Posted On: June 27, 2012

Could Your Miami Criminal Case Be Compromised by a Tweeting Juror? Florida Supreme Court Weighs in...

If you've recently been arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, you might end up facing a jury trial. If that happens, what are the odds that a juror will blog, tweet or even possibly write an e-book about your case?

That scenario may sound far-fetched. But understand that we live in an era of ubiquitous social media, and many jurors have been recently caught disobeying the court's instructions forbidding the publicizing of information about cases.

According to a Reuters Legal survey from 2010, over the past decade, 90 court decisions have been challenged due to web-related juror misconduct. 50% of these instances occurred from 2008-2010, so clearly this problem is "trending."

In May, Judge José Fernandez (Miami Circuit Court) heard a challenge to a criminal conviction that stemmed from the fact that the jury foreman tweeted about the case.

A March conviction of DUI manslaughter in Florida is similarly up and in the air, thanks to one juror, who couldn't restrain himself from penning an e-book about his involvement in the trial.

According to the Florida Committee on Standard Jury Instruction in Criminal Cases, judges have an obligation to warn jurors against using "electronic devices or computers to talk about [a] case, including tweeting, texting, blogging, e-mailing, or posting information on the web..."

Those instructions were laid out back in October 2010. But apparently they weren't clear enough -- or at least so believes the Florida Supreme Court, which weighed in on the situation earlier in the month. The Court has mandated that jurors now be provided this message twice: once before instructions and once prior to deliberations.

A Florida Judicial Center survey from last year found that 6% of federal judges have noticed jurors disobeying this "no tweeting, etc" rule. When you count the unobserved instances of misconduct, the total number is likely much higher.

What All This Means for Your Miami Criminal Defense Preparation

First of all, if/when a juror misbehaves or fails to follow the court's instructions, you and your defense attorney can leverage that lapse to your advantage.

Secondly, jury trials can get incredibly complicated… and strange and unpredictable.

So while great trial preparation essential -- and you want to find a legal team that boasts the wherewithal, track record and alacrity to prepare for anything -- your lawyer must also be able to pivot and pick up on problems, like a secretly tweeting juror. Both challenges and opportunities will emerge as your case evolves.

The respected, tested team at Seltzer Law, P.A. is standing by to provide a detailed, free consultation regarding your Florida criminal matter. Learn more about us online, or call today, any time of day or night, at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-453-3333).

Posted On: June 25, 2012

Elias et al v. Florida: 14 Indicted in Florida Cyber Crime Banking Scheme

Many Florida cyber crime schemes are intricately structured, complex events.

Earlier this week, 24 year-old Ibrahin Elias and 13 other people were indicted for creating and executing a scheme to steal money from people’s web-based savings and checking accounts. The U.S. attorney for Florida's Southern District and the FBI’s Miami Field Office jointly announced the indictment in Miami and painted a picture of a crafty criminal conspiracy.

Per the allegations, Elias obtained personal information from bank customers, including SSNs, birthdays, etc, to log into their banks online. After accessing the system, Elias moved money from the victims’ account to the accounts of accomplices; he also ordered checks to liquidate their assets. Other defendants who’ve been indicted include Dalbert Hernandez, Victor Batista, Roger Lores, Dayan Galarraga, and Dalmis Gonzalez; they all allegedly collected the stolen funds. And some defendants even recruited others to participate in the bank fraud.

Elias was hit with the slew of counts in violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, including:

• Conspiracy to commit bank fraud
• Substantive bank fraud (16 counts)
• Aggravated identity theft (3 counts)
• Destruction of evidence (one count)

The other 13 defendants were also hit with a variety of counts, depending on the nature of their complicity and responsibility. One defendant, Galarraga, remains at large.

Lessons for Florida Cyber Crime Defendants?

Since Elias’s case is still in its early stages, we can’t comment extensively about the implications for your defense, if you or someone you care about has been charged with a Florida cyber crime. On the other hand, we can extrapolate critical principles to guide you going forward:

1. When you operate a complex Florida cyber crime syndicate, you can easily lose control.

Even if you work alone, and you are incredibly careful about managing the potential trail of evidence, you cannot understand or anticipate all the tools investigators can and will use against you. Likewise, if you bring other people into your online "business," you can’t control what those people will do, what they’ll tell investigators, what other crimes they might commit while working under your aegis, etc.

