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

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

Anything Can Happen – 2 Examples

Anything can happen; it is what you do about it that counts. Example 1: A man walked into a fast food restaurant and ordered food.  He waited and waited, and when he finally got his food, the manager gave him his money back.  Thus the manager made a bad situation (slow service) better by giving the customer a free meal. Example 2: A man walked into a motel room…what he did not know was it was part of a sting operation.  As soon as the man said the magic words, a bunch of big guys came through the door and tackled him.  Thus the man was in a bad situation (accused of solicitation), but he used his Sixth Amendment right to an attorney who worked with prosecutors to help weight the mitigating issues, and the result was a punishment that fit the crime. Certain charges have unintended consequences.  Sometimes you can make the case go away, but something else may be affected, like still having to pay a civil ticket or not allowed to have a firearm. Do not make a bad situation worse by limiting your choices.  Just because you are accused of a crime does not mean you […] Read More

How To Stop The Questioning

If you have been arrested, silence during police questioning can be golden to your defense.  If you wish to remain silent, tell the police you want to invoke your right to do so, and then all questioning must stop. 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.  Your silence can be in the best interest of your defense.  Furthermore, anything you do say can be used against you in court.  It is NOT like on TV:  law enforcement officers cannot offer leniency for your written or spoken testimony. Talk to an attorney.  You have the right to legal counsel if you are charged with a criminal offense.  If you are facing heavy fines or jail time, rely on a defense attorney to 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. The right to remain silent can be a sound foundation to a criminal defense.  Talk to your attorney regarding the details of your case to discuss possible […] Read More

A Good Choice in a Criminal Arrest

One bad choice can lead to another…but it does not have to.  If you have criminal charges against you, legal counsel can be a good choice in an unfortunate situation. 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. Yes, you would have been better off if you had not allegedly committed a crime in the first place, but sometimes Captain Obvious picks inopportune times to not show up.  Good legal counsel can help you work with prosecutors towards an appropriate penalty or fine. The problem is, there can be mistakes in procedure and mishandling of evidence.  The other problem is, without proper legal representation, you could receive the maximum penalty.   A criminal arrest is bad—no matter if you are a celebrity like Vanilla Ice, or just plain vanilla—but you do not have to put yourself in a worse position by shutting down choices.  Seek legal counsel for the best possible outcome in an unfortunate situation.   Read More

Shoplifting

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but intent can get you convicted of shoplifting. Intent to steal can get you in trouble—you do not even have to leave the store to get arrested for shoplifting.  Furthermore, a jury only needs reasonable doubt to convict you of shoplifting—they do not need to go as far as beyond the shadow of a doubt for this crime. The best way to avoid a shoplifting charge is in the words of Dan Baird:  “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”  However, if you do find yourself with an arrest for theft, seek competent legal counsel to work with prosecutors towards an outcome best suited for all parties involved. Read More