All posts by Matthew Ladd

About Matthew Ladd

Federal Criminal Attorney practicing in Miami-Dade County with our office in Coral Gables. Matthew Ladd is a former prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. He is a graduate of Syracuse University College of Law and received his bachelor's degree from Marshall University.

Hate Crimes are Criminal Actions Intended to Harm or Intimidate People

Hate crimes are criminal actions intended to harm or intimidate people because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or other minority group status. They are also referred to as bias crimes. Last October, a gay couple went to Burger King located in South Beach, Fl. Raymond Ortega, a gay bartender, and Toni Llerena, a transgender woman, were eating when an employee ordered them to leave and called them “f—ing faggots.” When they protested, a security guard repeated the slur, sprayed Ortega with mace and beat him, busting his jaw and seriously injuring his knee, they say.

The two have now filed a lawsuit against Burger King over the October incident, which left Ortega walking with a limp and with more than $10,000 in dental bills. Their lawyers, Matthew Ladd and Robert Pelier, say once Burger King reveals the names of the employee and the security guard, they plan to report the attack to Miami-Dade prosecutors. Authorities do file charges under Florida’s hate-crime law. Ladd said the Miami-based restaurant chain has surveillance video of the attack. “These two are going to get justice,” Ladd said of his clients. “We are going to hold everyone accountable.”

SANTA NEEDS A LAWYER AND SHOULD TAKE THE FIFTH

According to the next of kin, “Grandma” was “found at the scene of the attack on Christmas morning. She had hoof-prints on her forehead, and incriminating Claus marks on her back”.

They seem certain that she was run over by a reindeer.  It is only a matter of time before detectives will want to speak to the only person who owns reindeer and uses them as his primary means of transportation.  “The Claus marks on her back” could well be something that is unique only to Mr. Kringle.

If the attack happened in Florida, Santa is facing a maximum 30 years in prison!  It seems he left the scene of an accident and will likely be accused of causing her death.

Traffic laws apply to animals being used as transportation just like if they are cars (316.073).  If Santa failed to leave his contact information he’s looking at a four-year minimum mandatory sentence and a three-year license suspension in addition to a maximum 30 years in prison.

Don’t lose the Christmas spirit yet.   The case hinges on the State being able to prove who was actually driving the reindeer that night.  Was it Santa?  Did they just get loose? Was it an elf or anyone else?   It doesn’t seem that anyone actually saw it happen, they just assumed.

If Santa is questioned and admits to driving- or the police think he was the driver- he will be arrested and may not be allowed to bail out since he is a foreign national of the North Pole (a country which the United States does not have any diplomatic relations or the ability to extradite).

Santa has nothing to gain from talking and should definitely take the Fifth.  He has the right to remain silent, let’s just hope he has the ability!

Assuming he was driving and did run over Grandma, there’s still hope with the right defense.  The State has to prove that he actually killed Grandma beyond a reasonable doubt.  With the cold temperature, a medical examiner is going to have a lot of trouble determining the time of death.

It’s not such a stretch to wonder if Grandma staggered outside side (apparently after too much spiked eggnog), collapsed, and froze to death.  If Grandma was already dead, Santa didn’t cause her death.  That reason to wonder is reason to doubt and a jury can’t find him guilty.

The lesson: with the right defense Christmas can be saved!

The Lyrics:

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
She’d been drinking too much eggnog
And we begged her not to go
But she forgot her medication
And she staggered out the door into the snow
When we found her Christmas morning
At the scene of the attack
She had hoof-prints on her forehead
And incriminating Claus marks on her back
Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
Now we’re all so proud of grandpa
He’s been taking this so well
See him in there watching football
Drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel
It’s not Christmas without Grandma
All the family’s dressed in black
And we just can’t help but wonder
Should we open up her gifts
Or send them back (send them back)
Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
Now the goose is on the table
And the pudding made of fig
And the blue and silver candles
That would just have matched the hair on grandma’s wig
I’ve warned all my friends and neighbors
Better watch out for yourselves
They should never give a license
To a man who drives a sleigh
And plays with elves
Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
Singin’ grandpa
Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
Merry Christmas
Songwriters: Randy Brooks

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Flat Rate Evictions

Flat Rate Evictions

We offer flat-rate eviction services for landlords that needed to start their evictions yesterday. The process of eviction takes attention to detail and needs to be done right or risk being fined for a wrongful eviction.

