Friday, September 22, 2017

StingRays and Your Right to Privacy

In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court protected privacy by ruling that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to track cell phone location data without a warrant.  Police departments in Florida and around the country have been using metadata from cell phones to track a person’s location in real time without obtaining warrant.  The ruling also covered the use of StingRays, a technology often used by law enforcement to track people.  This device tricks cellphones into sending it their location information, as it is a cell-site simulator.     

The ACLU defended the 2014 Florida decision by saying that it not only gives location information, but the most private information in our lives—like doctor’s visits. 

Even though this has been the ruling in Florida since 2014, other states have continued to use StingRays.  However, on September 21, 2017, an appellate court in D.C. ruled with Florida, finding that warrants must be issued prior to StingRays being used.  This ruling is now the fourth such ruling in the country.

There are still 72 simulators in 24 states according to the ACLU; and there could be many more.  It looks like this issue could go before the highest court in the land for a final decision. 

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you need the help of an experienced criminal attorney to stand beside you and fight for you.  Contact Heather Bryan Law for your consultation today, at 863-825-5309.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ways to Sabotage Your Own Criminal Defense

It may seem like common sense to not want to sabotage you own criminal case, but people frequently do things than can damage their own defense.  Below are the top issues that I have seen to cause problems for clients’ cases:

5. Party Like a Rock Star
Your goal during your criminal case is to remain free of any drama.  If you are out drinking, you can end up in a situation which may lead to activities or situations which allowed your criminal charges in the first place.  Drinking may even be a violation of your pretrial release depending upon your charge.  If this is the case, you may find your bond revoked and there will be nothing that your attorney can do to help you. 

4. Fail to Show Up
Failure to show up for Court is a HUGE issue.  We all have unavoidable issues or accidents arise.  And if that happens once, it is explainable to a judge.  You may get a capias issued, but your attorney can more than likely get it withdrawn.  However, if you are habitually late for court, or fail to appear, your bond will probably be revoked and you will find yourself sitting in jail until your case is resolved.  The same goes for meeting with your attorney.  Your attorney is there to help you.  Your attorney cannot help you if you are constantly late or do not show for appointments.

3. Post It on Social Media
We all love posting our lives on social media.  I am posting this blog on social media.  However, #IJustGotArrested is not advisable.  You have the right to remain silent.  Use it.  Anything that you post will be used against you.  The State Attorney’s Office is constantly searching social media for anything about you.  In addition, your privacy settings do not matter. The courts have consistently ruled that if you are posting it, they can get it, regardless of your privacy settings.

2. Not Retaining Counsel
Some people make the mistake of thinking that they can handle their case themselves, without the help of an attorney.  There are many technical aspects to the law, including the evidence code, administrative license issues, sentencing laws, etc., that are overwhelming and complicated.  When you fail to obtain counsel, you are not making informed decisions.  You may think you know your basic rights, and I am certain that you do. However, you cannot put a price on your liberty.  Hire the lawyer

1. Picking up New Charges
Some people just gravitate towards trouble.  They continue to hang around with the same crowd or continue the same pattern of behavior that got them into the situation to begin with.  Stay away from these people!  For example, if you have domestic violence battery charges that a significant other has alleged, that significant other has signed a waiver of prosecution, and you are allowed contact, you should probably still stay away from that person until the case is over.  Even though the court is allowing contact, it is obvious that you and that person have some sort of issue that needs to be worked out.  If that person makes another allegation, your pretrial release will likely be revoked, you will have another domestic violence battery charge, and you will likely be “parkered,” meaning you will be held no bond until the cases are resolved.  It is imperative that you be very careful about who you are around and what you are doing while you are on pretrial release!


If you have been charged with a crime, you need the help of an aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney who will stand by your side and protect your rights.  Call Heather Bryan Law today for your consultation at 863-825-5309, or contact us online.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Sexting" and Florida Law

Yes, “sexting” has been defined by Florida law and can been found in Florida Statutes section 847.0141.  Sexting is when a minor uses an electronic device to transmit a photo or video which depicts nudity and is considered harmful.  It is against the law to solicit and to be the recipient if the recipient does not report specifically to the minor’s legal guardian or to a school or law enforcement official within 24 hours. 

A first-time offense is a noncriminal violation.  The minor will receive 8 hours of community service work or pay a $60 civil penalty.    A second-time offense is a first-degree misdemeanor and a subsequent offense is a third-degree felony.   

Young adults who may have turned 18, but are still in high school, who engage in the same sort of behavior described above, could be charged with an even more serious sex crime and could possibly be labelled a sex offender the rest of their lives. 

Finding a place to live, a job, and other activities of daily live can become nearly impossible.  If you fail to register, you can be charged with a new felony crime—failure to register as a sex offender.

Florida does have the “Romeo and Juliet” statute to address concerns about high school age youth being labelled as sexual offenders or sexual predators as a result of participating in a consensual sexual relationship.  The stigma and life-long consequences that come with such a classification affect every aspect of life.

The registry provides no clear distinction between the young “Romeo and Juliet” sex offenders who had consensual sex and the true offenders who harm children and pose a risk to society.  Section 943.04354 creates a mechanism for this group of offenders to file a motion or petition in state court for removal of the registration requirement if the offender meets certain criteria.  The law only addresses the registry requirement and does not make the offense legal. 


If you have been charged with a sexual offense or need help filing a petition under the “Romeo and Juliet” statute, contact Heather Bryan Law online today for your confidential consultation, or call 863-825-5309.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What is Pretrial Diversion?

Pretrial Diversion programs are available usually only to first time offenders to resolve their cases and successful completion results in the State dropping the charges.  The qualifications for these programs do differ from county to county. 

