Benjamin & Melmer, LLC in the Miami Times!!

Benjamin & Melmer, LLC is in print!!! Please check out our very own David Benjamin being qouted in this recent article published by the Miami Times. The article deals with a recent bill making its way through the Florida legislature which extends unemployment benefits to victims of domestic violence.
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmiamitimesonline.com%2Fthe-hidden-costs-of-domestic-violence%2F&h=uAQFhsUHvAQEyZJj7c4xjlGQNmqoVkIV8DtHzEty7MDpPhQ

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'Tis the Season for DUI Checkpoints

When ringing in the New Year, always remember to drink responsibly.  If you don’t, Miami-Dade’s finest will.  DUI checkpoints will be as numerous as best of the year lists in the next few days.  As such, it is critical to know your rights and act accordingly.  DUI’s carry with them many harsh sanctions, not the least of which are mandatory driving license suspensions, alcohol classes and even possible jail time.
Being safe and smart is the key this Holiday season.  And if the worst does happen, consulting a lawyer with experience handling DUI cases can make all the difference in your case.
Here is an article from CBS 4 News stating the obvious.  Be on your best behavior Miami!!
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/12/27/cops-warn-drive-sober-or-get-pulled-over-2/

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Floyd Mayweather KO'd by DV Court

Floyd Mayweather, possibly the most famous boxer in the world, was sentenced by a Las Vegas Domestic Violence Court to six months in jail, with three of those months reduced.  Maywheather originally faced felony charges for battering his ex-girlfriend in front of their two young children, ages 9 and 11, an enhancement in charge under Nevada law.  Mayweather received a reduction in the severity of his charges from a felony to a misdemeanor in exchange for pleading guilty to the court.  The Judge in the case then sentenced Mayweather to jail time.
In Florida, Mayweather may not have received any better deal.  Under Florida Statute Section 741, crimes deemed domestic in nature, like Mayweather’s battery, are taken very seriously.  Even a plea to a misdemeanor requires at least 12 months of probation, if jail is not imposed.  In addition, a batterers’ intervention course, which consists of 26 weeks of classes, is also required in lieu of jail.
Crimes of domestic violence, no matter how severe, are serious business.  As the Mayweather case shows, consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney, especially one who has had prior experience handling crimes of domestic violence, is a must.
http://espn.go.com/boxing/story/_/id/7376829/floyd-mayweather-jr-sentenced-90-days-jail-domestic-violence-plea

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The Miami-Dade Party Police

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for law enforcement in Miami-Dade County.  First, two Miami Beach Police Officers critically injured a tourist on the beach while driving their City-issued ATV intoxicated.  These officers got drunk at a bachelorette party earlier in the evening.  Then, a City of Miami police officer was stopped driving nearly 120 mph on the Florida Turnpike by a Florida Highway Trooper.  However, the uproar in law enforcement circles surrounded the actions of the Highway Patrolwoman, and NOT the officer driving 120 mph.
Now, the Miami-Dade Police Department has joined the party, no pun intended.  MDPD officer Fernando Villa was found passed out in his patrol car in shorts and a shirt.  This wouldn’t be Miami-Dade County if that were the end of the story.  Instead of treating the officer like all other individuals suspected of DUI, the MDPD supervisors on the scene decided to go against protocol and gave the office a promise to appear.  A promise to appear allows an individual arrested, in lieu of being booked into jail and being forced to pay a bond, to simply “promise” to appear in court at their first court date.  This type of process is reserved, as MDPD Director John Loftus states in the MSNBC article, to low level misdemeanor crimes (criminal traffic violations such as driving while your license is suspended or retail theft).  A promise to appear is never done in DUI cases…NEVER!  It doesn’t make much sense to allow someone you think is drunk and driving to go back out into the streets still drunk to do God knows what.
This incident simply reiterates what citizens in Miami-Dade County have known for quite a while; there are two sets of rules: Those for the police and a completely separate and more rigid one for everyone else.  Do you agree?  Have any of you experienced this double standard?  If you find yourself in the cross hairs of police misconduct, please consult an attorney at once.
http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/09/9323601-fla-cop-found-drunk-in-squad-car-not-cuffed
 

