Candidly, I did not know it was illegal to keep raccoons as pets, and have never seen anybody charged with it. The Florida administrative code has classified several native species so that they cannot be kept without a permit if they are taken from the wild. Included under this classification are also skunks, bats, fox and whitetail deer- so no trying to keep Bambi! There is no restriction on keeping rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks and most of the commonly kept pet animals.
Tori Parsons, of Venice, Florida was cited after a neighbor reported she was keeping racoons as pets. She only ended up getting arrested when she failed to appear for court, and got a bench warrant, though she has since bonded out. The charge is criminal, but it is only a second degree misdemeanor, the least serious criminal offense in Florida. FWC gave her three days to transport and surrender the animals to a licensed wildlife facility, and it was only when she failed to do so that she was cited.
As always, Crimcourts will stay on top of all wildlife related criminal news. Which reminds me, I didn’t get to report on the recent story about Florida Flying Squirrels. National Geographic reports that thousands of Southern Flying Squirrels may have been illegally trapped for the pet trade, and shipped overseas to places like South Korea. Rodney Knox and 5 of his associates are facing charges as serious as racketeering for the ongoing operation. Knox runs a farm and breeding operation, but FWC alleges that was a front for an illegal capture business, and Knox has a history running afoul of breeding regulations, including a warning for trapping flying squirrels. This operation rivals the time FWC set up a fake alligator farm to catch egg poachers!
Mariya Kelly, 21, of Cape Coral, has been arrested and charged with manslaughter for stabbing her mother, who died at Cape Coral hospital. The police have not released any details of what led up to the incident, though the manslaughter charge in lieu of a murder charge is curious. More details will follow as the case progresses.
The courts are still open, but very limited, as they have been for the last few weeks. The Florida Courts are still open, but for limited functions such as First Appearance, Arraignment, Bond Hearings, Injunctions/Restraining orders and some others. That means if you or a loved one get arrested, you can still seek the assistance of an attorney. While we’re locking up the physical office, you can still reach us by phone, 239-333-4686 or email: email@example.com
You can still reach the Law Office of Spencer Cordell.
Our phone number is 239-333-4686.
Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
The wheels of justice must continue to turn, in particular for those accused of crimes during the public health emergency. Florida courthouses, including those in Southwest Florida, are open on a limited basis for essential hearings. Among those hearings still happening are arraignments, injunctions, and first appearances for those who have been arrested. Attorney Spencer Cordell is available to consult by phone, answer emails, and even video chat if that is necessary.
Please stay safe during this health emergency. The novel corona virus has impacted all of our daily lives, and we must take steps to protect others who may be vulnerable to COVID-19, but we can stil make accommodations to help. If you or your loved one are facing criminal charges, even if there is not an essential hearing coming up, we are still available to discuss your options, and the consultation is still free. Don’t hesitate to call you have been arrested, injured in an accident or want to know your legal rights.
A prisoner in Iowa says he should be released after dying an having died and having to be revived at the hospital. Benjamin Schreiber says he was sentenced to life in prison, not life and one day more. His argument was bolstered by the fact that he had signed a do not resuscitate form, and even his brother had told the doctors not to do anything more than make him comfortable. The Iowa Supreme Court denied his claim, and he will continue to serve his prison sentence.
The appellate court wrote in their opinion, “Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.” While he has an interesting argument that his sentence had been fulfilled, he will have to wait it out on the inside.
Yesterday in Boston, Judge Richard Sinnott had defense lawyer Susan Churcharrested and removed from a courtroom as she tried to read case law relevant to her client’s case. This is wildly inappropriate behavior from the judiciary in any circumstance. Even though the judge released her, several hours later, without pursuing contempt charges, the intent and possible effect of threatening to jail a lawyer for doing his or her job is to discourage lawyers from advocating for their clients. The judge told her her didn’t her to turn the hearing “into theater”, then proceeded to perform the great theater of having her taken into custody. Said Church, “[I] sat there wondering if I was going to jail that night, whether I’d be able to see my children at dinner that night, what I was going to do about my work and my clients.” She continued, “My biggest concern is that this doesn’t have a chilling effect for all the other lawyers out there who are fighting the good fight,” via BostonGlobe.com.
