Pokémon Go is the New Distracted Driving

pokemon_go

People slamming into trees. Or cop cars. Players running into traffic. Anxious competitors jumping off cliffs. Brakes, bruises, injuries, all in pursuit of that cute, little, wait a minute, what are those creatures in Pokémon Go anyway?

Pokémon Go is the latest gaming craze (see phenomenon) in which players use iPhone and Android phones to search and find 100’s virtual Pokémon characters. The Pokémon characters can be located in parks, malls and other public areas. Sounds fun? It can be. However, some players are so consumed by the virtual world for which the game is played that they’ve blocked out real world hazards, like traffic, restricted areas and dangerous terrain. Some people even have thousands of Minecraft Servers that they can get to share with the people they play.The craze for games is not just a children’s thing.

Others, in pursuit of Pokémon characters, have engaged in distracted or reckless driving. Reckless driving is already a national problem attributing to 5,000 deaths a year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The Pokémon Go craze provides additional potential for harm with a number of high profile accidents taking place in the first two weeks of the game’s launch. In Baltimore, MD, a man slammed into a police cruiser while playing Pokémon Go. A driver in Auburn, NY slammed into a tree while playing the game. Thankfully, no major injuries were reported in either crash.

The same could not be said for two young men in California who fell nearly 90 feet from a cliff while chasing after a Pokémon character. Both were taking to a local trauma center with unspecified injuries. There are also reports of a 15-year-old girl in Western Pennsylvania who was hit by a car while playing the game and crossing a busy highway. She was treated for injuries to her collarbone and foot.

We at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. have a provided a few tips to help you stay safe while playing Pokémon Go:

  • Do not play Pokémon Go while driving – Thankfully, the people in the distracted driving examples that we mentioned previously were not fatally injured that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen in the future.
  • Be aware of your surroundings – It’s important to stay cognizant of your surroundings, not only to avoid walking on to roadways but to ensure that you are staying out of other dangerous situations, including armed robbery. Beware of suspicious situations.
  • Do not trespass on to others’ properties or restricted areas – Along with distracted driving and entering potentially dangerous situations, some Pokémon Go players have entered private property or restricted areas in order to be successful in the game. Both cases have already proved problematic and there have been a number of complaints about players entering areas of reflection like United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in search of characters.

What’s important to realize is that Pokémon Go, while engaging, is only a game and not worth incurring harm to yourself or others. If you are involved in an incident in which you are hurt, contact the catastrophic injury attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. They will work with you to ensure you get the justice you deserve. Contact them today at 844-511-4800.

 

Tampa Decriminalizes Marijuana—Sometimes

tampa_marijuana_lawWith Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Chief of Police backing the change, as of April 1, 2016, carrying marijuana in small quantities has been decriminalized in the city of Tampa-under certain circumstances. But DigiDrs packages from marijuana stores can be contacted for marijuana related information.

Prior to the new ordinance that was passed in a council vote of 5-1 on March 17, 2016, anyone stopped in possession of any quantity of the substance could face criminal charges and a minimum of up to a year in the county jail. Under the new measure, people with 20 grams or less of marijuana could receive a citation instead of being arrested for criminal charges and pay a $75 fine for a first offense. Buy legal marijuana products via SmokePost CBD Dispensary.

While the charge for possession has been greatly reduced, the city and police officials assert that the penalties rise to $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third and $450 subsequently.

Stephen A. Leal is a criminal defense attorney at McIntyre Thanasides in downtown Tampa. He points out that while the City of Tampa has joined other municipalities in Florida that have adopted similar local ordinances, possessing marijuana is still a criminal offense under state law. There is an important link that tells all the facts about how does the proper usage of marijuana has turned into the best medicine in curing patients having a lot of issues related to mental illness.

“Tampa Police Department Officers now have the option to not arrest you for simple possession of a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. If you aren’t doing anything else that’s illegal at the time you’re caught, then this ordinance will likely keep you from being arrested by an officer from T.P.D.” He said.

