Mandatory Jail for Suspended License

From the Tampa Legal Team News Service

Now drivers with suspended licenses face mandatory jail for driving.  Judges lose discretion at the hands of the Florida Legislature.
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               A whole raft of new laws is coming into effect on October 1, 2019, as part of the Criminal Justice reform bill that was passed by the legislature in July.  Getting the most attention are measures that are being applauded as forward thinking and progressive, providing for alternatives to incarceration, new drug courts and other means that take into consideration mental health and substance abuse problems of those being released from prison.

One of the new laws that will get unanimous support allows veterinarians to report suspected incidents of animal abuse.  Why didn’t somebody think of that before?

               While most of the news laws look to be forward-thinking, progressive measures  which call for less jail time and give more discretion to judges, one of the news laws that is not being talked about much appears to require more incarceration, not less, and takes away discretion of judges when dealing with misdemeanor driving cases.

               A version of what are called the Laws of Florida, Chapter 2019-167, and on October 1, 2019 will go into effect as Florida Statute 322.34 that has been edited to get right to the point states as follows:

               “(2) Any person whose driver license or driving privilege has been canceled, suspended, or revoked… or who does not have a driver license or driving privilege…who, knowing of such cancellation, suspension, or revocation, or suspension or revocation equivalent status, drives a motor vehicle…commits:

               (b)          1. A misdemeanor of the first degree … upon a second or subsequent conviction…

                              2. A person convicted of a third or subsequent conviction, except as provided in paragraph (c), must serve a minimum of 10 days in jail.”

               The statute goes on to say that under some circumstances, a third or subsequent conviction of driving while license suspended may be charged as a felony.  But if upon a third conviction it is not charged as a felony, the defendant must go to jail for ten days.

               Lawyers and judges in county court are faced with the problem of handing out justice to misdemeanants and traffic offenders.  In contrast to circuit court, where more serious, often violent offenders reside, persons charged with misdemeanors are frequently wrestling with difficulties of a much more mundane existence.

While a driver’s license may be suspended for committed a serious offense such as driving under the influence, a driver’s license may also be suspended for failure to pay traffic fines or falling behind on child support.  If a traffic fine is not paid within a certain time period, the fine is increased by a whopping 40 per cent, which often puts the fine out of reach for some defendants.

               Faced with bills to pay and children to feed, people often take the risk of driving without a license just to keep their job, and if caught take the risk of being placed on probation.  Even a cursory observation of daily life in county court would show that defense lawyers, judges, even prosecutors, try hard to find alternatives to incarceration.

               Enter the Florida legislature.  Now, upon a third conviction of driving while license suspended, you MUST go to jail for TEN DAYS.  

               COMMENTARY:  The legislature should be commended on the 2019 version of the Crime Reform Act.  It is a solid effort to move forward on many issues, including mass incarceration, treatment of juveniles and non-violent offenders.  However, of the three branches of government, it is this lawyer’s opinion that the judiciary tries the hardest to uphold the Constitution and staunchly refuses to give in to political pressure or the whims of lobbyists.   If a person in government should hold the power of incarceration over a citizen, it ought to be a man or woman wearing a robe and blindfold.     

Changes to Marijuana Prosecutions in Hillsborough County

From the Tampa Legal Team: News you can use. Memo has gone out from Andrew H. Warren, State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit regarding changes to marijuana prosecutions in Hillsborough County, as follows:

“Effective immediately, our office will not file charges nor prosecute any cannabis case with an offense date on or after July 1, 2019 without a scientifically reliable, admissible test that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance contains a THC level above the 0.3% threshold that distinguishes illegal cannabis from legal hemp. Among cannabis-related offenses, our office will continue to prioritize felonies: trafficking, manufacturing, delivery, sale, possession with intent, and felony-amount possession cases, while continuing to deprioritize the prosecution of misdemeanor cannabis cases in favor of established diversion and civil citation programs. Also, we will continue to prioritize the prosecution of cannabis-related felonies in which other felonies are part of the same transaction or occurrence, such as [a] felon in possession of a firearm or offenses involving other controlled substances.”

