For the first time in fifty years, the federal government is considering changing the way it labels marijuana. What is changing, and how would it impact people in Florida?

The Federal Proposal to Change Marijuana Classification

The potential change to the federal classification of marijuana started in October 2022 when President Joe Biden called for the Department of Health and Human Services to review federal marijuana laws.

While states across the country have legalized both medical and recreational use of marjuana, the federal government has not changed its stance on the drug in more than 50 years, per reporting by AP News. Since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug. As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is handled the same as heroin, meth, and LSD. The Schedule I designation indicates that it is a drug that has no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Biden and other federal authorities believe marijuana should be reclassified as a less dangerous drug.

The Department of Health and Human Services has now recommended that marijuana be classified as a Schedule III drug. Schedule III drugs are considered drugs that have some medical benefits and are less likely to be abused. Schedule III drugs include ketamine, some anabolic steroids, and Tylenol with codeine.

So, will the reclassification happen?

Will The Recassificaion Happen?

The reclassification requires a lengthy regulatory process. The change won’t happen quickly, and it may not be resolved by the 2024 election.

So far, the opinion of the Department of Health and Human Services has been accepted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Now, it must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

If approved, there would be a period of public comment and a review by an administrative judge. At that time, the change would then be signed by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The process could be halted at any point if Congress decides to overturn the rule under the Congressional Review Act, according to NBC News.

The reclassification has a long way to go, but it could happen — and what if it does?

What Would Reclassification Change?

Reclassification of marijuana won’t necessarily create major changes in the federal criminal system.

Schedule III drugs are still seen as a controlled substance, and they are subject to federal rules and regulations. Under the reclassification, those who violate the rules could still be charged with federal crimes. It would still be against the law to traffic marijuana without permission, and the penalties for possession may not change. But at this time, few marijuana possession charges are brought at the federal level anyway. Most prosecutions happen at the state level and are based on state laws.

What could change is the way marijuana is treated by the medical community. Moving the drug to Schedule III could open the doors for more research into its medical benefits. This change could also pave the way for pharmaceutical companies to get involved with the sale and distribution of marijuana.

Another change could be in the public opinion of the drug. By reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug, it may influence public votes as many states are voting on referendums to legalize marijuana in upcoming elections.

Finally, the reclassification could have some impact on those who distribute and sell marijuana in states where it is legal medically or recreationally. Those distributors may receive tax breaks that are currently not available to them.

So, does it change anything in Florida?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Is Marijuana Legal In Florida?

Across the country, states have their own marijuana-related laws. Thirty-eight states have legalized medical marijuana, and 24 have legalized its recreational use.

In Florida, marijuana is legal for medical use, but it is still illegal for recreational use. 

You can face a misdemeanor charge for possession or sale of 20 grams or less of marijuana in Florida. It can result in a year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Possession and the sale of marijuana can also lead to felony charges in Florida. Depending on the charges, it can result in up to 30 years in prison and a maximum of $200,000 in fines.

Related: Misdemeanor vs Felony: What’s the Difference? 

Talk to a Drug Possession Attorney Today

In Florida, you can still be charged with marijuana drug possession. If you were fined or arrested, talk to a drug possession attorney right away.

An experienced attorney can help you fight the charges and potentially reduce the consequences in some cases. The sooner you start on your defense, the better your results will be. So don’t delay. Call criminal defense attorney TJ Grimaldi today. All consultations are free. Request your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, you probably have many questions. One of the most pressing questions might be, “Will I go to jail?”

Let’s look at the facts and answer the question, “How likely is jail time for first DUI in Florida?”

How Likely Is Jail Time for First DUI in Florida?

In most cases, jail time for a first DUI in Florida is unlikely but possible.

There is no minimum jail time for a first DUI in Florida, but someone convicted of a DUI can receive up to six months in jail. The severity of the consequences depends heavily on the circumstances of the DUI charge. The consequences of DUI are more severe in cases when:

  • The driver had a very high BAC.
  • There was a passenger under 18 involved.
  • Property was damaged during the incident.
  • Someone was injured during the incident.

Getting arrested for a DUI is a serious situation that comes with serious consequences. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. They can help you understand the potential consequences, as each DUI is different.

Will You Face a Felony for Your First DUI?

In most cases, a first time DUI is charged as a misdemeanor in Florida, but it is possible for the charge to be elevated to a felony.

As with potential jail time, the severity of the charges of a first time DUI depends heavily on the circumstances. A first time DUI can be charged as a felony if:

  • The DUI caused serious bodily harm to another person.
  • The DUI resulted in the death of another person.
  • There was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the incident.
  • The driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was extremely high.

