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June 2015

Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide

150 150 Joel Leppard

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The United States Supreme Court jurisprudence has evolved over the last fifteen years.

On June 26, 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled a state cannot ban same-sex sexual activity.

On June 26, 2013 in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defined marriage to be between one man and one woman, which served to deny health benefits to same-sex couples.

Finally, on June 26, 2015, history was made when the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same-sex couples nationwide have the constitutional right to marry.

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

Some major reasons the justices gave for the decision include:

1. The 14th Amendment states that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Same-sex couples may not be deprived of the liberty or fundamental right to marry.

2. The ban on interracial marriage was invalidated in Loving v. Virginia, where a unanimous court upheld that marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Same-sex couples should also be able to exercise the right to personal choice regarding marriage.

3. Protecting the right to marry also protects children and families. This is because not all heterosexual married couples have children and they are definitely not required by law to do so. For gay couples who do want to have children through methods such as adoption or surrogacy, telling them that their unions are less than marriage creates a “more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children.”

4. Marriage develops along with law and society. “The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time,” Justice Kennedy wrote.

Although gay rights leaders all over the world have been celebrating the ruling, they still hope to tackle other major challenges that remain for their movement, such as the expansion of federal civil-rights laws to protect gays in the workplace.

Possible Penalties and Defenses for Driving With a Suspended License

150 150 Joel Leppard

In Florida, a driver’s license may be suspended for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:
• Failure to pay a traffic fine.
• Failure to pay child support.
• Failure to maintain insurance.
• Reckless driving.
• Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
• Accumulation of traffic points.

A person who is caught driving with a suspended license may face serious consequences. A person driving under a suspended license with knowledge of the suspension can be charged with a criminal offense. Under Section 322.34, Florida Statutes, a first offense for driving with a suspended license (with knowledge of it being suspended, canceled or revoked) can result in 60 days jail and a fine of up to $500.00.

A person driving under a suspended license without knowledge of the suspension can receive a civil citation, where they must pay a fine.

Driving with a suspended license—either with or without knowledge—also counts as one of the “Three Strikes” toward being labeled a “Habitual Traffic Offender.” If an individual receives three convictions within five years for, among others charges: Driving with License Suspended (even if you are not arrested) Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Fleeing and Eluding that individual will be labeled a “Habitual Traffic Offender” and lose their license for five years. If charged with a subsequent Driving with License Suspended offense while a Habitual Traffic Offender, this offense is a Third Degree Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years probation and a $5,000 fine.

Contact an Orlando experienced criminal defense attorney for a free consultation if you have been accused of driving on a suspended, canceled, or revoked license. You may be able to contest the charge or minimize penalties.

Some possible defenses include:

• Challenging the validity of the traffic stop.
• The accused was not aware that his license was suspended (in which case, under Florida law, the charge must be reduced to a non-criminal traffic violation).
• The accused’s Florida driver’s license had been reinstated or adequate reason existed to believe it had been reinstated.

Frequently Asked Questions After an Arrest

150 150 Joel Leppard

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1. What rights do I have?

Whether you are an adult citizen or non-citizen, you have certain constitutional rights after you are arrested. Before the law enforcement officer questions you after an arrest, he or she should tell you that:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say may be used against you.
  • You have a right to have a lawyer present while you are questioned.
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.

These are your Miranda rights, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. If you are not given these warnings, your lawyer can ask that any statements you made to the police not be used against you in court.

You also have a right to know the crime or crimes with which you have been charged and the identity of the police officers who are dealing with you.  Not every officer is forthcoming about this information, even though is your right by statute. You also have the right to communicate by telephone with your attorney, family, friends, or bondsperson as soon after you are brought into the police station as practicable. The police are allowed to complete their booking procedures before letting you use the telephone.

2. If my Miranda Rights weren’t read, does this mean my charges will be dropped?

This is one of the most common questions I receive in my law practice.  Many people think that simply because the police failed to read them their rights, that the case is going to be automatically be thrown out. This is not true. Typically, the only thing that would happen if the rights were not read is that anything that said in response to police questioning after an arrest could not be used against you in your case.

Very frequently, officers have gathered all the information that they need PRIOR to the arrest and will not question suspects after their arrest and, thus, Miranda never needs to be read.    When the police have questioned you without reading your rights and, for example, you made a statement, that statement would not be able to be used in the case against you.  In most situations, it is best to not answer questions without having an attorney present.  If you ask to speak with an attorney, an officer must immediately cease questioning you.

Another common situation is where a suspect voluntarily provides information to the police that is not in response to a question.  In this situation, Miranda would typically not apply.  Miranda is a complicated area of the law with lots of rules and exceptions.  It’s best to consult with an experienced defense attorney to determine if your Miranda rights were violated in your situation.

3. What happens at an Initial Appearance?

Within 48 hours of your arrest, a judge will hold a preliminary hearing to decide whether there is “probable cause for your arrest” or enough evidence to support the charge against you. If the judge finds that there is “probable cause” for the charges — enough evidence that a reasonable person could be convinced that you committed the crime – then the judge will set the terms of your release.  The terms of release normally include a monetary bond set by the judge at the initial appearance and can also include other restrictions like checking in with a Pre-Trial Release Officer, not using or possessing weapons or not having any contact with the alleged victims of the case.

4. What is bail and how is it set?

The amount of bail bond – money or other security deposited with the court to insure that you will appear.  When setting the terms of your release, the judge will consider the seriousness of the offense with which you are charged, any prior failures to appear in court (even for traffic tickets), any previous criminal record, your ties and connections to the community, as well as the probability that you’ll appear in court.  Florida law provides that for most cases bond should be set in at reasonable amount that is attainable by the defendant.  However, in reality, oftentimes a judge may set bond at an amount too high for a defendant to afford.  A criminal defense attorney can file a motion with the court asking the judge to reduce the bond and/or modify the conditions of release (such as not having any contact with the victim).

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