Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Florida Law Could Put Doctors in the Cross-hairs


St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent law regulating pain clinics which could put doctors in the cross-hairs of State law enforcement.

Issue:

As Florida struggles to deal with the epidemic of pain pill abuse and trafficking, law makers have instituted regulations that cover pain clinics.  Within the new law is a provision that limits the actual number of pain pill prescriptions a physician can write in a single day.  While on its face this provision may seem reasonable, it comes with complexity and unintended consequences for Tampa Bay area doctors.  The proposal is that each full time physician could write a maximum of 150 prescriptions per day while part time doctors could write far fewer based on hours worked.

Florida state medical boards have met to discuss the proposal and have objected to the caps.  Their concerns include how state inspectors would police the new law, and the number of loop holes in the provisions.

Doctors are similarly concerned that the new regulations will increase their costs of providing care and may limit their ability to provide care to patients legitimately in need.




Why This Matters To You:

Given the new regulations and proposals, law abiding physicians could unwittingly prescribe more than the maximum number of scripts provided under the new regulations.  Further, a doctor could be tempted to provide care to a patient in need of pain relief even if they have already filled their daily allowed number of prescriptions.  The added complexity of complying to new legislation opens doctors and office staff to severe criminal charges including Prescription Drug Trafficking.

While Florida continues to address the issue of pain clinics and pain pill abuse, medical professionals including anesthesiologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, internists, family physicians, orthopedists, and gerontologists may find themselves in the cross-hairs of law enforcement.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Prescription Drug Trafficking, or other drug related crimes contact a St. Petersburg Drug Crimes Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Crimes offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Monday, November 15, 2010

U.S Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Florida Juvenile Defendants


St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling and how it may affect juveniles convicted of criminal offenses.


Issue:

The U.S. Supreme Court recently made a ruling that reduces penalties for juvenile offenses in certain situations.  The high court ruled that juveniles who commit crimes (with the exception of homicide) before turning 18 should not be subject to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole as the court considered it cruel and unusual punishment.

In Florida, the state abolished parole for life sentences in 1983, thus, a life sentence has meant life for juveniles until now.  As a life sentence is no longer legal under the Supreme Court ruling there are few options for Florida judges who want to impose the harshest of sentences for juveniles.  Now, Florida judges are in a dilemma when they want to hand out the maximum punishment - for example, would multiple back-to-back 30 year sentences be considered “life?”  What about a 70 year sentence?  Pinellas County and other Florida judges are left to interpret the ruling and research cases in other jurisdictions to seek direction.




Why This Matters To You:

This new gray area leaves the Supreme Court’s ruling up for interpretation and makes certain juvenile sentences ripe for appeal.  Additionally, as judges can no longer hand out life sentences to juvenile offenders, Florida Legislators must come up with a solution.  Currently in discussion is a bill that would give juvenile offenders affected by the Supreme Court ruling an opportunity for parole after 25 years.

Juveniles would still have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for parole under the bill including good behavior and achievement of a GED.

Regardless of changes to the the law, it is very important to retain a Criminal Defense Attorney with experience in the Juvenile Justice System if your child has been arrested.  In many cases, even a minor juvenile offense can have long lasting effects if not handled properly.


What To Do Next:

If your child has been arrested for a criminal charge, contact a St. Petersburg Juvenile Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your child’s case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your child’s case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Juvenile Crimes offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Even Apple Takes Juvenile Sexting Seriously – Effects in Florida


St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the how the rise of Sexting (a felony charged as child pornography in the State of Florida) has caused Apple to patent a mechanism to keep Juvenile iPhone users from getting in trouble.


Issue:

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit text messages and / or multimedia messages (photos, videos) via cell phones or computers (or other electronic mechanism).

A recent national study showed one in five teenagers have sent sexy text messages with racy photos.

Sexting has become so prevalent that Apple has recently had a patent approved which the media has dubbed, “the anti-sexting patent.”  While the patent focuses on providing parental controls over language sent and received via text message, it seems reasonable that the technology could be expanded to cover photo messages in the foreseeable future.



