Warn your kids!

A heads up from Fort Lauderale criminal attorney, John Contini:
 When I was a teenager and young adult ... I did most of the things I'm talking about here; but back then, these things were misdemeanors - meaning minor offenses that don't typically result in jail sentences ... but TODAY, these are ALL felonies, punishable by lengthy state prison terms!
This is one reason why the United States now leads the world in prison population, and on that note, Florida happens to lead the nation in the highest number of people incarcerated per capita. I'm writing this because most people today have no idea how easy it is to end up in jail. I'm seeing everyday regular people getting indicted and going to jail for what most of us have done at one time or another in our lives. The feds (and law enforcement generally) are "criminalizing" everything, and even scarier than that, they are increasing the "mandatory minimum" prison sentences for almost EVERYTHING, even after upgrading all these crimes earlier from misdemeanors to felonies. The biggest boom in the construction industry these days, involves the construction of new prisons throughout Florida, followed by jails and prisons throughout this country. These jails and prisons are now being "privatized" and run by Wackenhut and their competitors, proving that this is now very lucrative, big business!

"Do your kids know what to do if ...?"

Let's just ask them:
1. What do you do if your friend mentions something illegal on the phone?
Answer: Start breathing heavily and suggestively into the phone … (not!)
Better answer: Talking about something illegal is a crime called "conspiracy," and people are arrested and indicted almost daily for the crime of conspiracy. The only way to avoid arrest and indictment for wire fraud (at a minimum), and any number of other charges relating to the actual suggested conduct, is to rebuke your friend immediately. If you even joke that you might agree to participate, you can and will be indicted, depending on who is listening, and then you're forced to tell a jury one day that you were only kidding.
2. What do you do if a friend pulls dope out in your car?
Answer: Brake abruptly while jamming his head into the passenger side dashboard.
Better answer: Pull over and get your friend and the dope out of your car immediately - the only exception: the friend can stay, if the dope gets dumped immediately out of your car. Why? You can be arrested for "constructive possession" even if you are NOT the one holding the drugs. It is only required for your conviction of this crime, that the drugs be "within" your "reach and proximity," and that you had "knowledge" of the presence of the drugs, and "knowledge" of the "illicit" nature of the contraband, period.

It is NOT required for your conviction that you touched the drugs, or that you tried to use the drugs, or that you intended to use the drugs. Two things are also possible even for the person who does NOT do drugs: either your friend is working with the police in an undercover capacity (after an earlier arrest), and you are being inappropriately set up, or at a minimum, your drug-possessed friend is putting YOU at risk of arrest on a charge of constructive possession.

3. What do you do if you're at a party and the other kids pull out the drugs?
Answer: Strike the junkies repeatedly on or about the head! (Do not do this, as I was only attempting to be humorous)
Better answer: Get out of that party immediately. When the police arrive (pursuant to a warrant or just an anonymous and yet corroborated "tip," those in actual possession of the drugs will NOT be the only ones arrested. That's right - YOU will be arrested too (based on the same laws pertaining to "constructive possession," defined above); and yes, later you'll have your chance in court to explain that you were only hanging out ("mere presence" defense) there at the party, had no intention of using the drugs, you're actually innocent, etc.

We are supposed to be "innocent until proven guilty," but who really believes that anymore? Too often today, we're guilty until proven innocent," so if you don't mind getting arrested, sitting in jail for a night or longer (until paying through friends and family for a bond), and going through a stressful trial in hopes of getting exonerated/acquitted one day, then stay at the party with the drugs.
4. What do I do or say if I'm pulled over?
Answer: Pray.
The legal answer: Be very polite, respectful, maintain eye contact with the officer and always say "yes officer," or "yes Sir," or yes Maam," while never making a face as to disbelief in what he or she is saying. Apologize for causing the officer to make the traffic stop, with something like, "I'm sorry officer, I didn't mean to mess up," or similar words of contrition, assuming you're not one of those few people on the planet who are "mistakenly" pulled over. (Let's face it, more often than not you know why you're being pulled over.) It's best to personify humility and respect, if you would like to have the discretionary option of receiving a "warning" as opposed to a ticket! This works almost every time, though most people in this increasingly rude society today wouldn't know. Surprise the officer - show him/her that YOU are a refreshingly nice throwback to a couple of decades ago when basic civility and manners were a good thing, and respect for law enforcement was a value worth trumpeting.

