D. Scott Rieth Criminal Defense Attorney
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Sarasota County Criminal Law Blog

Helping you assert a defense against drug charges

Much like other states, Florida takes a strong stance against drug crimes. Because certain drugs have became an epidemic in the nation, the penalties associated with these drug crimes can be rather harsh. Thus, those accused of committing such crimes will want to explore ways in which they can avoid these consequences and clear their name. Initiating a strong criminal defense is the first step in this process.

While defendants might feel helpless, facing a serious drug charge and seeing all the evidence collected against them, this should not deter an individual from asserting their right to defend him or herself against criminal accusations. When it comes to drug crimes, these are often the result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, a misunderstanding when it comes to prescription drugs or even questionable evidence used to establish the intent to sell.

Starting off 2018 with a DUI charge?

The New Year is here, and as did folks across the country, Sarasota County residents celebrated on New Year's Eve. As we discussed around Halloween of last year, police tend to gang up on holidays in an effort to issue an increased number of citations for DUI and traffic offenses. The arrest statistics may make good press for them in the post-holiday news cycle, but for defendants charged with driving while intoxicated, the consequences can last a lifetime.

True, some of the short-term consequences of a DUI conviction may seem manageable and not worth the hassle of fighting the charge in court. Fines can be paid and settled; probation and community service can be served and completed. Even jail time, especially for a first offense or if your blood alcohol content level was under 0.15, might seem like something you could do and then get on with your life once your sentence (possibly up to six months for a first offense) is over.

Resolve to make friends with your ignition interlock device

You may not know much about the ignition interlock device, but the court could order you to have one installed on your car if you receive a conviction for driving under the influence.

If you feel an IID restricts your driving freedom, you might want to try to find a way around having to use it. However, this small piece of computer equipment is smarter than you think.

How does the insanity defense work in Florida?

The last post here on our Sarasota County criminal law blog raised an issue that we ought to pause to address in some greater depth. The issue is the mental health of a defendant in a criminal case.

The idea of a defendant, particularly in one charged with violent crimes, being found not guilty by reason of insanity is something that has been sensationalized by Hollywood and on television over the years. Sarasota County residents may wonder if this is even an actual strategy in criminal law today. Is the insanity defense available in Florida, and if so, how does it really work?

Legally incompetent man arrested in Sarasota cold case

As a criminal case grows cold, pressure on police can intensify to find someone -- anyone -- to charge. This is particularly true in instances of shocking, violent crimes. The public fear that a violent individual is out on the loose can sometimes, unfortunately, turn into a rush to convict. This fear is understandable, but cannot be used as an excuse to neglect a defendant's rights in court.

Recently, Sarasota County officials announced an arrest in a 2011 murder in which a woman was stabbed to death in her home. A year after that incident, a local man was arrested for allegedly trying to kill a deputy during an eviction. Police also suspected him in two burglaries, one near the victim's home in the murder from the year before.

Criminal law FAQ: what is probable cause?

Last week's post about an episode in which Sarasota police pulled over and searched a vehicle that had driven through a gas station after dark raised a question regarding the rights of police to conduct a search. We noted that such a search required probable cause, but just what is the meaning of probable cause within a criminal law context?

Probable cause derives directly from the Constitution -- the Fourth Amendment, to be precise. It applies to several different situations. Specifically regarding searches, it means that police must be able to reasonably conclude that a crime occurred at the place they want to search based on the circumstances, evidence or facts; or that they place to search contains evidence of a crime or otherwise stolen or illegal materials.

When do Sarasota police have probable cause to search?

Last week, two men drove their car into a Sarasota gas station after midnight, when it was closed. Police were alerted to a vehicle acting suspiciously and intercepted it after it left the station. They proceeded to conduct a search. The search allegedly turned up a number of devices known as skimmers.

Skimmers are electronic devices attached to gas pumps and used to illegally obtain customers' payment card information. Police also claimed to find tools used to install devices like these during their search, and two matching devices actually installed in the gas pumps at the station the men had just left. Skimmers were also found at two other area gas stations.

Why are there so many serious teen car crashes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathers statistics on traffic accidents, and included in the information they maintain is data sorted by age group. The statistics related to teenage drivers aged 16 to 19 are troubling.

The good news is that there are steps parents can take to help educate young drivers so that they have a chance to avoid dangerous situations.

Can defense challenge polygraph test results?

Last month on our blog, we noted a story involving a Florida man's use of a polygraph test to try to clear himself from accusations of sexual misconduct. While the story helped to highlight the relatively limited situational use of the polygraph test, some readers may be left with questions about the accuracy of a polygraph in the criminal law context: is the test infallible? What happens if errors are made? To answer these questions, we'll turn to the American Polygraph Association, with the understanding that the information is intended to be general in nature only and not specific legal advice.

According to the American Polygraph Association, errors can occur during the test despite its relatively high degree of accuracy. An examiner may have failed to give the subject clear instructions or otherwise help him or her prepare as necessary for the test. The examiner may also fail to correctly interpret the data provided on the polygraph charts regarding the subject.

More and more guns being detected at Florida airports

When Florida residents think of airports, they likely think of tourists, business people, lots of luggage and domestic and international travel. One thing you don't think about, at least when it comes to travelers, are guns. While it is legal for airline passengers to travel with handguns, there are specific requirements that must be met. Failure to meet these could land an individual with a criminal charge and serious penalties.

According to recent reports, more and more airline passengers are carrying guns when they go to the airport. The Tampa International Airport leads in the state of Florida when it comes to guns found at the airport. This year alone, 86 guns have been uncovered. In comparison, 79 were located in 2016.


D. Scott Rieth
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Bradenton, FL 34202

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