A Pocketknife or a Weapon?

A recent District Court of Appeal decision gives trial courts, defense counsel, and prosecutors direction in determining what is and what is not a concealed weapon.

The Florida 4th D.C.A reversed a Carrying a Concealed Weapon charge and found that a knife carried by juvenile Defendant had the characteristics of a common pocket knife. The District Court reviewed Florida Statute 790.001(13) which defines weapon as “any dirk, knife, metallic knuckles, slugshot, billie, tear gas gun, chemical weapon or device, or other deadly weapon except a firearm or a common pocketknife, plastic knife, or blunt-bladed table knife.” The knife in the Defendant’s pocket had a blade of three and a quarter inches and when fully opened the whole knife was eight inches. According to the court, the knife had a camouflage pattern on each side of the handle and groves to prevent the knife from slipping.

In reversing the case, the appellate court seemed to define the knife by what characteristics it did not have and found this knife to be a pocketknife and therefore not a weapon. The 4th D.C.A said this knife had no hilt guard, notched combat-style grip, double-edged blade, or switchblade. The court’s ruling that it was a pocket knife and not a weapon was also determined by the fact that it was not carried in an open and locked position.

The Appellate Court said the Judge at the trial level should have dismissed the case. You can read the full opinion of the 4th D.C.A here: http://www.4dca.org/opinions/Aug%202011/08-17-11/4D10-969.op.pdf

Basic Criminal Law Definitions

The Florida Department of Corrections has placed some basic criminal law definitions on their website. Your attorney can explain these terms to you in more detail. Here are a few terms that are helpful to know in a criminal case.

Where used herein, refers to a judgment by the Court that the defendant is guilty of an offense.
Civil Rights
Refers to rights of citizenship in the State of Florida enjoyed before the felony conviction, except the specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms.
Drug Court
Refers to an entity given the responsibility to handle all cases (adult, family and juvenile) concerning drug-involved offenders living in the community under the Court’s jurisdiction. There are three (3) types of drug court programs: pre-conviction (PTI), post-conviction and re-entry. Offenders sentenced from a drug court may be either in or out of custody, and accountability is provided through judicial monitoring, comprehensive supervision, drug testing, treatment, rehabilitative services, and immediate sanctions and incentives. The sentencing Court reviews the offender’s progress on a regular basis.
Drug Offender Probation
Drug Offender Probation is an intensive form of supervision, which emphasizes treatment of drug offenders in accordance with individualized treatment plans. The program includes elements of surveillance and random drug testing. Contacts are made by correctional probation senior officers to ensure offenders remain drug free.
A post-prison supervision program where eligible inmates (offenses committed prior to October 1, 1983) have the terms and conditions of parole set by the Florida Parole Commission. The Florida Department of Corrections provides parole supervision. Parole is a conditional extension of the limits of confinement after an offender has served part of his sentence. The period of parole cannot exceed the balance of the sentence. Under parole, the offender is to be supervised in the community under specific conditions.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
Any individual whose offense meets criteria defined in 948.08 is eligible for the pretrial intervention program. Approval of the administrator and the consent of the victim, the state attorney, and the judge hearing the case are required in order to formally accept the offender into the program. If the offender completes the conditions of the program which could include restitution to the victim, counseling and/or community service, then the State Attorney’s Office will not prosecute the case. Failure to successfully complete the program shall result in the continued prosecution of the case by the State Attorney’s Office.
Split Sentence
Refers to an individual sentenced to a specified length of confinement followed by a period of community supervision by a sentencing authority. The confinement may be in county jail or state prison.
Withholding of Adjudication
Refers to a judgment by the Court to withhold pronouncement of guilt upon the defendant for an offense.
Written Monthly Report
Where used herein, refers to pertinent offender personal data required monthly, including information pertaining to residence, employment, and treatment as applicable.

You can visit the Department of Corrections website for more information.

http://www.dc.state.fl.us/index.html, 2011

Florida Supreme Court Website

If you have been charged with a crime I would strongly recommend speaking to a qualified criminal defense attorney in your area. In addition, you can do your own research and review the jury instructions for the crime you are charged with at the Florida Supreme Court’s website http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/ . You will see the link for jury instructions at the top left. The Jury Instructions will give you the elements of the crime that the State of Florida will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial. A qualified attorney can help you review your options prior to trial.

Statistics & Facts About Distracted Driving

Here are some interesting information from the U. S Department of Transportation about distracted driving.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual — taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing

Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.

While all distractions can endanger drivers’ safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction.

Other distracting activities include:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a PDA or navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Changing the radio station, CD, or Mp3 player.