Driver's License Reinstatement Day in Hillsborough County

On Friday morning, January 8, 2016, at the George Edgecomb Courthouse located at 800 E. Twiggs Street, in Tampa, FL, the court is holding a reinstatement day to reduce fees and help people get their driver’s license reinstated. Relief will only be granted for tickets issued in Hillsborough County. You do not need an attorney to participate in the program.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be onsite to issue Driver’s Licenses. Proof of identification is required before a driver's license will be issued.

The flyer for this upcoming event promises limited availability. Cases will be handled on a first come first serve basis so apply early. It is probably a good idea to obtain a copy of your driving record before you apply so that you can fill out the form correctly. Participants must be pre-registered between December 7-28, 2015. You can apply online on the clerk of court website.

If you are qualified based on the answers that you provide then your court record and driving record will be reviewed. If you are deemed eligible then the Clerk will add you to the docket and and mail you a notice letting you know where to appear. If you are not eligible, the clerk promises to give you a call by phone.

Click here for more information on the Driver’s License Reinstatement Day in Hillsborough County.

The purpose of the program is to help individuals who have a suspended driver’s license and may be eligible to have their Florida Driver’s License reinstated. The benefit of the program is that fees can be reduced following a determination of eligibility and a judicial hearing.

Those with suspensions resulting from the following violations should pre-register for the Driver’s License Restatement Day:
  1. No Valid Drivers License;
  2. Failure to Pay suspensions; 
  3. Citations in Collections; 
  4. Failure to Appear; and
  5. Outstanding Civil Traffic Citations.  
Individuals with the following suspensions are not eligible to participate during Driver’s License Reinstatement Day:
  1. Child Support Suspensions;
  2. DUI suspensions or revocations; 
  3. Habitual Traffic Offender revocations; 
  4. Felony Involved Traffic Offenses; 
  5. An Outstanding Capias or Warrant. 
If any of the above statements apply to you then you may still be eligible to have your license reinstated, but you may need to consult with an attorney about your options.

According to the clerk's office webpage on the event, it is hosted by the Public Defender's Office, the State Attorney's Office, the 13th Judicial Circuit Clerk, Senator Arthenia L. Joyner, and Representatives Dana Young, Darryl Rouson, Janet Cruz.

Read more about the problems with driving with a suspended license

Help! Homeland Security Stole My Cash at the Airport

What happens if you bring cash to the airport for a domestic flight?

As you go through the security checkpoint on the way to board your flight and the cash is discovered, officers might seize the U.S. Currency and initiate an forfeiture action. Many of these currency seizures at Tampa International Airport involve money taken by officers with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Other cases involve agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

If these officers walk a drug K9 dog around the cash and the dog alerts (which is completely within their control), then they can allege that you are a drug dealer and the money must have come from illegal dealings in drugs.

Although you are not required to make any statement, people in these situations often start talking during this "consensual encounter." If you speak, the federal agents and officers with the Tampa International Airport (TIAPD) might allege that you made inconsistent statements about where the money came from or that you acted nervous while telling the story.

The agents will then take you to a small room (away from the video surveillance cameras) and count your money. The agents will then issue you a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” from the Department of Homeland Security. The form is known as the DHS Form 6051S which was last revised in August of 2009. In many recent cases, the agents will list "an undisclosed amount" of cash on the receipt.

After you receive the custody receipt for seized property from the agent with the Department of Homeland Security, you will be sent on your way. By this time, you probably missed your flight.

Although international travelers with negotiable monetary instruments valued at $10,000 or more in their possession must complete a form FinCEN 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments, no such obligation exist for bringing currency from one state to another.

In 2014, CBP seized more than $81,496,161 in undeclared or illicit currency. In more than 70% of these cases, the taking goes uncontested. If the taking of money or other property was improper under federal law then you should immediately contact an experienced attorney to demand an "early judicial hearing" in federal court to fight for the quick return of your property.

We can take your case on a contingency basis which means you don't have to pay any attorney fees or costs unless we recover money from the government.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.

Update on Our Recent Case Result:

Our client was traveling at the Tampa International Airport when U.S. Currency was taken from him by the airport police. After we were retained, we demanded immediate court action and explained the facts showing why the detention and interrogation was illegal.
On April 6, 2016, Mary Ann Cranford, Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Officer at the U.S. Customs and Board Protection Office in Tampa, sent us a letter advising that she received our verified claim demanding the immediate return of funds taken by Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Special Agent (“SA”) Carlos Carrasquillo at the Tampa International Airport.

She said in the letter that the U.S. Attorney's Office has chosen not to file a forfeiture action in Court. The letter stated: "Accordingly, this office will submit a request to the National Finance Center to issue a refund in the amount of $11,892" which was the total amount presented to the CBP office after the seizure.
It is our experience that you should file a verified claim demanding that CBP refer the case for IMMEDIATE COURT ACTION instead of waiving your important rights by either submitting a petition for an administrative decision using remission or mitigation, an offer in compromise, or simply abandoning the property.   

Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence

The Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence (DHS Form 6051S (08/09)) can be found in Handbook 5200-09. It requires the incident number, the investigating case number, the enforce number, whether any prior detentions had occurred, the date of this seizure, the time of the seizure, the name and address of the person from whom the property was seized and additional remarks.

The agent will then list the property taken. Later, the agent will document the acceptance of the property by another person so that the chain of custody can be documented.

If you didn't receive a receipt or the amount listed on the receipt is less than what was actually seized, you should be worried. It is your word against the agent's word, and it is all to easy for a federal agent to pocket seized cash with little chance of getting in trouble.

If the agents seize the currency they will usually allege that it is subject to forfeiture under the provisions of Title 18, United States Code, section 981(a)(1)(C). Under this provision, the agents will alleged that the currency is proceeds of the manufacture, sale or distribution of a controlled substance which is identified as “specified unlawful activity” under Title 18, United States Code, section 1956(c)(7).

If you do nothing you may wait up to 90 days for the notice of seizure letter that outlining your rights to contest the seizure. To speed up the process, if you hire the attorney, the attorney can demand an EARLY JUDICIAL HEARING immediately after being retained.

That letter written by your attorney and vertified by you is then sent to the agent and local U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) office. The verified letter triggers the CBP, acting on behalf of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to send you a letter acknowledging that you have an interest in the seized property.

The letter will be sent by a “Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture Officer.” For seizures at the Tampa International Airport, the correspondence will usually be addressed to the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection, Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures, 1624 E. 7th Avenue, Suite 101, Tampa, Florida 33605. The phone number the Tampa Offices of U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection is 813-712-6012.

The purpose of the letter is to advise you of the options available to you concerning this seizure. CBP will also send the following documents:
  1. an “Election of Proceedings” form (also called the CAFRA form); and
  2. a “Seized Asset Claim” form (also called the CAFRA Seized Asset Claim Form).
The letter instructs you to make certain choices on the “election of proceedings” form and return it, and any other necessary documents, to CBP within the allotted time frame.

Be advised that any false statement or claim may subject a person to prosecution under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 and/or 18 U.S.C. Section 1621, and may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment. Typically fighting for the return of property is not a good "do it yourself project." Seek out the services of an experienced attorney for forfeiture cases in Tampa, FL, so that you do not make a mistake before you decide on a course of action.


Talk to an experienced attorney who might recommend that your best option is to elect for COURT ACTION which can include a JURY TRIAL if properly requested. In many cases, this is the fastest way to have the issue resolved. If you elect one of the other options, you can expect delays that last more than a year.

The only downside to demanding judicial action is that you MIGHT have to appear in a courtroom in front of a judge at the Federal District Court. If the U.S. Attorney's Office chooses not to file a forfeiture action then the property will be returned to you within a matter of weeks.

Only if the U.S. Attorney's Office decides to file a forfeiture action would you be required to go to court, exchange written discovery or have your deposition taken. A prosecutor with the United States Attorney's Office can then ask you questions about your finances and the circumstances surrounding the possession of the currency. Your attorney can minimize the intrusion into your personal affairs. Both side often want to avoid hearings and preparing for trial and as a result pre-trial settlements can occur quickly.

Note that your attorney doesn’t have to wait for the letter called the “Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA Form” to request court action.

The attorney can make that election immediately after the seizure by sending the verified letter demanding court action. In some cases, the attorney will send the verified letter the next day after the seizure occurred. The letter should also include your attestation and oath that you have an interest the property claimed because you own the property and are requesting that the Government initiate a judicial action to forfeit the seized property.

A claim can also be submitted by any innocent third party with an innocent owner defense.

