Surveillance Becomes Key Evidence in the Aaron Hernandez Trial

Apart from the discussions all about domestic violence charges here, it’s difficult to ignore the Aaron Hernandez trial with the vast media coverage it’s receiving.  Former New England Patriots tight end went from a rising star with a $40 million contract to the prime suspect in three murders – the 2013 slaying of Odin Lloyd and a separate 2012 double homicide in Boston. The former New England Patriots player’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, took the stand today.  In addition to being asked a myriad of questions by the judge, Jenkins was shown surveillance video from their home.  Similar surveillance videos have become a key component to the testimony in this case.

A Closer Look at Surveillance Tapes

In Hernandez’s case, surveillance videos have been played to the jurors allegedly showing his movements during various times around the alleged time of the murder.

To give an overview of what’s been reviewed, one of the videos seen by the jury allegedly shows Hernandez coming home from a night out with Jenkins.  A couple of friends are there to greet them when they arrive at Hernandez’s house.  Hernandez is shown walking through the living room carrying a black object believed to be a firearm at approximately 12:45 a.m. The friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, are also charged in the murder. Both men have pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.

In other surveillance video clips, Hernandez is allegedly seen getting into the front passenger seat of a Nissan Altima rental car and leaving at 1:09 a.m. Wallace is driving and Ortiz sits in the rear driver’s-side seat. Prosecutors have said they went to pick up Lloyd, then took him to the industrial park, where he was shot to death shortly before 3:30 a.m.

The Nissan was returned to the rental car agency later that day with scrapes along the driver’s side and a missing driver’s-side mirror, according to previous testimony. The videos are pulled together by the prosecution to establish a timeline to further corroborate other evidence.

How does video surveillance play a role in criminal cases?  It’s hardly unusual to have such a vast array of surveillance available in today’s day and age of ever-expanding technology. You can rest assured, it does not always work in your favor.

For example, a high-profile athlete such as Hernandez was at the time of the first alleged murders, has reason to install a much more elaborate security surveillance system than the average person. Little did he know, the security measure he chose to install became evidence for the prosecution. It is better to be ready to apply for understating no contest pleas that can be used to avoid being sued civilly for essentially confessing to a crime.If you wish to know how to avoid violating your probation which can be an act of criminal offence, you can check it out here!

Alternatively, as mentioned with the expansion of technology, many commercial buildings and local communities install cameras for security measures as well. This can help with people that are charged with burglary without any evidence.  For this type of surveillance it becomes a matter of who gets to the videos first, which typically is seen by law enforcement before anyone else can view them. Of course, many defendants have no idea about the use of their surveillance tapes until they are charged, which can be months later. And, if the police have not gained access to them at the time of the charge, chances are they have been erased.

Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer in a timely manner to properly and thoroughly review any evidence, speak to witnesses and ensure key evidence such as video tapes, calls or recordings are preserved can mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. If you or a loved one has been arrested or is being accused of a crime, contact TJGrimaldi at McIntyre ThanasidesBringgold Elliott Grimaldi&Guito, P.A. today.

The Dangers of Road Rage in Florida

If you have a driver’s license, you’ve most likely encountered some form of angry driver while on the road. This person may have cut you off, driven too slowly in the left lane, weaved in and out of traffic, or hovered too closely behind your vehicle, making you feel uneasy. It’s how we handle ourselves in these situations that can determine the severity of the encounter. Recognizing road rage before it gets out of hand is of upmost importance to ensuring your safety as well as the safety of those around you.

Recent Stories of Road Rage

Last month, a man was arrested in Pasco County when sheriff deputies discovered he had stabbed a woman in a Sam’s Club parking lot. The incident took place in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday when two drivers experienced road rage. Both decided to pull their cars over on the shoulder of U.S. 19. The first driver began striking the passenger of the other vehicle through her window and she was able to drive off and park her car behind a Sam’s Club nearby. The other driver followed the woman, confronted her, and stabbed her twice in the upper torso with a knife.

A Las Vegas road rage incident recently made national news when an angered teen followed a woman home and proceeded to open fire, killing the 44-year-old mother of four, Tammy Meyers. The road rage transpired when the teen’s car sped up and pulled alongside Tammy and her 15-year-old daughter. The daughter reached over and honked the horn. The driver stopped in front of them, got out and angrily approached their vehicle threatening to come after Meyers and her daughter. Meyers took her daughter home, but went out in the neighborhood again with her son who had a pistol, looking for the suspect. Just a short drive from home is where she encountered the driver once again and he followed her back to her house and gunshots were fired both from her son and the suspect. A bullet struck Meyers and she later died in the hospital.

