Lyft on Trial in Tampa, Florida

Judge or Jury will soon decide: Does a Lyft car meet the definition of taxicab?

*Lyft Technology on Trial in Tampa* Lyft ride sharing service is under attack by taxicab regulators. With Lyft, rides are arranged by smart phone app, drivers take no money from customers. fares are donations, riders can pay all of fare, part  or none  at all. Today in a Hillsborough County Courtroom, government offered to let a  driver pay  fines, but he refused the offer, opting for the jury trial.

Brave driver said, “We are not a cab,” he said. “We are not a transportation company. Lyft is a platform and I’m an independent contractor.” More information on the law in Tampa is here.

Here are a few Legal Definitions

Definition: “Taxicab” means any motor-driven Vehicle, equipped with a Taximeter, with a Capacity for 9 or less passengers, including the driver, for the transportation of For hire passengers, which Operates within Hillsborough County, but does not include Sight-seeing cars or buses, streetcars, or motor buses Operated pursuant to franchise. Taxicab includes the Taxicab classification of Standard Taxicab and Luxury Taxicab. Unless otherwise indicated, use of the word “Taxicab” within these Rules shall be meant to include “Standard Taxicabs” and “Luxury Taxicabs”, collectively. 

“Taximeter” means any internally mounted device that records and indicates a rate of fare measured by distance traveled, time traveled, waiting time, or extra passengers which has been inspected and sealed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and which has been calibrated to the approved rates promulgated by the Commission.



Tampa Computer Trial Attorney - Lawyer on Computers in Court

Tampa Computer Trial Attorney - Lawyer on Computers in Court

Law Enforcement and attorneys for the other side have a team working against you. Why not have your own Forensics Team working for you? More than ninety percent (90%) of documents are now created electronically, and less than thirty percent (30%) of those electronic documents are ever converted to paper. Rules on preserving electronically stored information and strategies to recover that data make having a Forensic eDiscovery team more important than ever before.

Tampa Computer Trial Attorney - Lawyer
Police have specialized equipment analyzing original digital media such as hard drives, disks, and flash drives, and optical disk drives in the computer forensics lab. There is special hardware and software that retrieves evidence from cell phones, including text messages (SMS) and pictures. For computers, specialized software is used to examine the computers and extract the evidence. We can too.

We use a team of attorney(s) and forensics expert(s) to help sort through data used in prosecution of federal indictments and state charges, fraud, hacking, theft of trade secrets, and other forms of cybercrimes.

With surge in popularity of mobile devices we can now forensically retrieve Information from mobile devices.  We also provide help in searching corporate e-mail, personal e-mail, Short Message Service (SMS) text messages, personal notes, calendar entries, photographs, address books, and inbound and outbound call logs. This type of information can be invaluable to prove certain facts for a case. 

Remember - an expert can help preserve the chain of custody and this data can then be used in litigation.

Computer in Court? Tell Me Your Story Toll Free 1-877-793-9290 .

Need To Know Facebook Personal Information Disclosures!

Court Order, Discovery, Facebook,  subpoena, account information, Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.280(b)(1)
Court Order Was Improper
What happens when employers get access to your Facebook profile? This seems to occur when disclosure is a condition of employment or part of the job interview process. Arguably, this is with consent. 

What happens when an opponent in court tries to force the enemy to grant access to a Facebook page or social graph? This can occur when a Court Order directs a reluctant person to disclose their online lives. When police or prosecutors want records from social media websites like Facebook, they need only comply with this procedure and get an appropriate Court Order. When private parties want information the process is similar. You can review your own Facebook information to see what is found in your account information:  How can I download my information from Facebook?

Facebook says, "We work with law enforcement where appropriate and to the extent required by law . . . ."

You may wonder; Does Facebook tell you that someone else is trying to get your account information? The answer is not always. The company tells us, "Facebook may notify users before responding to legal process as permitted by law." See . The exception occurs when certain laws allow companies to respond to subpoenas in secrecy.

"Facebook may notify users before responding to legal process as permitted by law."
Uncovering a witness' past using social media is a common tactic. These disclosures are granted under Florida law's fairly broad standard that the person must disclose relevant information or information reasonably likely to lead to relevant evidence. However, one court in Florida in a traffic accident case drew the line and called efforts by Defendants overly broad and probably amounted to a fishing expedition.

