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Archive for the ‘Criminal Defense’ Category

Florida’s Accident Report Privilege

Friday, May 17th, 2019

In Florida there are two types of privileges; those that are long standing and set out in the Florida Evidence Code and those that are simply statutory privileges, i.e. created by statute.

Accident Report Privilege is the latter and falls under Fla. Stat. 316.066(7). The purpose behind statutory privileges are similar to the ones delineated in the evidence code in that they exist to allow people to speak freely by not allowing their statements to be used against them in subsequent litigation.

When law enforcement comes to the scene of an accident, they have a duty to interview the persons involved and prepare an accident report. The accident report privilege helps to ensure that the investigating officer will get complete and truthful information from the persons involved in the accident so an accurate accident report is generated. If the statements could be used in subsequent litigation then the parties would not be inclined to cooperate with law enforcement and law enforcement would be unable to prepare an accurate accident report. Having accurate accident reports serves a public interest and that public interest is more important to society than an individual’s desire to use those statements in subsequent litigation.

Accident scenes are typically not conducive to confidential communication. Thankfully, the communication does not have to be confidential in order to fall under the accident report privilege. Should that communication to law enforcement be overheard by another party such as a witness, that communication is still protected and cannot be used in subsequent litigation.

Like all privileges, there are exceptions to the accident report privilege. Identity of the driver is an exception. In addition, an excited utterance or spontaneous statement which is not in response to a question by law enforcement does not fall under the privilege. Statements made by witnesses who are not involved in the accident do not fall under the privilege. The privilege only applies to the driver, owner, occupants and those directly involved in the accident that have a statutory duty to speak to law enforcement regarding the accident.

In addition, like all privileges the privilege can be waived by failing to object to use of privileged communications at trial. Where this privilege appears different than those delineated in the evidence code such as attorney client privilege is that recent case law allows for there to be inquiry into those privileged communications at deposition. In a deposition, if a party is asked to divulge any communication between the attorney and client, the attorney would immediately object and instruct the witness not to answer that question and the court would uphold that objection. Suppose instead the party is asked to divulge what they told the investigating officer at an accident scene, the attorney would still voice an objection as to the admissibility but could not get away with instructing the client not to answer that question. Answering the question does not waive the privilege and that information will still not be admissible at trial; however, that information may be used to discover admissible evidence that can be used at trial. One could argue a more accurate name for this privilege would be the accident report inadmissibility rule.
In light of the complexities of the accident report privilege, you should always consult a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney who specializes in accident cases if you are involved in an automobile accident.

A few words about client contact

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

I like to read articles in legal journals about trends in law firm practice. A fashionable topic is the way in which lawyers have contact with clients. Typically this issue is cast in the light of new forms of technology. You hear about how certain clients (typically younger ones) are not interested in the old school manner of telephone conferences and in-office meetings. On the other hand, I have had clients (or the parents of clients) who require a more personal touch and want to look their attorney in the eye when discussing their case. Simply put, this is not an issue for our firm. We have made a commitment to being a client-centered law firm that will directly meet the needs of each and every client. That requires flexibility and nimbleness. This is one of the advantages of being a smaller firm. Some of my clients require extra hand holding and need to be kept up to date on a frequent basis. Done. Others prefer to put the case in my hands and only hear from me at critical junctures. Also fine. The practice of law is a profession, but it is also a service industry. The needs of our clients must be first and foremost. As these needs vary from client to client, we as attorneys must be willing and able to meet the individual needs of each client. At Zimmerman and Zimmerman we commit to providing you the type and amount of contact that you desire. The matters in which we represent you are often the most difficult and stressful events of your life. Being there for you when and how you need us is the least we can do for you.

Selling Alcohol to Minors in Sarasota

Friday, July 4th, 2014

 

Fifteen convenience store clerks were cited for selling alcohol to minors in a crackdown by the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office.   All of the citations took place from June 30 to July 1, 2014.  The charges all stemmed from undercover activities targeting gas stations in Sarasota, Nokomis and Osprey.  These are criminal citations punishable by jail time.  The criminal justice system can be a complex place and should not be navigated alone.  A qualified criminal defense attorney is necessary to ensure that your rights are not violated.  In cases like these where the police are using undercover sting operations there is a real risk that the person charged was the victim of police entrapment.  This occurs when the police create a crime where otherwise one would not have been committed.  The question in these circumstances is whether the undercover agent encouraged the charged individual to commit the offense when they otherwise would not have committed the offense.  In order to protect your rights and make certain that you are treated fairly by the justice system you can contact Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer Mark Zimmerman.    