2. Cyber crime counts have a way of “stacking up.”

Consider the charges that Elias faces – 16 counts alone of substantive bank fraud. The more complicated your computer crime, the longer its duration, and the more “moving parts,” the higher the likelihood that you will face multiple counts.

3. Even if you committed an egregious, complicated, and very damaging Florida computer crime, you might be surprised at the defensive options at your disposal.

This point must be underscored. Yes, you may have violated the law, consistently, and damaged an institution or otherwise harmed people. But with strategic guidance from a Florida cyber crime defense lawyer at Seltzer Law, PA, you can approach your situation from a better, clearer, and more success oriented perspective.

Attorney Seltzer and his team are happy to talk to you about your defensive resources at any time of day or night. Call us at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE – 1-888-843-3333. Or get in touch with us online immediately for a free confidential consultation.

Posted On: June 20, 2012

A Bizarre South Florida Criminal Case - State v. Lages: Lessons for Your Defense?

The case of 47-year-old Everett Lages is a classic illustration of how Florida criminal defendants can often “dig themselves deeper and deeper,” during a single evening of debauchery and bad judgment.

According to WTSP, a CBS affiliate, the 47-year-old Lages wanted to spend an entertaining evening at the Emerald City Gentlemens Club in Murdock, FL. Nothing out of the ordinary, perhaps. But Lages wanted to bring an extra companion with him – his kitty cat.

That's right: he wanted to take his cat inside the strip club.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, management told Lages that cats weren’t allowed in the strip club, and he was asked to leave. Lages did comply and step outside… but only to call 9-11 in an attempt to get the owner arrested! (On what grounds? Only Lages probably knows.)

The deputies who arrived at the scene met up with Lages, who appeared intoxicated. They told him that he needed to leave the strip club, and they called a taxi to take him home. Instead of cooperating, Lages screamed at the driver and yelled at the police that the club owner had committed a crime by refusing his entrance.

In what was almost certainly a comical scene, Lages continued to dial 9-11, while the police were standing right beside him, telling him to leave.

Eventually, police arrested Lages and forcibly restrained him. His motley charges included trespassing after warning, resisting arrest, disorderly intoxication, and abusing Florida’s 911 system. He was held on a $4,000 bond at the Charlotte County Jail – his poor kitty cat was handed over to Animal Control.

General Lessons for Florida Criminal Defendants

Whether you were arrested for fraud, money laundering, burglary, or some other crime in South Florida, Lages’ sad tale holds some powerful and illustrative lessons for you.

1. Once you “cross the line” into criminal behavior, you may find it easier to commit additional criminal acts – even after the fact – and this can cost you, big time.

Lages already would have been in trouble for abusing the 9-11 system, behaving in a disorderly and intoxicated fashion, and trespassing. But he compounded his legal woes by resisting arrest. Likewise, perhaps you committed an additional crime or two as you fled from the scene of the first crime. These extra charges can stack up and make your defense much harder.

Even hours and days after the fact, you may still continue to make bad decisions – such as fleeing arrest or stealing money to make a getaway or something like that. You need to understand that the time to make sober, strategic, rationale decisions is now. Those “little extra crimes” on top of the crimes you have already committed can translate to extra months or years behind bars. So stop, and get the help you need.

2. You might be surprised by the diverse legal defensive options at your disposal.

The team here at Seltzer Law, PA, has helped South Florida criminal defendants like you deal with an array of troubling, complex, and emotional circumstances. Even if you have done something very bad – and compounded your problems by misbehaving after the fact – our team can walk you through a strategic, coherent course of action, so that you can feel back in control and you can start making proper, purposeful decisions about your future – instead of just “reacting from the gut.”

Call us today to schedule your free consultation at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

Posted On: June 18, 2012

Can Your Facebook Or Twitter Handle Be Used Against You If You Committed a Crime in Florida? State V. Benedict Holds Clues…

If you’ve recently been arrested and accused of committing a criminal act in Florida, and your character has been called into question, can prosecutors use your social media login info – your “handle” on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc – to question your character?

This intriguing question was recently explored in the appellate case of Connecticut v. Benedict. Even though the Connecticut Court of Appeals just handed down a ruling, the case involved a debate over a MySpace login handle. That gives you some idea of how slow the legal process can sometimes move in criminal cases!

