Jeffrey Rich Blog

Posts tagged ‘Tampa misdemeanor attorney’

We’ve all seen “The Fast and the Furious” and quickly fallen in love with the speed and adrenaline Paul Walker and Vin Diesel provide as they make their hopped up power wagons do things that are seemingly impossible. Consequently, movies like this inspired thousands of people to buy a similar car and do their best to emulate Pauly Walnuts and Vinnie D as they zing down Tampa Bay’s highways. As this practice evolved, illegal drag strips were established and through word of mouth people became familiar with where and when to go in order to see these rocket ships on wheels fly up and down the road. Like any other red blooded American male, I have to agree that the spectacle these cars provide is entertaining, if not amazing. Clearly, I am not alone.

To many spectators’ surprise and dismay, as recently as a week ago St. Petersburg local police departments organized two stings in which they blocked off any reasonable method for escape and cited and/or arrested several people racing and observing the racing that occurred near Fourth Street North. Obviously the individuals that were participating in the actual racing were either cited or arrested for “Racing on the Highway,” a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of not less than $500 but not more than $1000. Equally as punitive is the fact that if a plea is entered to this charge, be it an adjudication of guilt or a withhold of adjudication, the defendant will receive a 1 year driver’s license revocation by the department of motor vehicles.

It was the spectators of the racing that likely received the biggest surprise of the evening, however. Despite never getting behind a wheel of one of the cars or even so much as kicking a tire, any spectator in attendance could be and likely was given a civil traffic infraction with the prospect of receiving 3 points on their driving record. According to Florida Statute 316.191, a “Spectator” means any person who is knowingly present at and views a drag race, when such presence is the result of an affirmative choice to attend or participate in the race. For purposes of determining whether or not an individual is a spectator, finders of fact shall consider the relationship between the racer and the individual, evidence of gambling or betting on the outcome of the race, and any other factor that would tend to show knowing attendance or participation. In English, if you are there to watch the racing, you can get a ticket.

Fair? As a Tampa criminal lawyer, that’s not my call. Clearly Florida’s Legislature has made this recent “spectator” addition in a policy effort to prevent people from showing up at the drag strip. They likely are assuming if we can cut out the fans, then the players won’t bother playing the game. Will this policy effort work? Probably not, as any policy decision to dissuade American’s from doing something they are hell bent on doing, typically works about as well as creating a lead airplane.

So, if you find yourself in the precarious situation of being charged with racing, or merely being a spectator at a race, it would behoove you to investigate the prospect of hiring an attorney well versed in traffic law. Nobody wants a criminal record, and for damn sure nobody wants to lose their license for a year. Less serious, but still significant, it’s not a good idea to allow points to accumulate on your driving record either. If you get too many in too short a time, you can also watch your driving privilege race away. Further, once your insurance company catches wind of the points on your license you can bank on your buddies at State Farm or that Geico lizard raising those rates.

Bottom line, be careful if you choose to race or watch illegal racing. Officer friendly generally gets his man, and their pretty good at what they do around here. But, if you do get saddled with a race related charge, pick up the phone and give us a call. As experienced traffic and misdemeanor attorneys in Tampa, we might just save your license.

Get Caught with a Piece in Florida?

Due to the recent arrest of Pro-Bowl football player Marshawn Lynch on Felony Carrying a Concealed Weapon Charges in California, and Plaxico Burress’ “incident” in a nightclub in New York, Tampa criminal lawyer Jeffrey M. Rich feels it is important that Floridians be educated on our gun laws.

To understand the consequences of “getting caught with a piece,” you must first have at least a surface understanding of the gun laws in Florida. As you are aware, the United States Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to bare arms… Or does it? That depends! In Florida no state permit is required to possess or purchase a rifle, shotgun or handgun. However there are certain restrictions in place.

It is unlawful for:

  • Any convicted felon to have in his or her possession any firearm, or to carry a concealed weapon.
  • For persons to have in their care, custody, possession, or control any firearm or ammunition, if the person has been issued a final injunction that is currently in force and effect, restraining that person from committing acts of domestic violence.
  • To sell, give, barter, lend or transfer a firearm or other weapon other than an ordinary pocketknife to a minor less than the age of 18 without his parent’s permission, or to any person of unsound mind.
  • Any dealer to sell or transfer any firearm, pistol, Springfield rifle or other repeating rifle to a minor.
  • A minor less than 18 years of age to possess a firearm, other than an unloaded firearm at his home, unless engaged in lawful activities.

 

Carrying

Unless covered under the exceptions, it is unlawful to openly carry on or about the person any firearm, or to carry a concealed firearm on or about the person without a license.
Exceptions:

  • Persons having firearms at their home or place of business.
  • Enrolled members of clubs organized for target, skeet, or trapshooting, while at, or going to or from shooting practice.
  • Members of clubs organized for collecting antique or modern firearms while at or going to or from exhibitions.
  • Persons engaged in fishing, camping or hunting and while going to or from such activity.
  • Persons engaged in target shooting under safe conditions and in a safe place or while going to or from such place.
  • Persons who are firing weapons for target practice in a safe and secure indoor range.
  • Persons traveling by private conveyance if the weapon is securely encased, or in a public conveyance if the weapon is securely encased and not in the person’s manual possession.
  • Persons carrying a pistol unloaded and in a secure wrapper from place of purchase to their home or to a place of repair and back.
  • Persons engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing or dealing in firearms.
  • Military, law enforcement personnel and private guards while so employed.

 

In Florida there are basically two different charges that can arise from possessing a firearm. The type of charges that you face will hinge on a couple factors. Initially the question is, were you a convicted felon at the time you were found to be in possession of the firearm? Also, did you have actual physical control of the firearm at the time you found in possession, or were you just in constructive possession of the firearm? Construction possession is when you don’t actually physically possess an object but you have the power to control and intent to control the object. Was the firearm in “plain view” or was it concealed?

So, if you are a convicted felon at the time you are found in possession, your type of possession will have a great impact on what consequences you are facing:

1. Actual physical control of firearm: Can be charged with a felony and face a 3 year minimum mandatory sentence

2. Constructive possession of firearm: You can be charged with a felony but constructive possession does not carry a minimum mandatory sentence.

3. It does not matter if the gun was in plain view or concealed when you have been previously convicted of a felony and are found to be on possession.

Not a convicted felon at the time you are found in possession:

1. Concealed and actually physically control firearm – You can be charged with a misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, unless you have a concealed weapons permit which you must announce immediately.

2. Concealed and constructive possession – You can be charged with misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon, unless you have a concealed weapons permit which you must announce immediately.

3. Plain view and actually physical control – No charges unless there is some other legal circumstance that prohibits you from possessing a firearm.

4. Plain view constructive possession — No charges unless there is some other legal circumstance that prohibits you from possessing a firearm.

**Possessing a firearm during the commission of any other crime can result in an enhancement of sentence for the underlying crime, in addition to charges for possessing the firearm.

 

 

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