Why This Matters To You:

Apple takes the issue of Sexting seriously enough to file for a patent on “anti-sexting technology” for their iPhone and other devices.  They are right to take this issue seriously as under the current law a minor caught Sexting with his or her peers may be guilty of child pornography, a felony in the State of Florida.

Even though most understand that Sexting is by and large youthful bad behavior, the State of Florida recognizes it as child pornography, a felony punishable by jail time and potential registration as a sex offender.  Felony criminal charges can have a painful effect on a youthful offender as it can affect their future including academic and employment opportunities, not to mention short term punishments and sanctions imposed by the Florida Juvenile Justice System.


What To Do Next:

If your child has been arrested for a Juvenile Sexual Offense, contact a St. Petersburg Juvenile Defense Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Juvenile offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Florida Drug Court Requirements Could Benefit Offenders

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent review of Florida Drug Courts by the Florida Legislature and how it may affect those convicted of Drug Crimes.


Issue:

The Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability recently released a report that indicated the requirements for admitting drug offenders into Drug Court (a type of diversion program to give offenders treatment and rehabilitation instead of prison sentences) is too strict.

The Florida Legislature has poured $19M over the last year into the Florida Drug Court program in eight counties (including Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Polk) with the hope that it would save the State some $95M by diverting offenders into treatment instead of prison which can be much more expensive.



Why This Matters To You:

The review of the standards by the Florida Legislature is good news for those charged with Drug Offenses as it may allow more offenders to enter Drug Court as opposed to prison.

Today, Drug Courts cannot admit an offender if they have a probation violation for anything other than a failed drug test.  The reality is that Drug Crimes offenders often violate probation for a variety of reasons but still need the treatment available through the Drug Court system.

As well, the Florida Sentencing Guidelines utilize a point system to determine applicable criminal sentences.  Drug Courts are currently limited to taking offenders at a cap of 52 points.  Many feel this should increase to at least 60 points.

To date, the Drug Court program was to have diverted some 4000 offenders from prison, but has only accomplished approximately a third of that goal.  With this review by the Florida Legislature the guidelines for admittance to the Drug Court program may be changed providing more offenders with the rehabilitation they need.

Regardless of changes to the requirements for Drug Court, it is very important to retain a Criminal Defense Attorney with experience in the Drug Court system if you seek admittance.  In many cases, even when the offender does not fit the guidelines, an attorney can work with the prosecutor to secure entrance to the program.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, or other drug related crime contact a St. Petersburg Drug Crimes Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Crimes offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Prescription Drug (Pain Pill) Use on the Rise in Tampa Bay Florida

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the how the rise of Prescription Drug (Pain Pill) usage may land more users in jail.


Issue:

More and more U.S. workers are under the influence of pain killers (Prescription Drugs) which could lead to workplace accidents, action by employers (up to and including firing), and criminal charges.

Quest Diagnostics, a leader in diagnostic testing, information, and services, recently reported that when viewing the statistics on U.S. workers in their Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index that prescription pain pill usage had risen 40% between 2005 and 2009.

Prescription pain medication, referred to as opiates, includes oxycodone (OxyContin), codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone (Vicodin) among others.  The use of these drugs jumped 18% in Quest’s tests from 2008-2009 indicating that more and more U.S. workers were being prescribed pain killers or were taking them recreationally and illegally.



Why This Matters To You:

The sharp rise in Prescription Drug use has put employers on alert.  Employers can reserve the right to have a physician examine an employee that appears to be impaired.  An employer may take action to suspend or even fire an employee who is impaired.

Additionally, individuals taking Prescription Drugs recreationally may not only be fired, but the employer may also notify law enforcement.  In this case, the individual may face criminal charges if they are found to possess pain killers without a prescription.

In Tampa Bay, law enforcement is aware of the rise of Prescription Drug use and continues to crack down on individual users, pain clinics, dealers and traffickers.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking, contact a St. Petersburg Drug Trafficking Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Florida Man Charged with Drug Trafficking Guilty Until Proven Innocent

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent case of Central Florida businessman wrongly convicted for Drug Trafficking.