5. What do you do if you're sexually molested?
Answer: This question is too serious to allow for levity. Do not wash up or clean up, as you must help to preserve the evidence of the crime. Your body is essentially the crime scene. Tell the police immediately (even if you are related to, or friends with, the person who did this to you), and get to the hospital or Sexual Assault Treatment Center as soon as possible! There are "forensic" (legal-scientific) reasons that require your physical presence and evaluation at the treatment center or hospital; so please, for your sake, get some help immediately. There may be traces of hair, saliva, semen or blood from which the experts can obtain a decent DNA sample, allowing for identification, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrator. Call your parents and loved ones as soon as possible, as they only want to help you. They will not judge you, as they love you, and want you to receive immediate help!
These crimes can often occur as a result of victims being drugged. ("roofies," GHB and other dangerous narcotics can essentially knock you out or so disorient you, that you "pass out" and cannot stop the sexual assault. If you're in a bar or nightclub - or even at a date's house or a friend's party, and someone brings you a drink (even a nonalcoholic drink), do NOT drink it, unless you watched the bartender, friend or "date" make the drink right in front of you. If you didn't watch the drink being poured - or if you took your eyes off the drink before taking possession of it (or if you leave it unattended for a moment, then you are clueless as to what was then put in it! This crime ("rape") is different than "date rape," and yet it's just as pervasive. It occurs with enough frequency that it is becoming epidemic in some parts of the country.
5. What do you do if you're asked to take a breathalyzer test?
Answer: Inquire as to whether the officer knows if a 2 pencil is required for this test.
Better answer: If you were not drinking alcohol, take the breath test. Why? If you refuse to take the breathalyzer/intoxilyzer test - and assuming the police officer had the requisite "cause" to request that you take the test, then you will suffer a "license revocation" of at least 12 months in most jurisdictions.
Also, a "refusal" to take the test in Florida, is now a separate crime - simply for the act of the "refusal." Yes, you're entitled to a hearing on this immediate revocation issue, but to be brutally honest with you, winning those hearings at the "Division of Drivers Licenses," is a crapshoot, at best! You are NOT before real judges at those administrative hearings, and that's the rub.
If you have been drinking - more than two beers as an example, then (first of all!) please do NOT drive; but unfortunately, if you use only 1/3 of your brain (!) and fail to follow that sage advice, then don't take the test. The odds are, you'll blow over the legal limit! Best bet: Call your parents or your sober friends, as they'll be more than happy to drive you home - and they'll agree in advance (most of them!), to NOT judge you. You'll end up saving thousands of dollars in legal fees, bail money, towing and storage charges, and a host of other fees and costs; and more importantly, you may even save a life - your own, or someone else's.
6. What do you do if you're arrested for anything?
Answer: Cry uncontrollably while offering to wash the officer's patrol car.
Better answer: Be respectful to the arresting officer and yet invoke your Constitutional rights - your "privilege against self incrimination" (5th Amendment), and your "right to counsel" (6th Amendment) … and how do you do that? Simply inform the officer that you would like to speak with your lawyer. If the officer persists in questioning you after you've already invoked your right to counsel, simply respond the same way you did initially, repeating your invocation of rights. There is no shame or inference of guilt by simply invoking your constitutional rights. Too many men and women have died in defense of this country to preserve these rights. Politicians invoke these rights every day, and you as an ordinary citizen have the same constitutional rights as anyone else.
7. What do you do if the police officer reads you your Miranda rights?
Answer: Tell 'em you don't know this Miranda dude.
Better answer: Invoke them, as just advised, regardless of guilt or innocence, and simply state that you would like to speak with an attorney; and yet be very respectful of the officers. They are in very stressful and dangerous jobs, and they need no additional aggravation or disrespect, even if making a false or mistaken arrest. If you witnessed someone else commit the crime, then that may be the only exception to this advice. In that case, you may choose to redirect the officer to the individual who actually committed the crime. No other response is necessary or advisable.
8. What do you do if you're given a deal (huge reduction in price) that seems too good to be true?
Answer: Tell the dirt bag, "I'm wired, so please speak a little louder?"
Better answer: If it seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be "true!" The odds are, the item being sold to you is stolen, and if you purchase or receive the item, you can be arrested for the felony charge of "receiving stolen property." The law will assume that you "knew" it was stolen, if it is being sold to you way below its market value. Use your common sense here, and yet I realize that this is a challenging area for a lot of us! "Common sense is not so common anymore."
9. What do you do if one of your friends is carrying a firearm?
Answer: Run! Seriously, that depends on whether they're pointing it at you. Actually, that wasn't entirely serious. The best answer is, that depends on whether your friend has a permit for "carrying a concealed firearm." Ask them if they have one, and if they say they don't have one (and assuming you're outside the home where a permit is then necessary), then get away from them and their gun immediately. If they tell you that they DO have a permit to carry and conceal a firearm, ask them if you can see the permit and that you're simply curious as to what it looks like, etc. "Better to be safe than sorry," as the old saying goes. If they do NOT have a permit to carry and conceal the firearm (and again assuming you're outside the home where a permit is required), then they can be arrested for the felony offense of "carrying a concealed firearm," and you are at risk too, depending on the intentions of your friend.