These are just two examples of road rage gone wrong – and the impact that occurs when tempers are not controlled. This leads us to consider what Florida law says about this type of behavior, and whether it is even regulated at all in our state. The bottom line is that Florida has a statute addressing “aggressive” behavior, which is not necessarily the same thing as road rage. Although road rage can lead to aggressive driving, it differs in that road rage is usually typified by an incident that escalates into a criminal offense, such as assault.

What exactly is aggressive driving?

Florida has an aggressive careless driving statute (316.1923). Aggressive driving occurs when a driver does any two of the following offenses at the same time or one right after the other:

  1. Exceeds the posted speed limit
  2. Unsafely or improperly changes lanes
  3. Tailgates, or follows another vehicle too closely
  4. Fails to yield the right-of-way
  5. Improperly or dangerously passes another vehicle
  6. Violates traffic control or signal devices

Although there is a separate aggressive driving statute, there are no additional penalties for violating this law. Basically, it is kept on the books for statistical purposes to track accidents involving aggressive driving. Aggressive driving and road rage, in many instances go hand in hand. Where the line becomes blurry is when a driver becomes frustrated and takes it to another level by acting in an aggressive and dangerous manner as a result of the frustration.

A law recently implemented in the state of Florida may address some of the road rage concerns. The law went into effect in 2013 and makes it illegal for motorists to drive more than 10 miles below the speed limit in the left lane of a multiple-lane road or highway if another car is coming up behind them. If ticketed for this offense, the driver could be fined $60 and the ticket would have the same effect on a driver’s record as a speeding ticket, meaning there’s potential it could lead to a higher insurance bill.

In Florida, drivers with road rage can face criminal and civil penalties when they drive recklessly and aggressively. Depending on the facts, Florida law may support civil claims for negligence, assault, battery, or even false imprisonment. If intentional acts of harm were involved, punitive damages may be available. To determine what damages you may be able to recover in a Tampa Bay road rage accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. today.

Hit and Run Accidents – What You Need to Know

A recent news story involving a hit and run accident has captured a lot of attention across the Tampa Bay area recently. When a Plant High School student was visiting family in Tallahassee over Thanksgiving weekend, a car tragically struck her as she tried to cross the street and the driver fled the scene. The victim was Jacqueline Faircloth, a Plant High School senior, who suffered major head trauma, chest injuries, a broken jaw and a broken eardrum. Faircloth was in critical but stable condition at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and has experienced improvement, but continues to remain in a medically induced coma to limit brain swelling. An arrest has been made and more details continue to unravel, but it is a striking reminder of the severity of such an incident and the damage that can occur in a split second.

As for the driver of the vehicle that struck Faircloth, records indicate he had no prior criminal record in Florida. Reports indicate the driver panicked, not knowing what to do, but had the passenger traveling with the offender not come forward, police could still be searching for the perpetrator. Interestingly, hitting a pedestrian is not necessarily considered a criminal act if it is an accident and the driver stays at the scene until certain statutory duties have been fulfilled. These duties include notifying law enforcement, presenting a valid driver’s license, exchanging pertinent information and in a case where injuries are involved, provide reasonable aid to the injured party until help arrives. These requirements are covered under 316.062, the duty to give information and render aid provision. By not providing the general information required without injury, you may be charged with a civil infraction and should seek guidance from a qualified attorney. As soon as the driver leaves the scene of the accident, however, it is considered to be a hit-and-run.

Hit-and-run accidents often involve pedestrians or bicyclists – and Florida is among one of the more dangerous states in the nation for this type of accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports Florida pedestrian accidents have increased since 2012, when the number of hit-and-run crashes totaled nearly 70,000.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Injury

The crime of leaving the scene of an accident where serious bodily injury is involved is a second degree felony and punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If death results, it becomes a 1st degree felony punishable by up to 30 years. See Florida Statute 361.027.