You will be instructed that you must elect court action within 30 days by requesting referral of this matter to the U.S. Attorney, who will have the authority to simply return the property to you without any further delay.

The U.S. Attorney might decide to file a forfeiture action against the property in federal court pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(3). If you choose this action, your attorney will check Box 4 on the “election of Proceedings” form. Your attorney will also complete the enclosed “Seized Asset Claim” form or otherwise submit a complete judicial claim as required by 18 U.S..C. Section 983(a)(2)(C).

Option 4 provides:

I AM FILING A CLAIM AND REQUESTING THAT CBP REFER THE CASE FOR COURT ACTION. Please send the case to the U.S. Attorney for court action. I have fully completed, signed, and attached a “Seized Asset Claim” form.
I understand that if I have not fully completed this form, or otherwise made a proper claim and request for judicial forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C) within 35 days after the date the notice of seizure was mailed, CBP will treat any submission as a petition for relief without the ability to seek future judicial forfeiture proceedings.


1. Take No Action and Do Nothing: 

If you choose to do nothing, the CBP will initiate forfeiture action. The first notice will be posted on or about 35 days from the date of this letter.

For property appraised in excess of $5,000, CBP will post notice of seizure and intent to forfeit on the internet at for 30 consecutive days.

For property apprised at $5,000 of less, CBP will post a notice of seizure and intent to forfeit in a conspicuous place accessible to the public at the customhouse or Board Patrol sector office (where appropriate) nearest the place of seizure as well as on the internet at for 30 consecutive days.

2. Abandon the Property

Abandon any claim or interest you may have in the property. If you elect this option in the “Election of Proceedings - CAFRA Form” then no additional notice about further proceeds concerning the property will be provided to you.

3. File a Petition - Will Delay and Prolong the Resolution

 You can file a petition with the CBP office within 30 days from the date of this letter in accordance with Title 19, United States Code (USC) Section 1618 and Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Section 171.1 and 171.2 (19 C.F.R. Section 171.1, 171.2), seeking the remission of the forfeiture.

The petition does not need to be in any specific form, but it must describe the property involved, identify the date and place of the seizure, include all the facts and circumstances which you believe warrant relief from forfeiture and must include proof of your interest in or claim to the property.

Examples of proof of interest include, but are not limited to, a car title, loan agreement, or documentation of the source of funds. If you choose this option you must check Box 1 on the “Election of Proceedings” form.

By completing Box 1 on the “election of Proceedings” form, you are requesting administrative processing. You are requesting that CBP refrain from beginning forfeiture proceedings while your petition is pending or that CBP halt forfeiture proceedings if they have already commenced.

If you choose to file an administrative petition and you are dissatisfied with the petition decision (initial petition or supplemental petition), you will have an additional 60 days from the date of the initial petition decision, or 60 days from the date of the supplemental petition decision, or such other time as specified by the Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture Office to file a claim to the property requesting a referral to the U.S. Attorney.

If you do not act within these time frames, the property may be administratively forfeited to the United States. You may also request a referral to the U.S. Attorney at any point prior to the issuance of a petition decision by filing a claim.

Please see section 4 of this letter for information on how to request judicial action. If you take such action after filing a petition for relief, your pending petition will be withdrawn from consideration.

If you request a referral to the U.S. Attorney or if another person asserting an interest in the same property chooses a referral to the U.S. Attorney, the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney wo will have the authority to file a forfeiture action against the property in federal court pursuant to Title 18, U.S.C., Section 983(a)(3)(19 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(3)).

If upon receipt of your petition, the matter has already been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the institution of judicial forfeiture proceedings, your petition will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for consideration.

4. Offer in Compromise which will Delay and Prolong a Resolution

 At any time prior to forfeiture, you ma file an offer in compromise in accordance with `9 U.S.C. Section 1617 and 19 C.F.R. Section 161.5, 171.31. The offer must specifically state that you are making it under the provisions of 19 U.S.C. Section 1617.

If you are offering money in settlement of the case, you must include payment (bank draft, cashier’s check or certified check, drawn on a U.S. financial institution, and made payable to CBP) in the amount of your offer. CBP may only consider the amount of your offer and will return the full offer if it is rejected. This option may serve to delay the case. If you choose this option, you must check Box 2 on the “Election of Proceedings” form.

If you choose to submit an offer in compromise and are dissatisfied with the offer decision, you will have an additional 30 days from the date of the offer decision to file a claim requesting a referral for judicial action. If you do not act within the additional 30 days, the property may be forfeited to the United States.

You may also request a referral for judicial action at any point prior to the issuance of the offer decision by fully completing the enclosed “Seized Asset Claim” form or by otherwise submitting a complete judicial claim consistent with the requirements under 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C). If you take such action, your petition or offer will be considered to have been withdrawn.

If, upon receipt of your offer, the matter has already been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the institution of judicial forfeiture proceedings, your offer will be forwarded to the United States Attorney’s Office for consideration as an offer in settlement of the judicial action, as appropriate.  

Be advised that any false statement or claim may subject a person to prosecution under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 and/or 18 U.S.C. Section 1621, and may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment. 

Additional Resources:

U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection - The CBP is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security that manages, controls and protects the nation's borders and official ports of entry.
      U.S. Customs and Boarder Protections 
      Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures
      1624 E. 7th Avenue, Suite 101
      Tampa, Florida 33605
      Phone Number: 813-712-6012

Tampa International Airport Police Department - Visit the website of the Tampa International Airport Police Department to learn more about this nationally accredited law enforcement agency with 44 support personnel, 63 traffic specialists and 66 sworn police officers. Sections of the TIAPD include the Airport Operations Center, Administration, Traffic, Bike Detail, Crime Prevention, Criminal Investigations, K9 and Patrol. In addition to providing traditional law enforcement services, the TIAP also enforces federal regulations associated with transportation security.

      Tampa International Airport Police Department
      4160 George J. Bean Parkway
      Tampa, Florida 33607
      Phone Number: 813-870-8700

CBP Makes Cash Seizures - Visit the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to read an article dated November 12, 2015 about the risk to international travelers if they do not properly report currency. The article discusses how CBP working at one field office seized nearly $50,000 of unreported currency in just the past week. The article explains why U.S. law requires international travelers to properly report currency in their possession whether traveling into or departing from the United States. Read more about the requirements for international travelers with negotiable monetary instruments valued $10,000 or more to complete a form FinCEN 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments. 


If a federal agent with Homeland Security or the Bureau of Customs and Boarder Protection took your cash, vehicle, or other property, and then alleged that the property was involved in unlawful activity, then contact an experienced attorney to fight the forfeiture action. 

Whether the taking took place at your home, work, the roadside or the airport, we can help you fight the forfeiture action with the goal of obtaining the immediate release of the money to you.

We also represent clients who are arrested for any other reason after being accused of committing a crime at Tampa International Airport, including carrying a concealed weapon or firearm, possession offenses, and driving under the influence on the airport property.

We represent clients after an arrest by the Tampa International Airport Police Department (TIAPD) and other law enforcement agencies at the airport.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.

Petition for Return of a Firearm in Tampa and Hillsborough County, Florida

The requirements for a petition a motion for return of a firearm(s) in Hillsborough County, Florida, are set out in an administrative order. The Administrative Order S-2015-042, was signed by Chief Judge Ronald N. Ficarrotta on August 5, 2015. The order became effective on August 10, 2015.

These requirements only apply if the firearm was seized pursuant to section 933.14(3), Florida Statutes, where no arrest was made and no case has been established in the court system related to the seizure of the firearm.
Florida Statute Section 933.14 Return of property taken under search warrant.—
(3) No pistol or firearm taken by any officer with a search warrant or without a search warrant upon a view by the officer of a breach of the peace shall be returned except pursuant to an order of a trial court judge.
Law enforcement agencies often site this provision after they illegal seize a firearm even when no “breach of the peace” occurred.

In many of these cases, the petitioner will hire an attorney. The attorney will contact legal counsel for the law enforcement agency in possession of the firearm(s). If the provisions of Section 933.14 then
the firearm can usually be returned to the owner without a court order.

If Section 933.14 applies, then the petitioner’s attorney and the legal counsel for the agency might agree on a stipulation and proposed order for the court to sign. The proposed order authorizes the release of a firearm and it must be attached to all stipulations presented to the court.

If the legal counsel for the agency and the petitioner’s attorney cannot reach an agreement for the return of the firearm, then the petitioner’s attorney will file a petition that requires a court hearing.


Filing the Petition for Return of a Firearm in Hillsborough County, FL

 If the firearm was seized under Section 933.14(3), then the petitioner’s must also attach a copy of the agency report that describes the event(s) that lead to the seizure of the firearm(s).

