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

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

Legal Aid Not the Same As Public Defender

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.  This does not apply in a civil matter (such as divorce, landlord-tenant dispute, or foreclosure defense); that is where Legal Aid plays a vital role in providing legal services for civil cases involving the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. Legal Aid is not the same as a Public Defender.  You will not be assigned an attorney if you cannot afford one for a case where your lender is suing to foreclose on your home. St. Johns County Legal Aid is 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 […] Read More

Right to an Attorney

You have a Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal case, not in a civil case.  That does not mean you should avoid hiring an attorney for cases of home foreclosure, credit card debt, or divorce.  Decisions in a legal conflict can be difficult to make on your own.  Attorneys remove the emotion so their clients can take the necessary steps to move through a legal problem. You may not be able to see every legal angle as effectively as an attorney, plus, you have to follow the rules and procedures of court—if you do not know what the rules and procedures are, you may miss opportunities to present key elements of your case.  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. A lawyer can reframe the situation into business terms to help you look at the possible choices and consequences. The more you know, the less stress you have about the unknown.  Seek competent legal counsel to learn what choices you may have and to review the legal process of your case. If you think you cannot afford an attorney, contact […] Read More

Rights to Remember If You Are Arrested

Remember high school civics class, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights?  You may not have exact recall of Pythagorean’s Theorem or the meaning of onomatopoeia, but remembering you right to remain silent and your right to an attorney can be useful if you are arrested. If you are arrested, you do not have to answer questions and you can end an interrogation by stating that you wish to remain silent.  Speak up to say you want to remain silent.  Defendants can hurt their case by saying too much, and good legal counsel can help you work with prosecutors on an outcome that is best for everyone. The Florida Bar provides a free online pamphlet called “Legal Guide for New Adults” (available at http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBConsum.nsf/48e76203493b82ad852567090070c9b9/34557641d4c2f7c885256b2f006c5753?OpenDocument) which covers criminal charges and a variety of non-criminal subjects.  The language is in layman’s terms and its topics apply to new adults as well as those a little older than 18.   Read More

Defense Attorneys – Why We Do What We Do

It is a dirty job, but somebody has to collect the legal fees!  And there is more to it. The problem is, there can be mistakes in procedure and mishandling of evidence.  The other problem is, the Prosecutors cannot do their jobs properly if Defense Attorneys fail to their jobs the right way…and then you could have a criminal walk.  The right to legal counsel is part of the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution along with the right to a fair trial.  Defense Attorneys are obligated to represent their clients to the best of their abilities not just for the sake of the Bar Oath, but also to ensure that justice is served. There are no guarantees in court.  If I could predict the outcome of trials, then I would quit being a lawyer and go play Lotto.  We guarantee nothing except the best representation we can give. Read More