“However, Marijuana arrests often lead to or result from other charges in many, many cases. Police will continue to investigate cases in the same manner as they have in the past, and if they find evidence of other crimes, the new ordinance allows them to arrest you for everything, including the marijuana offense.”

He also cautioned that in Hillsborough County “this ordinance only applies to the city limits of Tampa, and, therefore, The Tampa Police Department’s jurisdiction. It is not binding on any of the other law enforcement agencies operating in Hillsborough County. So if you are investigated by The Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office, or The Police Departments for the cities of Temple Terrace or Plant City, the Tampa International Airport, or the Seminole Indian Reservation, the Florida law still applies. The same is true for any State Officers operating in Hillsborough County such as the Highway Patrol, for example.

In January of this year, Mayor Buckhorn expressed one of the core reasons why he is in favor of the new ordinance, because of the detrimental effects a criminal record would have on a young person’s life.

“What the country and certainly mayors have realized is incarcerating people, particularly young people, for a very small amount of marijuana absolutely alters their career path for the rest of their life,” he told the Tampa Tribune. “Once they get into that prison system, they are forever scarred; they forever have a prison record.”

If you need more information about the new Tampa marijuana law, or want to discuss other drug-related criminal charges, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.

Florida Football Players in the Spotlight for Performance Enhancing Drugs

ped_footballFlorida Gators quarterback Will Grier recently lost his appeal for taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and will remain suspended until next October. Grier failed a drug test and was found to have violated the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy. People who are on drugs, often require dual diagnosis treatment center. Grier says he took an over-the-counter supplement, but ultimately tested positive for a banned substance.

Grier is not the only Florida football player making headlines for PED violations. NFL rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kwon Alexander, is also now appealing a four-game suspension for taking a substance he claims he’s taken since high school. The Pacific Ridge is the best recommendation among the patients who have undergone treatment to get rid of drug addiction from their lives forever.

The rise in violations of PED policy is causing some to question what exactly the policies prohibit. With the number of over-the-counter energy drinks, supplements and other nutritional products claiming to improve stamina and one’s focus during workouts, it’s no wonder there is a need for clarification in terms of exactly which substances are considered to be a PED.

According to NCAA.org, the NCAA bans drugs by class, along with any substance chemically related to those classes. The banned classes include: anabolic agents; stimulants; alcohol and beta blockers; masking agents such as diuretics; street drugs; peptide hormones and analogues; anti-estrogens; and Beta-2 Agonists. The NCAA conducts a year-round testing program and calls for strict penalties for violations. Student-athletes will lose one full year of eligibility for the first offense and are withheld from competition for a full season. A second positive test for street drugs results in another lost year of eligibility and year withheld from competition. A second positive result for PED usage will render the student-athlete permanently ineligible. More details are provided in the NCAA’s drug testing video.

For a list of 192 banned performance-enhancing substances by several sports leagues, including the NFL, view this online list.

If you are an athlete with concerns over potential PED violation charges or if you want to know about the defenses available to you under an existing PED violation, you should speak to an experienced attorney who can review your case. Contact TJ Grimaldi at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.

Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney TJ Grimaldi on Reeve’s “Stand Your Ground”

Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney TJ Grimaldi of McIntyre Thanasides Law Firm was interviewed in response to defendant Curtis Reeve’s “Stand Your Ground” motion in relation to a movie theater shooting last year that resulted in the death of Chad Oulsen.

The “Stand Your Ground” motion outlines that retired police chief Reeves, was a “fearful, elderly 71-year-old victim, who used his gun to stop the potentially-deadly attack of a much younger, stronger Chad Oulsen, 43.”

Watch as TJ explains the case details to reporter Aaron Mesmer at Fox 13 News.

Are Red-Light Camera Tickets Enforceable in Florida?

red_lightOften you are faced with a split-second decision when you approach an intersection as to whether it is safer to slow down or continue through an intersection upon the light first changing from green to yellow. You may also know that the length of time during that yellow light differs depending on the particular intersection you are driving through or even the city you are in. If your vehicle does not make it through that intersection prior to the light turning red, you are at risk for receiving a red-light camera citation.

