New Florida Bill To Protect The Rights of Animals

Republican Senator Joe Gruters sponsored a new animal welfare bill (Bill 1738) which prohibits residents from restraining their dogs outside or leave them unattended during a man-made or natural disaster including but not limited to hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados or after a warning has been issued by the National Weather Service or if there is an official evacuation order issued from the government. This bill is introduced as Hurricane Season rapidly approaches. A manmade is defined in the bill as “notice from a local or government authority that an event attributed in part or entirely to human intent, error, or negligence, or involving the failure of a manmade system.”

The Bill States that anyone who fails to evacuate with their dog and leaves them outside or restrained (whether by rope, leash, or cable) inside will be committing animal cruelty which a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. Penalties for violating this bill consist of a year of jail time, a $5,000 fine or both.

The goal of the Bill is to put more responsibility on pet owners to care for their pet so emergency resources do not need to be used on abandoned animals after many animal rescuers had to scramble to save abandoned pets before Hurricane Irma in 2017. According to the Beach County, Animal Care & Control – 49 dogs and two cats were rescued before Hurricane Irma. Some were not so lucky. In March of 2018, police officers from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office found the bodies of three dead dogs inside a home that was abandoned during Hurricane Irma. The bill also authorizes veterinarians to report any suspected violations anonymously.

The Bill was introduced on March 20th and passed in the Agriculture Committee with a 5-0 vote. It has been referred to the Criminal Justice Committee. If the bill is passed, it will take effect on July 1st, 2019.

The bill does not include other pets such as fish, turtles, birds or cats.

What Does The Separation Of Church And State Actually Mean?

When you ask someone about the separation of church and state, you’ll get an answer. Ask someone else, and you’ll receive a different answer. Someone else, and another different answer. Rinse and repeat. Does anyone really know what the separation of church and state is? What does it mean? Who coined the phrase? Not the United States Constitution. Not the Bill of Right. And not the Supreme Court. The separation of church and state is technically mentioned by none of these.

It was Thomas Jefferson who first used the phrase. It’s so meaningful today because Jefferson was a proponent of religious freedoms–whether you were Christian or not.

A lot of religious folk see the separation of church and state as a way to keep government out of their church’s affairs, and not the other way around. A lot of non-religious folk see the separation of church and state as something that should prevent the government from making commentary on any and all affairs involving religion (like preventing Trump from calling Muslims rapists or suggesting that they all want to kill Americans).

Who’s right? Again, it depends on who you ask. It’s best to give everyone a little bit of credit for their opinions, because the divisiveness is actually what keeps the wall in place.

The First Amendment opens with a concise line, which is almost impossible to interpret wrongly because of how straight-forward it is: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s about law, and nothing else. So Trump can say what he wants. Unfortunately the freedom of religion has been used as a means to unjustly discriminate against any number of people. Claim that something is contrary to your religion, and you can get away with a lot of things you wouldn’t otherwise–especially if you’re Christian.

The First Amendment was never intended to provide those the religious zealots among us with any special rights. It also wasn’t meant to take away anyone else’s freedoms. In 1947, this amendment’s meaning was transferred from the Federal government to all state governments as well. This ruling effectively prevented religious organizations from any privileges they once enjoyed.

If you think the First Amendment has been used to attack you or someone you love (whether through freedom of religion or freedom of speech), then it may be the time to take a strong legal defense. Speak with a lawyer about the options available.

New 2018 Laws In Florida

It’s that time of year again! Everyone can take a look at all the new laws that have either gone into effect or are scheduled to go into effect by the end of the year. Are they sensible? Are they dumb? Are they controversial? Could they possibly serve the greater good? Or is it time to elect new legislators to better serve Floridian interests? Here are a few of the newest 2018 Florida laws.

  1. A new bill will limit opioid prescriptions to a measly three days. We’re sorry if it hurts, but the opioid crisis is more important–or so the lawmakers seem to be suggesting. Synthetic versions of fentanyl are a whopping 5,000 times more dangerous (and lethal) than the heroin that drug dealers used to know and love. Hopefully the new law will reduce the number of fatalities after drug misuse.
  2. Most states have an age of consent that ranges from 16 to 18 (with the majority still at 16), but there is a legal loophole in some states that allows adults to have sex with a minor–and it’s called marriage. Florida legislators have finally ended the practice of marrying children under the age of 17, and that means no more legalized statutory rape.
  3. The new state budget will increase spending on education in schools by $485 million. In addition, Medicaid and subsidized health insurance for children will also get a big boost in spending. Woo hoo!
  4. Florida wants to live up to its reputation by keeping daylight saving time active all year. Unfortunately, that means they need Congressional approval, because federal law prohibits a state from making the change by itself. If approved, then Florida would be in its own time zone for half the year. Enjoy your vacation!
  5. First responders suffering from PTSD now have additional options for coverage. Before the new law, responders had to prove they were suffering from a physical injury associated with the emotional or psychological trauma. Now, they only need to be suffering from PTSD specifically.
  6. Other approved laws will let people use credit cards for background checks when purchasing firearms and slam criminals who commit third-degree felonies at airports with bigger penalties for their crimes. These were just a few of the most relevant laws, but there were 105 passed and put into effect this year.

