What to Know When You Are Charged With: Resisting an Officer With Violence

Under Florida State law, the charge of “Resisting an Officer With Violence” occurs when a defendant knowingly resists or obstructs police by committing or offering to commit a violent act towards an officer who is engaged in a lawful duty. The offense is a third-degree felony with penalties that often include jail or prison sentences.Resisting with Violence

Definition

Under Section 843.01 of the Florida Statutes, it is a criminal act to knowingly and willfully resist, obstruct, or oppose any law enforcement officer by committing a violent act towards the officer or “offering” to commit a violent act.

In order to prove that the crime of “Resisting Arrest with Violence” has occurred, the prosecution must establish the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the defendant knowingly and willfully resisted, obstructed, or opposed the alleged victim by offering to do violence to him/her or doing violence towards him/her;
  2. That at the time of the arrest, the alleged victim was engaged in the execution of legal process or lawful execution of a legal duty;
  3. That at the time of the arrest, the alleged victim was an officer or person legally authorized to execute legal process;
  4. That at the time of the arrest, the defendant knew the alleged victim was an officer or person legally authorized to execute legal process.

Possible Penalties

Florida State law classifies the charge of “Resisting an Officer with Violence” as a third- degree felony and carries with it possible penalties of up to 5 years in jail or prison or 5 years of probation, in addition to a $5,000.00 fine.

Jail or prison time is highly probable when charged with “Resisting an Officer with Violence” despite the existence or absence of a prior criminal history. Injuries sustained to an officer often exacerbate the likelihood of prison or jail time.

Why You Should Contact an Attorney

             There are many nuances of a potential case of “Resisting an Officer With Violence” to consider before moving forward. My experience as an Assistant State Attorney has exposed me to numerous types of these cases and their commonality lies in their differences. Given the numerous defenses available to contest these charges, an attorney is a vital asset for avoiding a conviction.

If you have question about your “Resisting an Officer With Violence” case please call my office at 407-415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.

 

No Valid Driver’s License Charge in Florida

      No Valid Driver’s License Charge in Florida

Under Florida State law, “No Valid Driver’s License” is a criminal charge that is based upon a person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway without being licensed by an appropriate State or government authority. The penalties for this offense may include jail and, more often than not, the creation of a permanent criminal record.

Section 322.03-1 of the Florida Statutes defines the charge of “No Valid Driver’s License” as a criminal act for a person driving any “motor vehicle” on a State highway unless that person has a valid driver’s license issued by an appropriate State or government authority.

“Driving” is defined as a person operating said vehicle or being in physical control of that vehicle. A “motor vehicle” is defined as any vehicle which is self-propelled but not any vehicle moved solely by human power, such as a motorized wheelchair or motorized bicycle. A “Street” or “highway” simply means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place which is open to the public.

No Valid Drivers License in Florida.

No Valid Drivers License in Florida.

What is a “Driver’s License?”    

             A valid driver’s license is defined as a certificate that, subject to all other requirements of law, authorizes a person to drive a motor vehicle and denotes an operator’s license. An “operator’s license” is a license issued by a State authorizing an individual to operate a motor vehicle on public streets, roads, or highways. Thus the requirement said driver’s license be issued by a State or government authority.

Possible Penalties

Under Florida State law, a charge of “No Valid Driver’s License” is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor and carries with it penalties of up to 60 days in jail as well as a $500 fine. Although the majority of these cases will not result in a jail sentence, the principal consequence of a “No Valid Driver’s License” conviction is that it will create a permanent criminal record which can have wide-ranging negative implications for you socially and economically.

What is the Difference Between “No Valid Driver’s License” and a Suspended License?

A “No Valid Driver’s License” charge differs from a charge of “Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License” in terms of the elements of the offense and the consequences of the offense. To prove a “No Valid Driver’s License” charge, the State, simply, must prove that the defendant was driving and there was no valid license issued, which is often proved or disproved through a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) record. This charge, furthermore, does not count towards classifying an individual as a “Habitual Traffic Offender” which can result in losing a driver’s license if sufficient convictions are accumulated over a five year period.

Possible Defenses

            There are several possible defenses that can be used to combat a charge of “No Valid Driver’s License” including, but not limited to:

  1. Presented with an unlawful traffic stop;
  2. Having a valid driver’s license;
  • Possessing a foreign driver’s license;
  1. Defendant not driving on a “street,” “highway,” or other place open to the general public;
  2. Lack of evidence that the defendant did not have a license issued by another State or government authority.

 

Why You Should Contact an Attorney

            There are many nuances of a potential case of “No Valid Driver’s License” to consider before moving forward. My experience as an Assistant State Attorney has exposed me to numerous types of these cases and their commonality lies in their differences. Given the numerous defenses available to contest these charges, an attorney is a vital asset for avoiding a conviction.

