Friday, July 20, 2012

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Draconian Drug Law

The Florida Supreme Court has upheld a controversial drug possession law which turns the United States Constitution on its head.  It has been a bedrock of criminal law and procedure that the prosecution is required to prove each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a citizen of a crime.  Apparently, the Florida Supreme Court believes that the United States Constitution does not apply to the State of Florida.  In 2002 the Florida legislature passed a change to the Florida drug laws which shifted the burden of proof to criminal defendants to prove that the substances they were caught carrying was illegal.  At least 48 other states require that the state prove that the defendants knew that the substance they were carrying was illegal.  That's because the constitution requires that the state prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  In 2011, United States District Judge Mary Scriven, struck down the Florida law when she ruled that it was "draconian and unreasonable."  Not to be swayed by the Federal Court, in a 5 to 2 decision the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law by disagreeing with Judge Scriven and finding that the state legislature was serious about cracking down on drug possession by eliminating the need for the state to prove that the defendants knew that what they were carrying was illegal.  Since there is a split between the Florida Supreme Court and the Federal District Court, it is likely that the final decision will have to be made by the United States Supreme Court.

Let me explain the significance of this misguided Florida law.  Let's say that you ask your friend for a Tylenol to relieve a headache or some back pain.  Instead of a Tylenol, your friend gives you a prescription pill, like hydrocodone or Vicodin and you get pulled over by a police officer for speeding and the officer finds the pill on your car seat.  Instead of forcing the state to prove that you knew that this was a Vicodin or hydrocodone, you would have to prove that you did not know that it was a Vicodin or hydrodone.  Good luck trying to get your friend to come to court and admit that he illegally gave you a powerful prescription drug.  This is from the same state that gave us Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman and stand your ground.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

City Council To Bar Some People With Misdemeanors From Owning a Gun

In response to a ruling by a Federal District Court judge which struck down Chicago's Gun Ordinance as being vague and unconstitutional, the Chicago City Council is trying to rewrite Chicago's Gun Ordinance.  Under the current Gun Ordinance, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor gun possession is barred from owning a gun.  Yesterday, the City Council's Public Safety Committee approved a change to the ordinance which would bar certain people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors from owning a gun for five years.  The measure was passed by the Committee without any debate or discussion.  The measure is expected to go before the entire Chicago City Council or a vote on Wednesday.  

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Troubling Decision Out Of Washington State

The Washington State Court of Appeals has issued a highly troubling decision which should cause great concern to everyone concerned about their privacy rights when it comes to their smartphone.  The police had arrested Daniel Lee for possession of drugs.  A police officer seized Lee's iPhone and started looking through Lee's text messages.  He noticed a suspicious text message from someone named "Z-Jon."  The officer sent a message to Z-Jon asking if he "needed more" and received a response in slang and agreed to meet up with the officer who was posing as Lee.  That meeting led to the arrest of Jonathan Roden who was eventually convicted of attempted possession of drugs.  Roden appealed his conviction arguing that the Washington Privacy Act requires that the police get consent before intercepting a private communication transmitted by a phone.  The Washington Court of appeals disagreed with Roden and held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a text message sent because it is stored on a phone and can be viewed by anyone.  The majority equated text message with voice messages left on an answering machine which can be overheard by anyone.  The dissent strongly disagreed with the majority and warned that this ruling could put any phone in danger of being searched without a warrant.  So based on this decision, by simply possessing someones phone, a police officer is deemed to have consent to search the phone without anyone's permission and without a warrant.  This ruling throws the 4th Amendment out the door when it comes to your smartphone.  So under the majority's reasoning, any electronic communication that has a traceable electronic trail will not be protected because the mere sending of the communication means that the sender consented to the search.  Highly troubling.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295. 

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