-20190503-story.html.
Illegal acts come in a variety of different situations and severities. Crimes can range from murder to theft, drug use, rape, assault, or forgery to name a few. Depending on where the crime takes place and the type of crime it is, you could be charged by the state (in this case Florida) or by the federal government if the crime meets certain criteria.
The specific details of the crime like where it happened or if states lines were crossed are just some of the deciding factors in whether or not the crime is considered a state crime or a federal crime.
Illegal Acts That Are Always Considered Federal Crimes
Typically when someone is charged for a crime they are charged on a state level, but there are some crimes that are automatically considered to be federal jurisdiction. This means that the person who is charged for the crime will be charged under federal law and will go through the system via federal court.
Some of these crimes include:
Crimes that occur on government land like at a national park
Crimes that happen on an Indian reservation
Kidnapping that crosses state lines
Stolen vehicles that cross state lines
Robbing a bank insured by FDIC
Crimes against federal law enforcement
Counterfeiting American currency
Crimes that violate federal law like tax evasion
It's Possible To Be Charged For Both A State and Federal Crime
Often state and federal charges can overlap. While the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution states that you one can't be charged with the same crime twice, the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine says, "that more than one sovereign (as a state government and the federal government) may prosecute an individual without violating the prohibition against double jeopardy if the individual's act breaks the laws of each sovereignty." This means that if a crime breaks both state and federal laws, it's possible to be tried under both courts.
If you or someone you know if being charged with a crime on either a state or a federal level, it's wise to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Russell Spatz has over three decades of experience in Florida with all types of criminal charges. Give his law firm a call today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can help assist you with legal advice today.