Second DUIs are also typically charged as misdemeanors, but drivers charged with more than two DUIs may face felonies. A DUI may be classified as a felony if the driver has had at least two other DUIs within the last ten years.

Related: Is a DUI a Felony in Florida? What Charges Should You Expect? 

What Consequence Will You Face for Your First DUI?

For a first time DUI where no one was injured, no property was damaged, and the driver’s BAC was under .15%, the penalties may include:

  • Fines between $500-$1,000
  • Up to one year of probation
  • Loss of license for 180 days to one year
  • Up to 50 hours of community service
  • Impoundment of vehicle for ten days
  • Completion of substance abuse counseling and/or DUI school

A first time DUI can also result in up to six months in jail per Florida Statute 316.193.

A judge may choose to impose jail time depending on the circumstances of the DUI. For this reason, it’s essential to talk to a DUI attorney who can help you avoid jail time.

First time DUIs that cause harm can lead to more serious consequences.

  • A DUI that caused serious bodily harm is a third-degree felony that can result in five years in prison, up to five years probation, and a $5,000 fine.
  • A DUI that caused a death is a second-degree felony that can result in 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Related: What to Expect From a First Offense DUI

Will You Lose Your License After a First DUI?

In most cases, first time DUIs will lead to the loss of driving privileges. License suspension in Florida is defined under Florida Statute 322.28. Under this statute, a driver’s license can be revoked for 180 days but not more than one year.

In some cases, drivers may be able to apply for a hardship license to gain privileges to drive to work, school, or other essential predetermined locations (such as a doctor’s office, grocery store, church, etc.).

Related: What To Do About a DUI License Suspension in Florida 

Can You Clear Your Record After Your First DUI?

Florida has strict rules regarding DUI records. If you have been convicted of a DUI In Florida, the criminal record cannot be removed or expunged. The charge will stay on your record for up to 75 years.

Because a DUI conviction can stay on your record for decades in Florida, it is important to talk to an attorney as soon as you are charged. A DUI attorney may be able to get your records sealed or expunged if you can get the case dismissed or dropped to a lesser charge before you are officially convicted.

Related: How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

Talk to an Attorney About Your First DUI in Florida

A DUI is a serious charge that can lead to jail time in certain situations. It is important to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you are charged to begin to lessen the potential consequences of a DUI.

If you are in Western or Central Florida, talk to Tampa DUI attorney TJ Grimaldi. All clients work directly with TJ on their case, and consultations are free. Request your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.

Armature Works

Photo Via Armature Works Facebook Page 

Armature Works is a family-friendly gathering space, so what could have led to a shooting there in the late afternoon on a Tuesday? See what investigators have uncovered about this terrible shooting.

Shots Fired at Armature Works

Armature Works is a mixed-use space featuring a variety of restaurants, bars, and indoor and outdoor seating areas. It is family-friendly and accommodating to people of all ages, making it a popular place day and night. This is why it came as a surprise when gunshots rang out on the property on the afternoon of April 9, 2024.

Police were called to the 1900 block of North Ola Ave. in Tampa around 4 p.m. Gunshots were reported outside of the main Armature Works building in the areas near Stones Throw, a walk-up restaurant and bar located along the Hillsborough River.

When police arrived, they found three people had been shot. According to ABC Action News, the victims included a 47-year-old woman who was shot in the arm, a 28-year-old woman who was shot in the ankle, and a 36-year-old woman who was grazed by a bullet. Two of the victims were taken to a nearby hospital. The third received care at the scene.

None of the injured parties were seriously injured, and none were involved in the altercation that led to the shots fired. So, who was?

What Led Up to the Shooting?

Police believe they know what happened leading up to the gunshots. According to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, two groups of teen boys, ages 13 to 19, were responsible. It started in the Armature Works bathrooms when a 13-year-old boy, who has not been named, is said to have thrown water on another boy, 17-year-old Gabriel Catuy. The two boys had a physical altercation which led to the younger boy going to get his older brother.

Video captured the boy leaving the area and later returning with his older brother, 19-year-old Jaimartez Young. The teens approached Catuy and his group of friends, and opened fire. In the video, Catuy and his group duck. Catuy is handed a gun, and he fires back at Young and his brother.

The shots hit the three victims who were not involved in the altercation, as well as the 13-year-old Authorities say a fourth person arrived at the hospital with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, and it was Young’s brother.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

Two Teen Arrests Made

On the day of the shooting, Catuy was arrested and charged with attempted murder in the second degree with a firearm and a felon in possession of a firearm.