Facebook Court Order

One Florida Court ordered a user to produce information on:

  1. Counseling or psychological care  
  2. Photos, "likes" or videos 
  3. Relationships with her other children, both prior to, and following, the accident; 
  4. Relationships with other family members,  boyfriends, husbands, and/or significant others,  both prior to, and following the accident; 
  5. Mental health, stress complaints, alcohol use  or other substance use, both prior to and after,  the accident; 
  6. Postings relating to any  lawsuit filed 
Case Ruling:

"Under the basic principles for evaluating discovery in Florida, the party seeking discovery must establish that it is (1) relevant to the case's subject matter, and (2) admissible in court or reasonably calculated to lead to evidence that is admissible in court. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.280(b)(1); Langston, 655 So. 2d at 94. We agree . . . Defendants have not met this burden as to the requested discovery." 

Why did this Court decide the Facebook information was not relevant?

The court observed, "the requested discovery constitutes a fishing expedition. The defendant's attorney stated, "These are all things that we would like to look under the hood, so to speak, and figure out whether that's even a theory worth exploring." Even the magistrate acknowledged that relevancy might be a problem, noting that "95 percent, or 99 percent of this may not be relevant."


Five Legal Questions Answered Here:

What happens when an opponent in court tries to force the enemy to grant access to a Facebook page or social graph?

What happens when employers get access to your Facebook profile?

Does Facebook tell you that someone else is trying to get your account information?

How can I download my information from Facebook?

Does Facebook tell you that someone else is trying to get your account information?

History of Cell Phone Searches

Cell Phone Search Warrant
Search Warrant
Cell Phone
Up until quite recently, there were exceptions to the general requirement that police get a Search Warrant for a cell phone. Cell phones have been a window into suspects’ activities, as police used these exceptions to get their hands on information found inside mobile devices. Obtaining a Search Warrant for a cell phone is not that hard to do. You can review a Search Warrant for a Cell Phone here:  Here is an actual iPhone Search Warrant . GPS or Global Positioning Satellite information found in mobile phones has also been used by police. 

Up until around 2014, police could and did search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who was arrested. Defense Attorneys would frequently challenge such searches. These searches were frequently based upon “helping” arrested citizens by making sure their property was properly inventoried by the arresting officers for safekeeping by jail personnel or by the evidence unit at the arresting agency’s office. This rationale remains a frequent flier in broad invasive “inventory” searches of automobiles during traffic stops.

Cell Phone Search, Search and Seizure, Search Warrant

Cell Phone Search, Search and Seizure, Search Warrant
Warrant Required
Mobile Devices
Florida had outlawed warrantless phone searches before the US Supreme Court. That ruling is discussed here. Now prohibited will be mobile device and cell phone searches without a warrant. Before the 2014 United States Supreme Court ruling here was another Court's Ruling on a Cell Phone Search. Searches Incident to a lawful arrest were previously justified by cops using issues of police officer safety and prevention of destruction of evidence.

Now under Florida law, a Motion to Suppress Evidence can be filed pursuant to Rule 3.190(h), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Illegal Search and seizure now applies to cell phones and the Courts may exclude illegally obtained evidence including, photographs, video, text messages, directory and location data, voice mails, and emails.

Case Summary: The US Supreme Court's ruling is that a properly obtained and issued search warrant is generally required before search of a cell phone. Here is some language from the Court’s ruling. 

"Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person. The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras,video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers."

"The sum of an individual’s private life can be reconstructed through a thousand photographs labeledwith dates, locations, and descriptions; the same cannot besaid of a photograph or two of loved ones tucked into a wallet."

"To further complicate the scope of the privacy interests at stake, the data a user views on many modern cell phones may not in fact be stored on the device itself. Treating a cell phone as a container whose contents may be searched incident to an arrest is a bit strained as an initial matter."

"[T]he search incident to arrest exception does not apply to cell phones . . . ."

Some Excerpts from Florida Cases:

"However, we express great concern in permitting the officer to search appellant’s cell phone here where there was no indication the officer had reason to believe the cell phone contained evidence."

