Friday, March 18, 2011

American legal standards only apply here

Daniel Pye returned home to Bradenton on Thursday night after spending five months in Haiti on false charges of having a fake ID card.

The missionary, who cares for 22 children in Haiti with his wife at an orphanage, was initially jailed by an investigative judge, who -- by law -- had the option to hold him for up to 90 days as a case was being built.

During his time behind bars, Pye's wife Leann brought him meals and provided cleaning supplies. She brought medical aid for malaria, skin infections and digestive issues that put him in isolation.

The treatment of Pye underlines the fact that American legal standards only apply in America.

Ken Boodhoo, an emeritus professor at Florida International University specializing in Haiti, said applying our standards to another country is simply unfair.

“It’s fourth world ... they don’t have structure in their society to help them,” Boodhoo recently told the Bradenton Herald. “He would get good treatment there by Haitian standards, because he is an American. It’s very likely they would permit his friends and relatives to take meals to him.” 

Pye, an American citizen and a Haitian resident, has worked in Haiti for the past seven years. But his legal status in the country doesn't make him different from any other American who travels overseas.

On its travel website, the U.S. State Department issues a warning: " ... while in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses." 

The State Department encourages travelers to visit its travel site before planning any trip abroad. You'll find the latest travel alerts and embassy locations. It's best to be aware of the risks before getting that passport stamped.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fla. House panel votes to repeal red-light camera law

The Palm Beach Post's political blog has the story:
Florida lawmakers did a U-turn Thursday on the red-light cameras they approved only last year — with a House committee approving a proposal to outlaw the devices being installed by dozens of cities.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, told the Economic Affairs Committee the cameras intrude on the privacy rights of motorists, centering most of his argument on civil liberty issues.

Cities, including West Palm Beach, have been struggling with the new cameras. Some have not been drawing the significant revenue they’d hoped for through fine collections, with motorists successfully challenging citations in court.

West Palm Beach officials have lately landed more of the $150 fines from motorists accused of running red lights — but only after bringing in some top shelf attorneys to represent the city in court.

“When you have these kinds of technological advantages to police, it’s just not fair,” said Corcoran, first elected last fall but already tapped to become House speaker in 2017. “Let’s repeal this bill and look at all these technological issues from the bottom up.”

Corcoran’s bill narrowly cleared the committee on a 10-8 vote — with most Republicans supporting their rising leader. Democrats were opposed, saying the cameras deserve more time to work in cities — and that they do save lives.

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Fort Lauderdale, acknowledged Corcoran’s freedom argument. “But you don’t have the freedom to break the law,” Jenne said.

The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference projected the red light cameras would bring in roughly $100 million into the state and $75 million into local governments over two years.

More on the Innocence Project of Florida

The Innocence Project of Florida is currently pushing for Derrick Williams to have his case retried.

The 47-year-old man was sentenced to life for the Aug. 6, 1992, kidnapping and rape of a woman in a Palmetto orange grove.

Williams claimed his innocence throughout his trial and, in 2008, his  family sought help from the Innocence Project. It wasn't until July that the organization filed a motion with the Manatee County Clerk of Courts to have Williams exonerated. According to the Innocence Project, Williams' DNA was not collected from the collar of the assailant's shirt entered into evidence.

If the Innocence Project succeeds, Williams would become one of 267 people in the United States to have been exonerated by DNA testing since the organization was founded in 1992, according to the group's website.

The Innocence Project, founded in 2003, has exonerated 12 men in Florida since its inception, including James Bain, who was released in 2009 at 54 after serving about 35 years in prison for the rape of a young boy.

Also, Alan Crotzer, a St.Petersburg resident, was exonerated in 2006 after being convicted in 1981 for sexual battery, kidnapping, burglary, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and attempted robbery and sentenced to130 years in prison.

"Sometimes the legal system gets it wrong," said Seth Miller, executive director of Innocence Project. "People can make mistakes."

More than 1,000 people write the organization each year for its assistance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crime prevention tips

It's easy to think of a burglary without looking at the bigger picture. But as the Manatee Sheriff's Office points out in a press release today, a stolen GPS unit, laptop or a garage door opener can lead to bigger problems if proper precautions are not taken.

The release gives three scenarios in which a burglar sees the items in a car in plain view, breaks a window and takes them :

One: A laptop probably contains some, or even all, of the user's personal information. This would put that person at risk for identity theft. An easy way to avoid this problem is not to leave a laptop in plain view.

Two: A car left in the driveway with the garage door opener inside gives a burglar an easy access point to the home. One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to remove the garage door opener from the car every night. In addition, homeowners should always keep the inner garage door to the main house locked and have a dead-bolt installed.

Three: Ever programmed your home address in your GPS under the title "home"? If so, make sure to change it. Think about it, if someone takes it, while you are still out, they can easily find your home by simply clicking for your address. The sheriff's office suggests renaming your home address under a code name that only you know. 

When it comes to burglaries, the best mindset to be in, according to the release, is to think in terms of the bigger items a burglar can get to. As the sheriff's office reminds: "Take away that opportunity:  REMOVE IT OR LOSE IT and THEN SOME!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Buchanan to unveil pill mill legislation

Seizing on one of Florida's most pressing law enforcement and health challenges, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Friday will unveil what his office described as "sweeping legislation to crack down on phony pain management clinics."

Local governments, including Manatee County and the city of Bradenton, have tried to address the problem by establishing moratoriums and other measures to regulate pain management clinics. But a statewide effort has been slowed by Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to kill a statewide database designed to track prescriptions and purchases that was approved just last year by the Florida Legislature.

Scott's position has drawn fire from officials representing other states because Florida is home to the most "pill mills" in the United States and has "become known as a prime source of illegal prescription drugs in the eastern United States," a news release from Buchanan's office states.

At a forum earlier this week, Buchanan joined Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube and other law enforcement officials in calling on Scott to drop his opposition to the database.

Buchanan's office did not reveal details of his proposal, but the release announcing a news conference on Friday did list several points that highlight the magnitude of the prescription pill problem in Florida.

- Florida is home to 1,300 pill mills, most in the United States.

- Florida prescribes 10 times more oxycodone pills than all other states combined.

- Seven people die every day in Florida from prescription drug abuse.

- Florida has more pain clinics than McDonald’s restaurants.

- 22 Arrested and $2.5 Million seized in Florida pill mill raid last month.

Cross-posted at Political Watch.