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Defending Liberty, Protecting Freedom, and Fighting for Justice when it Matters Most

Criminal Defense Blog

Protecting your rights and your freedom

We recently saw a WFTV report about the arrest of a former Orlando municipal employee accused of downloading child pornography at City Hall. While there was little that was remarkable in the telling of the story, a couple of facts the reporter recited without emphasis struck us as interesting.

The first was that the suspect had reportedly declined to speak with law enforcement investigators and had instead asked to speak with a criminal defense attorney. That is exactly what anyone facing serious criminal charges should do: politely decline to talk to police or prosecutors and ask instead to speak with your lawyer.

Will Attorney General's change in policy matter in Florida?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. recently ordered state and local police to stop using federal law to confiscate cash, vehicles and other assets without warrants or the filing of criminal charges against suspects. The move was widely hailed by civil liberties groups that had railed against government seizures of property for more than three decades.

It is not yet known how Holder's change of policy will affect Florida, however. Our state has its own asset forfeiture laws enabling state and local law enforcement agencies to seize property - even from people never convicted of any crime.

Taxpayer Advocate: stop treating foreign accounts as illegal

While many have never heard of the official IRS office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, its purpose is to assist taxpayers who are having problems with the IRS. Nina Olson, the current National Taxpayer Advocate, reports annually to Congress on taxpayer rights issues, speaking both to lawmakers and the IRS on behalf of tax-paying Americans.

This year, the voice of the National Taxpayer Advocate takes the IRS to task over what Olson characterizes as unfair treatment of citizens who have offshore accounts. She says too many innocent taxpayers are ensnared in complex tax-reporting regulations and then treated as if they are criminals. She calls on both Congress and the IRS to make changes to the severe Report of Foreign Banks and Accounts (FBAR) penalties people face.

Florida doctor sued for healthcare fraud by whistleblowers, feds

Whistleblowers are often portrayed in the media as selfless people pointing out wrongdoing. That might be, but it is also true that whistleblowers sometimes stand to reap millions of dollars for suing people accused of defrauding the government in what are known as qui tam cases.

Qui tam cases are a type of civil lawsuit filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act; a law that monetarily rewards the whistleblower if their suit recovers money for the government. One Florida doctor about an hour's drive northwest of Orlando is the focus of two such lawsuits, according to news reports.

Making the best of a tough situation

One instead of 20. Months instead of years. Those numbers are testimony to what an effective criminal defense attorney can do when a client has made a mistake and been compelled to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.

In this case, as WKMG of Orlando reports, the person who made the mistake is Rep. Michael Grimm, who has announced that he would plead guilty to a single count of tax evasion and that he would within days resign from Congress. 

Upholding the Fourth Amendment

There are times when it can seem to some Americans that the U.S. Constitution gets in the way of justice. For example, think of our First Amendment right to free speech. It sometimes protects people who say offensive things, just as it also protects the rights of organizations to "peaceably...assemble" and express their views, even if many consider the organizations hateful.

Sometimes the Fourth Amendment can irk people, too. Its protections against "unreasonable searches and seizures" sometimes mean that evidence can't be used by prosecutors in court against defendants. In all of these examples, our rights as Americans to have and express our opinions, and to be secure in our homes from arbitrary searches by government are protected by our Constitution and our willingness to uphold it.

Hacking tale takes wild turns

In recent days, media articles about Sony Pictures Entertainment have morphed from leaks of embarrassing emails between company executives complaining about Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio to a story that now includes widely reported terrorism threats against moviegoers. The threats have compelled several theater chains to drop soon-to-be-released "The Interview," a Sony comedy featuring a plot involving North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.  Since so many theaters opted out, Sony has announced it will postpone the release without a new date being set.

Media speculation is that North Korean hackers are behind the theft of Sony data and release of emails, movie scripts, company employee health information and more. However, TMZ is reporting that company executives believe the hacking was done, at least in part, by someone who works for the studio or used to work for the studio.

No one has been charged with computer hacking crimes in the case, but Sony officials are apparently convinced that an insider had to be involved - possibly one of the IT personnel affected by several waves of layoffs over the past couple of years.

Offshore accounts: changes in the voluntary disclosure program

It's been more than five years now since the IRS first offered a limited amnesty program for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. The program has actually consisted of several closely related programs with similar acronyms.

In this post, we will discuss how the program has evolved and call attention to the role it can serve in avoiding possible criminal prosecution.

Can government seize your house, your car and your business?

The brief answer to the question above is “yes.” Yes, the state of Florida, or even a county sheriff or local police department can walk into a home or business and seize cash, property and other assets that the state says is connected to proceeds from organized criminal activity.

The FBI has this power as well. You might have heard of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known by its acronym: RICO. This racketeering law can enable the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies to seize private property and assets – in some cases, even if no crime has been proven in our legal system.  

Federal authorities continue crackdown on child porn in Florida

During this past fiscal year, federal prosecutors brought a record number of child exploitation charges against defendants in the Middle District of Florida, which includes Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Ocala, and Fort Myers. Most of these cases did not involve allegations of direct sexual contact with a minor; rather, most cases involved charges of possessing, receiving or distributing child pornography by use of a computer.

Through an ongoing Justice Department initiative, federal prosecutors brought 127 child exploitation cases in the Middle District last year. The year before that, 104 cases were prosecuted. The year before that, there were 82 federal child exploitation cases. The numbers suggest a trend: federal and local authorities plan to continue their crackdown on child pornography in Florida. The crackdown appears to be targeting those who view child pornography and less effort is being put on finding those who sexually abuse children and make the child pornography. 

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