Young turned himself in to authorities the day after the shooting. He was charged with attempted murder in the first-degree, premeditated discharge, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and discharging a firearm in public.

Young’s attorney, Rick Escobar, says he will make this a case of self-defense. He recently told FOX 13, “I can tell you that certainly, it was not my client that was involved in the verbal altercation. But I can tell you certainly — that without question — my client’s little brother was attacked. Not only attacked but shot.”

It’s unclear if prosecutors and a jury will agree with Escobar’s assessment of the situation.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Youth Gun Violence in Tampa

This shooting is a reminder of another incident between two groups of young people that led to shots fired in a crowded public place. In October 2023, a shooting in Ybor left 16 injured and two people dead.

In the wake of the two shootings, the Tampa Police Department will begin implementing $1.5 million in federal grant money in an effort to reduce and prevent youth gun crimes. Per WTSP, Tampa received a $1.5 federal grant from the Department of Justice in 2022. The money was allotted for the area to develop and implement a community violence intervention and prevention initiative. The money will now be used in part to curb the causes that lead to gun violence among young people.

Although both of the people involved in the Armature Works shooting are teenagers, it appears that they will both be charged as adults for their crimes. Both individuals are being charged with attempted murder which could have penalties from 25 to 15 years in prison.

If you have questions about a pending criminal case, schedule a call with TJ Grimaldi. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Support Individuals Impacted by Gun Violence

As a board member of The Oulson Family Foundation, TJ Grimaldi works to support young people impacted by gun violence. The Oulson Family Foundation helps children get the resources they need in the wake of being impacted by gun violence.

The foundation was founded to honor the life and legacy of Chad Oulson, whose life ended after a senseless act of gun violence. Learn more about The Oulson Family Foundation and see how you can help support children impacted by gun violence.

Maryland Bridge Collapse

(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Police had just ninety seconds to get people off the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, before it crashed into the water. Six men lost their lives, and the collapse will impact most of the entire Eastern seaboard for years to come.

Will anyone face consequences for what happened? And, what potential lawsuits could arise from the collapse of the Baltimore bridge?

What Happened to the Bridge?

March 26, 2024, started as a typical day in the Baltimore sea harbor. A 948-foot vessel departed the dock around 12:39 a.m. But by 1:24 a.m., something was wrong. Alarms started going off. Minutes later, the pilot of the ship called in a distress call. He called to drop the anchor, but it was too late.

At 1:29 a.m., the ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The vessel was only going eight mph, but it hit a support column and sent the entire bridge crashing into the Patapsco River.

With the distress call, police had 90 seconds to get people off the bridge. While they were able to stop traffic from crossing the bridge, they were unable to get eight construction workers off in time. The eight men fell into the water with the bridge. Two men were rescued, and six others perished in the collapse.

The collapse caused a tragic loss of life, and also left a lasting impact for communities up and down the East Coast.

There are economic impacts. Between $100 million and $200 million in cargo moves in and out of the port in Baltimore each day, and roughly 8,000 jobs are tied to the port. There are environmental impacts. The ship contained close to 764 tons of corrosive, flammable material and batteries, some of which were breached, per CBS News. And there are also significant impacts to the city. The bridge collapse turned a ten-minute drive into a 45-minute drive, and it could cost $400 million to rebuild the bridge.

So, who will be held accountable?

The bridge collapse could result in many lawsuits, and already, cases are starting to take shape.

Federal Investigations

The FBI currently has agents in Baltimore, per CBS News. The federal agents, along with the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, have been conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity both on and off the ship.

“The public should know, whether it’s gun violence, civil rights abuse, financial fraud, or any other threat to public safety or property, we will seek accountability for anyone who may be responsible,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron.

The FBI investigation is in addition to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation that has also been ongoing.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Legal Action from the City of Baltimore

Along with federal authorities, the city of Baltimore is also looking into filing potential lawsuits against those responsible for the accident.

Baltimore’s mayor, Brandon Scott, recently announced that the city has partnered with two high-profile trial law firms to take legal action. They are looking into potentially filing charges against the ship’s owner, charterer, operator, manufacturer, and other parties, per CBS News.

“We are continuing to do everything in our power to support everyone impacted here and will continue to recognize the human impact this event has had,” said Mayor Scott.

Wrongful Death Suits

In addition to potential cases filed by government entities, wrongful death cases filed by family members of the men who died may also follow.