Controversial Florida Bills Not Yet Struck Down

No matter where you live, chances are there are a number of controversial–probably incredible–laws on the books or even in motion to be put into law. Florida is one such state that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately, so we’re going to explore a few of the most controversial bills and laws that haven’t been overturned or struck down.

SB 1718 would pretty much ban abortion. Those who perform an abortion would be charged with a felony. The bill is unlikely to pass through all House and Senate committees, but the implications are terrifying. Even if it did pass, the impending legal battles would inevitably render it impossible to enforce. Other similar bills that could pass would defund Planned Parenthood through Medicaid.

SB 1712 is right on par with President Trump’s anti-immigration policies, especially when considering those of Middle Eastern descent. The bill would allow Governor Rick Scott to use the state’s military might to keep Syrian refugees out.

A couple of other bills promoted by the NRA would allow an open-carry policy on college campuses. They probably won’t go anywhere.

SB 110 is called the “Pastor Protection Act” and would ensure that religious organizations can’t be forced to marry people they don’t want to (even though they already have that protection). Even some religious leaders oppose the bill for its silliness.

SB 1220 would drastically reduce the ability for Florida to provide access to public records, a transparent system that Floridians take pride in.

There are a number of other laws on the books by accident. One actually bans computers and smartphones in internet cafes. Another law guarantees that pregnant pigs cannot be caged. One prohibits unnatural acts between consenting adults. It’s a misdemeanor, but the text of the law doesn’t help explain which acts constitute “unnatural” behavior.

Lewd acts are also illegal–unless you’re married. Oral sex is illegal. You can’t sell your children (duh). You can be hanged if you steal a horse. You can be arrested for skateboarding without a license. The only legal sexual position is missionary. Those are just a few of the most absurd laws. There are too many to count.

Florida Public Schools Mandated To Feature ‘In God We Trust’

Passed into state law last March, bill HB839, and now in applications with the beginning of the school year upon us, public schools in Florida are legally required to display the verbiage “In God We Trust”, the state’s motto somewhere on site. The state government even going so far as emailing signage to school districts to ensure that the saying is prominently displayed.

And as predicted, this has stirred quite the controversy. The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that this is unconstitutional. They elaborate, “these godly postings exclude and alienate the one in five students in our public schools who do not believe in god. And they’re meant to. These laws are not about patriotism, they’re about turning believers into insiders, and nonbelievers into outsiders. There’s nothing patriotic in undermining our nation’s secular Constitution.

The sponsor of the bill turned law, Representative Kim Daniels – Democrat, realizes that the country needs serious gun reform in the wake of the Stone Douglas school shooting but said “The thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart. God is not republican nor democratic. He is not black or white. He is the light and our schools need light in them like never before.”

While I believe that the Freedom From Religion Foundation may be taking things too far, I do find the entire thing slightly ridiculous. As long as there is no pandering religion in the classroom, what does it matter if there’s a sign hanging outside that mentions “God”. As a jew, I see crosses hanging everywhere and I don’t feel the need to convert.

The Notorious Stand Your Ground Law In Florida

If there is any law in the state of Florida that has been under more scrutiny in recent years, perhaps the single law in the spotlight has been the notorious “stand your ground” law.

Or maybe in Florida, it’s called the George Zimmerman law.

There was much press coverage of the tragic shooting that took the life of black teenager Trayvon martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. It was played up as a horrific crime committed by a racist neighborhood watch volunteer against an unarmed black teenager who was just walking down the street.

When the facts came out at trial, however, Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder. While the city basically went on fire for a few days, it turned out that a “stand your ground” law in Florida enabled Zimmerman to be acquitted.

So what is a “stand your ground” law? I Florida, there is s self-defense law called ‘stand your ground,” which enables a person to use force to defend himself or herself from an imminent threat of danger.  As the case unfolded, it was revealed that Trayvon Martin was physically assaulting George Zimmerman outside of Zimmerman’s home, and Zimmerman shot Martin to get him to stop his attack.