If you are in a circumstance where you have fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident and would like to know options for avoiding formal conviction, attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides can help. We can guide you through your options to explore potentially reducing the charge, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, a strategy may include entering a pre-trial intervention program or making negotiations for withholding adjudication. We can also assist with trial if the facts and the case warrant it. There are several defenses to leaving the scene that may pertain to your situation. These options can be explored in more detail by speaking to one of our personal injury attorneys directly. Contact us to learn more about your legal rights when involved in a hit-and-run.

Faulty DUI Test Results in Wrongful Drunk Driving Convictions

When Florida police stop a driver that they suspect of drunk driving they conduct a sobriety test on site. Conducting more than one test may become more important in Florida because problems associated with breathalyzers in Florida have potentially led to faulty convictions which lead them fighting DUI charges in Roanoke and other places. People should be responsible enough to avoid drunk driving, or they will have to Discover the cost of DUI in Orlando & Central Florida at Leppard Law to avoid legal consequences. However, protecting own and others’ life should be the priority over anything.

The sobriety test typically comes in three different forms. In one test the police have the driver stand on one leg or walk in a straight line and turn. This allows the police to assess the driver’s balance and motor skills. In another test officers use a flashlight to observe the involuntary twitching of a driver’s eye, called the horizontal gaze nystagmus. If the driver is intoxicated, the twitch occurs at duller peripheral angles than normal. In the third test, the police administer a breath test to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level. In Florida the legal limit is .08.

The breath test has stemmed some controversy in Florida, however, because the machine that police use to test a driver’s blood alcohol level – the Intoxilyzer 8000 – gives faulty readings about 40 percent of the time. As a consequence, sober drivers have been getting convicted of drunk driving based on faulty results. For that reason a number of Florida counties announced that they will not use the results from the Intoxilyzer 8000 breath test machine as evidence in DUI cases.
Florida drivers convicted of a DUI face the following possible penalties:

  • Fine
  • Jail time
  • Suspension of drivers license
  • Community service
  • Vehicle impoundment

Beyond court mandated penalties, there are a number of other consequences of a Florida DUI conviction. Drivers who do not get their drivers licenses suspended face a potential increase in their car insurance premiums. Drivers that do get their licenses suspended have to resort to alternative means of transportation, such as public transportation. Those who live in areas beyond the reach of public transportation face the threat of lost employment if they have no other way to get a ride to work.

Source: Law Firm Newswire, “Florida Drivers Arrested for DUI Due to Malfunctioning Alcohol Test”, April 25, 2012

Florida DUI, The Consequences

Florida has been increasing DUI patrols and enforcement efforts, trying to make our roads and highways safer. This increased DUI enforcement makes a DUI charge even more serious and costly. Just because you get pulled over and charged with DUI does not mean you are actually guilty of DUI. If you are charged with the crime of DUI, an attorney is essential to successfully navigating your way through the complicated charges.

No matter the circumstances of a DUI charge, you should never seek to represent yourself. The ramifications are serious and will be part of your personal and business credentials in many respects for many years. A skilled and seasoned DUI defense lawyer is essential to addressing and minimizing the many issues which flow from a DUI charge and conviction.

From a criminal law perspective, on your first offense, if convicted you will be assessed a significant fine, up to six months in jail and possibly a six month motor vehicle license suspension. As part of a sentence, there may be required alcohol treatment classes, community service hours and a period of probation. The fines and sanctions on a second offense increase dramatically and at the second offense, the DUI charge is considered a felony with a mandatory prison sentence.

From a financial standpoint, you will have to retain proper and experienced legal counsel. Most lawyers will work with clients in setting and paying the retainer. If you are employed and your present employer finds out about your conviction, you may be relieved of your position in favor of a lesser paying one or you may be released from employment. If you are currently seeking a job, you may not be considered for the position when the DUI is found on a routine background check. If you are in the middle of a military or law enforcement career, you may no longer be able to proceed. If security clearance is part of your position, you may face a reduction in your clearance status. A large challenge for DUI offenders is getting and paying for automobile insurance after a DUI conviction.
For each of these issues, good, solid legal representation will help you find your way through the legal labyrinth of a DUI charge. Your lawyer will make certain that your due process rights are protected and make sure that only competent legal evidence will be submitted to the Judge or Jury so you are not wrongfully convicted of a crime you were not guilty of. Innocent or guilty, a lawyer is an indispensable necessity when facing a DUI charge.