Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Crimes

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Music producer and professional subject of controversy Suge Knight is back in hot water after being accused of a deadly hit and run in California. As so often is the case in a criminal trial, video of an alleged incident can be a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution, defense, or both. In the video Knight appears to partially pull into a parking lot where he is confronted by a man known as Cle “Bone” Sloan. After what appears to be a scuffle, Knight backs his truck out of the parking lot and then accelerates forward, running over Sloan in addition to another man on the scene named Terry Carter. Sloan survived, Carter did not. Knight faces murder charges in California and the video of the incident may well have a significant impact on his trial.

While California law will vary from Florida, it is likely that Knight’s charges will be very similar to what he would face had his actions been committed in Florida. In addressing the most serious allegation only, Knight would likely be charged with second degree murder were his case situated in Florida. Second degree murder occurs when there is an unlawful killing of a human being when committed via act imminently dangerous to another with a depraved mind, lacking any real concern for human life but lacking the premeditation required for a first degree murder charge. While it is arguable the State could move forward on a first degree murder charge, it is unlikely premeditation was present. One could argue had premeditation been present, Knight would have just hit the individuals immediately upon his arrival at the scene rather than stop to speak. As to second degree murder, the charge will hinge on whether his actions in accelerating forward were done with a depraved mind, lacking a concern for human life.

So does the video lock the case down for the prosecution on a murder charge? Having dealt with similar issues, there is perhaps more to be told. No doubt Knight’s criminal attorney will point to Sloan appearing to attack Knight when the truck initially stopped at the scene. This would support an initial self-defense argument in that Knight was not the instigator of the physical contact. As we can see Knight’s truck then backs up, only to lunge forward, hitting the men. After some elapsed time a man runs over to Sloan and appears to take something from him. If it can be shown that this was a weapon (specifically a gun), Knight’s actions could be argued to have been in self-defense. Even if the item taken isn’t recovered, there is still room for argument by the defense. So what do we make of the car that travelled down the road Knight initially backed into, almost immediately after Knight’s truck lunged forward? The prosecutor will argue that this is evidence of a clear path allowing for Knight’s safe escape from a compromised situation. Was it really though? Knight’s criminal lawyer may argue that the car was accelerating away from the scene after being behind Knight. Depending on the actions of those in the car, Knight may have feared for his life in attempting to navigate his way from the scene in an alternate capacity than what he did. Regardless of the outcome of the trial, in my opinion this video will be a focal point of the trial and will be used by both the prosecutor and Knight’s criminal defense team. Time will tell as to who the jury agrees with.

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Teacher’s Aide by day, pantless driver by night? That’s what Pasco County deputies claim after pulling over Kristi Steuber earlier this week. According to a police report, Steuber was pulled over in Pasco County for speeding when deputies detected an odor of alcohol on her breath after making contact. Deputies claim Steuber attempted to explain where she had been and what she was doing but simply mumbled when asked. As is standard protocol when an officer has reasonable suspicion of DUI, Steuben was asked to exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety exercises. This is when things went downhill quickly for Steuber according to the police. Police allege Steuber had nothing on from the waist down when she exited her car and didn’t acknowledge this fact until asked twice to put on some pants. As one could imagine, based at least in part on the allegation of a breezy booty and her mugshot, Steuber was arrested for DUI and later is alleged to have blown a .135 and .137.

There are certain DUI cases that make DUI lawyers cringe. This, my friends, is one of them. Compared to many DUI’s I’ve handled, this breath test isn’t remarkable. As most know, in Florida, to be convicted of driving under the influence the State must prove the defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle and while doing so was either under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a chemical substance or a controlled substance to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired or had a blood or breath-alcohol level of .08 or more. The .13 breath test Steuber is alleged to have given, though above the legal limit isn’t a rockstar level. The struggle for her attorney will be the issue of pants. Having pants on when pulled over by the police is helpful when trying to convince them or a jury that the driver was sober. Obviously no pants isn’t proof positive that one is impaired, however one could safely say most prosecutors would rely heavily on this fact while making their case. Free legal advice- when driving home from the bar, wear pants.
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The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled last week that one suspected of driving under the influence can still be arrested in spite of passing field sobriety tests, a decision overruling a case from 2012 that ruled when a motorist passed six field sobriety tests that he could NOT be arrested. As most assume, field sobriety tests can be the deciding factor as to whether a motorist goes to jail for DUI or whether they go home. While this is generally correct, probable cause for a DUI arrest is generally established by observation of both field sobriety tests and other signs of impairment.