If you have question about your “No Valid Driver’s License” case please call my office at 407-415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.

The Prison-Industrial Complex

The Prison Complex

The Prison Industrial Complex

The Prison-Industrial Complex

Historical Background

President Dwight Eisenhower used his farewell address to warn the nation, as it continued down its ‘Cold War’ with the Soviet Union, that, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”[1] Eisenhower grew wary of the so called “missile gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union as being used by politicians, the press, and defense contractors all hoping for increased military spending and associate influence in the State. But Eisenhower knew no such “missile gap” existed and was, instead, merely a fabrication of fear surrounding the fragile balance of power between the two superpowers. Yet it was the fear of such a gap that might have led the country to a costly and unnecessary response for military buildup. Plainly, Eisenhower warned, “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persists. We should take nothing for granted.”[2]

Today, the country is facing a different type of industrial complex that could serve to strangle the efficacy of governance and place undue influence from the private sector on the throws of civil government: the prison industrial complex. The stranglehold of the prison industrial complex comes on the tail end of the war on crime and drugs that first gained steam during the Nixon administration and was carried through and exacerbated by the Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush administrations. The prison industrial complex, simply put, is a “set of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage increased spending on imprisonment, regardless of the actual need.”[3] The prison industrial complex has manifested itself in the increased influence of the private sector on State directives and governance. Moreover, it is a “confluence of special interests that has given prison construction in the United States a seemingly unstoppable momentum” that combines the influence of politicians struggling to gain votes and throwing themselves under the banner of ‘tough on crime,’ with private companies, government officials, and the American tax payer.[4] What results, is an interconnected web of fear, corruption, and undue private influence.

The Complex Itself

            The numbers behind America’s prison system are harrowing and shocking. Some 1.8 million people lie behind bars in the United States, with approximately 100,000 in federal custody, 1.1 million in state custody, and 600,000 in local jails. It should come as no surprise from these figures, then, that the United States imprisons far more people than any other country in the World, including approximately 500,000 more than the People’s Republic of China. And within the United States, California has by far the largest state prison system.[5] Indeed, California itself not only is, independently, the world’s sixth largest economy it is also is the largest prison system in the Western world. The California prison system holds more inmates than the combined prison populations of France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands. These populations, both for the entirety of the United States and California, are growing extremely quickly as incarceration continues to grow, forcing the continued opening and enlargement of prisons in the country.

The U.S. Department of Justice, highlights the exponential increase in incarceration over the last 3 decades.[6]

But why has the U.S. prison population increased so rapidly over the last three decades so quickly and so comprehensively? Mar Mauer, author of The Race to Incarcerate, argues that American society has “embarked on a great social experiment. No other society in human history has ever imprisoned so many of its own citizens for the purpose of crime control.”[7] If crime control, then, is the cause of such large increases in incarceration rates, is there some justification for prisons as a more efficacious method of limiting crime? Indeed, the answer to this question is a resounding “no,” with prison sentences doing little to curb the continuation of crime. Instead, in some cases, incarceration rates are actually exacerbating crime rates in the country.

The crackdowns on crime and drugs that began with the Nixon administration in the 1970s caused incarceration rates to climb, nearly doubling in the 1980s and then, again, in the 1990s. The current incarceration rate stands at roughly 445 per 100,000, easily the highest in the world, and this number is even higher when looking exclusively at adult males, standing at approximately 1,100 per 100,000.[8] Since the early 1990s, almost 1,000 new prisons have been built in the United States in order to keep up with the demand for incarceration while prisons still continue to be dangerously overcrowded. This cycle of increased incarceration rates, new prison development, and the maintenance and administration of prisons is what comprises the pervasive and cyclical nature of the prison industrial complex and what makes it so dangerous to American society.

Implications for Today

There are many nuances of any potential case to consider before moving forward. My experience as an Assistant State Attorney has exposed me to numerous types of cases and given me an intimate look into the State and Federal prison systems.

If you have question about your case please call my office at 407-415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.

[1] Schlosser, Eric. “The Prison Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, Dec. 1998. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Schlosser, Eric. “The Prison Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, Dec. 1998. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] W.W. “The Moral Failures of America’s Prison-industrial Complex.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 20 July 2015. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

[7] Schlosser, Eric. “The Prison Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, Dec. 1998. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

[8] W.W. “The Moral Failures of America’s Prison-industrial Complex.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 20 July 2015. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

The “War on Drugs:” Societal and Legal Implications

The “War on Drugs:” Societal and Legal Implications

Historical Background

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

During the 1960s, drugs became symbolic of youthful rebellion, social upheaval, political dissent, and a rejection of the ‘norms’ of society. Under a psychedelic wave of citizen dissent, the government halted scientific research to evaluate the medical safety and efficacy of certain drugs. It was in June of 1971 that President Nixon, who was facing significant disapproval relating to the economic standing of the country and the crumbling of the Bretton Woods Conference system for international economics and global finance, declared a “war on drugs.” President Nixon dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed measures, such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants, through congress and via executive orders.[1] Moreover, President Nixon placed marijuana on the “Schedule One” list, highlighting the most restrictive category of drugs. Despite calls for the decriminalization of marijuana possession and distribution by a bipartisan review commission, President Nixon moved in 1972 to reject the commission’s findings and maintain the illegality of marijuana.

