Category Archives: Uncategorized

HTO: What It Really Means to You

A common mistake when receiving a ticket from a police officer is to pay the ticket. Paying the ticket is an admission of guilt, and often can compound issues if the driver has additional moving violations in a five year period, or commits a crime while operating a motor vehicle. Additionally, paying the moving violation can result in points, or convictions accumulating in your driving record.

Florida Statute 322.264 states that a habitual traffic offender is any driver that pleads guilty to any of these three listed below within a 5-year period, arising out of separate acts:

1. Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;

2. DUI offense of any kind, drugs or alcohol;

3. A felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;

4. Driving while license is suspended or revoked (DWLSR);

5. Driving a commercial vehicle without a commercial driver’s license (CDL)

6. 15 convictions of moving violations in which points have been assessed within 5 years;

Very easily, a driver can accumulate three convictions for DWLSR within a five year period.

Here is a good example. A driver receives their first ticket for DWLSR without knowledge, then the ticket is paid without any dispute, as instructed on the ticket. The second and third DWLSR the driver also pleads guilty, because the driver is not advised of his rights, and they are scared because one had became a criminal offense. When this occurs within five years, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will suspend the driver as an HTO. This suspends driver’s license 5 years, possibly upgrading the future charges allowing the state to sentence the driver to jail or prison time.

Give us a call at Thomas Law, P.A. with any of your driving questions. We can help with the HTO process and possibly reverse previous convictions so that you can get your driving license back.

The Problem With Prosecutorial Misconduct

Noura Jackson,29, was released Sunday, after being wrongly convicted of murder by a Tennessee court. Noura Jackson, who is now 29, has spent more than a decade behind bars for the accused murder of her mother, Jennifer Jackson.

Jennifer was a 39-year-old investment banker, who lived in an affluent neighborhood with her 18-year-old daughter Noura Jackson. Noura had recently connected with her father, who had divorced from her mother years before when she was 16.  A few years later he was murdered in a gas station in Memphis. His killer was never charged or located.

Noura Jackson was convicted in 2009,  with the had prosecutor, Amy Weirich wielding the belief that Noura was a hardcore drug addict and partier, and wanted free from her mother’s rules. Jackson’s case was made up of purely circumstantial evidence, and had no physical ties that could directly link Jackson to her mother’s murder.

Amy Weirich, a lead prosecutor in Shelby County, emerged during the time where prosecutor’s were rewarded for wins, and held tightly to the belief that, “everyone is guilty, all the time,” (quote from Emily Bazelon’s New York Times Article). 

Just five days after Jackson was convicted, an assistant prosecutor on the case, Stephen Jones, filed a motion to submit an omitted document that had been in the prosecutor’s hands since the early days of the investigation. A former witness and friend of Noura’s, Andrew Hammack, had written this letter that would have shed doubt on the case. In this document that he had originally submitted in a statement to police,  he admitted to using ecstasy on the night of Jackson’s murder.

Jackson’s conviction was eventually overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2014, and was again set for a new trial. Eventually Jackson settled on taking a plea deal, as the new trial would have led her well into her 30’s, after serving more than a decade. Even after signing her plea deal and promised release, she was held for an additional year because the prison system miscalculated her ‘good time’.

So, what went wrong? Brady v. Maryland can explain. Per the Brady v. Maryland decision, prosecutors have a duty to disclose exculpatory evidence even if not requested to do so.

Interestingly enough, the problem with prosecutorial misconduct, is that this type of behavior is not punished in the U.S., and often rewarded. Amy Weirich is now the District Attorney of Shelby County, the court in which Jackson was originally sentenced, and this has fueled her possible political career. (New York Times)

According to a Fair Punishment Project, which operates at Harvard University, Shelby County prosecutor Amy Weirich is ranked highest for prosecutorial misconduct in a study that was published in July 2017. (The Commercial Appeal)

The Fair Punishment Project researched cases that were involving allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in four states from January 2010 to Dec  2015.

“In the time period we reviewed, the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office had the highest number of misconduct findings—with more than a dozen—and the most reversals in Tennessee,”  their findings said. (The Commercial Appeal)

Thomas Law, P.A.

DUI Refusal Law Proposes Harsher Penalties

A new bill proposes tougher penalties and tougher decisions for drivers.

Under current law, drivers face a one year license suspension after refusing a breathalyzer or urine test when stopped for a suspected DUI offense. Florida’s implied consent law states all drivers must submit to a breathalyzer or urine test if the officer has probable cause to make a DUI arrest. Every Florida driver gives this implied consent when they hold a Florida driver’s license. This implied consent law allows officers to ticket drivers with a refusal, because they have already given this consent when they obtained their Florida license. For a second or any subsequent refusal, a driver will be suspended for 18 months and face possible jail time for the misdemeanor offense.

With current laws in place, WFTV Eyewitness news finds that four out of every ten drivers that are stopped, do refuse a breathalyzer or urine test.

These penalties may increase in years to come if Sen. David Simmons’ bill passes.  In 2015, Sen. Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, filed the bill that will propose fines of $500-1000, six months of probation, and additional four points being assessed on the driver license, for the refusal.

If the same driver refuses a second time, the bill rules the second refusal a criminal misdemeanor offense and makes the crime not eligible for judicial alteration or reduction in court.

There is one important caveat to Florida’s implied consent law. In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court held that a person’s driver’s license could not be suspended for refusing to take a Breathalyzer or test if the DUI arrest was unlawful. This mean if you were stopped without reasonable suspicion, or if your arrest was made without probable cause, then your refusal to blow cannot be used against you to deny your driving privileges.

Our team at Thomas Law is ready to start aggressively pursuing a reduction or dismissal on your behalf. Contact us today to learn more about how we can defend you.