As with any arrest there must be sufficient probable cause to make the arrest legal within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment. Specifically for a DUI arrest it is often the case that the officer detects, upon contact with the motorist, certain impairment indicators that give rise to the officer’s reasonable suspicion that the motorist is committing the crime of DUI. Generally if the officer sees that the motorist has bloodshot and watery eyes, smells of alcohol, has slurred speech amongst other factors, the officer will have reasonable suspicion to request the individual to perform field sobriety tests. If the motorist agrees to perform field sobriety tests and performs in an insufficient manner, the officer will have probable cause to make an arrest. What makes this Tennessee ruling questionable is that even if a motorist passes the exercises put in place by the State to determine impairment, he could still take a ride to the poke. In other words, now it seems that in Tennessee if Officer Friendly subjectively thinks that a motorist is impaired, in spite of sufficient field sobriety test performance, he can now make an arrest. What’s unnerving is that though one can pass objective tests in place to measure impairment and still get arrested, assuming a proper detainer, I know of no case in which one has failed field sobriety tests and a court has found that probable cause did not exist for an arrest for DUI.
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19-year-old Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was arrested early this morning by Miami Beach police for allegedly driving with an expired driver’s license, DUI, and resisting arrest without violence, all misdemeanors. According to Officer Medina’s Complaint/Arrest affidavit Bieber was observed in a yellow Lamborghini racing or at least “start a contest of speed (drag racing) from a start” with an accompanying red Lamborghini. Officer Medina claims two large black SUVs were following the Lamborghinis in an effort to block off traffic to facilitate the race. Upon detainer Bieber is said to have questioned why he was stopped while emanating an odor of alcohol, was slow and deliberate in his movements and had bloodshot eyes. After becoming rather nasty with responding officers Bieber is alleged to have resisted the investigation leading to his arrest. In spite of his arrest Bieber is said to have advised that he was not drunk and that he was coming back from recording music at a studio. Officers were not “beliebers” and arrested the pop prince anyway.

I’m not a fan of Justin Bieber. I don’t know what he sings but even if I did I don’t think my taste in music is the same as my 6 year old niece’s or that of a 15 year old high school sophomore’s. I’m sure he’s great in his own right and if he wants to gift me a few million who am I to be rude and say no? All that said, I’d love to defend him on his recent snafu as this case may present some issues to huff and puff over. Will the huffing and puffing blow the case down? Probably not but it could provide leverage to free The Biebs on lesser charges. Lets start with the resisting arrest without violence charge.
Officer Medina claims in his Complaint/Arrest Affidavit that Bieber was pulled over for “drag racing with the other Lamborghini.” In other words, his reasoning for detaining “The Biebs” was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. Upon detainer Officer Medina asked the Canadian sensation to step out of his car and allow for a safety pat down. Officer Medina tried to effect this brief search for weapons and contraband and Bieber bucked, leading to his pulling his arms away after Officer Medina elected to cuff Bieber, likely more so for being a smartass than anything else.

In Florida to support a finding of guilt for the offense of resisting arrest without violence, “the state must show: (1) the officer was engaged in the lawful execution of a legal duty; and (2) the action by the defendant constituted obstruction or resistance of that lawful duty.” See S.G.K. v. State, 657 So.2d 1246, 1247 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). See also Jay v. State, 731 So.2d 774, 775 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999). In this case the State would argue that the Officer was engaged in a legal duty of his racing investigation and Bieber wouldn’t submit to a brief pat down. J-Beebs then pulled his arms away when the pretty bracelets came out. It’s not necessary that the underlying criminal activity providing the basis for the arrest result in a charge or conviction; it is only necessary that the officer has a founded suspicion of criminal activity to make the detention. See State v. Dwyer, 317 So.2d 149, 150 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975). In other words, the “[f]acts constituting probable cause [for an arrest] need not meet the standard of conclusiveness and probability required to support a conviction.” See Seago v. State, 768 So.2d 498, 500 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). Officer Medina had reasonable suspicion to investigate the racing charge. As he was doing so, Bieba Baby resisted.
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Ah the infamous DUI charge. It’s the crime that can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime without regard for who you are or what your criminal history is. Our firm has represented all walks of life on DUI charges and as a general rule the individual has very little if any criminal history. Quite simply the most prevalent scenario is the one in which an individual has an evening out, drinks a bit, and miscalculates his or her ability to drive their vehicle without impairment. That said, the individual shows some sign of impairment as they drive or violates a traffic law and gets pulled over, ultimately to go to jail for a DUI arrest. Be that as it may, one of the most common questions or concerns we hear is whether or not an individual is eligible for a hardship license. The short answer is generally yes, with some exceptions.

Assuming the DUI charge is a person’s first DUI arrest they will have a few options with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), some much more appealing than others. Until last year an individual had two DHSMV options if they were charged with a DUI in Florida; challenge the suspension through a formal or informal review hearing or don’t. Now an some individuals charged with DUI in Florida can elect to waive their review hearing and instantly get a hardship license. Here are the options as they currently stand in Florida.
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Iowa City, IA man Levi Carter was arrested for DWI, Iowa’s version of Driving Under the Influence last Friday night after driving his car 55 in a 25 mile per hour zone and ultimately crashing. After contacting officers determined that Carter was impaired he was subjected a breath alcohol test where he registered initially a .467 on his first blow and on the second blow attempt the machine simply registered “HI” before the machine collapsed in its own drunken stupor from Carter’s chemical weapon breath. Ok, that actually didn’t happen but this Iowa guy did blow LITERALLY off the charts! Every State has set .08 as the legal limit where a Prosecutor enjoys a rebuttable presumption that the person he’s trying to convict is impaired, while Florida allows for no presumption if the blood alcohol level is above a .05 but below a .08 and a presumption of no impairment if the blood alcohol level is .05 or below. There is no language on what the effect of a breath test above .40 is. Call your congressman.

