Posted On: May 28, 2009

Polk County Child Pornography Criminal Lawyer

Polk County sheriffs office charged 45 people with possession of child pornography. This has been an ongoing investigation lasting over one (1) year.

45 Charged in Florida Child Pornography Sting

David Seltzer, former Miami Dade State Attorney Cyber Crime Prosecutor, is available 24/7 for free consultations. Now practicing Cyber Crime Defense Law, child porn/child pornography cases are being prosecuted in every jurisdiction in the United States. Your freedom and liberties are at stake, call for a free consultation with David Seltzer, Polk County Child Porn Criminal Defense Attorney.

Posted On: May 25, 2009

Fort Lauderdale Battery Criminal Defense Lawyer on Arrest of Miami Dolphins Player Randy Starks

Randy Starks, a defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, was arrested for aggravated battery on a police officer, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported May 24. Starks is accused of hitting the officer with his vehicle at a slow speed, in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a Saturday night in South Beach. He was also charged with a misdemeanor related to his truck’s license plate, which was not registered to that truck. No allegations related to drugs or alcohol were reported.

The newspaper said Starks was driving through South Beach just after midnight on Sunday when the officer approached his truck. The truck was designed for four people, but according to the article, it had thirteen inside, including a woman on Starks’ lap. The officer waded into bumper-to-bumper traffic and knocked on the driver’s side rear window, but the truck kept moving forward. When the officer knocked again, the truck did stop, allowing the officer to approach. But as he reached the driver’s door, the truck accelerated slightly, hitting the officer in the chest and knocking him into another vehicle.

Because this case involves a pro athlete, it’s attracting a lot of attention from both fans and the media. As a South Florida battery criminal defense attorney, I would like to clear up some of the misconceptions I’ve noticed. For example, the aggravated battery charge. If you’ve never worked in criminal law or been arrested before, you may not realize this, but battery is defined as any intentional, unwanted touching or intentionally causing bodily harm. That’s it. To be charged with battery, you do not need to cause great bodily harm or even hurt the other person. A charge of aggravated battery requires great bodily harm or use of a deadly weapon -- which could include a car.

Furthermore, under Florida law, any battery on a police officer is automatically treated more seriously -- from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony, in the case of aggravated battery. So, assuming the incident happened as it was reported, the charges against Starks are perfectly legally sound. That said, the penalty for a first-degree felony is up to 30 years in prison, which seems disproportionate to the crime to this Fort Lauderdale battery criminal defense attorney. Judging by the description, Starks made some mistakes, but he may not have even intended to harm the officer. Given that he was apparently driving with someone on his lap, the swerve may not have been intentional -- a prerequisite for a battery charge. That’s just one of the possible avenues of defense I can see from reading the article.

Finally, as a Miami-Dade battery criminal defense lawyer, I’d like to add that high-profile athletes and celebrities should be given the same benefit of the doubt everyone accused of a crime should get -- presumed innocent until proven guilty. Celebrities and the wealthy attract a lot of criticism after an arrest, but when they face the justice system, each one is just an individual -- and just like everyone else, they need the help of a smart criminal defense attorney.

Posted On: May 19, 2009

South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Addresses Medicare Fraud

The Miami Herald reported May 15 that three Miami-Dade men have been arrested for allegedly bilking Medicare out of $22.7 million. Two of them, Michel De Jesus Huarte and Ramon Fonseca, ran medical clinics in five states, including Florida, which they are accused of using to defraud Medicare. Another defendant, Vicente Gonzalez, is accused with the first two of conspiracy and money laundering. A fourth suspect is still at large. All of them face fines, repayment and up to five years in prison for each count of fraud.

According to the article, the clinic operators are accused of billing Medicare for expensive HIV and cancer-treatment procedures they did not perform. In fact, an FBI investigation found that several “patients” knew nothing about the clinics they were supposed to have visited for the procedures. Another died before the procedure was allegedly performed, and two of the clinics involved did not seem to exist except as post office boxes. Once they received Medicare reimbursements, the Herald said, the conspirators would deposit them at storefront check-cashing businesses and take weekly deliveries of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

As a Miami fraud criminal defense attorney, I was interested in this news because Medicare fraud may be the most common type of fraud against the federal government. And law enforcement says the three counties closest to us -- Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward -- are among the top counties nationwide for Medicare fraud. In fact, the Florida Legislature just passed a law increasing penalties for defrauding the state Medicaid program. And Florida congressmen have been the driving force behind similar efforts to strengthen the federal anti-fraud law that the conspirators in this case have violated. With the economy in bad shape and government agencies looking for ways to trim fat painlessly, South Florida Medicare providers would be well-advised to expect further crackdowns.

As a Fort Lauderdale fraud criminal defense lawyer, I wish regulators well in their efforts to root out genuine fraud, especially organized schemes to defraud like the one described in the Herald. However, I would also be concerned for the patients and doctors who may be caught up in such a crackdown. Medicare fraud schemes frequently take advantage of patients who are elderly, unwell or otherwise vulnerable to exploitation. While there are some “patients” who are part of the schemes, many others are guilty only of trusting too much. And a few doctors may be vulnerable to Medicare fraud charges as well, thanks to a prohibition on “self-referral” and the general complexity of the system.