The case concerned a substitute teacher and athletic coach at a Litchfield, Connecticut high school, who allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year old senior girl in January or February 2007. Several months later, the young woman went to state police to complain about what happened with her teacher. Benedict was subsequently arrested and hit with three counts of sexual assault. A jury trial resulted in a conviction and a one-year jail sentence to be suspended after 90 days.

Benedict took his case to the Court of Appeals. The ensuing debate may help you make sense of your Florida cyber crime charges. Benedict argued that the trial judge unfairly let the prosecution question him and the people he called as character witnesses about his MySpace login name, smoothcriminal77.

In retrospect, smoothcriminal77 was probably not an ideal login name! Prosecutors seized on the obvious implications to try to depict the defendant as a person with a criminal mentality.

During the appeal, Benedict cited a Connecticut Code of Evidence statute that says that evidence of a defendant’s character trait should not be admitted with respect to “proving that person acted in conformity with the character trait on a particular occasion with certain exceptions.”

The prosecutor said that, since the Benedict’s login was “smoothcriminal” -- and since Benedict had called several character witnesses “to say what a good person he is” -- then it was fair game to use his login handle to refute his testimony.

The Court of Appeals disagreed.

They reversed Benedict’s conviction and set a new trial based on the fact that “despite the state's attempt to identify an attenuated connection between his login identification of “smoothcriminal77” and the crime that he allegedly committed, we conclude that the login identification does not specifically relate to the trait for which the character evidence was permissible.”

The Court of Appeals said that the state “abused its discretion” in questioning the witnesses.

If you need help developing an articulate and strategic defense to a Florida cyber crime charge, the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, can provide a free, no nonsense consultation, any time of day or night. Call us immediately for help at 1-888-THE DEFENSE (888-843-3333).

Posted On: June 13, 2012

Homicide Conviction in Texting Case: What 18-Year Old's Sentence Means for Florida Criminal Defendants

Last Wednesday, 18-year old Aaron Deveau was convicted of homicide in Massachusetts in a landmark case that could have implications for Southern Florida criminal defendants.

According to reports, the young driver crossed the yellow line of a northern Massachusetts road and hit a car driven by 59-year-old Luz Roman, severely hurting her and fatally injuring her boyfriend, 55-year-old Donald Bowley. After the accident, Deveau allegedly erased his text messages and lied to police. A detective who investigating the accodent told the court that Bowley and his girlfriend had been “almost folded into the floor boards” by the force of the impact of the collision.

In addition to facing a year behind bars -- per the vehicular homicide and texting and causing injury charges -- Deveau also must contend with a driver's license suspension of 15-years.

Can we learn any lessons from what happened to Deveau?

The aftermath of many crimes -- in South Florida and beyond -- is often highly heartbreakingly tragic. Consider Deveau’s case. Jonathan Blodgett, the District Attorney for Essex County in MA, summarized the tragedy bluntly: “A beloved grandfather is dead. A once active woman can no longer work and is still wracked with pain from her injuries and a young man is going to jail.”

Not a great outcome for anyone.

The question for someone like Deveau -- and possibly for you, if you or someone you care about has been accused of committing a crime in South Florida -- is how do we move forward?

How should victims of the crime recover, if that's even possible, and deal with what happened to them? And how should the person or people who committed the crime – or who assisted in its perpetration – deal with their own pain and also make fair reparations to the victim and to society?

These are difficult questions to answer, and every case is different.

If you or someone you care about needs a complete and compassionate evaluation of your defense options, the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, can help you. Call for a free consultation, any time of day or night at 1-888 THE DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

Posted On: June 11, 2012

Major Florida Computer Fraud Decision: How Broadly Should the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) Be Interpreted? Ninth Circuit Surprises in United States v. Nosal

If you face charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), you may want to pay close attention to an en banc decision just handed down by the Ninth Circuit in the case United States v. Nosal. At the very least, be sure that your Florida cyber crime attorney is up to speed with respect to its ramifications.

The case centers on accusations that an employee stole information from his employer and then used that stolen data to develop a competing business. The named defendant and his fellow conspirators allegedly used access to a special company computer to defraud their employer and then profit from that collection of data.

But the case's ramifications have become far broader and potentially momentous. The legal debate – and its consequences – may ultimately have ramifications for the scope of the CFAA.