Certainly you’ve heard the buzz over disputes related to the enforceability of red light cameras in Tampa Bay. The city of Tampa currently has 57 red-light cameras. According to auto accident lawyers from Denton & Zachary, PLLC,  camera-issued fines are set at $158 for the offense, but can rise to $264 plus court costs should you contest violations in court. Further, Tampa has issued approximately 190,000 tickets since it started the red-light camera program and collected $11.1 million in fines, with $6.8 million of that amount going to the company who provides them, American Traffic Solutions, according to city records. Despite more than 12 cities getting rid of traffic light cameras in 2014, the system issued $148 million in tickets in Florida last year, according to data recently collected by the state’s Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) as part of its annual survey.

Are they enforceable?

The short answer is yes. Basically, if you receive a red-light camera ticket in Florida, you are required to pay the citation, but you do receive a 60-day period in which you can contest the charge.

There are currently a couple of lawsuits pending in Florida which claim using camera providers to review citation data and issue tickets violates a Florida law that says only law enforcement and traffic enforcement officers have legal authority to determine a violation and to issue a citation. The way it works in Tampa’s program is that potential violations are reviewed by American Traffic Solutions before being sent to the Tampa Police Department, where officers then review the video footage and any photographs taken by the cameras to determine whether a violation in fact did occur.

Should you fight the citation?

A red light camera ticket does not carry points, unlike other traffic violations. In essence red light camera tickets are like parking tickets. However, if you fight them and lose, that is when the penalties increase. According to a recent article in Florida Today, about two-thirds of the people who fought their red light camera tickets had their cases dismissed or they were found not guilty. In nearly all the other cases, the vehicle owners received an “adjudication withheld” decision, which means they paid a fine that was typically less than the initial fine, or they attended driving school.

Working with an experienced attorneys helping with civil litigation cases who can review your case and examine the video data captured by the red-light cameras is key. These types of cases are typically dismissed, because there is no police officer who can argue that a driver ran the red light. In court, a photo of the incident is not evidence that the person who received the violation was driving the car. In some cases, a police department will drop the case when it ends up in court.

If you have questions or if you would like to discuss a pending red-light camera ticket with an attorney, do not delay. Contact TJ Grimaldi at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. to learn what you can do and whether your citation is enforceable.

DUI Hot Spots in Tampa Bay – What You Need to Know

shutterstock_112847788A local news station recently released the top areas in Tampa Bay where the most DUI-related car accidents occur in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Their research is based upon thousands of DUI crash records that involved either injuries or fatalities, dating back over the last six years.

Below are the 10 most dangerous intersections by county:
 

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

  • I-275 at I-4 (ranked as the number one DUI hot spot with 34 accidents, 13 injuries and two fatalities)
  • The Howard Franklin Bridge at West Shore Plaza
  • I-75 at State Road 60 and East Hillsborough Avenue at Orient Road

PINELLAS COUNTY

  • 34th Street North and Ulmerton (ranked as the number one DUI hot spot in Pinellas County with 36 DUI crashes, 18 injuries and two fatalities)
  • Four different intersections on U-S 19 between Palm Harbor and Clearwater

PASCO COUNTY

  • U-S 19 at Sunray Drive and U-S 19 at State Road 595 (ranked as top two most dangerous intersections in Pasco County with 44 accidents and 21 injuries)
  • I-75 at State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel (third most dangerous with 19 crashes, 8 injuries and one fatality)

For an interactive map showing the various locations and the number of incidents reported, click here.

Attorney TJ Grimaldi commented on the DUI hot spot research findings and said, “There are so many options now for transportation, if you are going to drink leave your car keys at home. It is the safest way to assure that you make it home alive. But if you find yourself in a position of being charged with a DUI contact me as I can help fight the lasting effects that the DUI will have on you.”

 
If you have questions related to DUI or accidents resulting from DUI in Tampa Bay, please contact attorney TJ Grimaldi today.