During the tumultuous period of 1973 and 1977, some eleven states moved to decriminalize marijuana possession. During the Carter administration, starting in 1977, the Senate Judiciary Committee decriminalized marijuana of up to one ounce designated for personal use.[2] However, a mere few years following this decriminalization, proposals to continue to decriminalize the substance across the country were abandoned as nationwide angst over high teen marijuana use grew amidst a societal rejection of the policies of the 1970s. This angst reached a watershed moment with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980.

The Reagan administration marked the beginning of a long period of exacerbating rates of incarceration in the country, largely due to the administration’s widespread expansion of the drug war. In the period between 1980 and 1997, the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increased from some 50,000 to over 400,000 individuals.[3] This wave of incarceration was pushed through by President Reagan under the auspices of a highly publicized anti-drug campaign to “Just Say No.” The media campaign utilized pre-existing stereotypes at the heart of American society, such as portrayals of African Americans other minorities as animalistic and violent, with drugs turning “moral and just” white Americans into the same creatures. Nowhere was this more evident than in the media portrayals of people addicted to the smokeable form of cocaine dubbed “crack.”[4] In these advertisements, the drug user was almost exclusively African American or a minority, impoverished, and without conscience, empathy, or religion.

The dichotomy between “crack” and cocaine illustrates how racial stereotypes at the heart of American society played a pivotal role in the construction of the prison industrial complex and the increased incarceration rates in the country. Whereas cocaine was traditionally seen as a product for affluent, white Americans, “crack” was more brutal, cheaper, and common. “Crack,” the Reagan administrated argued, was a product of the inner cities and gang members. As such, media targeting for the ‘War on Drugs’ focused on “crack” and other minority focused narcotics, while more “civilized” cocaine was left out of the discussion. This highlights how the ‘War on Drugs’ itself was a product of pre-existing stereotypes and utilized said stereotypes to “clean up the streets” and make the country safe from minorities. This directly ties into how the prison industrial complex grew out of increased incarceration rates and the necessity to play off of stereotypes at the heart of American society in order for the tentacles of influence for the private sector to grow.

The zero tolerance policies of the Reagan administration when it came to drugs led to further augmentation of mandatory minimums and Three Strikes Laws in the country. Former Los Angeles Police Chief, Daryl Gates, who was the chief law enforcement officer in the city during the Reagan administration, summarized how the poles of political power in the United States felt about drugs best: “casual drug users should be taken out and shot.”[5] Public hysteria over drug use in the country reached extreme levels during the 1980s, leading Congress and state legislatures to pass extremely harsh, draconian penalties for drug use. These penalties greatly exacerbated the prison population in the country. And, despite the decrease in public hysteria and media interest as the 1980s ended, the draconian measures pushed forward remained and continued to increase levels of arrest and incarceration in the country.

Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential Campaign brought hope that the country might reject its mindset of punishment and, instead, move towards a treatment and rehabilitation mindset when it came to drug use in the country. This hope was short lived, however, as President Clinton’s administration soon felt the pressures from both sides of the aisle to be ‘tough on crime.’ A mere few months after ascending to office, President Clinton reverted back to previous Republican administration’s drug war strategies.[6] Perhaps the best example of this was President Clinton’s 1994 decision to reject a United States Sentencing Commission recommendation to eliminate the disparity between “crack” and powder cocaine sentences in the country. This decision highlights how the Clinton administration continued to play off of the existing racial stereotypes that its predecessors relied on to push through tough drug regulations and increased incarceration rates.

Moreover, President Clinton continued the push for Three Strikes Laws, Mandatory Minimum sentencing, and the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. President Clinton, like President Reagan before him, utilized media portrayals to cast a dark light on drug use in the country and establish the image of “Super Predators” who lived without conscience or empathy and needed to be incarcerated. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act allowed for increased funding to be directed to state and local police, as well as the reallocation of used Federal policing and military vehicles to local municipalities. This set the groundwork for the militarization of America’s police forces and is why rural municipalities are armed to the teeth in defense of the drug war. Although President Clinton set the groundwork for the militarization of police, his successor, George W. Bush, greatly expanded the influence of police forces and augmented their weapons and capabilities.

