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!
An Oklahoma zookeeper, who ran a big-cat shelter and billed himself as “Joe Exotic“, has been indicted and arrested for attempted murder-for-hire for attempting to hire multiple hitmen to kill the CEO of a an animal sanctuary in Florida. Joe “Exotic” Maldanado-Passage, 55, who ran a tiger petting zoo in Oklahoma, had a years-long feud with Carole Baskin, the CEO of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, regarding the efforts of animal sanctuaries to effectively boycott Exotic’s travelling zoo for what it claimed were harsh treatment of young tigers. Exotic had retaliated, which led to Baskin suing him, and being awarded judgment against him in excess of $1 million dollars. Exotic has allegedly offered to pay two different people to murder Baskin, but authorities were able to foil his efforts. He has previously made threats to Baskin, and even broadcast them himself on Youtube. The case is in the Federal system, presumably due to the interstate issues of his scheme.
Exotic has garnered some notoriety for his ill-fated campaigns for President and Governor of Oklahoma. Take a few minutes to watch, it’s indescribable…
Lois Riess, a possible serial killer who struck on Fort Myers Beach, has been captured. Authorities caught her in Texas on South Padre Island: a resort location about 45 minutes from the Mexican border. She faces charges for killing a tourist that resembled her on Fort Myers Beach, to assume her identity as she was hiding out for the murder of her husband in Minnesota. It remains to be seen if she will be transported to deal with her charges in Florida or Minnesota first. Her Lee County, FL case could potentially be a death penalty case, as it sounds like an intentional, pre-planned first degree murder, done with the intent to hide out from her earlier crimes. She was apparently captured when an alert restaurant employee recognized her and called authorities. She apparently missed the news that hiding out usually means laying low…
Ms. Riess was already the suspect in the murder of her husband in Minnesota. David Riess was found dead after he failed to show up for a fishing trip on March 23. His body was found in their home with multiple gunshot wounds, his car was missing, and money had been taken out of his business account and transferred to his personal account. Authorities allege Riess then forged his signature on checks which she cashed, totaling $11,000. She apparently made her way to Fort Myers Beach, identified Ms. Hutchinson due to her similarity of appearance, and then killed her and fled in her stolen vehicle. A nationwide search is underway, and Ms. Riess is believed to be armed and very dangerous.
As the legislative session neared a close last week, the Florida House and Senate reached a compromise to a bill that substantially changes the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. The new law would shift the burden from from the Defendant to the prosecutor at the pretrial hearing to prove that the case is strong enough to proceed against the Defendant. If Governor Scott signs the bill, the burden will no longer be on the Defendant at the ‘Stand Your Ground Hearing’.
Though both the House and Senate agreed that they wanted to put the burden on the prosecutor for the pretrial hearings, it wasn’t until the last day of session on Friday that both houses came to a compromise on what that burden should be. The Senate was pushing for a beyond a reasonable doubt standard, while the House position to use a clear and convincing standard ultimately won out. The bill will now go to Governor Scott’s desk to sign before it becomes law. It is expected he will sign it, as the bill garnered widespread Republican support in both houses of the legislature.
What does this change mean? The original ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, among other things, created a right of immunity from prosecution for people who use justifiable force to defend themselves. Unfortunately, the legislature did not clearly establish a procedure for determining when immunity was appropriate, that is, how do you know when force is justified so that a person cannot be prosecuted. Over the next 12 years, the courts formulated a procedure whereby a hearing would be held prior to the case going to trial. The courts put the burden on the Defendant to demonstrate that he was immune from prosecution.
The legislature has now essentially said, hey wait: the burden is on the state to prove a case. We didn’t establish immunity to burden the Defendant, or to remove the burden from the State… we created it to protect those who used force to defend themselves. This new law, if it is signed by the Governor, will put the burden on the prosecutors to demonstrate by clear and convincing the likelihood that the defendant was not justified in using force before they can put the defendant to trial (where they will still have the burden beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt).
While there was strong support for the bill, there was opposition from anti-gun activists, as well as from many prosecutors. The opposition from prosecutors may seem surprising from a generally conservative profession, but this bill directly affects them by making it more difficult to prosecute cases where use of force will be raised as a defense. It has been speculated that prosecution costs will rise, but the other effect of the bill may be to discourage prosecutors from proceeding on cases they are less likely to win. The cost may end up being a wash when all the factors come to bear, but only time will tell. In the meantime, this bill will definitely help people who claim justifiable use of force.
Governor Rick Scott has signed into law the bill amending the procedure for Florida’s death penalty. The new law requires a unanimous jury finding for the death penalty, in order for it to pass constitutional muster.