For our reasonable flat-rate attorney’s fee of $500 we start the process by sending the required three-day notice. If the tenant isn’t out or doesn’t pay within the three-days we file the complaint and serve it with our private process servers. Generally, our process servers get the complaints served within 24 hours.

From there, the tenants have five days to move, pay, or we get the court order to force them out with the sheriff. Get started now before they owe you another day of unpaid rent!

Call today 305-665-3978.

*Amounts don’t reflect court filing fees, process server fees, and other associated costs. The typical eviction costs between $500-$750 with costs. Amounts discussed herein relate to actions for possession only. Pursuit of unpaid rent, after obtaining possession, is optional and may be performed on an hourly or contingency basis. Nothing contained herein should be considered legal advice and does not form the basis for an attorney-client relationship. Call today to inquire.

Here’s What’s Wrong With a 9-Year-Old Bringing a Gun to School

It’s a crime in Florida to give a weapon to a someone under 18-years-old unless the child’s parents consent. (Fla. Stat. 790.17). It’s also a crime to leave a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of minor unless the gun is stored in a securely locked box or container or in a location which is reasonably secure or locked with a trigger lock. Taking a gun within 1,000 feet of a school or school sponsored activity is also a crime.

In Florida, a 9-year-old is generally considered too young to be responsible for his or actions and will likely avoid prosecution for bringing the gun to school or hiding it in his backpack. However, if the parents let the boy have “easy access” to the gun, they could be looking at up to sixty days in jail. Had someone died, the parents would certainly be faced with a lawsuit and possibly even criminal negligence.

Florida law prohibits the carrying of a firearm if it’s concealed without a special permit. Carrying a firearm or weapon in plain view- therefore not concealed and in “the ordinary sight of another person” is not a crime until it is improperly exhibited in front of at least one person, and if the person carrying it is of-age or has the minor’s parents permission. However, no matter how hold you are, it’s illegal to improperly exhibit the weapon or even bring it to school. The law defines “improper exhibition” as displaying the gun in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening way. Pointing the gun at someone, unless you’re acting in reasonable self-defense, will probably earn you a night in the slammer at the very least. Unfortunately, the nine-year-old learned that too. The law allows the State to hold him in “secure detention” for up to 21 days and requires a psych evaluation.

The offense, if committed by an adult or a minor charged as an adult would be looking at a five year maximum felony prison sentence.

The take away- don’t let your kids take your guns to school because it could wind you both behind bars.

Source – Miami Herald

Financial Abuse of the Elderly

Elderly Abuse is defined as financial or material exploitation and the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. Financial exploitation of the elderly has become so rampant throughout the years that it has been referred to as “the crime of the 21st century”.  As we age, we change physically, emotionally and mentally and this can make it easier for people to take advantage of us. According to a 2011 Study of Financial Elder Abuse by Metlife, it was found that women are more likely to be victims of elderly abuse at the ages of 80 and 89.

Who commits elderly financial abuse?

It can be anyone, strangers, your closest family member, and friends.

Who is most likely to get financially exploited?

Elderly people who live in social isolation, or are experiencing declining mental or physical health are usually the ones most vulnerable to financial abuse.

What are the warning signs of elderly abuse?

There are multiple signs of financial elder abuse but because they are so subtle, most people overlook them. Even though elderly abuse has become the most common type of crime, it is also massively under reported. One of the reasons elderly abuse is under reported is that well-meaning onlookers are afraid to act unless they’re certain that abuse is occurring. These are some signs you can look out for when you suspect someone you know might be getting taken advantage of.

