Category Archives: Law: Criminal Law

Florida Voters: Sign the ‘Make It Legal Florida’ Petition

There’s a petition campaign being conducted by Make it Legal Florida to amend the Florida state Constitution to make possession and use of small quantities of marijuana legal under Florida law.

I strongly support this change: the war on pot has criminalized too many people, disproportionately poor.  The pot war also creates contempt for the law among an ever-larger population, one that thinks the ban is ridiculous and which thinks nothing of flouting the marijuana laws routinely. Also pernicious is the excuse, real or feigned, of ‘smelling marijuana’ that has justified a large number of law enforcement searches that would otherwise be illegal and, in poorer areas, would otherwise be seen as the discriminatory and coercive actions they are.  (Wait until we have driverless cars and the ‘erratic lane change’ and ‘failure to signal’ excuses go out the window….)

While pot use may not be totally safe, and has little appeal for me, it doesn’t seem as dangerous or addictive as alcohol, which is legal for adults, nor for that matter (as far as we know) tobacco, which is still legal for the moment. Bans on pot, and arguably other drugs also, not only motivate and finance organized crime, they divert police resources from more important public safety issues. The large profits available in the illicit drug trade is a major source of potential corruption in law enforcement — although to be fair this is likely more true of harder drugs where the public health consequences of legalization would be more fraught.

Normally, you would expect this sort of change by legislation.  But Florida is a 50/50 state which has a large gerrymandered Republican majority in the legislature.  As a result, state constitutional amendments are often the only way to get progressive proposals adopted, even when they have as wide popular support as this one. Thus, in Florida purism about what does and doesn’t belong in a Constitution needs to be relaxed considerably from the ideal.

Crassly, putting a pot amendment on the 2020 ballot should also motivate increased turnout from younger voters, something which is usually good for progressive candidates. So that’s another reason for registered Florida voters (only) to download, sign, and mail the petition.

The petition contains a summary, reflecting what would be on the ballot. The full text of the amendment is also online.

Posted in Florida, Law: Criminal Law, Politics: 2010 Election | 1 Comment

Miami is #1!

…. in fraud. And according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission last year Florida was home to 18 of the country’s top 50 cities for consumer fraud.

This is both unsurprising and misleading.  It’s unsurprising because something about the Florida lifestyle seems to attract smooth-talking grifters (the less smoothing-talking ones go into local politics).  But it’s misleading because it only measures garden variety consumer fraud; to do fraud on an epic scale requires a bank.  Places like California (Wells Fargo) and New York (Wall St.) surely have us beat six ways from Sunday in that department. Unless of course the FTC counts those by victims too in which case we could well be #1 after all…

Posted in Law: Criminal Law | Leave a comment

We’ve Found Some Racially Unbiased Judges? (Updated)

I’m at the University of Florida Levin College of Law 2019 Technology, Media & Privacy Law (TMPL) Conference. One of the speakers, Michael Braga, pointed us to a series of articles on racial bias in judical sentencing in Florida (TL/DR: there’s a lot of it).

I found one of the articles online which included this arresting chart:

Click for bigger picture

Orange bars are length of sentences given to blacks, grey to whites.  The first column is all Florida judges.  Each subsequent column is some subgroup of judges, either all whites/all blacks, male whites/blacks.  The last column on the right–the only group that sentences both groups equally–is female black judges. Does this mean we should prioritize appointing black women as judges until we can figure out how to eradicate bias in other groups?

PS. And yes, I realize there are probably so few female black judges in Florida that that this might reflect the exceptional  personal characteristics of the ones who survived the sieving process that keeps them off the bench.  But there might well be more where they came from.

Update: A later speaker mentioned that while the black female judges were the most even-handed they also gave the longest sentences across the board.  So much so that a black defendant often might be better off appearing in front a white male judge even if that judge gave longer sentences to blacks than whites — because even the biased sentences were shorter overall.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law | Leave a comment

Battle Stations!

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has delivered a report to the Justice Department

This is the report about possible crimes. What we don’t know is whether there will be a second report direct to Congress on the (arguably more important?) counter-intelligence project about foreign attempts to influence the election, and perhaps even more reports.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, National Security, The Scandals | Leave a comment

Random Fact

Maryland has no statute of limitations for attempted rape, according to a web page at RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):

I mention this à propos de rien.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, Law: The Supremes, Politics: The Party of Sleaze | Leave a comment

Miami Beach to Criminalize Unlicensed Renting

Scene from anti-Airbnb protest in Barcelona.

The Miami Herald’s Kyra Gurney reports Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license. The city is banning unlicensed apartment rentals with a term of less than six months, which seems like a long time to me. Asheville, NC, for example, requires a minimum of a month’s lease, which seems enough to keep out the riffraff, preserve the character of neighborhoods, or whatever they are doing.

Anyway, Ms. Gurney and I had a nice talk about how you enforce a rule against short-term rentals which are commonly advertised and rented online, and a small fragment of that talk ended up near the end of her article.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, Miami, The Media | 1 Comment