Statute § 3-902 of Maryland Laws says, “If the death of a person was caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of a vessel, an action in rem may be maintained against the vessel.” A victim’s spouse, parent, or child may bring a personal injury case against those associated with the ship.

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases Worth Fighting For

Companies Seek Legal Protections Against Potential Cases

The ship is owned by Grace Ocean Private, a Singapore-based company that provides water transportation services, and is managed by Synergy Marine Group, a Singapore-based charter vessel company.

The companies have already attempted to limit the potential legal cases that could come their way. On April 1, 2024, they preemptively filed a six-page “limitation of liability” petition.

Under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, a shipowner can try to limit the amount they have to pay to the value of the ship if their vessel is involved in an accident. The filing seeks to limit the companies’ liability at roughly $43.6 million, per the Associated Press.

Many lawsuits could be tied to the Baltimore bridge collapse, and we will have to wait and see which cases produce results for the many individuals and companies who have been hurt by the deadly and expensive collapse.

Do You Have a Case to Discuss?

If you or a loved one were injured or caused harm due to the negligence of another party, you deserve justice. Discuss the details of your case with a personal injury attorney to see if you have a case worth fighting for. All consultations are free. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 to talk to attorney TJ Grimaldi.

Band-Aid Forever Chemicals

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Band-Aids are often thought of as a healing agent. You put a sticky bandage over a cut or wound to start the healing process. However, a recent study says the common healthcare item may actually cause health problems instead of helping to fix them.

What did the study find? And what does it mean for consumers?

Organic Fluorine Found in 26 Popular Bandage Brands

Environmental Health News and Mamavation recently teamed up to test materials used in consumer bandage products. The groups tested 40 bandages that can be commonly found in leading drug and grocery stores.

The organizations sent the bandages to an EPA-certified lab and had them tested for detectable levels of organic fluorine, an indicator of the group of chemicals known as PFAS.

The study discovered organic fluorine in 26 of the tested bandages. Eighteen brands had bandages that tested positive for the substance.

The brands that included the highest levels of fluorine included Band-Aid, Care Science, Curad, CVS Health, Equate, First Honey, Rite Aid brand, Solimo (Amazon brand), and Up & Up (Target’s brand), according to reporting by The Daily Mail.

Related: Can a Man Actually Sue Taco Bell Over The Amount of Filling In Mexican Pizza?

What Are PFAs? Are They Dangerous?

Organic fluorine is a chemical which studies say can indicate the presence of PFAS. PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” and are said to be potentially dangerous to humans.

The detection of organic fluorine and the possible presence of PFAS on the adhesive portion of many bandages is concerning to some experts.

“Because bandages are placed upon open wounds, it’s troubling to learn that they may be also exposing children and adults to PFAS,” said Linda S. Birnbaum, scientist emeritus and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program and scholar at residence at Duke University.

When forever chemicals enter the bloodstream, they can lodge themselves within healthy tissue. Once in the tissue, the chemicals can damage the immune system as well as the liver, kidneys, and other organs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to:

  • Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.
  • Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
  • Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
  • Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response.
  • Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
  • Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is uncertain how PFAS affect humans, but they say studies on animals have found that PFAS affect reproduction, thyroid function, and immune systems and also cause liver damage.

What Does This Mean for Consumers?

Currently, there are no indications that consumers have experienced negative health effects from bandages. But if consumers start to come forward with signs of negative health outcomes after using the bandages, lawsuits could follow.

PFAs can be found in a variety of consumer products, and some companies are already paying the price for using them in their products. PFAS lawsuits have already been filed by municipalities and Attorney Generals.

In June 2023, 3M reached a $10.3 billion settlement to fund testing and clean up of PFAS they produced that may have contaminated public water supplies, as reported by the New York Times.

Consumer lawsuits could also follow the discovery of potential PFAs in bandages.

Related: Types of Personal Injury Cases: Do You Have a Claim?

What To Do If Sick or Injured by Consumer Products

Under product liability and product defect laws, consumers can seek damages from a company that made contaminated or defective products. If a consumer is injured by a product that did not include a proper warning, the consumer can sue for personal injury.

Consumer-led class action lawsuits have already been filed against some companies that are said to use PFAs in their products.

Thinx period underwear recently settled a $4 million class action lawsuit after BPAS were found in high quantities in their product, as reported by The Daily Mail.

If consumers feel they have been misled into using dangerous products or if they are found to have sustained an injury from using products such as bandages, many more lawsuits may follow.

Related: How to Prove Fault in Personal Injury Case

Discuss Your Consumer Product Liability Case

If you have been injured or experienced an illness due to the failure of a consumer product, help is available. A personal injury attorney experienced in product liability can help you get compensation for the damage caused by a toxic or defective product.