The majority decision disagreed with the sister courts’ interpretation of the CFAA. Wrote Judge Kozinski: “These courts looked only at the culpable behavior of the defendants… and failed to consider the effect on millions of ordinary citizens caused by the statute’s unitary definition of 'exceeds authorized access.'"

Kozinski argued that the courts should have construed a criminal statute like the CFAA more narrowly. An overly broad interpretation could lead to downright Orwellian consequences. In Kozinski's words, such an outcome could lead to “minor dalliances…[becoming] federal crimes. While it’s unlikely that you will be prosecuted for watching on your work computer, you could be. Employers wanting to rid themselves of troublesome employees without following proper procedures could threaten to report them to the FBI.”

In general, Kozinski and the other judges in the majority felt that, if Congress meant to make the scope of criminal liability broader, lawmakers would have made that point more explicitly.

The dissent lashed back that Kozinski et al were attacking straw men: “Ridiculing scenarios not remotely presented by this case…[the majority invoked] far-fetched hypotheticals involving in neither theft nor intentional fraudulent conduct, but innocuous violations of office policy.”

This case is sure to heat up and excite legal scholars and Florida cyber crime lawyers. Many watchers believe the case could wind up on the docket of Supreme Court of the United States.

Of course, if you or someone you love faces a Florida cyber crime charge, you are likely less concerned with esoteric legal opinions and far more worried about what might happen to you or your family if you are convicted. Connect today for a free and comprehensive consultation with the skilled team here at the Seltzer Law, P.A. Call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE today.

Posted On: June 6, 2012

Miami Burglary Charge or Miami Robbery Charge? Examining Ducas v. Florida to Understand Crucial Nuanced Differences

If you or someone you love faces significant Miami criminal charges -- especially burglary or robbery -- you can learn some key lessons from an opinion filed on April 11, 2012 in the Third District Court of Appeal in the case of Ducas v. Florida.

The defendant, Jules Ducas, entered a CVS Pharmacy in Miami on March 2, 2008, with the intention to rob a store. After pretending to shop for a bit, Ducas went into the counter, pulled a gun on the clerk and demanded money from the cash register. The clerk demurred: he needed tender cash to activate the register. Ducas demanded the clerk provide that tender from his own wallet.

In a bold move, the clerk refused!

So Ducas then turned his gun on two women who had just entered the CVS and demanded cash from them. The women complied. Ducas proceeded to raid the register and flee the store. After some time, Ducas was arrested and ultimately hit with three counts of armed robbery and a single count of burglary. He was initially convicted of all four counts but appealed on three grounds:

1: He said the trial court made a mistake by not allowing him to introduce discovery depositions from the two women -- an attempt to try to show that they had described someone other than Ducas as the assailant.

2: Ducas claimed that the state attempted to introduce hearsay evidence regarding his palmprint near the cash register.

3: Ducas said that the trial court should have acquitted the burglary count because the crime happened in a “public place.”

The Third District Court of Appeals rejected the first two claims but found merit in the third, comparing the situation to a similar burglary conviction reversal in the case of Colbert v. State.

The legal distinction between "burglary" and "robbery" may seem like splitting hairs. But if you face significant Florida criminal charges, like burglary or robbery, the elimination of a single felony count can make an enormous difference in terms of your sentencing.

To get clear on your next steps as a Florida criminal defendant, connect immediately with the team here at Seltzer Law, P.A., for a free and thorough case evaluation. Our team has extensive experience getting results in complicated criminal cases. We can help you feel back in control of your life and equip you with the most appropriate legal strategy.

Call now for help, any time of day or night: 1-888-THE-DEFENSE.

Posted On: June 4, 2012

Florida Cyber Crime News: Bashaw v. Johnson Voyeuristic Lawyer Countersues Employees He Allegedly Peeped on -- Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Claim Dismissed

If you've been accused of a Florida cyber crime, you likely need to understand the nuts and bolts of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the main federal computer crime statute, also known as 18 U.S. Code 1030.

Bashaw v. Johnson, a colorful case out of Kansas, illustrates how the CFAA can apply… even in unusual circumstances.

According to news reports, Jeremiah Johnson, a personal lawyer who practices in Kansas, allegedly had been secretly videotaping his female employees' legs and undergarments using his iPad and iPhone. The plaintiffs allege that Johnson set up his iPod using an application called Cam-u-flage -- a well-known spy camera app -- and then surreptitiously placed the device under the desks of his female employees. Johnson was also said to have told the women to wear skirts and high heels to the office. After one of the employees discovered the hidden camera under her desk, she quickly found the photos and deleted them.