“We are equally concerned that giving officers unbridled discretion to rummage through at will the entire contents of one’s cell phone, even where there is no basis for believing evidence of the crime of arrest will be found on the phone, creates a serious and recurring threat to the privacy of countless individuals.”

Blackshades Bogus Busts?

Blackshades, Bust, DOJ, FBI, RAT
Blackshades Busts
The Blackshades investigation began with an unrelated bust and this week we have reports of Feds spanning the world conducting dozens of interviews. The FBI claims this huge cybercrime bust in Operation Blackshades or the Blackshades Global Takedown . Our forensics team is ready for the fight.

One cooperating witness may have oversold the feds on Blackshades resulting in Bogus Busts for those who never used the package or where there is no log data to support the charges. Here are some quotes from the Feds. One commentator agrees with us. "Blackshades is only one of many remote access tools. Dozens are available in the black and gray market, as wall as being marketed more normally to remote workers and worried parents. If purchasing or downloading remote access software is grounds for a search warrant or arrest, the civil liberties implications are worrying."

 "Alex Yucel, as alleged in charging documents, headed the organization that developed and sold the Blackshades remote access tool, or RAT. The Blackshades RAT gave cyber criminals the ability to take over a computer from an unsuspecting victim. Armed with $40, a computer, and access to the Internet, a cyber criminal could use the Blackshades RAT to spy on, steal from, or extort an unsuspecting victim anywhere in the world." 

 "The tool allowed cyber criminals to steal passwords and banking credentials; hack into social media accounts; access documents, photos, and other computer files; record all keystrokes; activate webcams; hold a computer for ransom; and use the computer in distributed denial of service [DDoS] attacks."

Federal Executive Clemency - 10 Questions to Ask

Federal Executive Clemency
10 Questions to Ask
We spent considerable time last week assembling our team to begin expediting the clemency petitions to be filed under the new Executive Clemency Initiative. Our team includes two Board Certified Criminal trial Lawyers and a number of other attorneys and paralegals. Our sense is that while most inmates will eventually receive some attention, our goal will be to quickly gather needed information, and to expedite the completion of the case file for federal authorities to evaluate. We have collected and listed below the basic information needed to get started and the specific questions we believe will need answers.

Ten Facts Needed for Executive Clemency Review

To begin the process, our clemency attorneys will need the following information:

• Name – first, last, middle 
• Date of Birth 
• District Court Case Number 
• Bureau of Prisons Facility Location and Address 
• BOP Register Number 
• District where sentenced 
• Projected Release Date 
• Attorney who represented you at sentencing -- please provide name and address if you know it 
• Attorney(s) who previously represented you in any appeal, habeas proceeding, sentence reduction proceeding, or application for sentence commutation -- please provide name and address if you know it. 
• If you currently have an attorney representing you in any aspect of your federal criminal case including an application for sentence commutation, please provide the attorney’s name, address, and any other contact information if you know it.

Ten Important Questions on Executive Clemency

1. For what offense(s) were you convicted for which you are serving your current federal sentence? 

2. What sentence did the judge originally impose? 

3. When were you originally sentenced? 

4. Were you given a longer sentence for possessing or using a weapon?

5. Was your sentence later changed?

6. If you answered yes to Question 5, what is your current sentence? 

7. How much time have you served on your current sentence? 

8. Are you currently appealing or challenging any part of your conviction or sentence? If you answered yes, is that case pending?

9. Have you been convicted of any other crimes besides the one(s) for which you are serving your current federal sentence?

10. Have you received any incident reports while serving your current sentence?

Mom Murder Trial - Live Video Feed - Julie Schenecker

Julie Schenecker, Julie Schenecker Trial Live Feed, Julie Schenecker Trial Live Feed iFrame, Julie Schenecker Trial Live Feed iPhone,
Mom Murder Trial
Live Video Feed
Julie Schenecker
Insanity Defense - Julie Schenecker - Mom Murder Trial Live Feed for iPhone, iFrame, and Flash. This is where you'll be able to find live criminal trial in Tampa Mom Murder Trial Video, when we are streaming. Keep checking back and we will try to post replays of most trial testimony. Assistant State Attorney and Veteran Prosecutor Jay Pruner is the lead prosecutor. Julie Schenecker Case Information on Insanity Defense in Florida.

