If you think your child's juvenile record is confidential and won't follow them to college and beyond, THINK AGAIN...

Remember Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two seniors at Columbine High School in 1999? When those two students went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School, they not only killed 13 people and injured 21 others, but they also changed the landscape of Juvenile law 180 degrees. Before Columbine, the confidentiality of a minor's juvenile record was sacrosanct and minors had due process rights and privacy rights at school. However, since Columbine, those rights have been completely eroded.

Thanks to Klebold and Harris, courts have consistently ruled since Columbine that, in a school environment, the safety of students and teachers as a whole trumps the constitutional rights of an individual student. We can all agree that it is a school's responsibility to keep order on campus and to promote a safe and conducive environment for learning. However, in balancing the constitutional rights of individuals versus the overall student body, have the courts gone too far in permitting schools to act like a parent and to stand in the shoes of the student's parents?

Post Columbine, most schools have police officers stationed on campus and courts have upheld that students have no right to privacy in their lockers and school officials or officers have the authority to enter and search student lockers without probably cause or search warrants. The shrinking rights of minors include interrogating and arresting students before notifying the student's parents. Prior to Columbine, a school would notify a parent before searching, interrogating or arresting a child. And although the law requires an officer to "try" to reach a minor's parents prior to booking a minor, typically the first call a parent gets is from the jail cell (AKA Juvenile Assessment Center).

Colleges have also adopted the philosophy that the safety of the student body as a whole is more important than an individual's rights. Therefore, today virtually every college admissions application asks if the applicant has a juvenile record or requires the applicant to authorize the juvenile court to release their juvenile record to the schools they are applying to. College admission officials tell me they draw a negative inference from an applicant's failure to answer the question or to sign the authorization. In fact, question 15 on the standardized State University System of Florida Undergraduate Admission Application asks about juvenile history and in bold letters states that "Failure to answer these questions will delay processing of your application."

In the past, most parents have not hired lawyers to defend their child in juvenile court since the juvenile arrest record would remain confidential. However, now due to the horrific actions of Klebold and Harris the rules have changed and it is well advised for parents to hire an attorney no matter what the arrest is for, from misdemeanors like possession of marijuana and petit theft to felonies like aggravated battery, burglary and sexting. By hiring a competent criminal defense attorney, with juvenile court experience, you give your child the greatest chance of not having their juvenile record follow them into their future and preventing them from being accepted to their dream college or closing the door to other opportunities in life. Ultimately, when eligible, an attorney can assist you in moving to seal and or expunge your child's juvenile record.

DUIs are On the Rise and they're Not Just For "Alcohol" Anymore!

Did you know you can get arrested for "Driving Under the Influence" (DUI) without having an ounce of alcohol? During the past few years, I have een a significant spike in DUI and "non alcohol" DUI arrests and convictions. This increase is due to Police and Prosecutors being better trained at identifying impaired drivers and using forensic evidence at trial. Officers and Prosecutors are always looking for new and creative ways to build stronger DUI cases including utilizing Judges to assist in obtaining evidence. Therefore, defending DUIs have become more challenging so hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney, with extensive DUI experience, is more important than ever.

Today, DUI arrests are made and prosecuted even when Defendants refuse the breath test or blow .00, indicating no alcohol in their system. If there's no "alcohol" then how can someone be prosecuted for DUI? The answer is simple. A driver can be arrested and prosecuted for DUI if they are under the influence of alcohol "or" under the influence of an illegal substance/drug. While the arrest of drivers under the influence of "alcohol" is on the rise, the real spike is with drivers driving under the influence of an illegal substance or prescription drug, leading to the recently coined term; "drugged driving."

In past years, Officers were not trained to detect "drugged driving" but, now they are. Officers now go through extensive training to become "Drug Recognition Experts" (DRE), enabling them to detect and apprehend drivers under the influence of drugs. Training permits Officers to identify what drug a person is under the influence of based upon physical observations. Once an Officer makes an arrest, the case is passed to an Assistant State Attorney, for prosecution.

Assistant State Attorneys/Prosecutors use the DRE's investigation and observation as evidence at trial along with expert medical testimony from toxicologists about effects of drugs on drivers. Expert witness testimony plus forensic evidence has improved Prosecutors' likelihood for guilty verdicts and convictions.

In response to the increase in "drugged driving," Officers and Prosecutors are more aggressive in their investigations and recently began obtaining search warrants for blood when drivers refuse to provide breath tests. Warrants are based on Officers' observations (driving pattern, speech, eyes, etc.) and that the evidence of DUI is located in the driver's blood. When Judge's sign warrants, a driver's blood can be drawn, without their consent.

When evidence exists to charge a driver with DUI, potential penalties, in Florida, are harsh and include permanent criminal record/conviction , probation, driver's license suspension, vehicle impoundment, jail (even for first offenses), etc. Additionally, it is likely a Defendant's auto insurance premium will significantly increase for years to come.

While "drugged driving" cannot be condoned, such charges nevertheless must be defended to assure that Officers and Prosecutors do not violate our Constitutional Rights when arresting and prosecuting drivers for DUI. If charged with DUI it is important to hire a defense attorney with extensive DUI training, knowledge and trial experience because defending DUI is extremely complex and technical.