A copy of the Petition for Return of Firearm and notice of hearing on the petition will be provided to the legal counsel for law enforcement agency in possession of the firearm(s) subject to the petition. One Petition for Return of Firearm(s) may seek the return of multiple firearms.

If a motion seeking return of a firearm is filed in an existing case being prosecuted in either a misdemeanor or felony division, then the motion for the return of the firearm will be considered by the judge in the respective court division.

If no previous case was established, then the administrative order provides:

Any person who seeks the return of a firearm seized by law enforcement under section 933.14(3), Florida Statutes, where no arrest was made and no case has been established in the court system must file a sworn Petition for Return of Firearms. The petition must identify the firearm and should further allege:
  1. the firearm is the petitioner’s personal property;
  2. the firearm was not involved in criminal activity; 
  3. the firearm is not being held as evidence by the law enforcement agency; 
  4. the petitioner is not disqualified under any state or federal law from possessing a firearm; 
  5. the petitioner has not been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, or has not had an adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless 3 years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or expunction has occurred;  
  6. the petitioner has not been adjudicated mentally defective in section 790.065(2)(a)4.a., Florida Statutes, or if petitioner has been adjudicated mentally defective, petitioner has had his or her capacity restored by court order for at least 5 years and
  7. the petitioner has not been committed to a mental institution as defined in section 790.065(2)(a)4.b., Florida Statutes, or 
  8. if petitioner has been committed to a mental institution, petitioner possesses a certificate from a licensed psychiatrist that he or she has not suffered a mental disability for at least 5 years since the commitment to a mental institution.

Other Types of Motions to Return Property in Criminal Cases

When an arrest is made or charges are filed, then the trial court's jurisdiction over a criminal proceeding includes the inherent authority over property seized or otherwise obtained in connection with the proceeding and held by the court in custodia legis. See Garmire v. Red Lake, 265 So.2d 2 (Fla.1972); Sawyer v. Gable, 400 So.2d 992 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981); Daniel v. State, 991 So.2d 421 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008).

This authority continues beyond the termination of the prosecution which enabling the court to direct the return of the property to its rightful owner. See Stevens v. State, 929 So.2d 1197, 1198 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006).

A defendant is not required to file a separate suit for replevin or conversion when seeking to recover property seized in connection with his or her case. Instead, the procedure for a defendant to move to have his seized property returned to him is similar to that of a motion for post-conviction relief. Bolden v. State, 875 So.2d 780, 782 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004).

To reclaim seized property, “the defendant must file a facially sufficient motion for the return of property.” Id. If the motion is facially sufficient, the court “may order the State to respond” by refuting the defendant's arguments that the property should be returned. Id.

Once the “trial court has assumed jurisdiction over criminal charges, it is thereafter vested with an inherent power to assist the true owner in the recovery of property held in custodia legis.” Brown v. State, 613 So.2d 569, 570 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993).

The defendant is required to prove the property is exclusively his own, that it was not the fruit of illegal activity, and that it is not being held for evidentiary purposes. Sanchez v. State, 88 So. 3d 389, 391 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012).

Alternatively, the defendant might bring an action for the return of property in civil court in a separate civil action for replevin or conversion. Under section 95.11(3), Florida Statutes, a four year civil statute of limitations for actions to recover personal property may apply to those cases.

Modifying the Standard No Contact Order in Hillsborough County, FL

Chief Judge Ronald N. Ficarrotta recently signed Administrative Order S-2015-053 addressing the Standard No-Contact Order on September 29, 2015. The new administrative order is intended to comply with recent amendments to section 903.047 related to the conditions of pretrial release.

If the case has a "victim," the automatic and standard "no contact" provision will be imposed. The prohibition is absolute until modified by the court.

In many of these cases, some types of contact between the accused and the alleged victim is justified. In many of these cases, this new absolute ban on any contact would result in a serious injustice. The injustice often leaves even the alleged victim feeling frustrated and disgruntled with the criminal justice system.

It can also result in a serious financial hardship on people in the system. Bills can't be paid, children can't get to school, doctor appointments are missed, and people can't go to work or back to their home. Many people caught up in the system might be forced to resolve their case just so that life can get back to normal even if the underlying charges are unfounded.

Any violation of the standard no contact condition can resolve in the accused person being held for the duration of the case on "no bond." Additionally, any violation could result in additional charges being filed even if the original case later proves to be unfounded.

Trial judges in Florida should be trusted to impose this condition of release as necessary on a case-by-case basis. Adding it every time will mean that many of these defendants and alleged victims will have to come back to court to seek an emergency modification of the no contact condition.

Florida law already provided for an automatic no contact provision in domestic violence cases, it is hard to imagine a reason for imposing it automatically in every kind of case.

Modifying the No Contact Condition under 903.047(2)

Individuals who cannot afford a private attorney to file the "motion to modify" will be at a particular disadvantage. The order handed out to the accused person does not even discuss the procedure to seek a "motion to modify" the no contact provision as set out in 903.047(2).
 903.047 Conditions of pretrial release. - 
(2) Upon motion by the defendant when bail is set, or upon later motion properly noticed pursuant to law, the court may modify the condition required by paragraph (1)(b) if good cause is shown and the interests of justice so require.

The victim shall be permitted to be heard at any proceeding in which such modification is considered, and the state attorney shall notify the victim of the provisions of this subsection and of the pendency of any such proceeding. 

The New Procedures for the No Contract Provision in Tampa 

Under the other provisions of 903.047, the court must impose a Standard No Contact Order in all criminal cases involving a victim.

The Standard No Contact Order provides defendants with written notice of the meaning of “no contact” and has immediate effect and enforceability.

Under the new administrative order in Hillsborough County, all defendants who are arrested for a criminal offense involving a victim and who are released from custody on pretrial release are hereby subject to the Standard No Contact Order.

In accordance with section 903.047(1)(b), Florida Statutes, each defendant identified in section 1 of this administrative order must receive a copy of the Standard No Contact Order before the defendant is released from custody on pretrial release.

Additionally, the terms of the no contact order do not prohibit an attorney for the defendant, consistent with the rules regulating The Florida Bar, from communicating with any person protected by the no contact order for lawful purpose.

This Standard No Contact Order in no way prevents the Court from imposing additional conditions of release on a case-by-case basis.


Standard No Contact Order

As a condition of your pretrial release, this no contact order has been issued in your case. You are prohibited from any contact of any type with the victim, except through pretrial discovery rules.

This order of no contact is effective immediately and enforceable for the duration of your pretrial release or until this order is modified by the court.

The term “no contact” includes the following prohibited acts:
  1. Communicating orally or in any written form, either in person, telephonically, electronically, or in any other manner, either directly or indirectly through a third person, with the victim or any other person named in the order.
  2. Having physical or violent contact with the victim or other named person or his or her property.
  3. Being within 500 feet of the victim’s or other named person’s residence, even if the defendant and the victim or other named person share the residence.
  4. Being within 500 feet of the victim’s or other named person’s vehicle, place of employment, or a specified place frequented regularly by such person.
If the victim and the defendant have children in common, at the request of the defendant, the court may designate an appropriate third person to contact the victim for the sole purpose of facilitating the defendant’s contact with the children.

Finding an Attorney in Tampa to Modify the No Contact Provision

If you need a criminal defense attorney to modify the no contact provision imposed in your case then contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.

Call 813-250-500 to discuss the facts of your case and ways to modify this condition so that no violations of pretrial release can be alleged. 

Using a Expert in a Medical Marijuana Necessity Defense Case in Florida

I recently had the privilege of talking with Dr. Stephen Blythe, D.O., a Board-Certified Family Physician about the Maine Medical Marijuana Program (MMMP). His experience with patients in a state where medical marijuana has been approved will help educate judges and juries throughout Florida.

For criminal defense attorneys in Florida interested in having Dr. Blythe review your case you can contact him at His fax number is 877-220-0488. His training and experience make him particularly suited to help criminal defense attorneys who have clients that possessed or cultivated marijuana because of a medical necessity.

In most cases, the medical necessity defense is a defense asserted at trial. Therefore, having an expert testify about the medical necessity of the marijuana use, cultivation or possession is critical. Read more about Florida's necessity defense as it related to the possession, use, or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes

Dr. Stephen Blythe recently moved back to Melbourne, Florida, after practicing in rural Washington County, Maine, for five years. He is anxious to share his experiences and what he has learned about medical marijuana with his patients and colleagues in Florida.