VOP (Violation Of Probation) in Sarasota, Bradenton or Venice

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

VOP’s are one of the most common charges for which people are incarcerated.  VOP’s differ from typical criminal charges because you will not be able to have your case heard by a jury, and the amount of evidence needed by the government to prove the charge is significantly less.  This makes the need for professional legal help that works directly for you very critical.  Properly resolving your VOP in Sarasota, Bradenton or Venice requires the work of an experienced attorney that has extensive experience working with the local judges, prosecutors and probation officers.  VOP’s can be very different from each other, depending on the nature of the violation.  A “new law violation”  requires the prosecutor to prove the new charge in order to prove that you have violated your probation.  A “technical violation” merely requires the prosecutor to prove that technicality.  These can include matters as simple as missing your monthly appointment with your probation  and more complicated matters such as positive drug tests.  Attorney Mark Zimmerman is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer.  He is rated AV, the highest possible rating, by Martindale-Hubbell.  He is rated 10 out of 10, superb, by Avvo.  He has been designated a Super Lawyer.  Mark Zimmerman has vast experience handling violations of probation in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice.  Give him a call at 941-364-8503 for a free consultation regarding your VOP.

Warning to Parents: Be Aware Of Yik Yak

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Parents, have you heard of Yik Yak?  If not, you’d better get educated, and fast.  Yik Yak is a new a very popular social media app.  Think of Twitter with anonymity and you’ve got the basic idea.  The other major catch is that Yik Yak is limited to a specific radius, as little as 1.5 miles and, some say, as much as 10 miles.

Why is Yik Yak dangerous?  Because it is the new app of choice for cyber bullies.  It has already shut down schools due to misuse.  Students are hiding behind Yik Yak’s anonymity to make bomb threats, sexually harass others and spread false rumors.  There is no limit to the potential havoc that could ensue.

What can be done?  First, educate yourself.  Go online and read more about this and then sit down and discuss it with your children.  As always, knowledge is power.  Next, encourage your children not to engage in the mayhem.  In my practice I have often seen victims of bullying become accused of bullying when they retaliate.

Where will it end?  The company behind Yik Yak has already agreed to restrict access to a school district in Connecticut.  Encourage the administrators at your school district to do the same.  This won’t stop kids from using the app, but it will stop them from using it at school.

If your child is the victim of cyber bullying or has been accused of this, do not hesitate to contact a qualified attorney.  Whether it is a matter in the juvenile courts or a school disciplinary matter, attorney Mark Zimmerman can help you navigate these complex systems.

12 Men Arrested In Online Sex Sting: Operation Intercept

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has announced arrests in Operation Intercept.  This is the Sheriff’s third online sex sting.  The first thing someone arrested in this sting should do is to consult with and retain a qualified criminal defense lawyer.  What makes a lawyer qualified to handle such a case?  Attorney Mark Zimmerman is a Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer.  Only 5-6% of all lawyers are board certified in any area of law.  The number certified in criminal trial law is much smaller.  Make sure to ask whether the lawyer with whom you consult has handled such cases in the past.   Mark Zimmerman has handled online sex sting cases through trial.  If you are reading this on behalf of a loved one presently incarcerated in jail, make sure that they do not discuss their case with anyone other than a lawyer.  Phone calls from the jail are recorded, and prosecutors routinely listen to them to see if people might make incriminating statements.  Also, do not speak with other inmates about your case.  Jails are filled with snitches that will try to use your statements to help them gain an advantage in their own case.  Defense of these cases involve collection of evidence already in existence with the government, the strategic taking of depositions, an analysis of any and all possible defenses, the filing of motions in an attempt to suppress evidence or dismiss the charges and if necessary the trial of the case.  In the event that overwhelming evidence exists, it is important that your attorney be able to effectively negotiate the best possible outcome for you.

Call Mark Zimmerman at 941-364-8503 to schedule an immediate and free consultation regarding your case.

Four Manatee County School Administrators Charged with Felonies in Rod Frazier Case

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Four Manatee County school administrators are charged with felonies for not reporting child abuse.  The charges are related to Manatee High football coach Rod Frazier, who was arrested last week on 7 counts of misdemeanor battery and 3 counts of interference with the attendance of a student.   Frazier was accused of inappropriately touching female students. He has since resigned from his coaching job.  The administrators facing charges include Robert Gagnon, a former Manatee County assistant superintendent; Greg Faller and Matt Kane, both former assistant principals at Manatee High; and Debra Horn, who served as the school district’s internal investigator during the Frazier case.   Click here to read the entire police investigation.

The Administrators Could Get More Jail Time than The Coach

The school district employees could each face a 5 year jail sentence for the charge of not reporting abuse.  However, Frazier only faces the possibility of a 1 year sentence for the simple battery charges.  So why is this?  A big reason is a new law passed in Florida after the Penn State sex abuse scandal.  The law, called the Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act,  says that anyone who fails to report suspected abuse faces a 3rd degree felony charges. The law took effect on October 1, 2012 and is one of the strictest reporting law in the nation.