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The Twit Who Tweeted

An Arkansas juror’s Tweets may have caused a mistrial in an otherwise open and shut first degree murder case.  Randy Franco, a juror on the murder trial of Erickson Dimas-Martinez, Tweeted such philosophical gems as “Choices to be made.  Hearts to be broken” and other classics on the horrible coffee in the courthouse.  These seemingly innocuous Tweets led the defendant to appeal his conviction on grounds of possible juror misconduct.  The State of Arkansas has countered that the evidence was overwhelming (there were multiple eye witnesses to the murder) and the jurors actions were not against any specific Court order.
The attached article indicates that the Arkansas Supreme Court, which heard the defendant’s appeal, is unlikely to reverse the lower courts’ rulings.  However, countless hours and tax payers’ dollars were spent on the defense of the underlying verdict, all because Juror Franco had an uncontrollable desire to tell the Twitter-verse how bad his coffee was.  Do incidents like this led to the conclusion that internet access should be banned in courtrooms?  Or should the court confiscate all forms of communication from the jurors during their service?  Or is this an example of the law falling seriously behind modern technology?  Should Tweeting or Facebook activity that doesn’t lead to gathering outside knowledge even qualify as possible juror misconduct?  The bottom line is that a juror’s insatiable need to inform the social media world of their daily activity may subject taxpayers to a drain of funds, defendants to a possible unfair trial and everyone reading the Tweets to hours of wasted time they’ll never get back.
Check out the article at: http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=7e3e1155-b121-4df3-8e91-eccc50c469f1

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Do Monetary Incentives, Not Public Safety, Drive Police Activity?

A new article from Radley Balko in the Huffington Post raises some serious questions involving our countries war on drugs.  It claims that federal anti-drug grants and state civil asset forfeiture laws drive police policies to arrest drug dealers (perferably after they’ve already sold and distributed their product onto the streets) in greater and greater numbers.  Even more daming, Balko claims these incentives force police departments to focus their resources on non-violent drug crimes and away from victim-driven violent crimes.
This article also mentions that police make it a habit of stopping people “who look suspicious” and frisk them or ask them to empty their pockets.  This stop and frisk is also called a Terry stop after the famous United States Supreme Court case which stated it was legal for an officer with reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to do a pat-down of the suspect’s outer clothing for the officer’s safety.
Also, Jessica Shaver, the woman mentioned in the article, was treated in an abhorent and degrading manner by the Chicago police.  During the raid of her apartment, the police were less than kind to her.  However, even when she was a victim of a crime, the police gave Ms. Shaver the run around, denying her access and information and forcing her to investigate her own case.  This was a shameful outcome.  That is why it is so important to seek the help of a good attorney, even when you are the victim of a crime, to help you fight for your rights.  It is unfortunate, but the reality is that whether because of misguided priorities, economics or just a plan lack of interest, you may need an advocate to help you get the attention you deserve from the police.
Let us know what you think of this article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/21/drug-war-incentives-police-violent-crime_n_1105701.html?page=1

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US Supreme Court May Hear Miami "Dog Drug-Sniff" Case

The case of a Florida man arrested for allegedly trafficking in marijuana may be taken up by the United States Supreme Court in the coming weeks. As some of you may be aware, the Miami-Dade Police Department arrested Joelis Jardines on charges of drug trafficking after a trained narcotics sniffing dog, Franky, alerted police to the presence of marijuana in the house. Police were originally alerted to suspicious behavior from an anonymous tip. The Florida Supreme Court, in Florida v. Jardines, found that using Franky the drug sniffing dog constituted an illegal search in violation of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, and suppressed all subsequently discovered evidence as fruit of the poisonous tree. Because of the “special status accorded a citizen’s home in Anglo-American jurisprudence,” the Court distinguished prior Federal case law holding warrantless dog drug sniff tests of luggage at airports and cars in traffic stops legal. Florida v. Jardines, No. SC08-2101, slip op. at * 39 (Fla April 14, 2011). In addition, the Court held the lack of a more extensive police investigation (the police only did a 15 minute surveillance of the home and observed the air conditioner running constantly and the blinds drawn) made it necessary to obtain a warrant.
In a particularly interesting exchange in his special concurrence, Justice Fred Lewis said that, “The scent of items cooking on a stove, the whiff of an air freshener, or even the foul smell associated with a ruptured sewage line are all intimate details of a home that are expected to remain private and unavailable to the public.” Id. at 43. So, for Justice Lewis at least, a dog sniff test can never occur without a warrant, since even the air emanating from a home is protected under the Fourth Amendment.
What do you think? Should the police be allowed to use a drug-sniffing dog without a warrant? Are smells and odors coming from a home meant to be private?  Would the fact that the AC was continuously running for 15 minutes in the middle of December when the surveillance occurred, change your opinion of the police investigation?  Let us know.
Here is a link to the actual Florida Supreme Court Opinion possibly before the US Supreme Court: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2011/sc08-2101.pdf
Here is a link to a recent Miami Herald article on this case:
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/21/2513496/are-there-limits-to-drug-sniffing.html
 

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