State Attorney Andrew H. WArren, 13th Judicial Circuit, Florida.

Joe’s Commentary on Changes to Marijuana Prosecutions:

This memo is too important to make light of or over emphasize. It’s just one defense lawyer’s opinion, but I think Mr. Warren has struck a blow for fairness and equality and ought to be applauded for the depth and quality thought that is behind the broad philosophy expressed therein. I for one think it will make a real difference in our community.

Plain Smell problems

Lawyers, judges and law enforcement officers have been wrestling with the fine points of the “plain view” exception to the warrant requirement since around 1980, but as sometimes happens, the doctrine has grown to include “plain feel” cases and most notably for the hemp v. marijuana discussion, “plain smell” cases.

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Tampa Legal Team is Opening for Business

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After working for the past five years for the terrific office of the Public Defender led by the indefatigable defender of rights of the accused Julianne M. Holt, the law office of Joseph J. Registrato is relaunching as of Thursday, September 5th, 2019. The new firm name is Tampa Legal Team and we are opening for business accepting both criminal law and family law clients across Tampa Bay.

Our new website is up and running and friends and former clients are welcome to come in and look us up. We’re preparing some innovations and even adding a face or two to the practice in the near future, so don’t be shy. Connect with us on Facebook or even give us a call and say hello!

Against all odds, we have been able to maintain our old telephone number, 813-247-1900, and we try to answer that number 24-7, although if you happen to call when we’re away please leave a message and somebody will get back to you pronto.

We remain at 2607 N. 15th Street, in Ybor City, which is almost at the corner of 15th Street and Columbus Drive and almost directly across the street from the famous La Segunda Bakery, which is responsible for making most all the Cuban bread to Tampa, Florida, every day, a fairly tall order.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood at 4 or 5 a.m., you can catch a whiff of the great smells emanating from the bakery and see hordes of Cuban bread devotees streaming in and out carrying huge bags loaded to the brim with those long heavenly loaves. Definitely check out their website as they have included a short video about their history in Ybor.

Should I Represent Myself in Court?

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The question comes up in many cases of so-called minor crimes and misdemeanors. “Can’t I represent myself?”

My answer is that no person should represent himself or herself in a civil or criminal case. It’s just too difficult and specialized and so many regret the decision. There’s an old saying, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” I would expand on that to read: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client and a fool for a lawyer.” I don’t know how many times I have been asked this question. “Can I do it myself?” I usually respond by asking if they had a notion to fly to the moon, would they take up a wrench and screwdriver and start building a rocket ship?

Here are some reasons PEOPLE should not represent THEMSELVES IN COURT:

1. The criminal justice system is a world you’re not expecting.

Some people believe they can walk into court and explain things to a fair and compassionate judge and things will work out for the best. This is wrong on so many counts it’s hard to know where to start.

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DUIs, Sobriety Tests, and Evidence

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Statistics are all over the place on DUIs, how many, how many in each county, how many result in death or serious injury.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk driving crashes – that’s one person every 48 minutes in 2017.”  So it’s a serious problem. The Tampa Legal Team and Joseph J. Registrato, Esq., are experienced in handling DUIs, challenging the validity of sobriety tests, and evaluating the evidence.

But at the center of this serious problem is often an average person who made a mistake, a mistake that harmed no one.   That aside, our average person is going to pay a high price — including being handcuffed and taken to jail where he will spend the night locked in a cell, then later on, two or three court appearances, a year on probation, a criminal record, loss of his driver’s license, and more than a thousand dollars in fines and costs.  Unless he can get a business purposes driver’s license, he may very well lose his job.  All that will happen because, in one police officer’s opinion, the average person was “under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired.”

