Happy Bill of Rights Day

Two hundred and twenty-four years ago the Bill of Rights was ratified on this day.  The Bill of Rights is made up of those first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, granting things like freedom of speech, jury trial, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and many other useful rights.  These rights have been around awhile now and they may seem intuitive today, but the history of the Bill of Rights was anything but straightforward. Ironically the Bill of Rights was never actually a “Bill” in Congress.  It got called that because England had passed a “Bill of Rights” a hundred years earlier.  Some felt these rights should have been included in the Constitution.  Others did not think we needed this Bill of Rights at all because states would have their own bill of rights.  Originally there were seventeen amendments, but the Senate rejected some and combined others.  Furthermore, some states did not accept the Bill of Rights right away.  Massachusetts did not get around to ratifying the Bill of Rights until 1939 (two years before President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 to be “Bill of Rights Day”). Today we celebrate the Bill of Rights, but every day […] Read More

What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

Living better through chemistry may also mean dying more comfortably through chemistry, but once you are gone, where do the drugs go?  If you are a Hospice patient, drug and drug paraphernalia disposal is one of Hospice’s services.  Otherwise the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has a couple of drop box locations. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office ‘Operation Medicine Cabinet’ offers safe disposal of drugs and drug paraphernalia.  If you flush drugs down the toilet, you can introduce controlled substances into the water supply, and if you leave them in your medicine cabinet you might support someone else’s addiction or you could get criminally charged with possession.   St. Johns County Sheriff Office Lobby 4015 Lewis Speedway St. Augustine, Florida 32084 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.   Julington Creek Annex 725 Flora Branch Blvd. Saint Johns, Florida 32259 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.   Read More

Jury Duty – What’s Your Excuse?

The dog ate my jury summons? Tourette’s Syndrome? Allergic to the courtroom carpet fibers? The dog will bark if I am gone during the day? SpaceX has stranded me on the Space Station? Dated one of the attorneys trying the case? Dated the judge? Dated the defendant? I am the Governor of the State of Florida? My dog is the Governor of the State of Florida? While some people have a legitimate qualification to be excused from jury duty, others do not.  Furthermore, some excuses may be more effective than others to get your fined and held in contempt of court. On the other hand, jury duty allows you to have active participation in the fair administration of justice. Most people would rather be fishing than to be in court, especially facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  Jury Duty lets you help decide the fate of people in your community.  The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to trial by jury, and your service as a juror makes that right possible.  As a juror, you can change the outcome of a trial.   Read More

Jail Time Is No Holiday

The criminal justice system of St. Johns County has not always been a tourist attraction.  When Henry Flagler came to town, the Castillo de San Marcos imprisoned Native Americans.  (During the American Revolution when Florida was a British Colony, the Castillo incarcerated several signers of the Declaration of Independence.)  Mr. Flagler built the Romanesque Revival jail on San Marco that looked so good, tourists mistook it for one of his hotels.  Today that Old Jail is a Trolley stop and with a gift shop.  Even the once-courthouse (a.k.a. the ‘Casa Monica Hotel’) now hosts visitors eager to stay overnight, instead of the accused hoping not to become guests of the State. Though Florida jails have picked up many standard amenities since Flagler’s day (like air conditioning, running water, ventilation, and electric lights), jail time is no holiday.  If you are accused of a crime and facing jail time, exercise your right to legal counsel to ensure your rights are properly asserted.  Do not accept maximum lodging in that kind of gated community; instead, use your right to a defense attorney who can work with prosecutors towards a correct resolution.   Read More

DUI Due Diligence

Driving Under the Influence and Due Diligence are not logical companions.  If you did your due diligence, you would have gotten a designated driver or made other transportation arrangements ahead of time.  However, if you are charged with DUI, there is some due diligence you can take to help the penalty fit the crime. A DUI is a serious charge which should be treated seriously.  Besides possible injury or loss of life, fines for DUI convictions start at $500 and run into thousands of dollars, depending on how many times you have been convicted, your blood alcohol level, and if you had a minor in the car with you.  Those are just the penalty expenses, which do not include court costs, legal fees, insurance increases, and possible labor hours lost due to incarceration and/or community service, and/or DUI education. While alcohol can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle correctly with safety considerations to yourself and others, currently we deal with this problem through penalty, but there are flaws in our system. A DUI defense often deals with proper testing procedure and appropriate punishment.  Was the evidence obtained correctly and is it scientific?  Does the penalty fit the crime?  […] Read More