He would be willing to testify on behalf of any Floridian arrested for what is clearly medical use of marijuana. He looks forward to the legalization of medical marijuana in 2016, but knows that the approval of the referendum will be just the beginning of a long struggle for acceptance of medical marijuana as part of a treatment regimen.

Dr. Blythe is a Board-Certified Family Physician. He graduated from MIT with a BS in Biology in 1974. He has worked in a broad range of health care settings: rural medicine (where he delivered babies and made house calls), refugee medicine, academic medicine (teaching medical students and resident physicians), and emergency medicine.

Prior to going to medical school he worked as a dialysis technician. He discovered that a number of his patients regularly used illegal marijuana prior to their dialysis sessions to lessen the nausea and vomiting associated with that procedure.

He has studied plant medicines for decades – since he experienced first-hand their usefulness: high in the Andes suffering debilitating headaches from the altitude an old Quechua Indian showed him that the leaves of the minty muño plant could be crushed and the vapor inhaled to make the headache go away. It was very effective, but like with many plant medicines, it has never been studied for its potential as a medicine – in this case for migraine headaches.

Dr. Blythe has made several trips to the rainforests of the Americas with Dr. James Duke (author of “The Green Pharmacy”) to study medicinal plants in the rainforest and how they are used by rainforest inhabitants. He is very enthusiastic about medical marijuana; he has seen first-hand how very useful it is in the treatment of a number of conditions such as PTSD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Chrohn's disease, and chronic pain.

He has also written a book for his patients: “Medical Marijuana: A Patient Guidebook” (available on Amazon).

Seal and Expunge an Arrest Record in Tampa, FL

If you are considering sealing or expunging your criminal record in Tampa or Hillsborough County, FL, then consider some of the main reasons why the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) might fail to process the application.

After the FDLE receives your application for a Certification of Eligibility in accordance with Florida Statute 943.0585 and 943.059, it might fail to process the application for any of the following reasons:
  • (  ) A written certified statement from the appropriate state attorney or statewide prosecutor as shown on the enclosed application, Section B, must be provided. 
  • (  ) A $75 processing fee must be submitted to FDLE, by a cashier's check, certified check, money order or personal check.
  • (  ) A certified copy of the final disposition of the charges to which the application pertains must be provided.
  • (  ) The enclosed fingerprint card must be submitted as part of the application. The fingerprint card must be completed by a law enforcement agency.
  • (  ) Section A of the Application for Certification of Eligibility must be completed in its entirety. 
The FDLE might also need additional information including a certified disposition for any charge that it finds during its investigation. If no information is available then the FDLE will instruct you to please provide certified documentation from the Clerk of Courts, the State Attorney, and the arresting agency Stating: "No information is available."

The completed application must then be returned to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Criminal Justice Information Services Expunge Section.

 Many people hire us after attempting to seal or expunge the record without an attorney only to find that some small mistake caused the application to be returned unprocessed. Those small mistakes can cause big delays because it normally takes 6 - 10 months to seal or expunge the record.

Additionally, we also contact the private data mining companies (like mugshot .com or arrests .com) to demand that they take down your mug shot and web page without charge. Sometimes hiring an attorney to help you with the process to expunge or seal and record can save you time, money and frustration.

For more information on sealing or expunging a criminal arrest record in Tampa or Hillsborough County, then visit our main website.

Help! The Florida Highway Patrol Stole My Vehicle

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) Division of Florida Highway Patrol is seizing vehicle under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act at an alarming rate.

This policy of "policing for profit" works because so many people are too scared to assert their rights to a fair hearing and trial. For those who properly assert their rights, the agency will often attempt to negotiate a quick settlement.


Demanding the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act

Any type of property (including a car, boat, weapon, gun, firearm, cash or currency) can be seized, although this article is primarily focused on the seizure of a vehicle by the Florida Highway Patrol.

In a forfeiture action, always follow these three rules:
  1. File for the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing immediately.
  2. File for the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing immediately. 
  3. File for the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing immediately.
If FHP or another law enforcement agency in Florida seized your property, consider hiring an attorney to file for the adversarial preliminary hearing. The attorney can do the following:
  1. Serve a "Demand for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing" on the agency that took your vehicle within 15 days (and do it as soon as possible within those 15 days). The rule is 10 days in federal court. The demand will list a description of the property (for example, the year, make, model and VIN number). 
  2. Attach a copy of the notice of seizure that you received (if you received a notice).  
  3. Send the demand Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested to the address listed in the notice.
  4. Wait for an immediate phone call from the attorney asking you nicely to "Please waive the 10 day requirement."
  5. If you do not waive the 10 day requirement, expect the attorney to suddenly be willing to talk about a fair settlement. 

Don't Incriminate Yourself

For individuals representing themselves, they should be careful not to make any statements that might impact their pending criminal case if they are also charged with a crime. An attorney can help the person best way to fight for the return of the vehicle without making incriminating statements.

Protecting the Innocent Owner for Forfeiture in Florida

An attorney can also represent the "innocent owner" of the property. For example, if you loan your vehicle to a friend, and the vehicle is seized because your friend had marijuana in the vehicle that you didn't know about, then you would qualify as an "innocent owner."

The innocent owner may still have to pay towing and storage, but the innocent owner should not be required to pay anything else. Also, the innocent owner will be asked to sign an agreement not allowing the wrongdoer to possess the property again.

Always File the Demand for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing 

As a general rule, don't even think about trying to negotiate the return of the vehicle until after you have filed the Demand for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing. Once you file the demand, the agency attorney has to set up a hearing within 10 days. That often creates a strong motivation on the attorney's part to negotiate a much better settlement.

If an acceptable negotiation isn't completed within 10 days, then it is unlikely it will be completed at all. Often the best deal is reached in the hours or moments before the hearing.

Therefore, filing that Demand for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing might save you thousands of dollars and get your property back much faster. Plus, you just might win the hearing which is the best possible result. In that case, your property might be returned immediately.

What Can Be Negotiated?

As a general rule of thumb, the agency's attorney will often figure out an inflated estimate of the fair market value of the property and ask for a settlement amount that is half of that value. If there is a lien on the property then the lien amount should be subtracted from the fair market value as well.

Be sure to include any other expenses into that number including towing and storage fees so there are no surprises. 

That is generally the top end of the range. After filing for the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing, that number might drop quickly. If the property has little value, the agency's administrative expenses to fight for the forfeiture will quickly exceed the value of the property. For some reason, that reality often becomes much clearer to the agency attorney right before the APH hearing.

Of course, theoretically, the agency could refuse to make any settlement offer if they really want to keep the property and didn't mind litigating all of the issues in a APH hearing and then in a jury trial. If all else fails, have the hearing and then set the case for trial as quickly as possible.

Objections Often Raised at the Hearing:

1. The Petitioner (the agency that seized the property) should not be permitted to appear at the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing telephonically and must instead report in person with witnesses ready to testify to establish the legality of the stop and probable cause for the forfeiture.

2.  Any "Verification Affidavit" need to be notarized or signed with an attesting seal and it is inadmissible if it is merely "sworn to and subscribed" before a law enforcement officer or when otherwise not in compliance with F.S. 92.525. Otherwise, object to the admission of those documents into the record as hearsay, irrelevant and lacking any foundation (then list the foundational issued that are missing).
92.525. Verification of documents; perjury by false written declaration, penalty

(1) When it is authorized or required by law, by rule of an administrative agency, or by rule or order of court that a document be verified by a person, the verification may be accomplished in the following manner:

(a) Under oath or affirmation taken or administered before an officer authorized under s. 92.50 to administer oaths; or

(b) By the signing of the written declaration prescribed in subsection (2).

(2) A written declaration means the following statement: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing [document] and that the facts stated in it are true,” followed by the signature of the person making the declaration, except when a verification on information or belief is permitted by law, in which case the words “to the best of my knowledge and belief” may be added. The written declaration shall be printed or typed at the end of or immediately below the document being verified and above the signature of the person making the declaration.

(3) A person who knowingly makes a false declaration under subsection (2) is guilty of the crime of perjury by false written declaration, a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

3. It is a due process violation to not allow a person with standing to "litigate" the issue of probable cause which includes the right to call witnesses, question the officers, present evidence concerning the illegality of the stop or detention (and the exclusion of evidence gained from that illegality) and other evidence or testimony showing a lack of probable cause.

In many of these cases, the person with standing should take the stand to confirm proof that they have an ownership interest in the property and that it was taken without a warrant. Alternatively, the other side might stipulate to those issues. The person may decide to take the 5th instead of answering any questions that might tend to incriminate the person.