But what about the breathalyzer?  It’s an important part of DUI law, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story, or even the correct story.   Despite the breathalyzer, a DUI conviction is often based on one person’s opinion.   For some lucky people, there is an alternate ending to this story, which we will get to shortly.    

Take this scenario, which is played out daily in every city from Miami to Anchorage.   A man or woman named Sam (or Samantha) is at a restaurant for a birthday party or a get together of co-workers from a downtown Tampa office.  Age doesn’t matter, nor does station in life, position, annual salary, or marital status.   Everyone, at one time or another, has been in Sam’s shoes.  Most people are drinking alcoholic beverages, vodka Martinis, rum and Coke, Scotch and Soda.  There’s food, too, appetizers mostly, shrimp on a skewer, rice bowls, chips and dip.  The mood is high, people are laughing and having fun; beer and wine and other booze is flowing freely.   Nobody is even thinking about Sam’s criminal culpability, he “looks fine,” and nobody’s worried about him.

After a few drinks, Sam feels the effects of the alcohol, (buzz), but has no trouble navigating the short walk to the rest room and then after a last drink, heads to his car for the ten-minute ride home.  Sam gives no thought to being “under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired;” in fact he’s never heard that combination of words used in a sentence.   

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Domestic Violence Allegations

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There may be a world where human beings are able to control their emotions when in stressful situations in the home with loved ones, but we have learned it is not Planet Earth. There is a long history of domestic violence in the United States that continues to the present day. When domestic violence allegations arise in relationships, the ripple effects can be far reaching.

Relationships are difficult, everybody knows that. There are always going to be arguments and differences of opinion, even if they are merely about whose turn it is to take out the garbage. We have seen that domestic violence can be very real, when people are injured or killed. We have also seen that domestic violence allegations can be fraudulent, where a charge of domestic violence is used as a ruse to gain advantage in a divorce or custody dispute.

Just by filing a domestic violence injunction in civil court, one person may get his or her partner thrown out of a joint residence and prohibited from coming back, even to visit children. That same person may be awarded temporary child support and alimony without a full hearing. Often hearings are set and held within 10 days or two weeks of the injunction being filed, which gives the accused violent offender little time to find a place to live or hire a lawyer to fight the domestic violence allegations.

It is common for the initial accuser to “take back” the domestic violence allegations, to change his or her mind and decide he or she does not wish for the legal action to move forward. When a civil injunction is involved, the person asking for the injunction may dismiss the case at any time, and even after it is put in place the accuser may still be able to ask that it be modified.

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Joseph J. Registrato: The Affordable DUI and Domestic Violence Attorney of Tampa

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JOSEPH J. REGISTRATO IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF LAWYER WHO WILL DEFEND YOU IN YOUR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE.

If you have been frustrated searching for an affordable DUI or domestic violence lawyer in Tampa who speaks in plain English, the Tampa Legal Team and Joseph J. Registrato, Esq., are here for you.

If you’ve been frustrated searching for a lawyer you can afford, you should talk to me about a “flat fee” arrangement rather than a contract that includes an hourly rate. There is also the possibility of starting off with a contract that includes a down payment followed by regular payments.

And if you’ve been frustrated searching for a lawyer willing to fight even when the odds are against him, you may have found what you’re looking for. In my experience with hundreds of DUI, domestic violence — in fact almost all criminal cases — the results are almost always better when you put up a fight.

After 30 years of practicing law (licensed in September 1989), as both a prosecutor of crimes and a public defender, and after spending 20-plus years in private practice, I’ve seen hundreds of people baffled by the explanations they are given by lawyers and judges. Most shrug their shoulders as they walk out of court, having no idea what they were just told. Words like “withhold adjudication,” “waiver of rights,” “no contest,” have little or no meaning outside the criminal justice system, and people should not be expected to understand them in the few seconds they stand before a judge, usually so nervous and rattled they can’t even hear the words being said.

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