George W. Bush ascended to office just as the drug war in the United States was slowing down. Despite this, President Bush allocated more money than ever to the drug war and scoping out new methods of drug elimination programs. President Bush’s appointed drug czar, John Walters, focused more heavily on marijuana than any of the previous administrations, even dating back to President Nixon. Walters continually pushed for campaigns to promote student drug testing and reporting, having little effect on the total rates of narcotic use in the country. What’s more, the Bush administration saw the rapid escalation of the militarization of domestic drug law enforcement and policing. By the end of President Bush’s second term in office, some 40,000 paramilitary style SWAT raids were conducted on Americans each year, predominantly for nonviolent drug law offenses. During this time period, as well, most federal reform stalled for drug reform despite the success of some state-level reforms to curb the drug war.[7]

From President Nixon through President George W. Bush, the ‘War on Drugs’ and ‘War on Crime’ systematically utilized pre-existing racial stereotypes to target, arrest, and, ultimately, incarcerate millions of Americans for harmful offenses. What resulted was a massive buildup of prisons in the country to house the rapidly growing prisoner population.

Implications for Today

The so-called “war on drugs” has continued to influence societal impressions, legal strategies, and the general atmosphere regarding drug related offensives, today. Stricter penalties and greater resources are driving prosecutorial offices to crack down harder and harder on these offensives.

There are many nuances of any potential drug related case to consider before moving forward. My experience as an Assistant State Attorney has exposed me to numerous types of these cases and their commonality lies in their differences. Given the numerous defenses available to contest these charges, an attorney is a vital asset for avoiding a conviction.

If you have question about your drug related case please call my office at 407-415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.

[1] “A Brief History of the Drug War.” A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “A Brief History of the Drug War.” A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “A Brief History of the Drug War.” A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

[6] “A Brief History of the Drug War.” A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

[7] “A Brief History of the Drug War.” A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

“Street Racing:” What to Know Under Florida State Law

“Street Racing:” What to Know Under Florida State Law

            Under Florida State law, “Racing on Highways” occurs when a defendant competitively drives a vehicle in a speed or acceleration contest, or engages in drag racing, or participates as a passenger or race facilitator. The offense carries penalties of up to 1 year in jail and a driver’s license revocation.

Definition

The offense of Racing on Highways, or “Street Racing,” is defined in Section 316.191 of the Florida Statutes. Under the law, “Racing” potentially includes four categories of conduct:

  • Racing, Competitions, and Exhibitions: defined as driving any vehicle in any race, speed competition, speed contest, drag race, acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, speed exhibition, acceleration exhibition, or driving for the purpose of making a speed record on any highway, roadway, or parking lot;
  • Coordination and Facilitation: participating in, coordinating, facilitating, or collecting moneys at any location for any race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition;
  • Passenger Participation: knowingly riding as a passenger in a race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition; andRacingBlog
  • Traffic Interference: purposefully causing the movement of traffic to slow or stop for any race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition.

Definition of “Drag Race”

             “Drag Race” is defined as the operation of two or more motor vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other, or the operation of one or more motor vehicles over a common selected course, from the same point to the same point, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such motor vehicle or motor vehicles within a certain distance or time limit.

Necessary Conditions to Prove “Street Racing”

To prove the crime of Racing on Highways at trial, the State must establish that the defendant:

  • Drove a motor vehicle in,
  • Participated, coordinated, facilitated, collected monies at the location of,
  • Knowingly rode as a passenger in; [or]
  • Purposefully caused moving traffic to slow or stop for
  • …a race, a drag race, an acceleration contest, a speed competition, a test of physical endurance, a speed exhibition, or an attempt to make a speed record on a highway, road, or parking lot.

Penalties

Florida State law classifies Racing on Highways as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail. In addition to possible incarceration, a plea to the charge of Street Racing will have the following consequences: fines, revocation of license, vehicle impoundment, and the creation of a criminal record.

 Possible Defenses

The possible defenses to Street Racing include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Police officer did not actually witness or fully witness the incident;
  • Lack of proof of competition;
  • Ordinary traffic infractions mistaken for ‘racing;’
  • Careless driving or other non-criminal traffic maneuvers (i.e. passing, accelerating, changing lanes);
  • Actual speed of the vehicle(s) is not consistent with an allegation of ‘racing.’
  • Lack of proof as to the defendant’s intent;
  • Intent to race on part of the other driver, but not the defendant;
  • Lack of proof that more than 1 vehicle was involved in the alleged ‘competition;’
  • Alleged conduct not encompassed by the statutory definition of ‘race.’

Why You Should Contact an Attorney

            There are many nuances of a Street Racing case to consider before moving forward. My experience as an Assistant State Attorney has exposed me to numerous types of these cases and their commonality lies in their differences. Given the numerous defenses available to contest these charges, an attorney is a vital asset for avoiding a conviction.

If you have question about your Street Racing case please call my office at 407-415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.