At trial, Zimmerman used the “stand your ground” law as a defense, establishing that he was fear and threat for his life, and thus he had rightful justification to shoot Martin while Martin was on top of him, slamming his head against the sidewalk. The jury was convinced that the evidence supported the defense, and Zimmerman was cleared of all charges.

“Stand your ground” laws have cropped up in most states before and since the Trayvon Marin case, and there are variations of the law where some have a ‘duty to retreat” provision, while others have a “castle doctrine” provision. Some states have “stand your ground” laws as an affirmative defense at trial, while others use it as part of a claim to force prosecutors to prove otherwise before going to trial.

In Florida, Zimmerman had to prove “stand your ground” at trial, and the law in Florida does not have a “duty to retreat” provision, where the person under threat had to show that he or she retreated from the threat as much as possible before using force.

The Second Amendment does allow U.S. citizens to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, and “stand your ground” laws have been effective in clearing up the cloudiness of some shooting cases to help distinguish between second-degree murder, manslaughter and self-defense. We do have a right to defend ourselves, and we shouldn’t; be labeled as criminals if we do so and someone gets killed. Our safety and the safety of our loved ones is most important.

4 Reasons To Hire A Traffic Attorney

Nobody likes to receive a traffic ticket. It is a stressful experience, often both mentally and financially. Nonetheless, it is likely that most people will be issued at least one traffic ticket throughout their lifetime. The term “traffic violation” is very broad, and encompasses a wide variety of illegal automotive activities. Maybe you were speeding, driving recklessly, or not fully stopping at stop signs. It is possible for any one of these behaviors, and a large amount of others, to get you in trouble and issued a traffic ticket.

Often, after receiving a traffic ticket many people panic. This is especially the case for first time offenders, who are unaware of how to proceed. Fortunately, traffic ticket attorneys exist for this exact purpose — to assist you with your traffic ticket case. Some people may be wary of attorneys, fearing high fees and low success rates. However, this is typically not the case, as there are many reasons to hire an attorney.

First and foremost, a traffic ticket attorney specializes in one thing — traffic tickets. They’ve likely handled cases like yours before, and know how to get you “off the hook.” In some cases, this can result in the ticket being dismissed entirely, or reduced to a minor fine such as jaywalking. Lawyers are trained in this field, and those know what to look for. When analyzing your specific ticket, they can often spot errors made by the issuer that invalidate the ticket. This may be grounds for a dismissal of the ticket, or at least a fine or charge reduction.

Additionally, traffic ticket attorneys can frequently protect your from points on your record. If you’ve been charged with a moving violation, or a violation occurring when the car was in motion, chances are there will be points assigned to your driving record. These points are harmful, and if you accumulate too many you can face a license suspension. Thus, it is imperative to try and avoid points at all costs. Even if they can’t dismiss the ticket, a traffic attorney can help reduce your charge and remove the points. Perhaps you were going 10 mph over the speed limit on the highway and issued points. An experienced traffic attorney may be able to get this charge reduced to jaywalking, which is accompanied by just a small fine.

Further, a traffic tickets attorney is less expensive than you likely think. Typically, attorneys are thought of being very expensive, charging hundreds of dollars an hour. However, this is not always the case — especially with traffic ticket attorneys. Traffic ticket attorneys know that ticket fines are not always that much. Thus, their rates have to be reasonable, priced significantly less than the potential fines. After all, if hiring an attorney costed more than just paying the ticket, these attorneys would get no business.

Lastly, hiring an experienced traffic ticket attorney can help to intimidate the prosecutor. Although representing yourself without a lawyer can occasionally work, most people do not have enough knowledge of the law to successfully negotiate in court. Prosecutors know this, and will assume that the defendant won’t fight very hard against the ticket, simply because they don’t really know how. However, if they have to face an experienced attorney, they know that they are in for a fight, and are more likely to give in. Thus, a traffic ticket attorney can be a very helpful resource if you’ve been issued a ticket.

Avoiding Probate

Avoiding probate is always recommended by estate planning attorneys. Depending on how you talk to, probate court is either sunshine, lollipops and rainbows or a hellish nightmare. The fact of the matter probate court can be avoided altogether depending on two factors: how well you prepare your affairs before your passing (or if you are a beneficiary, how well the person who passed prepared) and the size of the estate. There are several major benefits to avoiding probate because in the event that your loved ones have to go to probate court the following could happen to them: Continue reading →

Civil Vs. Criminal Trials

What’s the Difference Between a Civil Trial and a Criminal Trial?

While this may be obvious to some people, many others are not aware of the difference between a civil lawsuit and a criminal lawsuit. The two types of lawsuits are separate from each other and hold their own set of rules and punishments. There are a variety of factors that weigh into if a lawsuit is civil or if it is criminal. We have put together a list of key differences below.Continue reading →