Given this scenario to prove this as a DUI in Florida the State must show that Carter drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle and while doing so he had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above. From the news report he crashed his vehicle and had a passenger who represented to the police that they thought he was too impaired to drive. This witness is important as with a crash, an accident exception applies allowing a lay person to witness certain elements of a crime as a substitute for a policeman. Generally for a misdemeanor arrest an officer must witness all elements of a crime, with certain exceptions of course. The breath test result could satisfy the impairment portion of the allegation. Add those two pieces together and your DUI recipe could be complete.
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Drag racing in the Tampa area has been alive and well in for a long time. Mix testosterone with high octane gasoline and a lot of horsepower and you have a recipe for adrenaline. As is so often the case with any hobby that may push the envelope on safety, this particular brand of fun is highly regulated when legal and illegal when not performed in the proper venue. Unfortunately, those who participate in road racing in an illegal venue are doing it not with a specific purpose to break the law or cause damage or physical harm to anyone, but rather to enjoy the fun that a high speed race provides. Consequently, for as much as racers want to enjoy their racing, the local police want to catch the racers and put a stop to their actions. Though at first blush one would say, “what is the harm in a drag race?” there can be serious legal consequences effected by laws put in place to prevent the damage that can precipitate from racing. After a local police officer was injured when his car was hit by a racer, WTSP Channel 10 News’ Melanie Michael interviewed Tampa criminal lawyer Jason Mayberry about illegal road racing. As a complement to that interview we’ll provide our audience with the consequences that attach when one pleas to a racing on the highway charge.

As a general rule racing on the highway charges are considered to be first degree misdemeanors carrying a possible jail penalty of 11 months, 29 days in jail. To be convicted of this charge the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

A. drove a motor vehicle in
OR
B. participated / coordinated / facilitated / collected monies at the location of
OR
C. knowingly rode as a passenger in
OR
D. purposefully caused moving traffic to slow or stop for
a race OR a drag race or acceleration contest OR a speed competition or contest OR a test of physical endurance OR an exhibition of speed OR an attempt to make a speed record on a highway OR road OR parking lot.
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Tennessee man Jerimiah Clyde Hartline, 19, was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, driving without a license and hit and run for stealing an 18 wheeler, crashing it, and causing a giant traffic jam in Temecula, California earlier this month. First off, sweet name. Only a guy with a name like this from the hills of the dirty south would have the presence of mind to commandeer a big rig to prevent a zombie attack. Excellent thinking Clyde. No, not really as this has Florida written all over it. Meanwhile, back at the ranch… According to the California Highway Patrol, Hartline informed authorities that he stole the truck from a weigh station in Rainbow, California because he was sure zombies were hot on his trail. Further, despite his high speed driving and swerving all over the road, the zombies wouldn’t shake loose eventually causing Mr. Hartline to crash the truck and injuring many. As a result of the zombie attack and subsequent crash, all four lanes of the interstate were closed for several hours while cleanup crews cleared the truck from the road and corralled the two loads of strawberries on board. According to the news report it is “unknown whether Hartline was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Yes, it would be a mystery as to whether Mr. Hartline was sober or slightly influenced by an “extracurricular” substance… Man, I wonder if he was? Time will tell with a potential DUI. As for now, we know he’s getting charged with grand theft. If I were a betting man I’d estimate he will be charged with DUI with serious bodily injury as well.
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A Louisiana man and woman recently stripped of their parental rights are thought to have kidnapped their own children from the children’s maternal Grandmother early Wednesday. Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife, Sharyn Patricia Hakken are alleged to have broken into the Tampa residence of Patricia Hauser, tied her up, and kidnapped their biological children. Within the past few months the children were sent to live with Hauser after the Hakkens lost their parental rights over the children. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s investigators say Joshua Michael Hakken entered Hauser’s home at 6:30AM Wednesday, proceeded to tie up the children’s’ Grandmother and then fled in Grandma’s 2009 Toyota Camry.

The Tampa criminal attorney that gets this case might as well open up the criminal statute book and proceed to dump it out on his desk. There really doesn’t seem to be much Pops hasn’t done wrong in his kid caper. Burglary? Check. Kidnapping? Check. Grand Theft? Yes sir, we have that too! False Imprisonment shouldn’t be left out and really neither should battery. Again, lets dump this statute book out right here on the desk of Hakken’s selected Tampa criminal lawyer. So how does it all work and fit together? Grab a seat, this may take a while.
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