4. In addition to the issue of probable cause, the issue of an illegal stop or detention can be litigated at the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing, although the innocent owner's lack of knowledge is not generally an issue to be determined at the APH. 

5. The hearing must be held (fully litigated) within 10 days of the day that the agency received your demand or the motion for the return of property should be granted.

What Happens After the Seizure?

After the seizure the agency must provide a Notice of Seizure and Right to Adversarial Preliminary Hearing to any person entitled to receive notice under F.S. 932.701(2)(e).

When the seizing agency, the DHSMV (through its Division of Florida Highway Patrol) seizes the vehicle it must list a description of the vehicle by year, make and model along with the VIN number. The notice must also state that the vehicle is being seized pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (F.S. 932.701-707, F.S.).

The notice must also state that a forfeiture action "may be filed against the property." All persons entitled to notice of the leisure of the property, as defined in s. 932.701(2)(e), F. S., may send a request for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing (APH). Use the address listed in the notice. The address listed on the form is often listed as:
Office of General Counsel
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DHSMV)
2900 Apalachee Parkway, Room A-432
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0504
The request for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act must be made in writing and must be sent by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, within fifteen (15) days of receipt of this Notice.

The notice states that "[i]f you do not request an APH, you may still contest the forfeiture action at a later time." Always request an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing within the first 15 days (preferably on the day of the taking). Not requesting an APH is essentially stipulating to the taking while the case is pending. The case could be pending for years.

So it is easy - just write up a request for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing and send it by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested within fifteen (15) days of receipt of the Notice to the address listed in the notice.

[Sample Form for the Request for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing


The Agency's Response to the Request for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing

After receiving the request for the APH, the agency has a lot of work to do. It will then file an “Emergency Request for Adversarial Preliminary Hearing Pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.”

In the motion, the Petitioner (the law enforcement agency) will request that an Adversarial Preliminary hearing be scheduled in this case, on an emergency basis, no later than a date 10 days after the request was received, to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that the seized property in the case was used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, section 932.701-932.706, Florida Statute (2014).

Pursuant to section 932.703(2)(a), Florida Statutes, when an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing is requested, the seizing agency “… shall set and notice the hearing, which must be held within 10 days after the request is received or as soon as practicable thereafter…

Additionally, Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.090(d) and Florida case law have established a Claimant requesting an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing is entitled to notice that “…shall be served a reasonable time before the time specified for the hearing.” See Crepage v. City of Lauderhill, 774 So.2d 61 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000), holding that twenty-four (24) hours notice of the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing was not sufficient notice and violated the Claimant’s due process rights.

Verified Complaint for Probable Cause and for Final Order of Forfeiture

The agency will then file a “Verified Complaint for Probable Cause and for Final Order of Forfeiture.” The certified complaint is for an action for forfeiture pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Section 932.701-932.706, Florida Statute. The jurisdictional requirements are set out in Section 932.704, Florida Statutes.

In these actions, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, acts through its Division of the Florida Highway Patrol, is a Law Enforcement agency as set forth in Section 932.704(1), Florida Statutes. The complaint will include a description of the property and the events leading up to the seizure.

The owner of the property can also file a verified complaint to contest any of those issues raised by the other side. The owner of the property can also testify to those facts at the hearing. 


Forfeiture for Driving While License Suspended . HTO Revocation

Many of these cases involve allegations that the property was used in violation of Section 932.701-706, Florida Statutes, based on a felony violation of:
  1. Section 322.34(2)(c), Florida Statutes (Driving While License Suspended / Revoked - 3rd or Subsequent Offense);
  2. Section 322.34(5), Florida Statutes (Driving While License Suspended / Revoked as a Habitual Traffic Offender); and / or
  3. the vehicle is alleged to be “contraband articles” as defined by Section 932.701(2)(a).

Financial Safe Harbor Provisions of Section 322.43(10)

The complaint will often alleged that the owner of the seized property is not eligible to claim the financial safe harbor provisions of Section 322.34(10), Florida Statutes. If your client does not have a conviction for a prior forcible felony, then check to see if any of the prior suspensions are because of the listed financial reasons. If so, 322.43(1) triggers the prohibition against prosecuting the case as a felony. [But see Wyrick v. State, 50 So.3d 674, 676 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010).]

Diligent Search for All Owners

Prior to filing the complaint, the Petitioner must conduct a reasonably diligent search for all owners who may have an interest in the Vehicle and disclose which persons or entities may have standing to challenge the forfeiture of the Vehicle pursuant to Section 932.701(2)(h), Florida Statutes, prior to its seizure by the Florida Highway Patrol.

If an owner was not notified properly then that owner can file for their own Adversarial Preliminary Hearing within 10 days of discovering the taking or within 10 days of receiving notice of the seizure.

Service  of the Verified Complaint

When filing of the Verified Complaint, the Petitioner (the law enforcement agency that made the seizure) must comply with the service requirements of Section 932.703(2)(a), and 932.704(6)(a), Florida Statutes.

The Petitioner (the agency that seized the property) will request that the Court issue an Order Finding Probable Cause and Directing Claimant to Respond, require any person who may claim a proprietary interest in the Vehicle to show cause why the Vehicle should not be forfeited to the use of, or to be sold by, Petitioner, and after hearing or upon default pursuant to Rule 1.500(a), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, to enter a Final Order of Forfeiture, perfecting all rights, title and interest in the Vehicle to Petitioner.

The Respondent (the owner of the property) will request that the Court issue an Order Finding a Lack of Probable Cause and Directing the Petitioner to Return the Property to the Rightful Owner.

Rules for the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing

The trial court will then hold a hearing pursuant to section 932.703(2)(c) and (d), for the purpose of determining whether there was probable cause to believe the property had been or was being used in violation of the Act.

(c) When an adversarial preliminary hearing is held, the court shall review the verified affidavit and any other supporting documents and take any testimony to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the property was used, is being used, was attempted to be used, or was intended to be used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. If probable cause is established, the court shall authorize the seizure or continued seizure of the subject contraband. A copy of the findings of the court shall be provided to any person entitled to notice.

(d) If the court determines that probable cause exists to believe that such property was used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the court shall order the property restrained by the least restrictive means to protect against disposal, waste, or continued illegal use of such property pending disposition of the forfeiture proceeding. The court may order the claimant to post a bond or other adequate security equivalent to the value of the property. 

Burden of Proof in a Forfeiture Adversarial Preliminary Hearing

If the state succeeds and the trial court determines that probable cause exists, then the burden shifts to the claimant to rebut the probable cause showing or, by a preponderance of the evidence, to establish that the forfeiture statute was not violated.” In re Forfeiture of One Hundred Seventy One Thousand Nine Hundred Dollars ($171,900) in U.S. Currency, 711 So.2d at 1274 n. 7 (citing United States v. Motor Yacht Named Tahuna, 702 F.2d 1276, 1281 (9th Cir.1983)); Lobo v. Metro Dade Police Dep't, 505 So.2d 621, 623 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987).

If you requested an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing or jury trial in a forfeiture case under Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act tell us about your experience below...

Florida Courses on Rule 3.220 and Brady / Giglio - Legal and Ethical Obligations of Discovery in Criminal Cases

When was the last time you received a Brady Notice?

Many believe that prosecutors will start to take a different approach to disclosing Brady material as a result of the recent amendments to Rule 3.113. The courses are intended to teach defense attorneys to learn how to hold the prosecutor's feet to the fire.

Criminal defense attorneys in felony cases now have less than one year (until May 16, 2016) to complete a course covering the legal and ethical obligations of discovery in a criminal case, including the requirements of rule 3.220, and the principles established in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972).

The amendment to Rule 3.113 is relatively short so I cut and paste it below.

You can find several videos intended to meet this requirement on The Florida Bar’s website, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association’s website, and/or the Florida Public Defender Association’s website.

The Florida Public Defender Association's Website has a lot of valuable information on this topic including:
One important point I learned from the first FLPDA video (embedded below) is that when you know that the prosecutor has failed to disclose Brady material, instead of just telling the prosecutor you have it, file a motion demanding that they give you a copy of it.

As a criminal defense attorney, you are not obligated to say that you already have it. You might get a question from the judge about whether you already have the material or not. But that misses the point.

The prosecutor must disclose the Brady material. The defense attorney does not have to hunt down that which is not properly disclosed. Why? Because sometimes the defense attorney will miss it. The obligation is on the prosecutor to locate the information and provide it to the defense attorney without being asked for it.

Occasionally, I've frustrated by the fact that I find information on an officer's pending "separation" from his job for serious misconduct or a pending internal affairs investigation and I disclose it to the prosecutor and they tell me that they do not consider it Brady and are not distributing it to the Public Defender's Office or to private criminal defense attorneys with open cases involving that same officer.