Golden Ring of Silence in Police Questioning

Light travels faster than sound, and you may appear brilliant until you speak, then you may give police probable cause or evidence that can be held against you.  The right to remain silent can be a sound foundation to your criminal defense. We want the bad guys caught, and therefore Law Enforcement has a tough balance between protecting the public, and protecting people’s right to privacy.  Law Enforcement does not always get it right. If you are arrested, identify yourself to the police officers, and if you do not want to make a statement or answer questions, let them know that.  Not only do you have the right to remain silent, but everything you do say can be used against you in court. Potentially, the longer your sentence to police, the longer your sentence in prison.   Your mother may call you “son,” but probably that is not for the bright move that put you in the back of the squad car.  Exercise your right to remain silent, or it may go flabby with you behind bars for an extra long time. Talk to an attorney.  Tell the police you want to speak with an attorney and that you do not […] Read More

Jail

Henry Flagler built the Romanesque Revival jail on San Marco Avenue.  It looked so good people mistook it for a hotel.  The “guests” inside, however, had amenities like overcrowding, hard labor, lack of electricity, and limited to no plumbing.  The St. Johns County jail today is not what it used to be. Highlights of modern Florida jails include the basics:  a sink, flushable toilet, bunk, artificial lighting, and ventilation.  Also, inmates are required to bathe at least twice a week, and if you are in general population, you are allowed to shower daily.  It is not the Casa Monica, but it is a lot better than it was. Still, if that kind of gated community is not your ideal living space, and you have been accused of a crime, you may want to speak to an attorney regarding your housing.  Any time you are facing heavy fines or jail time, make sure the penalty fits the crime.  Do not accept the maximum penalty just because you do not know better.  Seek competent legal counsel to work with prosecutors for a correct resolution.   Read More

What If I Cannot Afford An Attorney?

There are many situations in which having legal counsel is beneficial; however, robbing Peter to pay your attorney…probably not a good idea, besides, you may not have to cover the legal fees yourself, depending on your financial circumstances. In a Criminal Case The Sixth Amendment gives you the Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  Legal Counsel is so necessary in a criminal case that if a defendant cannot afford counsel, the State provides counsel without fee. In a Civil Case That Constitutional right to an attorney does not extend to civil matters (such as divorce, landlord-tenant dispute, or foreclosure defense).  We are fortunate in our area to have St. Johns County Legal Aid, a local non-profit agency that primarily serves the most vulnerable demographic of our population, aiding awareness of legal rights and options in matters of debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, family law, and many other civil subjects.  Their motto is “A Wealth of Justice for Those Who Have Neither,” and they mean it. If you think you cannot afford an attorney in a civil case, contact your local Legal Aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of […] Read More

Distracted Driving–What?

If you are reading this blog while driving STOP READING.  Safely pull over and park, and then continue reading. Distracted driving can mean driving while doing everyday things such as reading, eating, adjusting your radio or playlist, and texting or talking on your mobile phone.  Of course driving with a Blood Alcohol Level of 0.02 or higher can also be distracting (though it may not an ‘everyday thing’). Some say we never really grow up, we only learn to act in public.  If that breaks down, you may want a lawyer. Alcohol can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle correctly with safety considerations to yourself and others.  Currently we deal with this problem through penalty, but there are flaws in our system. A DUI defense often deals with proper testing procedure and appropriate punishment.  Was the evidence obtained correctly and is it scientific?  Does the penalty fit the crime?  If you do not question these issues, then you sentence yourself to whatever the State has to say. There are a lot of situations where having an attorney can be very helpful to get the best resolution possible from unfortunate circumstances.  A DUI charge is not the least of […] Read More

No ‘Undo’ Feature in Criminal Justice

Gmail has a new feature which allows you to “undo” sending a message.  When you enable “Undo Send” in our Gmail settings, Gmail holds the message a few seconds in case you have second thoughts.  Too bad criminal actions do not have this feature. We do NOT have the technology that lets you commit a crime, then take it back.  Furthermore, if you are arrested for it, that arrest record is likely to stick around a long time.  But we do have a criminal justice system that allows you to defend yourself. The Sixth Amendment gives you the Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  Legal Counsel is deemed so necessary in a criminal case that if a defendant cannot afford counsel, the State provides counsel without fee. Use your Sixth Amendment right.  The law is technical, and from a technical standpoint there are things you can mess up that will hurt what you are trying to accomplish.  Seek competent legal counsel to properly assert your rights.   Read More