DNA testing has revolutionized the way that crimes are solved since its inception. Through its use within law enforcement, those accused of certain crimes can be identified and charged accordingly by matching DNA found at crime scenes to the suspect's DNA. Additionally, innocent people can be exonerated of crimes based on the fact that their DNA does not match what was found on the victim or at a crime scene. Specifically with regards to sexual crimes, the advances in DNA testing have led to many sexual predators being taken off the streets, and allowed others who have been accused but who are innocent a chance to walk free.
Twelve Miami-Dade County jurors recently deliberated on whether a man should be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty for his crimes. The reason that this case is historic is that it is the first time in Miami that a death-penalty case went to a sentencing hearing since the state of Florida changed the rules all together for awarding the death penalty to certain criminals. In this particular case, instead of send this convicted killer to Death Row, the jury chose mercy through a sentence of life in prison.
In early July, a Florida man entered a pond in Brevard County and drowned. Standing nearby was a group of five teens that recorded the entire incident on video. Instead of seek help for the man, who they taunted and cursed at while he struggled in the water, the teens simply let him drown without calling for help or trying to assist the man. Additionally, the teens did not report the incident to authorities, but they did post the video of the death on social media. While the victim's family was filing a missing persons report, unsure of where their loved one was at the time, the teens showed no remorse as witnesses to a drowning. The body of the man was located a few days later, and police were able to link the teens' video to the man's death.
Miami is an epicenter of fraud related to government-run healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Each year, we see medical facility and pharmacy owners, doctors, and even hospital systems wrapped up in fraudulent billing or referral practices. Just this summer, there have been two major fraud-related crackdowns that have affected a wide network of assisted-living facilities here in Miami. These stories show the intricacies and details of how serious this issue is here in South Florida.
Health care fraud crackdowns initiated to catch those who defraud within the health care industry are common, but a couple of the most recent crackdowns have targeted one segment of the industry in particular that some may argue Florida desperately needs to be clean and honest. The drug and addiction treatment industry exists to support recovering drug and alcohol addicts who come to the facilities ideally to seek treatment and rid themselves of a dangerous addiction in order to live a healthier life. However, through evidence collected during one local and one national crackdown, a dark picture of the operation of these facilities has emerged.
Recently, the news reported that the U.S. Coast Guard seized 150 pounds of cocaine off of a fishing boat. The boat came into the RMK Merrill-Stevens Shipyard in Miami from Nassau, Bahamas, and the drugs were found during a routine inspection. Authorities in connection with the drug smuggling detained five people.
A Miami Gardens man was arrested recently, accused of threatening the life of State Representative Jose Felix Diaz. The threat was posted on the defendant's Facebook page and read, "I'll kill your ass and you better not show up to the next REC meeting."
When it comes to charging youth offenders as adults, Florida ranks at the top in the nation. From 2003-2008, Florida transferred juveniles into the adult system two times the amount that the state with the second highest amount of youths charged as adults transferred them into the adult courts. From 2008-2012, over 12,000 Florida children were transferred into the adult criminal justice system. Some may argue that this is because the punishments in the juvenile system for youth offenders are not nearly tough enough, and many offenders under the age of 18 who commit violent crimes deserve a harsher sentence through the adult courts. Others argue that you cannot charge juveniles as adults due to differences in brain development, and the stark reality that many youth offenders who go into the adult system are more often abused and have higher recidivism rates.
We've all heard the defense, "I plead the fifth!" But what exactly does the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution mean for the accused? The statement of "pleading the fifth" simply means that someone accused of a crime has a right to not self-incriminate by saying something that could be used against them in a court of law. In other words, the U.S. Bill of Rights protects individuals from being compelled to be witnesses against themselves. Usually, this means that if you are arrested, you do not have to say anything to law enforcement regarding your involvement in the crime, and you will not be required to testify on the stand at your own trial. However, with modern technology such as smart phones containing so much personal information these days, how are the courts handling the possibility that a defendant's iPhone, locked by personal passcode, may contain information that could incriminate him/her?