The backstory is that Judge Sinnott was already feeling the heat by going against the prosecutor’s decision not to file charges, and refusing to dismiss this and several other cases the prosecution had already decided were not appropriate to be prosecuted related to protesters against the white supremacist “Straight Pride Parade” in Boston last week. So, when Church was citing case law, she was specifically pointing out the legal authority that said the judge had acted illegally in refusing to dismiss the case. Instead of listening to the legal precedent, he had Ms. Church removed. He didn’t like being told what he was doing was wrong, and he responded by arresting the messenger, who bravely persisted in doing her job in the face of threats to advocate for her client.
Since that episode in court, the prosecutor has filed an emergency petition with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to overturn Sinnott’s ruling. DA Rachel Rollins argued that the judge, “ignored the clear and unambiguous constraints placed on the judiciary by the separation of powers.” Church cited a 1991 Supreme Judicial Court case for exactly that proposition. It sounds like the case law will require the decision to be reversed, and the Judge may face discipline for his encounter with Ms. Church. Susan Church is a hero.
Former NFL player Kellen Winslow is on trial in California for a dozen charges related to alleged sexual assaults, lewd conduct, and indecent exposure: he faces up to life in prison. The first of five accusers testified yesterday, and it did not go well for the prosecution. The victim’s credibility was attacked thoroughly on the stand: her testimony was “shaking and baffling” according to USA Today and she was “caught in a web of lies and contradiction” according to Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Wetzel reports that her story changed while she was on the stand, contradicted her prior testimony, and only her word can overcome Winslow’s claim that the encounter was consensual. The state has four more alleged victims with several different claims. It will be hard for Winslow to overcome that many allegations presented to the same jury, but the outcome is far from a forgone conclusion.
Don’t forget, it is still a crime to possess marijuana or anything marijuana related in the State of Florida. New Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried announced yesterday she is going to name a cannabis director to oversee issues related to medical marijuana, agricultural hemp and marijuana edibles. I’m sharing this not just to highlight her efforts to improve the regulatory system for Floridians, which we support, but to remind everyone that it is still a crime to possess marijuana without that card. Even a little bit of marijuana is a crime, even a pipe is a crime, and any amount of oil containing THC is a felony. Conviction for any drug offense also carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
The fact that Florida has medical marijuana does not mean that it’s OK to carry around some weed. The laws are still being enforced, and sometimes aggressively. If you do get caught, contact your attorney right away!
Criminal justice reform has been a growing topic of late, and has been garnering more and more support from both sides of the aisle. Recently, even President Trump has signaled his support for such reform. It makes sense from a lot of standpoints: more efficient justice, less recidivism and less expense, while reuniting families: especially those separated by excessively long prison sentences for non-violent offenses. The growing movement has finally gained enough steam that the Senate appears poised to vote on a justice-bill, albeit a ‘slimmed-down’ version, before the end of the year. This is a good thing, though as the name of the bill, the “First Step Act”, implies, it should be merely the beginning of positive reforms.
Bar President Michelle Suskauer
Florida also has a need for criminal justice reform. Florida has a very draconian sentencing structure, in many cases imposing decades-long mandatory minimum sentences on non-violent offenses that far exceed the federal sentences that are being reconsidered. Florida Bar President Michelle Suskauer, who has spent many years in the justice system as a defense attorney and is acutely aware of the issues has made a push for consideration of the issue to raise awareness. The Florida Bar recently held a Criminal Justice summit to discuss the issue (the Bar cannot take a position), and Suskauer wrote an informative update in an OpEd published in the News-Press this week, and elsewhere. You should definitely check out her more detailed article, here.