I absolutely support efforts to root out Medicare fraud -- but not at the expense of justice. Medicare fraud is a felony on both the state and federal levels, carrying up to 30 years in prison and six-figure fines at its most serious. As a South Florida fraud criminal defense attorney, I would not want those penalties levied at defendants who are already victims themselves.

Posted On: May 13, 2009

South Florida Cyber Crime Criminal Defense Lawyer on Cyber Bullying Bill

As a cyber crime criminal defense lawyer in Miami, I have followed the sad story of Megan Meier and Lori Drew with interest. As you may remember, 13-year-old Meier committed suicide in 2006 after flirtatious messages from a boy she met on MySpace changed into cruel words. After Meier’s death, it was revealed that “Josh” was really Drew and an employee, who had created the profile to antagonize the girl after she had fought with Drew’s own teenaged daughter. Despite public outrage, Drew was not prosecuted for the death because her behavior was not a crime at the time. Instead, federal prosecutors charged and eventually convicted her for the cyber crime of unauthorized access to a computer, for lying about her identity online.

In response, several states (including Florida and Meier’s home state of Missouri) passed laws that made cyber bullying a crime. Now, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a congresswoman from California has introduced federal legislation that would do the same. The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act would outlaw repeated electronic communications meant to cause substantial emotional distress to the recipient. And that’s the trouble -- according to critics, it essentially outlaws free speech. The article quotes UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, an expert on Internet and free speech issues, saying that the language of the law “cannot possibly be constitutional,” and that he expects courts to strike it down if it passes.

Judging by the language of the law, the professor may be right. The language at issue outlaws any communication (in interstate or foreign commerce) “with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated and hostile behavior.” Those convicted face a fine, up to two years in prison or both. Under this language, I believe a recently divorced couple could be criminally charged for saying unkind things about one another online. In fact, it isn’t clear whether the messages would have to be sent directly to the other person, or if a message to a third party would be sufficient to break the law, as long as it was leaked and caused substantial emotional distress.

I might also be concerned about the vagueness of “substantial emotional distress” itself -- what was extremely upsetting to Meier might feel different to an adult or another teenager. Furthermore, it’s hard to predict who may be able to view comments online. As a South Florida cyber crime criminal defense attorney, I know that accounts can be compromised, messages mis-addressed and technology can break down -- and that’s without any viruses or government investigation. And then there’s the difficulty of proving intent -- not a constitutional issue, but a problem well-known to Fort Lauderdale cyber crime criminal defense lawyers like me.

Saying mean things about others online may not be the noblest application of free speech, but it is protected speech nonetheless. While I agree that Drew’s behavior was unacceptable, Congress should consider looking to tested state cyberbullying statutes for ways to bring their good intentions in line with the U.S. Constitution.

Posted On: May 5, 2009

Fort Lauderdale Cyber Crime Criminal Defense Attorney on Context and Child Pornography

As a cyber crimes criminal defense lawyer in South Florida, I was interested to find another case of overzealous prosecution under child pornography laws. This one isn’t about “sexting” -- it’s about those naked bathtub photographs that many people take of their children. According to the York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record, a 59-year-old woman there was publicly prosecuted for taking this type of photo of her three-year-old granddaughter. The charges were dropped, but only after 15 months and a public arrest that the woman described as overly rough and violent.

According to the newspaper, Donna Dull dropped off her film at a Wal-Mart in 2005. An employee there called police after noticing that several photos, but not the entire batch, showed the granddaughter without her clothes during a bath. The police arrested her on child pornography charges in the parking lot of a mall, where she was surprised to hear police shouting for her to drop what she was carrying and get out of the car. In a lawsuit, Dull said the officers used excessive force in the arrest, slamming her into a parked car so hard that she sustained back injuries.

Fifteen months later, after looking at the case “very closely,” York County District Attorney Stan Rebert dropped the charges. The prosecutor who originally authorized those charges is now in private practice, but told the Daily Record that “There was no legitimate purpose for those photographs.” By contrast, York County’s special prosecutor for child pornography crimes, Christopher Moore, said child pornography laws shouldn’t stop loving parents and grandparents from taking photos of their kids. “It’s not what the [child protection] law was designed for,” he told the newspaper.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s not clear from the article whether Dull’s actions violated the letter of the law, but it seems from the article that she had no intention of violating its spirit. As a Miami cyber crimes criminal defense attorney, I believe this is a crucial difference. Because of how child pornography is made, child pornography charges are extremely serious. And they carry the penalties to match, including decades in prison and lifelong sex offender registration requirements.

Before we levy those punishments at people, we owe it to them to ensure that they are truly guilty. As with “sexting,” this woman may be guilty of bad judgment, but as a Fort Lauderdale cyber crimes criminal defense lawyer, I believe it does not serve society to treat her like a hardened criminal.