Talk to TJ Grimaldi today. All consultations are free, so share your story and see if you have a case worth fighting for. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.

Sean Combs Home Raid

(Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

It’s been a busy few months for music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. Starting in November 2023, the famous producer has been involved in numerous lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. The allegations recently became even more serious when two of Combs’ homes were raided by U.S. authorities.

What is Combs accused of doing? And what potential consequences does he face?

The Start of a Legal Firestorm

The legal firestorm facing Sean “Diddy” Combs, 54, may have officially started in November 2023 when Combs’ former partner and performer Casandra “ Cassie” Ventura filed a civil lawsuit against him.

In the lawsuit, Ventura said she was beat and raped by Combs and that she was forced into “unwanted sexual encounters with male sex workers,” as reported by The Independent. Ventura said Combs’ assaults on her took place over a ten-year period, during which time she also claimed he engaged in sex trafficking, human trafficking, sexual assault and battery, gender-motivated violence, and sexual harassment, per CNN.

In a statement emailed to CNN, Combs’ attorney Ben Brafman said, “Mr. Combs vehemently denies these offensive and outrageous allegations.”

While Combs denied the allegations, he quickly settled the case.

Just one day after the lawsuit was filed, Combs and Ventura agreed to a settlement for an undisclosed amount of money.

The Floodgates Opened

Ventura’s case paved the way for additional lawsuits to be filed against Combs.

Dickerson-Neal Case

A few days after the settlement in November 2023, Joie Dickerson-Neal filed a lawsuit alleging that Combs drugged and sexually assaulted her while she was a college student in 1991. Dickerson-Neal, who met Combs while performing in one of his music videos, said Combs recorded her assault and then showed it to other people.

Combs’ team says the lawsuit is a “money grab.” He has until April 12, 2024, to respond to the lawsuit.

Jones Case

In early March 2024, producer Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones filed a lawsuit accusing Combs of racketeering, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. Jones says he was “subjected to unwanted advances by associates of Combs at his direction” and forced to engage in relations with the sex workers Combs had hired.

The lawsuit also alleges that Combs regularly hosted “sex-trafficking parties” with underage women and illegal drugs, and it names other high-profile celebrities, such as Cuba Gooding Jr., who Jones says participated in the illegal activity.

Combs’ team calls the allegations “lies.” They are working to dismiss the case.

Additional Cases 

In November 2023, Liza Gardner sued Combs along with MCA Music Entertainment Group, Geffen Records, and Universal Music Group. Gardner says Combs assaulted and raped her. In March 2024, an anonymous women filed a complaint accusing Combs and two others of sex trafficking and gang rape in 2003.

Combs says both lawsuits are false and has yet to file a response in either case.

Resulting in a Raid on Combs’ Home

As Combs faces multiple civil lawsuits, he is now potentially facing criminal charges.

On March 25, 2024, federal agents with U.S. Homeland Security raided Combs’ homes in Los Angeles and Miami.

Homeland Security Investigations said in a statement that it had “executed law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation.”

During the raid, authorities said they seized phones. Two of Combs’ sons, Justin and Christian, were seen in handcuffs, but they were not formally arrested, according to Newsweek. Combs was not at either home at the time of the raids.

Not much is known about the current federal investigation into Combs, but a source close to the investigation said three women and a man have been interviewed by federal officials in Manhattan in relation to allegations of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and the solicitation and distribution of illegal narcotics and firearms, per NBC News.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Where Does This Leave Combs?

Combs is facing at least four civil lawsuits with allegations of sexual assault. Since the cases are civil, Combs faces no jail time even if he loses the lawsuits. He may potentially need to pay damages to the victims if they win their cases.

Combs currently does not face criminal charges regarding the raid at his home, but he is being investigated for potential crimes by the Southern District of New York. It’s difficult to know what potential consequences he may face until he is formally charged with a crime.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case?

Discuss Your Case with a Trusted Attorney

If you have questions about a pending legal case, it’s important to talk with an experienced attorney. An attorney can examine your cases from all sides and achieve the best possible outcome.

Make a plan for a pending legal case. Schedule a free consultation with attorney TJ Grimaldi. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.

Can Kids Use Social Media In Florida

In the past few months, social media has been a big topic for lawmakers at state and federal levels. Legislators have been using words like “bans” and “restrictions” when discussing sites like Facebook and TikTok. But what does it really mean for social media users?

Are users about to lose access? To which platforms? And is it legal?

Can Kids Use Social Media In Florida?