Issue:

In 2001, Central Florida businessman Antonino Lyons was convicted of Drug Trafficking, carjacking, and distributing counterfeit clothing and was subsequently sentenced to three years behind bars.

An investigation uncovered misconduct by the prosecutor in the case, and a rare determination of innocence was made by a federal judge from the Middle District of Florida in an 18-page ruling.



Why This Matters To You:

If you have been charged with a crime, especially a serious felony such as Drug Trafficking, it is imperative that you retain experienced, aggressive legal counsel.

In this case it was uncovered that prosecutors based their case on 31 witnesses, all of whom were felons in prison.  It was further reveled in the investigation that the prosecutors encouraged the witnesses to lie under oath, and offered reduced sentences for agreeing to testify against Lyons.  While the “witnesses” stated that Lyons had sold them more than $6 million in cocaine, there was amazingly no hard evidence such as confiscated drugs or recorded conversations to indicate a crime.

A criminal defense attorney should be adept at uncovering inadequacies in the prosecution’s case and identifying and capitalizing on evidence (or in this case lack of evidence) that will produce the best possible outcome for their client.  A criminal defense attorney that has a background as a former State Attorney can aggressively provide a defense with the knowledge and experience that comes from having prosecuted criminal cases.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking, contact a St. Petersburg Drug Trafficking Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Operation Pill Popper II Cracks Down On Prescription Drug Trafficking in the Tampa Bay Florida Area

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent multiagency operation to crack down on Prescription Drug Trafficking in the Tampa Bay area.


Issue:

Across the Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg Police, Clearwater Police, Largo Police, and the Tampa office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) recently rounded up 38 people charged with illegally obtaining or selling oxycodone.  Operation Pill Popper II is a continuation of Operation Pill Popper that started in February of this year and was targeting 175 individuals on 375 separate charges.

Tampa Bay Florida holds the unfortunate title as one of the top metro areas for Prescription Drug & Pill Trafficking.  In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) refers to Tampa as “ground zero” for internet diversion (illegal buying and selling, trafficking, and doctor shopping) of pharmaceuticals (prescription drugs, pills).  The DEA is focused on investigations of diversion of hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin®) and oxycodone (e.g. OxyContin®) as well as Benzodiapezines (such as Xanax® and its generic alprazolam), and methadone.



Why This Matters To You:

Many people are ensnarled in the web of Prescription Drug Trafficking unwittingly.  In some cases professionals in doctors’ offices including Nurses and Office Managers, or other Health Care Professionals are targeted because law enforcement usually cannot target the physician as doctors in the State of Florida are legally allowed to prescribe controlled substances.  Those with serious drug addictions are often found with amounts of controlled substances that qualify under Florida law as Prescription Drug Trafficking.  Most often the quantities are simply enough to support their addiction and should more appropriately be charged as possession.  Further, patients who visit Pain Clinics may be unknowingly involved in what law enforcement determines is Drug Trafficking.

If you are a Tampa Bay health care professional, doctor’s office staff, nurse, or medical doctor, Operation Pill Popper is significant in that it opens the possibility that you may be targeted and prosecuted for your involvement in providing prescription drugs.  Those receiving prescription drugs are also targets of Operation Pill Popper including individuals afflicted with prescription drug addiction and attendees to local area Pain Clinics.

Operation Pill Popper is an ongoing investigation as law enforcement believes that they have just scratched the surface of the problem.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking, contact a St. Petersburg Prescription Drug Trafficking Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tampa Florida Doctor Charged With Drug Trafficking ??!!

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent case of a Tampa doctor accused of Prescription Drug Trafficking and how this case could open the door to other physicians being prosecuted.


Issue:

A Tampa doctor was recently charged with Drug Trafficking after an undercover investigation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office where detectives were prescribed enough prescription drugs to be considered Trafficking.

At the heart of this case, the first of its kind in Hillsborough County, is the question of whether or not Dr. John Mubang acted in “bad faith” –or in other words, did not give the proper level of medical care to ensure that the patients truly needed the drugs before prescribing them.  In Florida, medical doctors are legally allowed to prescribe controlled substances, thus the prosecution must prove “bad faith” to convict the doctor of Drug Trafficking.