She and her coworkers then proceeded to sue Johnson for $75,000 in damages -- each!

Johnson, however, happened upon a curious legal strategy.

He countersued the women, claiming that they had violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by accessing his devices and deleting data from them. According to section 1030(g) of the CFAA, a "person who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of this section may maintain a civil action against the violator to obtain compensatory damages."

The loss has to be pretty substantial, though. To claim damages per the CFAA, you need to hit a threshold of $5,000. That is, a claimant must show that the loss or damage that occurred was worth at least $5,000. Johnson failed to show this loss, according to the judge, who also said "[Johnson] does not allege or identify any investigative or response costs incurred as a result of the alleged CFAA violation and he does not allege any lost revenues or other losses incurred due to any interruption in service."

Also, curiously (or perhaps not so curiously, given the allegations), Johnson failed to identify the nature of the supposedly valuable data that had been erased.

The counterclaim's dismissal notwithstanding, Johnson could still try again with a different CFAA claim, but he must figure out how to deal with the discrepancies the judge pointed out.

If you're dealing with CFAA charges as a Florida cyber crime defendant…

If you are a defendant in a CFAA case, you could face a battery of scary outcomes, which could result in financial loss and the devastation of your professional reputation.
Fortunately, the well respected team at Seltzer Law, P.A., has developed powerful processes and great relationships to help criminal defendants battle back and protect their freedom. Attorney Seltzer has a deep familiarity with the CFAA and other critical federal and Florida cyber crime laws.

Find out more online, or call us any time, 24/7, on our toll free hotline: 1-888-THE DEFENSE (888-843-3333).

Posted On: June 1, 2012

Drastic Development in George Zimmerman's Florida Crime Case: 48 Hours to Get Back to Jail

Breaking news in the highest profile Florida criminal case of 2012: George Zimmerman, a Florida man accused in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayton Martin, has been ordered back to jail. A judge revoked Zimmerman's bond, after prosecutors discovered that the defendant and his wife likely misled the court regarding the existence of a $200,000 Internet account.

Zimmerman faces charges of second-degree murder. He has pled innocent, claiming that he shot Martin in self-defense while on his Neighborhood Watch detail.

The shooting sparked an impassioned national conversation that touched upon numerous hot button issues, including:

• The right to self-defense;
• The prevalence and nature of modern American racism;
• The capacity of the police and justice system to protect the populace and ensure fairness.

Zimmerman wasn't arrested until 44 days after the shooting. This delay sparked protests across the nation, and the fallout ultimately led to the resignation of the police chief of Sanford, FL.

During Zimmerman's April bond hearing, the defendant and his wife claimed access to only very limited funds. Prosecutors now dispute that account. They now say that, at the time, Zimmerman had already accrued $135,000 in a secret account. Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda did not mince words: "this court was led to believe [Zimmerman and his wife] didn't have a single penny... [what they said was] misleading and I don't know what words to use otherwise than it was a blatant lie."

De la Rionda also said that the defendant failed to disclose the existence of critical documents, such a second passport. As part of his April release, Zimmerman agreed to surrender his passport.

Close watchers believe that this case may not go to trial until 2013. One of the big challenges will likely be finding and selecting an appropriate jury. In high profile cases like this, even ordinarily relatively mundane legal activities, such as jury selection, can become an involved and delicate business.

Lessons from the Zimmerman Case, If You Stand Accused of a Florida Crime

What does the Zimmerman case mean for you, if you or someone you love has been arrested for a South Florida crime, and you're desperate to build an appropriate defense?

1. First and foremost, you must appreciate the level of sophistication that Florida police and prosecutors have developed over the years.
2. To that end, to achieve best results, you need to find a law firm that has the capacities, resources, and experience to help you respond effectively. You must match the prosecution's sophistication with your own defensive sophistication.

The team at Seltzer Law, P.A., can make a difference.

Attorney David Seltzer possesses a deep, practical knowledge of how Florida criminal law works, what incentivizes prosecutors, and how to keep clients feeling secure and confident even under difficult situations.

Find out more about what sets us apart here online, or connect with us today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for immediate help. We are available 24 hours a day to take your call.