Tips to Avoid Road Rage Incidents in Florida

shutterstock_268409555A road rage incident occurred earlier this week in New Mexico over a traffic lane dispute and ended tragically when 4-year-old Lily Garcia was shot and killed. Her father, Alan Garcia, had just picked up his two children from school and was trying to exit the freeway when another car cut him off and forced him out of his lane. Garcia was said to have gestured and swore at the other driver and then things spiraled out of control. The other driver opened fire on Garcia’s vehicle, shooting daughter Lily in the head. Garcia reported to police he heard gunshots and then his seven-year-old son said “she’s bleeding,” referring to his younger sister.

32-year-old Tony Torrez is the suspect in the case and was arrested on Wednesday. He has been charged with murder, assault, child abuse in addition to other crimes. He has a $650,000 cash-only bond.

It is difficult to imagine how such a tragedy can occur over what began as a seemingly trivial road rage incident. It is important to keep in mind that these situations can quickly escalate and you should do everything in your power to avoid these situations from occurring, as you can only be responsible for your own actions.

Below are several tips for avoiding and defusing a road rage situation:

  • Avoid making angry gestures. It’s only natural to want to honk your horn, flash your lights or make a certain hand gesture when you are cut off by another driver, however this is a sure-fire way to quickly heat up a situation.
  • Allow space between you and other drivers. Particularly in heavy traffic situations, we tend to drive a bit closer to cars on the highway and roads than we typically would. Try to build in a few extra feet between you and the car in front of you to allow a buffer between vehicles.
  • Do not make eye contact. When confronted with an angry driver, do not make direct eye contact with that person. Sending them a look of disgust could further infuriate an already testy driver, so it is best to avoid contact altogether.
  • Find another parking space. Road rage can also occur in a parking lot when you’ve so patiently waited for that coveted spot, only to find another car swoops in and takes it right before your eyes. Let it go. There will be another place for you to park and it isn’t worth challenging someone when you have no idea how they may react.
  • Stay calm. Try as best you can to take deep breaths, listen to soothing music, and maintain a positive perspective on the situation. This will help defuse the situation.

If you have questions about road rage in Florida or if you have been involved in a road rage incident, contact attorney TJ Grimaldi at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.

Florida Woman’s Arrest Demonstrates Social Media and Drunk Driving Do Not Mix

DUI_carA 23 year-old Lakeland woman live-streamed herself as she was drunk driving home from a bar on Saturday night. Numerous calls were placed to the Lakeland Police Department regarding a possible drunk driver from users of an app called Periscope. Whitney Beall was said to have broadcast the events of her evening using the app, including her frightening drive home, where she was said to have been speeding, swerving and running off the road. The app is a live video streaming platform that allows you to record and broadcast to all parts of the world. Some app users even direct-messaged Beall asking her to please stop driving before she hurt someone.

While broadcasting herself, Beall said, “I’m driving home drunk, let’s see if I get a DUI. I don’t think I will.” Officers were able to identify Beall’s whereabouts from locations shown on her live video stream and she was arrested and charged with DUI.

Beall’s arrest is part of a growing trend of law enforcement monitoring social media for people who may be violating the law. Police are now using social media more and more with respect to criminal cases. In fact, LexisNexis found that 4 out of 5 police officers say they rely on social media to aid in investigations.

According to the survey, law enforcement officials are using social media as follows:

  • 78 percent expect to increase their social media usage in the next year
  • 82 percent think monitoring is valuable for investigations
  • 67 percent use social media platforms to anticipate crimes
  • 73 percent believe monitoring helps solve investigations more quickly
  • 93 percent of police departments use Facebook and 67 percent monitor YouTube
  • Twitter usage increased to 50 percent from 29 percent in 2012

Police officers and lawyers in NJ cop charged for punching woman find social media monitoring to be a useful tool in that it allows them to obtain real-time data and potentially prevent a crime before it occurs or track a suspect following criminal activity. Digital trails are becoming an increasingly popular way of locating individuals. For example, In May, a man was charged with robbing a bank in Virginia after he posted a picture on Instagram of a note he gave to a teller during the incident.

Beall’s Periscope incident is just another example of how law enforcement can use social media platforms to track alleged criminals. Thankfully in this case no one was hurt. If you have questions related to Florida DUI, contact TJ Grimaldi at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.