Posts Tagged ‘warrant’

Cops in Jail

February 5, 2010

Kudos to the Jacksonville police officer who had the courage to turn in two fellow officers recently for committing a crime on the job.  Apparently the officers wanted to look for drugs in a house located in a high-crime area, but they didn’t have a search warrant.  So instead of developing the probable cause they would have needed to get a warrant, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  They removed a room air conditioner and went into the house, then made up a story about a lady driving by who reported a burglary so it would look like they were justified in going into the house.

They didn’t find any drugs in the house.  Now they’re in jail.

Sadly, too many officers take shortcuts.  Over the course of the last 18+ years as a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen it too many times.  I’ve had clients tell me about it again and again.

I guess these officers feel like the ends justify the means, but they never do.  Their actions taint all of the hard-working, dedicated officers who play by the rules while protecting the public.

The criminal justice system is designed to ferret out the truth, and most of the time it works.  Usually, when it fails, it’s because a cop or a prosecutor decides that winning is more important than justice.  It never is.

I’m sure the officers charged in this case will feel entitled to a fair trial, which they are.  I’m sure they’ll want the evidence used against them to be obtained legally, which it should be.  That’s the thing about the Constitution—it covers all of us, in all cases.

You can read more about this story at http://bit.ly/dChmmy.

DUI: Searching Your Blood?

January 20, 2010

I was out of town last week when the Times-Union ran a story about a Jacksonville DUI ruling with huge implications for everyone in the community.  I almost fell off the sofa Sunday afternoon when I saw the headline.

Florida law outlines very limited circumstances in which the police are allowed to force a suspected drunk driver to give a blood sample for testing of the driver’s blood alcohol content.  Basically, unless you’re involved in an accident that causes a death or a serious bodily injury, the law doesn’t give the police the authority to take your blood.

But the State Attorney’s Office, in my opinion, did some legal gymnastics in an effort to circumvent the Florida statutes. In accident cases not involving death or serious bodily injury, the police started seeking search warrants, arguing that a suspected drunk driver’s blood is property that can be seized upon a showing of probable cause.  Some local judges were signing off on these warrants, allowing forced blood draws.

Defense attorneys, of course, contested this practice.  Finally, Jacksonville attorney Scott Mitchell brought a test case.  The trial court judge agreed with Scott that this new practice did not comply with Florida law.  The State appealed, and the case went before a three-judge panel of circuit court judges.  Two out of the three judges ruled against Scott’s client, but I don’t think the case will end there.  We can look forward to another appellate round.

The Florida legislature was very specific in writing the DUI statute. If the public wants the law changed, then legislators should respond by amending the statute.  Unless and until that happens, the police should follow the law just like they expect drivers to do.