  1. Unexpected changes in bank account balances. Such as unauthorized or unexplained financial account withdrawals
  2. Disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
  3. Unanticipated transfer of assets to a family member or friend
  4. Forging or forcing an elderly person’s signature
  5. Getting an elder person to sign a deed, will, contract, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
  6. Promising long-term or lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
  7. Overcharging for or not delivering caregiving services
  8. Denying elder persons access to their money or preventing them from controlling their assets
  9. Sudden changes to a will or other important financial documents

Financial exploitation of the elderly isn’t just a legal issue, it can also cause mental trauma. Losing assets that they have accumulated over a lifetime of hard work and sometimes deprivation can cause great stress and devastation. Looking out for these signs will make it easier to protect your loved ones and to also report it if it is happening.      

If you know someone who is being exploited, we can help them recover their stolen property. Call ML Law now at: 305.665.3978

Coerced Confessions w/ Matt Ladd, Maggie Arias, Jeff Weiner, and Joe Stone

Lies. Truth. Some people live it, some people tell it, and some people mix both into one and don’t do either very well.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, it’s been said that there are three sides to every story: His, hers, and the truth.

No matter which category you fall into, there’s one thing you should never do: if you’re on the other side of the interrogation table, don’t talk. Not a single word, other than, “Lawyer.”

Remember, you have the right to remain silent. It’s your constitutional guarantee, and if you don’t use it, you could lose its benefit.

Confessions are not always accurate or truthful, but when coerced, the accused become their own worst enemy and the presumption of innocence is out the window.

When there is injustice for one, there is injustice for all. Welcome to Felony Miami. Let’s air it out.

Federal Money Laundering

The pattern jury instruction for the 11th Circuit (Miami) requires intent to lauder. Below is the exact instruction and some notes. If you are charged with Money Laundering get advice from an experienced lawyer.
O74.1
Money Laundering:
Promoting Unlawful Activity
18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i)
It’s a Federal crime to knowingly engage in certain kinds of financial transactions commonly known as money laundering.
The Defendant can be found guilty of this crime only if all the following facts are proved beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) the Defendant knowingly conducted or tried to conduct, a financial transaction;
(2) the Defendant knew that the money or property involved in the transaction were the proceeds of some kind of unlawful activity;
(3) the money or property did come from an unlawful activity, specifically [describe the specified unlawful activity alleged in
the indictment]; and
(4) the Defendant was involved in the financial transaction with the intent to promote the carrying on of that specified unlawful activity.
To “conduct a transaction” means to start or finish a transaction, or to participate in a transaction at any point.
A “transaction” means a purchase, sale, loan, promise, gift, transfer, delivery, or other disposition of money or property.
[A transaction with a financial institution also includes a deposit, withdrawal, transfer between accounts,
exchange of currency, loan, extension of credit, use of a safe deposit box, or purchase or sale of any stock, bond, certificate of deposit, or other monetary instrument.]
A “financial transaction” means –
[a transaction that in any way or to any degree affects interstate or foreign commerce by sending or moving money by wire or other means.]
or
[a transaction that in any way or to any degree affects interstate or foreign commerce by involving one or more “monetary instruments.” The phrase “monetary instruments” includes coins or currency of any country, travelers or personal checks, bank checks or money orders, or investment securities or negotiable instruments in a form that allows ownership to transfer on delivery.]
or
[a transaction that in any way or to any degree affects interstate or foreign commerce by involving the transfer of title to any real property, vehicle, vessel, or aircraft.]
or
[a transaction involving the use of a financial institution that is involved in interstate or foreign commerce, or whose activities affect interstate or foreign commerce, in any way or degree. The phrase “financial institution: includes [give appropriate reference from 31 U.S.C. § 5312(a)(2) or the regulations promulgated under it]].
“Interstate or foreign commerce” means trade and other business activity between people or businesses in at least two states or between people or businesses in the United States and people or businesses outside the United States.
To “know that the money or property involved in the transaction came from some kind of unlawful activity” is to know that the money or property came from an activity that’s a felony under state, federal, or foreign law.
The term “proceeds” means any property derived from or obtained or retained, directly or indirectly, through some form of unlawful activity, including the gross receipts of the activity.
The term “specified unlawful activity” means [describe the specified unlawful activity listed in subsection (c)(7) of the statute and alleged in the indictment].
The term “with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity” means that the Defendant must have [conducted] [attempted to conduct] the financial transaction for the purpose of making easier or helping to bring about the “specified unlawful activity” as just defined.