Why This Matters To You:

Medical doctors are not frequently charged with Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking as they are legally allowed to prescribe controlled substances.  This case opens up the possibility that law enforcement may prosecute Florida physicians based on the subjective criteria of acting in “bad faith.”

If you are a Tampa Bay medical doctor, this case is significant in that it opens the possibility that you may be prosecuted for prescribing prescription drugs as a physician.  The prosecution in this instance hung their case loosely on the concept of the physician acting in bad faith, highly subjective opinions on the level of care provided, and most troubling, facts that only the doctor himself could know – his firsthand observations of the patients, his interpretations of their symptoms and examinations, and his medical opinion of how to best treat them.

The case against Dr. Mubang was declared a mistrial as the result of a hung jury that was significantly in favor of the defendant.  The prosecution will now have to decide whether or not to further pursue the case.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking, contact a St. Petersburg Prescription Drug Trafficking Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Trafficking or Prescription Drug Trafficking offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WFLA Channel 8 and TBO.com Seek Legal Advice on Stalking / Cyberstalking from St. Petersburg Morris Law Firm

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent WFLA Channel 8 News and TBO.com piece on the University of Florida Gators' Chris Rainey being charged with sending a threatening text and the potential legal ramifications of Stalking / Cyberstalking.


Issue:

WFLA Channel 8 News and TBO.com recently interviewed the Morris Law Firm for our legal opinion on the University of Florida Gators' Chris Rainey being charged with sending a threatening text and the potential legal ramifications of Stalking using electronic communications or Cyberstalking.

Rainey was accused of sending a threatening text message that read, “Time to Die,” to his girlfriend Kelley Anderson.  The text message was apparently sent after Rainey visited Anderson’s apartment during an argument and she asked him to leave.  Rainey was subsequently arrested for aggravated stalking, a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and taken to Alachua County jail.  He was later released on his own recognizance after his accuser asked that the charges be dropped.



Why This Matters To You:

Previous to methods of electronic communication being widely available, stalking required significant preparation and effort.  Examples include a stalker following their victim to work, place of business, or school; or a perpetrator talking the time to construct a letter with threatening dialogue and send it to the victim.

Today, electronic communication mechanisms are far more prevalent and easy to access including cell phone Text Messages, Facebook, Twitter, and email with which someone can send a message within seconds without the ability to recall or retract the communication.  Now someone in a heightened state of emotions may send a simple, albeit imprudent text message that can be interpreted by the law as Stalking or worse Aggravated Stalking as it was in this case.

With the inability to read facial cues, tone of voice, and intent associated with electronic communications it is often difficult to properly gauge the credibility of the threat.  Potential victims of Stalking / Cyberstalking should carefully consider if the threat is real and credible as the accusation of Stalking carries with it significant legal and social repercussions for the accused.  The law should never be used as a referee or for revenge.  In this case, Anderson actually appeared at Rainey’s court appearance and stated, “I don't fear for my safety. I think he should be released on his own recognizance."

For the accused, there are significant legal and social consequences.  Rainey will have an arrest record for a third degree felony even though the charges may ultimately be dropped.  In this case, while the State Attorney is taking no immediate action, there still exists the possibility that Rainey will face criminal charges.  Additionally, the University of Florida Gators’ offensive coordinator Steve Addazio stated that Rainey is not currently part of the team, and his long term athletic career beyond college may be affected.  Rainey is also currently subject to a curfew.

The lesson in this case is that what may start as an ill advised text message could lead to serious legal ramifications:

As stated in Florida State Statue 748.08, “Cyberstalk means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”  Cyberstalking is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1000 fine.  Aggravated Cyberstalking carries even harsher penalties as it is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

In many Stalking / Cyberstalking cases there are potential defenses that may be utilized to reduce the charges, or even have the charges dropped altogether:

·         Victim Recantation
·         Lack of Intent
·         Alibi
·         Mistaken Identity
·         Failure to Read Miranda Warnings


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Stalking or Cyberstalking (or Domestic Violence), contact a St. Petersburg Cyberstalking Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Stalking or Cyberstalking offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).