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Pinellas among Florida counties with the highest arrest rates for drug possession

According to the the below referenced study, Pinellas County has one of the  highest arrest rates for drug possession charges  in the State of Florida.  Consequently, drug charges are one of the most common  cases that I handle in my Criminal Defense practice.  Contrary to the popular trend, even small amounts of marijuana are prosecuted as criminal offenses in all cities in Pinellas County and prosecuted as such by elected State Attorney Bernie McCabe.
The police Departments in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, and Largo all maintain an active narcotics investigative units and all the line officers are constantly on alert to make drug arrests.
Read more on the study here: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/pinellas-among-florida-counties-with-the-highest-arrest-rates-for-drug/2298511

DUI Wolf Pack To Roam Pinellas County

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies will hit the streets over the4th of July weekend.

Pinellas County, FL — Tampa Bay area residents with party plans in mind over the long holiday weekend may want to designate a driver. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has announced a DUI Wolfpack just in time for the 4th of July weekend.
According to the agency, the enhanced enforcement effort will begin around 7 p.m. on Friday, July 1 and continue until about 5 a.m.on Saturday. Multiple law enforcement agencies in Pinellas are taking part in the operation, meant to crackdown on impaired driving.
“This operation is part of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s ongoing commitment to reduce deaths, injuries and property damage associated with traffic crashes related to impaired driving,” the sheriff’s office wrote in an email to media. The goal of the operation, the agency said, is to raise awareness and educate people about the dangers of impaired driving.
The sheriff’s office hasn’t said what roads the pack intends to prowl, but said the focus will be on maintaining “a proactive profile over the July 4th holiday weekend on the highly traveled roadways in Pinellas County,” the email said.
Motorists who do drink too much to drive will find an alternative available to them. AAA and Bud Light have announced plans to operate their Tow 2 Go program over the entire weekend, starting Friday and ending early Tuesday morning. For more details, check out: Tow 2 Go Ready For 4th Of July 2016.

Criminal Arrest or Charge

One of the things my clients are most interested in is how their criminal arrest or charge will effect them going forward in this social media, internet driven world.  In Pinellas County, the booking photos of people in the Pinellas County Jail, are not released to the public at large, so shouldn’t be available to mugshots.com$ type scams — but they none the less show up sometimes.

Typically, I try to mitigate the damage of any charge my clients have, and start moving towards sealing or expunging the crime — if available for my client’s particular case and circumstances.

Here is an interesting article regarding consequences of criminal charges: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/opinion/have-you-ever-been-arrested-check-here.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Ffixes&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection&_r=0

Decriminalization for Marijuana in Tampa

Multiple media outlets reported on The Tampa City Council’s recent plan to begin decriminalization for marijuana amounts under 20 grams. Pot possession in Tampa may soon just be a civil ticket rather than a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1000 fine and a possible Drivers license revocation as it currently is under state law.  This mdecriminalization for marijuanaay mean that my clients here in Pinellas County will be still subject to arrest and criminal charges for the same behavior that is just punishable by a $75  fine in Hillsborough County.

This local plan to reduce marijuana from a criminal charge is very interesting and seems to be happening in various other Jurisdiction’s – like Tallahassee and Dade County.  It remains to be seen if the Florida legislature will follow the same path of decriminalization.  

See this Tampa Bay Times article for more details : http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/tampa-council-to-vote-on-decriminalizing-the-possession-of-small-amounts/2267689

City of St. Petersburg May Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

As reported in the local Media including Bay News 9, and the Tampa Bay Times, the St. Petersburg City Council discussed this week the possibility of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.  City Council Members talked about modeling the ordinance after similar ones in Leon and Miami-Dade counties, which would allow those who are cited to be fined $150 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense as instead of being arrested and charged with a criminal offense.

Currently in Pinellas County, as in the rest of the State of Florida except those areas that have decriminalized it, POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA, in an amount under 20 Grams, is called a 1st degree Misdemeanor, punishable under Florida Statute 893.13(6)(B)  by up to a year in jail and or a 1000 fine with optional conditions of probation, drug counseling, and a mandatory driver’s license revocation upon conviction.  This trend of making it “just a ticket” is an interesting trend and seems to be forging ahead on a local government level in an area that the Florida Legislature will not go even though is seems to be what many of the voters want.

This proposal probably would not affect any currently pending criminal possession charges, and of course may never actually become a local ordinance.  The County Council is attempting to contact the Pinellas County Commission to see if they will enact a County wide Municipal Ordinance that would work in all cities and the County areas as well.