On March 25, 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Bill HB3 which will ban children aged 14 and under from using social media. The bill requires social media platforms to use age verification on all accounts and terminate accounts of people 14 and under, per reporting by CNN.

The bill signed by DeSantis differs from the bill originally approved by Florida legislators on February 22, 2024. In that version of the bill, both Republicans and Democrats voted to restrict the use of social media for children aged 16 and under. That version of the bill went to DeSantis, and he vetoed it. DeSantis said he was worried the bill would face challenges in courts.

Based on DeSantis’ feedback, legislators updated the bill to change the age restriction from 16 to 14, and DeSantis signed it.

While the bill attempts to keep children off social media entirely, it would be difficult to officially ban children from using social media. The bill will limit children from creating their own accounts, but it would not necessarily prevent children from using accounts of people who meet the age requirements.

Related: If Facebook Removes Your Post, Is It Violating Your Freedom of Speech?

When Will the Law Go Into Effect?

The law has been signed, but it will not go into effect until January 2025.

The bill will likely face challenges in court before it officially goes into effect. Critics of the bill say it violates the First Amendment. A similar bill in Ohio was blocked after a federal judge issued an emergency order halting the law from going into effect, per CNN. It is possible that the courts could hold up Florida’s social media ban from going into effect in January.

The bill may also face other challenges. Some legal experts say the bill is too vague in its description of “social media.”

Related: Bans & Supreme Court Challenges: What’s Going on With Florida Laws and Social Media?

Which Social Media Companies Are Impacted?

The bill does not specifically refer to any social media company by name. Instead, it lists criteria to define platforms that the bill would impact.

The original version of the bill included fewer details about what constitutes a social media platform, while the new bill includes more defined criteria.

Under the new bill, social media platforms are described as sites that:

  • Allow users to upload content or view the activity of other users
  • Use an algorithm to analyze user data and select content for the user
  • Use an infinite-scrolling feature
  • Employ push notifications
  • Display personal interactive metrics
  • Feature autoplay on videos

The new bill also defines social media platforms as sites that have, “Ten percent or more of the daily active users who are younger than 16 years of age spend on average 2 hours per day or longer on the online forum, website, or application.”

Does the Ban Only Impact Florida?

Bill HB3 is a state law and will only be enforced by Florida courts. It is not a federal ban. The bill impacts users who are residents living in this state for more than six months of the year.

Similar bills have passed in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Ohio, and Utah, and many of those bills have been challenged by courts.

Is This Law the Same as the TikTok Ban?

The social media ban in Florida is different from the national TikTok ban that is being discussed by federal lawmakers.

On March 13, 2024, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that could potentially lead to a national ban on TikTok, per CNN reporting. Unlike the Florida social media ban, this bill is not centered on protecting children from the harms of using social media. The bill, known as Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, is an act to protect national security.

Because TikTok is owned and controlled by the China-based company ByteDance, lawmakers have concerns about how user data is being used by the Chinese government. The bill says a national ban on TikTok will take place unless ByteDance sells its stake in the company.

For the bill to become a law, it must first be approved by the U.S. Senate and then by President Joe Biden.

If the bill becomes law, all TikTok users could lose access to the platform within six months.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

Get Expert Legal Advice

New laws are always being added, and existing laws are always changing. If you are dealing with a legal matter, work with an experienced attorney aware of constantly changing legislation. Talk to an attorney who knows the laws and the best ways to navigate your unique case whether you are dealing with a civil case or a criminal charge.

For a free consultation to discuss the details of your case, talk to experienced attorney TJ Grimaldi. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.

Tim Burke has produced news stories that have gone viral, but until last year, he was never a character in any news piece. Now, he finds himself in the middle of a very big story, a federal criminal case.

Who is Tim Burke? Why is he accused of 14 federal crimes, and what does it mean for the state of journalism?

Who Is Tim Burke?

Tim Burke, 45, is a Tampa media consultant, journalist, and video producer with over twenty years of experience. He has worked for The Daily Beast, Deadspin, Gawker Media, and Gizmodo Media Group. Through his company Burke Communications, Burke produces video content that is often distributed through larger media outlets. His high-profile clients have included HBO and ESPN, according to reporting by Tampa Bay Times.

Burke’s videos have gained notoriety in the past. While at Deadspin, his reporting on the Notre Dame football player Manti T’eo helped uncover the catfish story that became a national media sensation.

He was also responsible for a viral video clip in 2018. When Sinclair Broadcast Group had journalists at dozens of local television stations read the same public service announcement about “irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country,” Burke stitched together dozens of clips, creating a chilly compilation that spread quickly across the internet.