ANNOTATIONS AND COMMENTS
18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1) provides:
Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity – –
(A)(i) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful
activity [shall be guilty of an offense against the United States]. Maximum Penalty: Twenty (20) years imprisonment and applicable fine. In United States v. Cancelliere, 69 F.3d 1116 (11th Cir. 1995), the Court held that although proof of willfulness is not a statutory element of money laundering, where the indictment expressly charged willfulness, the District Court erred in not giving the usual instruction on willfulness (Basic Instruction 9.1A).
The term “proceeds” in 18 U.S.C. § 1956 was expressly defined by the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (“FERA”), Pub. L. No. 111-21, effective May 20, 2009. The FERA expanded the concept of monetary proceeds, for purposes of enforcing prohibitions against money laundering, to include gross receipts. See 18 U.S.C. § 1956(c)(9).
The FERA was a direct response to United States v. Santos, 128 S. Ct. 2020 (2008). In
Santos, a plurality of the U.S. Supreme Court held that the definition of the term “proceeds” in 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) refers to “profits” rather than “receipts” when applied to a prosecution arising from an illegal stand-alone gambling operation. Until the FERA, the definition of “proceeds” in the money laundering statute remained unclear. The Eleventh Circuit has construed the fragmented Santos opinion narrowly. In United States v. Demarest, 570 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. 2009), a case in which the trial took place prior to the FERA’s enactment, the Court noted:
Santos has limited precedential value… The narrow holding in [the case], at most, was that the gross receipts of an unlicensed gambling operation were not ‘proceeds’ undersection 1956…Id. at 1242.

Source: Miami Herald

Marijuana Possession is Hardly a Crime Anymore, but Since It’s the Cops Choice You Can Still Be Charged

Source

Miami-Dade County has passed an ordinance that gives police officers the option of issuing a $100 citation (like a parking ticket) for small amounts of marijuana possession.  As long as you possess less than 20 grams (about 36 joints depending on the size) you could have the bitter sweet luck of getting a ticket for $100 instead of a criminal charge.  The thinking is that it can save a lot of kids from getting rap sheets and the also free up police to focus on more serious crimes.

But depending on the officer’s mood (and most likely what you do to influence the officer’s mood being respectful vs. being disrespectful) will likely determine if you get the citation vs. getting arrested.  The law on the books says that possession is a first-degree misdemeanor which means the charge carries a maximum one-year in jail and up to a $1000 fine.  Also, if you are convicted (and only 2% of people are) you could lose your license for two years.

Marijuana laws may be becoming a little less harsh but are still serious if you have prior offenses in your criminal record, possess at or near schools, or sell it.  If you know someone that has been charged, it’s a good idea to call an experienced criminal lawyer right away.

Sexual Assault & What You Can Do About It

Weinstein, Sheen, Franken, and now Charile Rose. Treating women right is a hot topic in the news. Ever wonder why Bill Cosby is facing criminal charges others end up paying settlements?

I’ve won cases involving rape and child molestation in both civil and criminal courts and during university investigations. Sexual assault is as serious as it sounds. First, there is a horrible accusation. Next, it needs to be verified or somehow corroborated. Then with the evidence available, a criminal case may be put together if the facts can convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. If memories fade or there isn’t enough evidence to convince a jury that consent was lacking, then all that may be left is a civil suit to try and recover something from someone that contributed to the assault. Just because the evidence doesn’t support a criminal case doesn’t mean the victim is out of options.

First and foremost, sexual assault in Florida is known as “Sexual Battery” and/or “Lewd or Lascivious Battery”. The crime is characterized by the degree of the touching- exactly what touched what and how exactly if there was penetration. The offense is further characterized by the victim. Was she (or he) under 12 or over 65. Was the victim forced or unaware? Was a weapon involved? Did the act cause great bodily harm or pain, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement?

