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

Amenities as a Guest of the State

If you do not eat your vegetables at home, you can get them in prison.  Florida’s inmates work on over 53 different farms, gardens, and University of Florida food and agricultural facilities, harvesting about 10.4 million pounds of produce, including broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, greens, peas, watermelon, and other fruits and vegetables.  If farming, roadwork, or institutional laundry or cooking is not your occupation of choice, you may want to talk to a defense lawyer before you are serving time as a guest of the State. A gated community is not for everyone, especially when the bars do not allow you to come and go as you please.  I always thought I would like jail.  I could get a lot of reading done and would not be interrupted by phone calls, but the loss of freedom is more than an exclusion of distractions.  If you have any legal issue with a prison time, it is good to have an attorney. A defense attorney can help you work with the prosecution on choices to get the best resolution possible.  You may have made bad decisions, but you do not have to put yourself in a worse position by shutting down choices.  Seek […] Read More

Living in Captivity on Salisbury Steak

The Department of Corrections provides meals, housing, and a limited wardrobe—all within a gated community.  Regardless of the fine amenities offered to the guests of the State, you may want to exercise your Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel before you learn first-hand what day of the week features Salisbury steak. Captivity as a penalty for crime is a fairly modern concept.  Before that, they just executed people.  Once European countries had to quit sending their bad populous to America, prison systems gained popularity, and even a spirit of rehabilitation. I have been to jail many times…but not as an overnight guest of the State.  Regardless of all the reading time and the team-building opportunities you could capitalize on while inside, the loss of freedom is more than an exclusion of distractions.  If you have legal issues that involve a major fine or jail time, seek competent legal representation.  A defense attorney can help you work with the prosecution on choices to get the best resolution possible from unfortunate circumstances.   Read More

Quit Smoking without Jail Time

Some people use the patch to quit smoking or chew nicotine gum, but one California woman took a criminal approach:  she slapped a cop.  No smoking gun in this crime…no smoking at all in the Sacramento County jail, which was why she assaulted a uniformed Deputy Sheriff:  so she could get locked up long enough to quit.  Hopefully 60 days will do it. There are ways to quit smoking that do not involve the justice system, finger printing, and a criminal record.  Generally if you are facing jail time or a fine, a defense attorney can help you work with prosecutors for the best possible resolution, but if you are trying to quit smoking, save the expense of legal fees.  There is free online help at http://www.smokefree.gov/, as well as other resources. Read More

Assault & Battery

“Assault” and “Battery” are not synonymous.  Per Florida Statute, Assault is “an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.”  Battery is all that plus actual injury. Words mean things, and if they are threatening, they could mean jail time.  An Assault Charge is a Second Degree Misdemeanor, which can result in 60 days in jail plus a $500 fine.  However, once you stray into Felony territory, a Third Degree Felony for Felony Battery can mean five years of prison…and no, you still do not get to control the TV. If you are facing time behind bars other than bartending school, seek competent legal counsel to learn what defenses may be available to you.  Prison food could be better than your wife’s cooking, but it is complicated to have pizza delivered. Read More

Juvenile Choices

What you fail to learn at home you can get in Juvenile Justice—sometimes that means a new perspective through a little community service, or an outlook from behind bars. “I wasn’t doing anything…” those are often the first words of a juvenile defendant…and nothing good comes after that when the story is told in court.  “We were just hanging out…” then the trouble begins. “You may outgrow your responsibility to listen to your parents, but you will never outgrow your responsibility to obey the law.  The best way to remain in charge of your own life is to know the law, and obey it. Do otherwise, and you are responsible for putting someone that you do not even know in charge of telling you everything from where you can go and what you can do, all the way down to what you can wear, and what you can eat.”  – Judge Alexander and Judge Wolfe The Juvenile Justice System will feed you, but it is harder to order pizza from a jail cell.  If you do not make a choice, decisions can get made for you, and the consequences may not be what you wanted. Read More

Body Attachment to Debt Can Land You in Jail

There is no such thing as Debtors’ Prison in the US, but there is such a thing as Contempt of Court, which can result in a Writ of Attachment and Arrest. After a debt judgment, a Fact Information Sheet comes standard in Florida and must be given to a Creditor on request.  If you fail to submit your Fact Information Sheet, you can turn a civil matter into time behind bars.  It is difficult to earn a living so you can pay bills when you are not free to go to work. The State of Missouri is under scrutiny for debt collection practices which include “Body Attachment” if a debtor is a no-show for court.  The criticism is especially strong when judges set bonds at the amount owned in the debt, then turn that amount over to the creditors, thus using tax-paid police and court personnel to collect private debt. Debt is supposed to be non-fattening, but it can really stick with you and be hard to work off your credit report.  Seek competent legal counsel to examine your options if you are facing judgment… the consequences can be arresting! Read More

Legal Ammo

Big Bad Wolf had done time for harassing the Three Pigs and mugging Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.  He was out on probation until Chicken Little spotted a box of ammunition in Big Bad’s house and called the police. The ammo belonged to Big Bad’s coyote cousin, who had left it after his road runner safari.  Big Bad did not possess the gun that it went to, nor did he have that firearm on his property.  Even so, it is illegal in most cases for a felon to have ammunition, so the police dragged Big Bad Wolf off to jail. Big Bad’s defense attorney was very anxious to argue that the evidence did NOT meet the legal requirements of “ammunition.”  The legal definition of ammunition includes powder; however, this particular Acme Ammo did not have powder; instead, it contained very small pellets, tiny spheres visible under a simple magnifying glass. The Prosecutor offered three years. Big Bad and his lawyer turned that down. Then the Division Chief threatened “Habitual Offender Status” for sentencing, AND an additional charge of “Possession of a Firearm by a Felon.” Though Big Bad Wolf had good legal ammo, no one can actually predict the outcome of […] Read More

So Wrong!

Sometimes people commit crimes and sometimes cops lie.  Neither is supposed to happen, but the gap between what is supposed to happen, and what does happen could mean the difference between incarceration and a lesser punishment, depending on the situation. In criminal cases we could be talking real estate versus jewelry:  do you get a corner cell or wear an anklet?  If you are facing criminal charges, it could be worth your freedom to explore your defense options.  Even if you know you are guilty and prepared for punishment, get a second opinion from competent legal counsel.  While you may represent yourself in court, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help the punishment better fit the crime. Just because you are guilty does not mean you have to accept the maximum penalty.  Good legal counsel will review your case from all angles, including police reports and witness statements. Sitting on Santa’s lap when you are 40 is not your best move, neither is accepting a large fine or jail time without at least looking at your possible legal defenses. The best way to avoid criminal charges is not to commit the crime.  If you have committed a crime, […] Read More

Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief becomes a felony at $1,000.  Criminal Mischief is when you damage someone’s property on purpose.  If that damage exceeds $1,000, you can be looking at probation or more than one year in a commitment facility.  Trick-or-treating is tough if you are behind bars. Egging a car can be a felony.  If the paint on the car is damaged, the cost could be more than $1,000 to repair.  Thus Halloween high jinks can result in jail time. For a guide about the law for youth and parents, go to http://www.sjso.org/media/Know%20the%20Law%20Booklet.pdf.  Ignorant does not equal innocent, even if you are underage. Have a Safe and Happy Halloween. Read More