In Florida, we have the law called "10-20-life," meaning you'll go to prison for a "mandatory minimum" prison sentence of 10 years, if you're convicted of being involved in a felony offense involving a firearm; and if that firearm is discharged (goes off!) during the commission of the felony, you're getting 20 years (mandatory minimum!) upon a conviction; and if someone gets shot when the gun goes off and you end up getting convicted, you're getting "life!" Florida doesn't play around.
Other states are following suit. You need to know about these lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences, BEFORE you hang around with anyone who illegally carries a firearm and an "attitude" - you know the type, the guys who have that temperament to cavalierly, inappropriately and illegally use the gun!
10. What do you do if you're punched or slapped by somebody?
Answer: Smack 'em back!
OK, the real answer? Call the police immediately, and then your parents, who may want to file a lawsuit against the dirt bag who punched you, depending on whether the idiot has any assets.
11. What do you do if you're in an accident?
Answer: blame the other guy no matter what, since that's what everyone else is doing.
The better answer: Call 911 and get emergency medical help immediately, assuming you're physically able. You may be in shock and in trauma, and your injuries may not fully manifest themselves or be apparent to you for some time - or until after the shock and trauma wears off ; so again, 'better to be safe than sorry," and allow the paramedics to observe and treat you! Call your parents from your cell phone as soon as possible after the accident, and give them your location.

Be aware of the witnesses to the accident and attempt to prevail upon the witnesses to provide you with their names and contact information. Do NOT leave the scene under any circumstances before the police and paramedics arrive, lest you be arrested for the crime of "leaving the scene of an accident." It will be a felony charge of "leaving the scene of an accident with injuries," if someone is injured in the accident.
12. If the guy who hits me has no insurance, why can't I just get more money from my own insurance company to cover all my damages and injuries?
Answer: When you get an insurance policy today and pay for certain "bodily injury" limits, then those are the "limits," period, unless you paid extra ($) for what they call "uninsured motorist" or "underinsured motorist" coverage; and unfortunately, you absolutely need this extra "UM" coverage these days, since there are so many dirt bags out there on the road. In South Florida, the odds are great (approximating 70%!) that if you get in an accident, the other guy will be an "uninsured" or "underinsured" driver - so you'd better have "UM" coverage - since your own injuries will often exceed the limits under your policy; and this is the reason "why," by law, your own company must offer you "UM" coverage up to the same limits as your "bodily injury" coverage - and better for you, before they can escape paying you these "UM" benefits, they have to produce a "rejection form" (approved by the Insurance Commissioner) proving that they offered you these benefits when you took out the policy … and that you "rejected" them at that time.

You'd be surprised at how many people are clueless (like too many lawyers too!) as to this critically important issue - people who could have received far more money under their claims, had they known of this extremely important requirement under the law, people who never "rejected" this coverage "in writing" at the time of their policies, people who were never properly advised of this all-important coverage at the time of their insurance policy application - people who absolutely would have received a whole lot more money, had they only hired a lawyer who knew how to proceed.
13. What do you do if an insurance adjuster calls you about your accident?
Answer: Hang up immediately. (Just kidding, though you can bet it won't be that cute little geico-lizard on the phone)
Better answer: Call John Contini, that nice Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, who might just be honest enough to give you some free advice, worth a penny more than what it costs you! You'll get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, knowing you helped the nice lawyer who has kids to support and college tuition around the corner, etc. 954-766-8810 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 954-766-8810 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
14. What do I have to do to get my record sealed or expunged?
The latest: Florida legislature has recently carved out many more new exceptions into the applicable sealing statute today, disallowing a sealing of your record for any offense that involves sexual allegations or violence. There are fewer and fewer crimes that are now eligible for sealing.
You understand that even if you are eligible to have your arrest record sealed (meaning that your arrest did not involve a crime of violence or allegations of sexual misconduct), the sealing of your record only blocks access by a public party seeking information from public records. The Clerk of Court will place your sealed record, without destroying it, in a special secured area so that public access to your records is denied without a person obtaining a Court Order to unseal your record and file. Alternatively, if you are eligible to expunge your record, your record is destroyed by the Clerk's office and police agencies. However, your records are still held by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for future references by law enforcement or the Courts.
You need to know that the process of sealing and expunging your arrest records is a long, tiresome and tedious process, involving a half dozen law enforcement agencies including FDLE, the involved county and city police departments, the Clerk's office, the prosecutor's office and the Court, and this hemmoroidal process (too often an administrative nightmare) may take several months - at a minimum to complete.
Check out http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/expunge if you would like to get this thing done for free, God willing, thereby avoiding the quiet and festering resentment you'll no doubt feel for lining the pockets of nice lawyers like me. Seriously, I wish you the absolute best.

© 2008 John Contini (OK to re-post with attribution and contact info)
John P. Contini & Associates, P.A.
1112 SE 3rd Ave.
Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
john@jpcontini.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots.
Office: 954.766.8810
For book orders:
www.DangerRoadtheBook.com 800.957.6476
EBooks are now available!

Please feel free to call me anytime and tell me of your problem or concerns, and if I can offer any decent and informative, free advice, I am more than happy and even privileged to be of help.
I truly hope that you can hear my heart in all this - that I would LOVE to be of help, even if this means only on the phone providing you with hopefully some good information or advice!
A friend,
John Contini

John P. Contini & Associates, P.A.
1112 SE 3rd Ave.
Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
Office: 954.766.8810
Advocates for Abandoned Adolescents - Our Mission is to do better!

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