First and foremost, the crime the defendant is accused of usually must be a misdemeanor.  In Polk County, the most common charges that defendants are offered diversion for are possession of cannabis, driving while license suspended or revoked, and domestic violence battery.  The second qualification is that the defendant must not have been found guilty of a prior offense. 

Diversion usually consists of an evaluation and some sort of counseling, depending upon the charge.  It might even consist of drug testing.  The defendant must pay for the diversion program and all related testing.  The program takes anywhere from a couple of months to about 6 months. 
If the defendant can meet the qualifications of the diversion program and successfully complete the diversion program, the State Attorney’s Office will drop the charges. 


For a person who has never been in trouble and wants to avoid a trial, diversion is an excellent option.  Contact Heather Bryan Law online or call 863-825-5309, today for your consultation.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Body and Dash Cameras

One of the first conversations I usually have with my clients that hire me for their criminal case here in Polk County usually involves something like, “get the body camera or dash camera footage; it will show you what happened.” Unfortunately, here in Polk County, there are no body cameras or dash cameras.  Our Sheriff has made it abundantly clear that he does not support such technology.

However, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released a report entitled “Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safety the Right of the Accused.”  This report supports police agencies using such technology and makes several recommendations for police departments including:

·        Having clear policies in place that establish when officers are to begin recording (not leaving it up to individual officers).

  • ·        Recordings should be stored for specific time periods and long enough for the accused to support his or her defense.

  • ·        Allowing the accused prompt access to the recordings.

  • ·        Officers should not have access to the videos prior to preparing their reports.

  • ·        Officers should not have access to the videos after encounters in order to bring additional charges.


This advice, and more, comes from legal scholars and criminal justice experts.

Larger cities across our country are beginning to come on board with body cameras and dash cameras.  Unfortunately, there is no uniform set of rules for the use of the technology.  Officers tend to not turn their body cameras on, in some circumstances, until after the event has taken place. 

After the recent shooting of the Australian woman by a Minneapolis officer, the technology depends on officers turning on their devices immediately upon dispatch.

These cameras are not intended to catch officers’ bad behavior.  In fact, this technology can protect officers from being unfairly accused.  They can clear officers when officers are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. 

If you are pulled over for a traffic stop, make sure you are respectful and cooperative while still maintaining your rights.  Read my other blog posts on saying no to searches and videotaping the police.


If you have been charged with a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights and fight for you. Contact Heather Bryan law today online, or call 863-825-5309, for your consultation.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why I Do What I Do

I am often asked one of several questions by people with no understanding of what I do:
I am very proud of what I do.  I work each and every day to protect people and their Constitutional rights.  I protect them from an overzealous government.  I protect innocent people and people who have made mistakes.  And make no doubt about it, everyone makes mistakes.  

I have always been a public servant. I worked for over ten years as a public school teacher.  There did come a point however, when I decided I needed to do more.  I saw kids that I could not reach. They were not going to do their homework for me or learn from me when they weren't safe at home (think back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs).  

When I started law school, I immediately became an intern at the Public Defender's Office.  My first week on the job I saw a ten-year old in handcuffs. I cried.  This wasn't justice.  I knew at that moment, that this area of the law was what I was meant for.  

It was also through my work at the Public Defender's Office that I met James Bain.  Through a joint effort of the PD's office and the Innocence Project, he was exonerated after 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  He is such a wonderful man. He has no hate in his heart.  It is truly amazing.

I have represented people who have been harassed for no reason by our government simply because they looked different or poor or "like trouble."  I have represented people whom I know were completely innocent of what they were accused of, yet their lives were potentially ruined because of the stigma.  

And yes, I have represented people whom I have no idea if they were guilty or not.  But that is not my job.  My job is to protect their rights.  Every person in this country has certain rights and protections guaranteed by our Constitution. The Constitution is not a technicality.  These rights are not only given to innocent people--they are given and guaranteed to all people.  If those protections are eroded, our country as a whole has lost. Whose rights will they come after next?

If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney, contact Heather Bryan Law online, or call her today at 863-825-5309.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Common Offenses With Driver's License Suspensions and Revocations

Offense
Suspension
Murder resulting from operation of a motor vehicle; DUI manslaughter where conviction represents a subsequent DUI-related conviction; 4th DUI (See section 322.26, Florida Statutes)
Permanent revocation
Any felony where a motor vehicle is used; failure to stop and render aid when required in a crash resulting in death or personal injury; perjury to the Department under 322.26; conviction of 3 charges of reckless driving within 3 months; conviction of lewdness or prostitution with the use of a motor vehicle; conviction of any offense where there is the use of a motor vehicle and the Court feels it warrants the revocation of driving; fraudulent insurance claims (See section 322.26, Florida Statutes)
Indefinite revocation
DUI; Refusal (See section 316.193, Florida Statutes)
Anywhere from 6 months to permanent revocation
Fleeing/Eluding law enforcement (See section 316.1935, Florida Statutes)
Anywhere from 1 year to 5 year suspension
Possession of Controlled Substances (See section 322.055, Florida Statutes)
1 year suspension
Theft (See section 812.014, Florida Statutes)
Anywhere from 6 months to 1 year suspension
Racing on Highways (See section 316.191, Florida Statutes)
1 year suspension
Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) (See section 322.264, Florida Statutes)
5 year suspension
Suspended until paid

If you have been given a citation or charged with a crime, or need help getting a hardship license, you need the help of an experienced attorney to stand beside you.  Contact Heather Bryan Law today for your confidential consultation, at 863-825-5309