Sexual battery requires that the accused (1) penetrated or has contact with the sexual organ of the victim (including the anus) or mouth of the victim, (2) without the victim’s consent. Lewd and Lascivious Battery is pretty much the same as sexual battery but consent isn’t the issue, the age of the victim is.
An important distinction is that the age of consent is technically 18 in Florida. However, if two teenagers engage in consensual intercourse, so long as one is 16 years-old or older and the other is 24 or younger then they should be protected by the State’s Romeo and Juliet Law (Fla. Stat. 794.05).

What exactly is “consent”?  It’s defined as an “intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission”. Consent does not mean the failure of the victim to offer physical resistance to the offense either.

The criminal case hinges on the state’s ability to prove the elements of touching and a lack of consent for a sexual battery beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt. For a lewd and lascivious, the state needs to prove the touching and that the act occurred when the parties were within the necessary age ranges beyond a reasonable doubt.
With most of the cases making news today involving the celebrities in Hollywood, reporters, and politicians its very likely that the time allowed to bring the suit has passed or there isn’t sufficient evidence to corroborate the allegation. Assuming there’s still time to bring charges (and there are a lot of factors to determine if a criminal case can be brought beyond the usual time-limits) then the next issue goes to corroboration to enhance the believability of the accusation. Did the victim mention the attack to someone shortly after it happened? Or is the report delayed by weeks, months, or years? The more time passes the more a jury is going to wonder what took so long to speak up. Memories fade, “the when, where, -why, who-else-saw-something” all get harder to prove with the certainty required.

In addition to the testimony as evidence, what about fluid samples, hair collections, evidence of struggle like blood, scars, bruising, the perpetrators skin under nails, broken bones, and the location where the struggle took place to corroborate the allegation, etc? All that evidence helps a jury know that they are making the right decision. If they don’t have it, the jury is left to wonder why.

Assuming there is a party that bears some responsibility for the assault, and that party (or those parties) have the ability to compensate the victim, it may be possible to get a money judgment against them. In a civil lawsuit, the victim doesn’t have to prove the attack beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury only needs to be convinced that it is more likely than not that it happened. If a condominium complex allowed someone on the property that they should have known was a threat, or even a nursing home, school, after-school activity, employer, etc., the organization could be a contributing cause to the battery.
Maybe they failed to provide adequate security, hired without doing the necessary background or supervision, or didn’t supervise the staff that was doing thing they should have been able to prevent. All of those things could be negligence if whatever they did or didn’t do wasn’t reasonable. If a jury agrees, it could be a big judgment to compensate for the sexual assault.

Every case is different and speaking to a lawyer who has successfully won in both criminal and civil court is a good place to start to see if you have a claim.

Nothing contained herein should be considered formal legal advice or the formation of the attorney-client relationship. Call us for more information or to schedule an appointment. 305-665-3978.

You Don’t Need A Florida License, unless…

My phone has been ringing off the hook with people that have been charged for not having a Florida Driver’s License. It seems that police are mistakenly charging people with the criminal offense even when they don’t need a license.

If you are visiting Florida from another state or from another country your driver’s license issued out-of-state (or in the other country) will work just fine to allow you to drive here.

However, Florida requires that you get a Florida Driver’s License if you work in Florida or have kids enrolled in school here. If you are married to someone who works here or who has children enrolled in school here, you will need one too.

Florida Law allows thirty days from the start of work or from when they enrolled their kids in school to get licensed.

If you are charged and get a Florida License, then the State generally dismisses the charge because of your compliance. If you go back to your out-of-state/ country home and don’t come to court, you will probably get a warrant and could be arrested next time you come to Florida or possibly in any state.

Failure to have a Florida License when required is a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail and up to a $500 fine.

If you hire an attorney, it is possible to resolve the matter and explain that you aren’t required to have a Florida Driver’s License. If you have been wrongfully charged, call us, 305-665-3978.

I’ve included Florida statute 322.031 for your reference.