Instead of getting frustrated, I should just file the motion to force them to disclose it to me (even though I might already have it). It might also lead to the discovery of related information that I do not have in my possession and have no way to obtain otherwise. That will also clarify their obligations in their other cases where the disclosure has not been made. If defense attorneys did that every time - it would start to change the way prosecutors think about their obligations.

Then we will all start to see Brady Notices more often.

Videos on the Florida Public Defender Association's Website:

The Florida Public Defender Association's Website provides that "for viewing the CLE Brady v. Maryland courses produced by the FPDA, it is respectfully requested that attorneys make a minimum $25 donation to the Florida Innocence Project or the Exoneree Support Fund of the Innocence Project of Florida. Please visit www.FLORIDAINNOCENCE.ORG to make your donation on-line, or send a check to: the Innocence Project of Florida, 1100 East Park Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32301. All contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, as IPF is certified as a nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Service Act Section 501(c)(3); federal tax ID 20-0210812."

Various live CLE courses are also being offered to fulfill this requirement.

So when was the last time you received a Brady Notice? What did you learn from watching any of the videos or attending a live CLE course on this topic?

Supreme Court of Florida
No. SC13-552
[May 15, 2014]


    This matter is before the Court for consideration of proposed amendments to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.
    At the Court’s request, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Court Steering Committee (Steering Committee) filed its petition in this case, proposing adoption of a new rule of criminal procedure, rule 3.113 (Minimum Standards for Attorneys in Felony Cases). The Steering Committee unanimously proposes the rule amendment. Following publication of the proposed new rule by the Court, comments were filed by the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee and the Florida Public Defender Association. As discussed below, having considered the Steering Committee’s petition and the comments filed, we adopt Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.113, as proposed by the Steering Committee.
    Rule 3.113 is intended to implement the Florida Innocence Commission’s recommendation that the criminal rules be amended to require that any attorney who is practicing law in a felony case complete at least a two-hour course regarding the law of discovery and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) responsibilities. The new rule provides as follows:
Before an attorney may participate as counsel of record in the circuit court for any adult felony case, including postconviction proceedings before the trial court, the attorney must complete a course . . . of at least 100 minutes and covering the legal and ethical obligations of discovery in a criminal case, including the requirements of rule 3.220, and the principles established in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972).
     Trial judges, based upon their inherent authority to uphold the rules of procedure, are authorized to give effect to the rule by not appointing counsel, or removing counsel, in the event that counsel is not in compliance with the rule.
     Additionally, to ensure that qualified counsel will be available at the time this rule goes into effect, we provide that the rule will take effect two years from the date of this opinion.
    Accordingly, Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.113 is hereby adopted as reflected in the appendix to this opinion. The amendment shall become effective May 16, 2016, at 12:01 a.m.
    It is so ordered.



Original Proceedings–Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure

Hon. Kevin Emas, Chair, Criminal Court Steering Committee, Miami, Florida for Petitioner Melanie L. Casper, Chair, Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, West Palm
Beach, Florida; John F. Harkness, Jr., Executive Director, The Florida Bar, Tallahassee, Florida; and Paul E. Petillo, The Florida Public Defender Association, West Palm Beach, Florida,

    Responding with comments



     Before an attorney may participate as counsel of record in the circuit court for any adult felony case, including postconviction proceedings before the trial court, the attorney must complete a course, approved by The Florida Bar for continuing legal education credits, of at least 100 minutes and covering the legal and ethical obligations of discovery in a criminal case, including the requirements of rule 3.220, and the principles established in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972).

Criminal Court Steering Committee Commentary

    2014 Adoption. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction under Article V, section 15 of the Florida Constitution to “regulate the admission of persons to the practice of law and the discipline of persons admitted.” Implied in this grant of authority is the power to set minimum requirements for the admission to practice law, see In re Florida Board of Bar Examiners, 353 So. 2d 98 (Fla. 1977), as well as minimum requirements for certain kinds of specialized legal work. The Supreme Court has adopted minimum educational and experience requirements for attorneys in capital cases, see, e.g., rule 3.112, and for board certification in other specialized fields of law.
    The concept of a two-hour continuing legal education (CLE) requirement was proposed in the 2012 Final Report of the Florida Innocence Commission.
    The CLE requirement is not intended to establish any independent legal rights. Any claim of ineffective assistance of counsel will be controlled by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).
    It is intended that The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and The Florida Public Defender Association will develop a seminar that will be approved for CLE credit by The Florida Bar. It is also intended that attorneys will be able to electronically access that seminar, at no cost, via The Florida Bar’s website, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association’s website, and/or the Florida Public Defender Association’s website.
    The rule is not intended to apply to counsel of record in direct or collateral adult felony appeals.

Phantom "Hit and Run" Non-Contact Crash in Florida

What happens if your car did not actually come into contact with any other car involved in the crash? If you look in the rear view mirror and see a crash behind you are you required to stop and render aid? Can you be charged with "hit and run" if your vehicle never "hit" anything? In Florida, the answer is theoretically "yes."

You could be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony version of hit and run depending on whether injury occurred.

What is a Phantom Vehicle?

The Tampa Police Department in Florida has standard operating procedures that specifically address the phanton vehicle "hit and run" investigation (sometimes called the no contact "hit and run" or the non-contact "hit and run").

According to Wikipedia, "the phantom vehicle may refer to a supposed ghostly or haunted vehicle, or, for insurance purposes, a vehicle that causes injury, death, or damage without making physical contact."

Elements of the "No Hit - Hit and Run "

The standard operating procedures in Tampa, FL, provide that before a non-contact (phantom) vehicle can be considered a hit and run vehicle, the following facts must be established:
  1. the driver must have had some reasonable knowledge of its involvement in the crash;
  2.  the vehicle must have been a "direct cause" of the crash; and
  3. the vehicle did leave the scene to avoid its responsibility under Florida law.
The non-contact vehicle should only be listed if all of those facts are established by evidence or witness(es).

If the "no contact" vehicle (phantom vehicle) is not at the scene, then the law enforcement officers are suppose to treat the investigation as a hit and run. The non-contact hit and run can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. 

The non-contact vehicle is suppose to be listed last in the crash report. In most cases, the information about a non-contact "hit and run" vehicle is not entered into the statistical blocks of the crash report on the driver, vehicle or codes on phantom / non-contact or hit and run vehicles until this information can be verified.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the Tampa Bay area, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, and the Florida Highway Patrol use similar procedures. 

Finding an Attorney in Tampa for a Hit and Run Case

After a criminal investigation begins, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statements to law enforcement. The punishments for leaving the scene of a crash are very serious. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

If you are under investigation in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, or the surrounding counties of Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, or Hernando, then contact an experienced "hit and run" defense attorney in Tampa. Call 813-250-0500. 

Florida 2015 Senate Bill 1298: Targets Uber and "Transportation Network Companies"

Uber works. I use it all the time. I do not use Uber instead of a Taxi. I just don't use a Taxi service because it is too slow, too inconvenient, and too expensive. So it is not that a Taxi service is losing my business to Uber. The Taxi service never had my business to begin with.  

My friends use it. My clients use it. As a criminal defense attorney, I know that many people in Florida have temporarily lost their driving privileges. Instead of driving without a valid license or insurance - they take Uber. It makes the roads safer for the rest of us. 

I represent lots of people for DUI who could have avoided driving under the influence by just taking Uber. Many people plan poorly for a night on the town. After a few drinks, these individuals are probably not going to take a Taxi home, but they would be more likely to take Uber home. 

So why are the politicians trying to destroy this wonderful concept of ride sharing? Do they not know that people that like ride sharing also like to vote?  

Today (April 14), SB 1298, a piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Simmons is up for a vote on the Senate floor. Our state senators should vote no on FL 2015 SB 1298.

Accord to Uber, this bill has nothing to do with public safety, but is rather an effort aimed at protecting entrenched special interests. It could potentially kill tens of thousands of good Florida jobs and would prevent you from accessing a safe, affordable ride that arrives in minutes anywhere in the Sunshine State. 

This legislation would require Transportation Network Companies like Uber to insure personal vehicles with commercial insurance even when a driver is not logged into the platform, is not supported by insurance leaders or the ride sharing industry. 

Uber already ensures there is insurance coverage whenever a driver is actually logged into the platform. 

If passed, SB 1298 could destroy ride sharing in Florida. Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost across the state and millions of residents and visitors will no longer have access to safe and reliable rides at the touch of a button. 