Law Over-Criminalizes Failure to Report

From a criminal defense perspective, the state attorney’s office may have a difficult time prosecuting this in court.  While the new law is meant to protect children from abuse, it’s untested, with almost no case law behind it,  and it overly criminalizes the situation.  For example, if a high school math teacher notices bruises on a student’s arm and reports it, will the other 5 or 6 teachers who saw the student earlier that day, but did not report the bruises face felony charges? The answer is, probably.  But it’s up to the State’s Attorney to use discretion about which cases to charge.

If you’re being investigated by a school district or by law enforcement, contact Mark Zimmerman, an board certified criminal defense attorney with experience representing school employees in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.    

 

 

2 Arrested in Sarasota Pot Bust Called Operation Hammerhead

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Sarasota Police arrest 2 men in a pot bust called “Operation Hammerhead.”  Police charged 66 year old Anthony Snead and 38 year old Andy Charlton with possession of cannabis with intent to sell.  Police Chief Bernadette DiPino says the bust came from an anonymous tip that led to a 6 month surveillance operation, including wiretapping phones.   On April 2rd detectives watched Charlton deliver a box to Snead’s home.  That’s when they executed a search warrant and made the arrests.

Probable Cause, Search Warrants, and Wiretaps

Just because the police spent 6 months watching these men does not mean they have a legitimate case in court.  Wiretapping is one of the most legally complicated ways of investigating alleged crime and that’s why it’s rarely used as an investigative technique.  There are too many loopholes that could lead to dropped charges.  Police must follow very strict rules and regulations about wiretapping or the evidence can be considered ineligible in court.  If the wiretap investigation is flawed, then police may not have probable cause to arrest, search, or seize anything.

If you’ve been arrested in a case involving wiretapping or search and seizure, your best defense is to say nothing and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, like Mark Zimmerman, right away.  Mark has helped clients get charges dropped because the investigation or arrest violated their Fourth Amendment rights.  It’s a complicated area of the law, so it’s extremely important to have a board certified criminal defense attorney like Mark Zimmerman on your side.  To reach mark for a case evaluation, fill out our online contact form or call (941) 364-8503.

 

 

 

103 Arrested in Operation Meal Ticket in Manatee County- Lawyer Explains What To Do Next

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Welfare Fraud Arrests in Bradenton

103 people arrested in a welfare fraud sting in Manatee county.  Deputies went undercover to catch people illegally buying or selling EBT cards.  Those arrested are looking at felony and misdemeanor social welfare fraud charges.  It becomes a felony charge if the fraud is over $200.  Starting in January, cops paid cash to people for EBT cards for about half what they were worth.

What To Do If You Were Arrested for Welfare Fraud

The government comes down hard on people accused of welfare fraud.  If you’ve been arrested, it’s important not to speak with anyone until you speak with your attorney first. Defending the people arrested in Operation Meal Ticket is highly technical, so be sure your attorney is qualified to handle this type of complex case.

Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Zimmerman has defended clients charged with welfare fraud in the past and has the experience to aggressively fight these charges.

For more information, contact Zimmerman and Zimmerman at 941-364-8503 or fill out our online case evaluation form.

35 Men Arrested in Manatee County During “Operation Green Shepherd II”

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested 35 men in the second installment of “Operation Green Shepherd.” During the online sex sting, detectives trolled the internet posing as an underage child in an attempt to set up a meeting at a house. The men who arrived at the house were met at the door by deputies who quickly arrested them with cameras filming the whole thing.

The men arrested are being charged with travel to seduce/solicit/entice a child to commit a sexual act, use of a computer to seduce/solicit/entice a child to commit a sexual act, and attempted lewd and lascivious. With this latest sting, the number of men arrested during the last six months in Sarasota and Manatee County for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor increased to more than 100.

Getting Arrested in an “Undercover Online Sex Sting.”

As we’ve seen with the media coverage of “Operation Green Shepherd II,” the names and careers of those arrested are in the headlines. Now a teacher, U.S. Dept. of Defense employee, a youth choir leader, and a nursing assistant have all been labeled “sexual predators” before getting a chance to fight the charges in court. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney, like Mark Zimmerman, represent you right away. Mark is a board certified criminal defense lawyer and has a successful record of helping clients beat charges in cases like this. He can tell you exactly where to go from here to protect your rights and will work with you and your family through the entire process.

Your Car Was Seized. Now What.

During Operation Green Shepherd II, deputies confiscated seven cars from those arrested. Legally, officers have to show that there’s a relationship between the crime and the use of the car, but that’s all. The link can be circumstantial to seize the vehicle. Eventually, the courts will explain your rights in a forfeiture case, but that still leaves you without a car. Your criminal defense attorney needs to tackle both the arrest charges and the forfeiture of your car at the same time, even though they are two separate cases. Mark Zimmerman has helped clients get back thousands of dollars in seized property while also defending them in high profile criminal cases.

Mark Zimmerman, Board Certified Criminal Defense Lawyer

With criminal charges pending and your reputation on the line, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney. If you or a member of your family has been caught up in an online sting, you need to get help immediately. Contact Mark Zimmerman at (941) 364-8503 or fill out our online contact form.

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