Video will be streaming while lawyers are in court and the trial is in session.


Channel One

Channel Two

Replay Excerpt - Julie Schenecker - Insanity Defense - Opening Statements

Radio Interview - Audio Commentary

Video - Insanity Defense in Florida

Affirmative Defense, Burden of Proof,  Insanity Defense, Insanity Defense Florida
What is the Insanity Defense in Florida?
What is the Insanity Defense in Florida?

Florida Statute 775.027 contains the Insanity defense. Under Florida law all persons are presumed sane, unless and until it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that there was  " a mental infirmity, disease, or defect . . . [and the defendant did]  not know what he or she was doing or its consequences . . .  or  the defendant did not know that what he or she was doing was wrong."

Successful Insanity Defense

"The best-known example of a successful insanity defense came earlier that same year [1990], when prosecutors put college student [name deleted] on trial for drowning her newborn son in a dormitory toilet. Jurors found her criminally insane, convinced by experts who said [the defendant] was unaware she was pregnant and went into shock during the delivery.", April 26, 2014 .

Included below are documents from a high profile Florida homicide case where the Insanity Defense was used in Tampa.

Here is the actual text of the Florida Insanity Defense Law:

(1) Affirmative Defense —All persons are presumed to be sane. It is an affirmative defense to a criminal prosecution that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant was insane. Insanity is established when:

(a) The defendant had a mental infirmity, disease, or defect; and

(b) Because of this condition, the defendant:

1. Did not know what he or she was doing or its consequences; or
2. Although the defendant knew what he or she was doing and its consequences, the defendant did not know that what he or she was doing was wrong.

Mental infirmity, disease, or defect does not constitute a defense of insanity except as provided in this subsection.

(2) Burden of Proof —The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.

Affirmative Defense, Burden of Proof, Insanity Defense, Insanity Defense Florida, Tampa,
Proof of Insanity Email
Proof of Insanity

Since the defense has the burden of proof on the issue of Insanity, there will need to be evidence presented by experts and physical  items including email and correspondence to establish the the defense was not merely concocted to beat the charges before the court and the jury.

Such evidence is shown here. We have heavily edited the materials, but the original comprised 55 pages of emails that may be used to establish the defense.

Video will be streaming while court is in session.


Important Case Documents:

Date            Summary                                                               Link
04/24/2014Corrected Order Denying Motion to Suppress Statements Made to Detective Sandel and Detective Prebich on January 28, 2011Download PDF
04/16/2014Order Granting In Part, and Reserving Ruling, In Part, Defendant's Motion in Limine Regarding Prior Abuse Allegations and CrashDownload PDF
04/01/2014Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements Made to Detective Sandel and Detective Prebich on January 28, 2011Download PDF
02/12/2013Motion to Compel Evaluation of Defendant by Three State Experts on Issue of Defendant's Sanity at the Time of the OffensesDownload PDF
02/06/2012Defense's Motion to Measure and Photograph Interview Areas on the Eighth Floor of Tampa Police HeadquatersDownload PDF
10/12/2011Order from DCA Dated September 16, 2011 (Final)Download PDF
08/12/2011Defendant's Notice of Intent to Rely Upon the Defense of Insanity Existing at the Time of the OffenseDownload PDF
05/03/2011Memorandum of Law Filed by Third Party Media General Operations Inc. in Support of Motion to Intervene for the Limited Purpose of Opposing Defendant's Verified Motion for Temporary Protective Order and Supporting Memorandum of LawDownload PDF
04/21/2011Defendant's Verified Motion for Temporary Protective Order with Respect to Discovery Material Becoming Subject to Chapter 119 and to Prohibit Agents and Employees of The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office, The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, The Hillsborough County Clerk's Office, The Public Defender's Office, The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, and The Florida Department of Law Enforcement from Making Extra Judicial Comments and Motions for Evidentiary Hearing, Request for Judicial Notice and In Camera Review, and Memorandum of Law in Support TherofDownload PDF
02/10/2011Judge Recused - Order of DisqualificationDownload PDF
02/10/2011Indictment CapitalDownload PDF