Read more:  #Uberon in Hillsborough County, FL - Find out more about how the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) led by an elected County Commissioner Victor Crist recently filed a lawsuit against Uber, as well as some of its driver-partners. Also, the PTC inspectors have been using undercover sting operations to hand drivers citations totally more than $700 and even making arrests for misdemeanor charges of operating without a proper permit. The courts are throwing the charges out. Read more about HCPTC rules (Section 7-1) and Chapter 2001-299, for Operating a public vehicle for hire without a certification. 

Florida Senate - 2015                             CS for SB 1298
       By the Committee on Appropriations; and Senator Simmons      
       576-03818-15                                          20151298c1
    1                        A bill to be entitled                     
    2         An act relating to insurance for short-term rental and
    3         transportation network companies; creating s. 627.716,
    4         F.S.; defining terms; establishing insurance
    5         requirements for short-term rental network companies
    6         during certain timeframes; requiring a short-term
    7         rental network company to make certain written
    8         disclosures to participating lessors; requiring an
    9         insurer to defend and indemnify an insured in this
   10         state; prohibiting the personal insurance policy of a
   11         participating lessor of a short-term rental property
   12         from providing specified coverage during certain
   13         timeframes except under specified circumstances;
   14         requiring a short-term rental network company and its
   15         insurer to cooperate with certain claims
   16         investigations; providing that the section does not
   17         limit the liability of a short-term rental network
   18         company under specified circumstances; creating s.
   19         627.748, F.S.; defining terms; requiring a
   20         transportation network company driver or such company
   21         on the driver’s behalf, or a combination thereof, to
   22         maintain primary automobile liability insurance issued
   23         by specified insurers with certain coverages in
   24         specified amounts during certain timeframes; requiring
   25         the transportation network company to provide
   26         automobile insurance in the event insurance maintained
   27         by the transportation network company driver lapses or
   28         does not provide the required coverage; requiring a
   29         transportation network company driver to carry proof
   30         of insurance coverage at certain times and to disclose
   31         specified information in the event of an accident;
   32         requiring a transportation network company to make
   33         certain disclosures to transportation network company
   34         drivers; authorizing insurers to exclude certain
   35         coverages during specified periods for policies issued
   36         to transportation network company drivers for personal
   37         vehicles; requiring a transportation network company
   38         and certain insurers to cooperate during a claims
   39         investigation to facilitate the exchange of specified
   40         information; requiring a transportation network
   41         company to determine whether an individual’s personal
   42         vehicle is subject to a lien before allowing the
   43         individual to act as a driver and, if the vehicle is
   44         subject to a lien, to verify that the insurance
   45         required by this section provides coverage to the
   46         lienholder during specified periods; authorizing the
   47         Office of Insurance Regulation to adopt rules to
   48         implement the section; providing an effective date.
   50  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   52         Section 1. Section 627.716, Florida Statutes, is created to
   53  read:
   54         627.716 Short-term rental network company insurance.—
   55         (1) For purposes of this section, the term:
   56         (a) “Application” means an Internet-enabled application or
   57  platform owned or used by a short-term rental network company or
   58  any similar method of providing rental services to a
   59  participating renter.
   60         (b) “Participating lessor” means a person who makes a
   61  short-term rental property available through an application to
   62  participating renters.
   63         (c) “Participating renter” means a person who enters into a
   64  short-term rental arrangement through an application.
   65         (d) “Short-term rental network company” or “company” means
   66  an organization, including, but not limited to, a corporation,
   67  limited liability company, partnership, sole proprietorship, or
   68  other entity for which participating lessors provide
   69  prearranged, short-term rentals for compensation using an
   70  application to connect a participating renter with a
   71  participating lessor.
   72         (e) “Short-term rental network company insurance” means an
   73  insurance policy that expressly provides coverage as required by
   74  this section at all times during the short-term rental period.
   75         (f) “Short-term rental period” means the period beginning
   76  at the time the participating renter first uses or occupies the
   77  short-term rental property and ending at the time the
   78  participating renter vacates the short-term rental property.
   79         (g) “Short-term rental property” means the entirety or any
   80  portion of a property which is used for residential occupancy
   81  purposes. Such property includes, but is not limited to, a
   82  condominium, an apartment, a multifamily dwelling, a single
   83  family structure, or any other rental unit located in this state
   84  which is owned or rented by a participating lessor.
   85         (2)(a) During the short-term rental period, a short-term
   86  rental network company shall maintain short-term rental network
   87  company insurance that is primary and that:
   88         1. Insures the participating lessor against direct physical
   89  loss to the short-term rental property and its contents,
   90  exclusive of the property of the participating renter, with
   91  limits equal to any multiperil or named-peril property insurance
   92  maintained by the participating lessor.
   93         2. Provides liability coverage for personal injury and
   94  property damage with limits of at least $1 million which covers
   95  the acts and omissions of the short-term rental network company,
   96  a participating lessor, and all persons using or occupying the
   97  short-term rental property and which does not contain an
   98  exclusion for co-insureds.
   99         (b) Short-term rental network company insurance may not
  100  require as a prerequisite of coverage that another insurance
  101  policy be primary or first deny a claim.
  102         (3) A short-term rental network company shall disclose in
  103  writing to a participating lessor the insurance coverages and
  104  limits of liability that the short-term rental network company
  105  provides during the short-term rental period. The company shall
  106  advise the participating lessor in writing that the
  107  participating lessor’s personal insurance policy may not provide
  108  the insurance coverage required by subsection (2).
  109         (4) An insurer that provides short-term rental network
  110  company insurance shall defend and indemnify in this state the
  111  insured in accordance with the policy’s provisions.
  112         (5)(a) During the short-term rental period, the
  113  participating lessor’s personal insurance policy for the short
  114  term rental property may not:
  115         1. Be required to provide primary or excess coverage.
  116         2. Provide any coverage to the participating lessor, the
  117  participating renter, or a third party unless the policy, with
  118  or without a separate charge, expressly provides for such
  119  coverage or contains an amendment or endorsement to provide such
  120  coverage.
  121         3. Have any duty to indemnify or defend for liabilities
  122  arising during the short-term rental period unless the policy,
  123  with or without a separate charge, expressly provides for such
  124  duties or contains an amendment or endorsement to provide for
  125  such duties.
  126         (b) Before or after the short-term rental period, the
  127  participating lessor’s personal policy for the short-term rental
  128  property may not provide coverage for claims arising from any
  129  rental arrangement entered into by a participating renter with
  130  the short-term rental company or the participating lessor for
  131  the short-term rental property or for acts and omissions related
  132  to the rental arrangement unless the policy, with or without a
  133  separate charge, provides for such coverage or contains an
  134  amendment or endorsement to provide such coverage.
  135         (6) In a claims investigation, a short-term rental network
  136  company or its insurer shall cooperate with other insurers to
  137  facilitate the exchange of information, which must include the
  138  number and duration of all short-term rental periods made with
  139  respect to the short-term rental property for the 12 months
  140  preceding the date of loss.
  141         (7) This section does not limit the liability of a short
  142  term rental network company arising out of the use or occupancy
  143  of short-term rental property by a participating renter for an
  144  amount that exceeds the limits specified in subsection (2).
  145         Section 2. Section 627.748, Florida Statutes, is created to
  146  read:
  147         627.748 Transportation network company insurance.—
  148         (1) For purposes of this section, the term:
  149         (a) “Digital network” means an online-enabled application,
  150  software, website, or system offered or used by a transportation
  151  network company which enables the prearrangement of rides with
  152  transportation network company drivers.
  153         (b) “Personal vehicle” means a vehicle that is used by a
  154  transportation network company driver in connection with
  155  providing transportation network company service and that:
  156         1. Is owned, leased, or otherwise authorized for use by the
  157  transportation network company driver; and
  158         2. Is not a taxi, jitney, limousine, or for-hire vehicle as
  159  defined in s. 320.01(15).
  160         (c) “Prearranged ride” means the provision of
  161  transportation by a driver to or on behalf of a rider, beginning
  162  when a driver accepts a ride requested by a rider through a
  163  digital network controlled by a transportation network company,
  164  continuing while the driver transports the rider, and ending
  165  when the last rider departs from the personal vehicle. A
  166  prearranged ride does not include transportation provided using
  167  a taxi, jitney, limousine, for-hire vehicle as defined in s.
  168  320.01(15), or street hail services.
  169         (d) “Transportation network company” or “company” means a
  170  corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or other entity