Burke also has some experience in local politics. In 2023, Burke helped his wife, Lunn Hurtak, with her political campaign. She won a seat on Tampa’s City Council.

Burke has had a seemingly normal career, so it came as a shock when the home he shares with his wife was raided by the FBI.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

Why Did The FBI Raid Burke’s Home?

In May 2023, FBI agents executed a search warrant and entered Burke’s home in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Agents arrived at 6 a.m. and conducted their search until 3:44 p.m., per reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Agents would not tell reporters why they were there. The affidavit used by the FBI to obtain the search warrant was sealed.

Burke said the agents took his cell phone, several computers and hard drives, and other equipment. Months after the raid, Burke said many of his belongings hadn’t been returned. Six months later, Burke was in a fight with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to get his items returned when he was officially charged with crimes.

Why Was Burke Charged with 14 Federal Crimes?

On February 22, 2024, Burke was charged with 14 federal charges, including conspiracy, accessing a protected computer without authorization, and intercepting or disclosing wire, oral, or electronic communications, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times. 

The case is centered around video material prosecutors say Burke accessed illegally.

They say Burke accessed video footage from an interview between Tucker Carlson and Kayne West that was not made public. The videos include unaired clips and behind-the-scenes footage of Kanye West making antisemitic comments.

The indictment says Burke used “compromised credentials” to access and save protected commercial broadcast video streams and then edit and share the videos without saying where they came from or how they were obtained.

If convicted on all charges, Burke would face more than 60 years in federal prison.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

What Happens Next?

Burke and his attorneys say his actions were not illegal and align with journalist standards for obtaining video content for reporting purposes.

In statements reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Burke’s attorneys say he obtained the videos through hyperlinks that were not encrypted and did not require a username and password. The attorneys believe the case has many implications for independent journalism — and many organizations agree.

In October, more than 50 organizations, including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote to the federal government demanding more transparency about the investigation into Burke. More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said Burke’s case has a “chilling effect on journalism.”

Burke was arraigned on March 12, 2024, and his next court appearance is set for the end of the month.

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Justice Department Boeing

Photo via: strawberrvy | Instagram  

When a large hole opens up in a plane midair, who is to blame?

Who will be held accountable for a recent mid-flight door plug blowout, and can a plane malfunction lead to criminal charges?

How Did a Hole Open Up in the Plane?

On January 5, 2024, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 took off from Portland, Oregon, heading to Ontario, California, but the flight didn’t make it very far. The flight took off at 4:52 pm and landed back at the same airport at 5:30 pm.

Roughly six minutes into the flight, as the plane reached an altitude of around 16,000 feet, an incident occurred. A door plug panel in the fuselage blew out, leaving a gaping hole in the passenger area of the plane.

Passengers remained in their seats as the plane turned around and landed safely. Of the 171 passengers and six crew on the plane, no one was injured.

The plane, designed and manufactured by Boeing, was delivered to Alaska Airlines in October. The door plug design on the new plane was not uncommon. The door plug covers a gap which can be used for an exit door in some interior seat layouts.

While the door plug is not an unusual feature of the plane, in this case, it was defective.

An investigation found that the construction of the door plug was incorrect. The plane was delivered to the airline carrier without four bolts needed to keep the door in place, according to reporting by Bloomberg.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

What Led to Two Other Boeing Plane Crashes?

The door plug blowout is not the first time Boeing has had major aircraft incidents.

In 2019, Boeing was forced to call for the grounding of their 737 Max planes after two of the aircrafts crashed, first in Indonesia and then in Ethiopia, killing a total of 346 people.

Boeing conducted an investigation and issued updates before the planes were allowed to go back in the air. The United States government, among other task forces, also conducted their own investigations.

It was discovered that Boeing did not adequately explain how a crucial new flight control system on the plane worked, per the New York Times. The new system and failure to understand it is what led to the two plane crashes.

After the report, the United States Justice Department got involved.

Boeing’s Deal with the US Justice Department

Boeing faced a criminal charge that claimed they defrauded the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The charges centered on two employees who withheld information from the FAA about changes made to software known as MCAS.

In 2021, the United States Justice Department, in the final days of the Trump administration, worked out a deal with Boeing.

Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in a legal settlement related to the two crashes, as reported by the New York Times. As part of the deal, Boeing had to establish a $500 million fund to compensate the families of those who died, pay a fine of nearly $244 million, and pay $1.77 billion in compensation to airline customers who had travel disruptions due to the grounding of planes.