  171  operating in this state which uses a digital network to connect
  172  transportation network company riders to transportation network
  173  company drivers who provide prearranged rides. A transportation
  174  network company may not be deemed to control, direct, or manage
  175  the personal vehicles or transportation network company drivers
  176  that connect to its digital network, unless agreed to in a
  177  written contract. A transportation network company does not
  178  include an individual, corporation, partnership, sole
  179  proprietorship, or other entity arranging nonemergency medical
  180  transportation for individuals qualifying for Medicaid or
  181  Medicare pursuant to a contract with the state or a managed care
  182  organization.
  183         (e) “Transportation network company driver” or “driver”
  184  means an individual who:
  185         1. Receives connections to potential riders and related
  186  services from a transportation network company in exchange for
  187  any form of compensation, including payment of a fee to the
  188  transportation network company; and
  189         2. Uses a personal vehicle to offer or provide a
  190  prearranged ride to riders upon connection through a digital
  191  network controlled by a transportation network company in return
  192  for compensation, including payment of a fee.
  193         (f) “Transportation network company rider” or “rider” means
  194  an individual who directly or indirectly uses a transportation
  195  network company’s digital network to connect with a
  196  transportation network company driver who provides
  197  transportation services to such individual in the driver’s
  198  personal vehicle.
  199         (2)(a) A transportation network company driver, or a
  200  transportation network company on the driver’s behalf, shall
  201  maintain primary automobile liability insurance that recognizes
  202  that the driver is a transportation network company driver or
  203  that the driver otherwise uses a personal vehicle to transport
  204  riders for compensation. Such primary automobile liability
  205  insurance must cover the driver as required under this section,
  206  including while the driver is logged on to the transportation
  207  network company’s digital network and engaged in a prearranged
  208  ride.
  209         (b) The following automobile insurance requirements apply
  210  while a participating transportation network company driver is
  211  logged on to the transportation network company’s digital
  212  network and is available to receive transportation requests, but
  213  is not engaged in a prearranged ride:
  214         1. Primary automobile liability insurance of at least
  215  $125,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $250,000 for
  216  death and bodily injury per incident, coverage in an equivalent
  217  amount for uninsured and underinsured motorists, and $50,000 for
  218  property damage; and
  219         2. Primary automobile insurance that provides the minimum
  220  coverage requirements under ss. 627.730-627.7405.
  221         (c) The following automobile insurance requirements shall
  222  apply while a transportation network company driver is engaged
  223  in a prearranged ride:
  224         1. Primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1
  225  million for death and bodily injury per person, $2 million for
  226  death and bodily injury per incident, coverage in an equivalent
  227  amount for uninsured and underinsured motorists, and $50,000 for
  228  property damage; and
  229         2. Primary automobile insurance that provides the minimum
  230  coverage requirements under ss. 627.730-627.7405.
  231         (d) The following automobile insurance requirements apply
  232  at all times other than the periods specified in paragraph (b)
  233  or paragraph (c) if a driver has or, within the previous 6
  234  months has had, an agreement with a transportation network
  235  company to provide any form of transportation services to
  236  riders:
  237         1. Primary automobile liability insurance of at least
  238  $100,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $200,000 for
  239  death and bodily injury per incident, coverage in an equivalent
  240  amount for uninsured and underinsured motorists, and $50,000 for
  241  property damage; and
  242         2. Primary automobile insurance that provides the minimum
  243  coverage requirements under ss. 627.730-627.7405.
  244         (e) The coverage requirements of paragraph (b), paragraph
  245  (c), or paragraph (d) may be satisfied by any of the following:
  246         1. Automobile liability insurance maintained by the
  247  transportation network company driver;
  248         2. Automobile liability insurance maintained by the
  249  transportation network company; or
  250         3. Any combination of subparagraphs 1. and 2.
  251         (f) If automobile insurance maintained by a driver under
  252  paragraph (b), paragraph (c), or paragraph (d) has lapsed or
  253  does not provide the required coverage, automobile insurance
  254  maintained by a transportation network company must provide the
  255  coverage required by this section beginning with the first
  256  dollar of a claim and must require that the insurer have the
  257  duty to defend such claim in this state.
  258         (g) Coverage under an automobile insurance policy
  259  maintained by the transportation network company may not be
  260  dependent on a personal automobile liability insurance policy
  261  first denying a claim.
  262         (h) Automobile insurance required by this section must be
  263  provided by an insurer authorized to do business in this state
  264  and which is a member of the Florida Insurance Guaranty
  265  Association.
  266         (i) Automobile insurance satisfying the requirements of
  267  this section shall be deemed to satisfy the financial
  268  responsibility requirements for a motor vehicle under chapter
  269  324 and the security required under s. 627.733.
  270         (j) A transportation network company driver shall carry
  271  proof of insurance coverage satisfying paragraphs (b), (c), and
  272  (d) at all times during his or her use of a personal vehicle in
  273  connection with a transportation network company’s digital
  274  network. In the event of an accident:
  275         1. The driver shall provide the insurance coverage
  276  information to the directly involved parties, automobile
  277  insurers, and investigating police officers. Proof of financial
  278  responsibility may be provided through a digital telephone
  279  application under s. 316.646 controlled by a transportation
  280  network company.
  281         2. The driver, upon request, shall disclose to the directly
  282  involved parties, automobile insurers, and investigating police
  283  officers whether the driver, at the time of the accident, was
  284  logged on to the transportation network company’s digital
  285  network or engaged in prearranged ride.
  286         (k) Before a driver may accept a request for a prearranged
  287  ride on the transportation network company’s digital network,
  288  the transportation network company shall disclose in writing to
  289  each transportation network company driver each type of:
  290         1. Insurance coverage and the limit for each coverage the
  291  transportation network company provides; and
  292         2. Automobile insurance coverage that the driver must
  293  maintain while the driver uses a personal vehicle in connection
  294  with the transportation network company.
  295         (l) An insurer that provides personal automobile insurance
  296  policies under part XI of chapter 627 may exclude from coverage
  297  under a policy issued to an owner or operator of a personal
  298  vehicle any loss or injury that occurs while a driver is logged
  299  on to a transportation network company’s digital network or
  300  while a driver is engaged in a prearranged ride. Such right to
  301  exclude coverage applies to any coverage under an automobile
  302  liability insurance policy, including, but not limited to:
  303         1. Liability coverage for bodily injury and property
  304  damage.
  305         2. Personal injury protection coverage under s. 627.736.
  306         3. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
  307         4. Medical payments coverage.
  308         5. Comprehensive physical damage coverage.
  309         6. Collision physical damage coverage.
  310         (m) The exclusions authorized under paragraph (l) apply
  311  notwithstanding any financial responsibility requirements under
  312  chapter 324. This section does not require that a personal
  313  automobile liability insurance policy provide coverage while the
  314  driver is logged on to the transportation network company’s
  315  digital network, while the driver is engaged in a prearranged
  316  ride, or while the driver otherwise uses a personal vehicle to
  317  transport riders for compensation. However, an insurer may
  318  voluntarily elect to provide coverage for such driver’s personal
  319  vehicle by contract or endorsement.
  320         (n) An insurer that excludes coverage, as authorized under
  321  paragraph (l):
  322         1. Does not have a duty to defend or indemnify any claim
  323  excluded. This section does not invalidate or limit an exclusion
  324  contained in a policy, including any policy in use or approved
  325  for use in this state before July 1, 2015.
  326         2. Has a right of contribution against other insurers that
  327  provide automobile liability insurance to the same driver in
  328  satisfaction of the coverage requirements of this section at the
  329  time of loss if the insurer defends or indemnifies a claim
  330  against a driver which is excluded under the terms of its
  331  policy.
  332         (o) In any claims investigation, a transportation network
  333  company and any insurer potentially providing coverage for such
  334  claim under this section shall cooperate to facilitate the
  335  exchange of relevant information with directly involved parties
  336  and insurers of the transportation network company driver, if
  337  applicable. Such information must provide:
  338         1. The precise times that a driver logged on and off the
  339  transportation network company’s digital network during the 12
  340  hour period immediately preceding and immediately after the
  341  accident.
  342         2. A clear description of the coverage, any exclusions, and
  343  limits provided under any automobile liability insurance
  344  maintained under this section.
  345         (p) Before allowing an individual to act as a driver on its
  346  digital network, a transportation network company shall
  347  determine whether the driver’s personal vehicle is subject to a
  348  lien. If the personal vehicle is subject to a lien, the
  349  transportation network company shall verify that the insurance
  350  required by this section provides coverage to the lienholder
  351  while the driver is logged into the transportation network
  352  company’s digital network and while the driver is providing a
  353  prearranged ride.
  354         (3) The office may adopt rules to implement this section.
  355         Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.