The deal also allowed Boeing to defer the case and avoid criminal charges if they did not commit any other wrongdoing within three years.

The Boeing door plug blowout occurred just two days before the expiration of the deferred prosecution agreement.

Where Does That Leave Boeing?

The FAA is investigating Boeing’s safety practices. On February 28, the FAA gave Boeing 90 days to put together a plan to improve their quality control.

In addition to the FAA’s investigation, Boeing may again face potential criminal charges.

Because the door plug blowout happened during the time period that Boeing was to avoid any other incidents, the Justice Department is now looking to see if their previous agreement still stands. The recent incident may be a breach of contract and have broken Boeing’s commitment needed to avoid legal action, according to reporting by Bloomberg.

The FFA investigation and potential criminal case aren’t the only legal issues facing Boeing.

On January 5, six passengers who were aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 when the door plug blew filed a class action lawsuit against Boeing. And, on February 23, three other passengers sued Boeing along with Alaska Airlines for $1 billion.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

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TJ Grimaldi is here to help you through a personal injury case, family law matter, criminal defense, and more. See how TJ Grimaldi can guide you through your legal matter. Schedule a free consultation. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Florida Social Media Laws

(Press Association via AP Images)

Florida legislators are going after social media companies in an attempt to control the way users are able to access platforms. What laws have already been passed? Why is the United States Supreme Court stepping in? And what does it mean for social media users?

Florida Law Targets Social Media Companies in 2021

Florida has been in the news lately regarding its laws that impact how users access social media platforms, but the fight between Florida legislators and social media started in 2021.

In May 2021, Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072, which put limits on actions social media companies could take against their users, particularly political figures.

Notably, Donald J. Trump, while President, was banned from all major social media platforms after his alleged role in the January 6 attack on the capital. The Florida bill aimed to prevent politicians from being removed from social media sites in the future.

The law prevents social media companies from kicking political candidates off their platforms. According to the law, political candidates can sue social media companies if they are blocked or removed from the platforms for more than 14 days, per CNN.

While the bill has been signed into law, it has been met with legal challenges. Courts have issued injunctions to block the state from enforcing the law, and the case was recently heard in front of the United States Supreme Court.

Related: If Facebook Removes Your Post, Is It Violating Your Freedom of Speech?

Florida Law Targets Social Media Companies in 2024

On February 22, 2024, Florida legislators passed another law limiting the power social media companies have over managing their user base. This time, lawmakers weren’t intending to keep users on social media. They intended to kick them off.

House Bill 1 forbids any child under the age of 16 from using social media platforms, even if they have parental permission and supervision.

We recently covered the guidelines of the new social media ban. Under the guidelines, users would be required to submit legal identification or use a facial recognition scan to open new accounts and confirm their identities for existing accounts. Any account that does not provide age-verifying information would be suspended.

The bill was passed by both the Florida House and Senate leading it to the desk of Governor Ron Desantis. The bill’s fate now depends on Desantis and whether or not he will sign it. Last month, Desantis questioned whether the bill would lead to First Amendment challenges.

If the bill is signed by Desantis, it may end up in courts like the Florida social media law passed in 2021.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

2021 Social Media Law Goes to the Supreme Court

While it is predicted that the 2024 social media bill banning users under 16 may end up challenged in the court system, the 2021 social media law has already made its way to the US Supreme Court.

On February 26, 2024, oral arguments took place in front of the US Supreme Court regarding the Florida law that limits a social media company’s right to ban users. The case was heard along with a challenge against a similar law passed in Texas.

Solicitors general for Florida and Texas defended their states’ laws. They argued that social media sites are public forums that should not be controlled or censored, as reported by the New York Times.

Legal experts say the Supreme Court seemed skeptical of the laws. Per reporting by CNN, the justices asked questions that seemed to show that they did not agree with many aspects of the laws. They questioned the ambiguity of the classification of social media platforms and whether or not a public company can violate the First Amendment.

So, Where Do the Laws Stand Right Now?

The US Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2021 social media law will take some time. The ruling on whether or not the law is constitutional will come later this spring. In the meantime, the state of Florida will not be able to enforce the law.

The future of the 2024 social media ban remains to be seen. First, Desantis will need to decide whether or not he will sign the bill. He could send it back to legislators to ask for changes before signing it into law. And even if it does become law, it could face the same future as the 2021 law.

It is likely that the 2024 law will be challenged before it has time to be put into place, and it is likely that it could also end up in the courts, similar to the 2021 law.

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Share the details of your case during a free consultation. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today to see how we can support your case and fight for your rights.