Articles Posted in Attorney Selection

To be represented by a Public Defender in Pensacola and elsewhere in Florida, a person must complete an “affidavit of indigency.”
Anyone who has taken middle school civics, or who has ever seen a cop show on TV, knows the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees those who are accused of a crime have the right to be represented by a lawyer in all critical phases of their criminal case. It’s one of the basic principles of the American justice system.

If a citizen of Pensacola, Milton, Okaloosa County or Walton County is charged with a crime but doesn’t have the resources to hire a private attorney, they will most likely need to use the services of the Public Defender’s Office

Often people are confused about whether Public Defenders in Florida, who represent indigent people, are in fact lawyers. They are definitely lawyers. They passed the Bar examination like the rest of us and many of them are damn fine lawyers.

Some people arrested in Pensacola on drug charges may avoid jail time my opting for Drug Court.
Thankfully, the criminal justice system recognizes that crimes related to drugs and alcohol are oftentimes rooted in the disease of addiction and offers a respite in a program called Drug Court. If successfully completed, Drug Court helps offenders avoid jail time and, in some cases, can keep a felony conviction off their record.

Eligibility for post-adjudicatory drug courts is set out in Florida Statute § 948.08 and varies widely, as these drug courts operate at the county and circuit level throughout Florida. We owe the genesis of our Drug Court Program to the Honorable John T. Parnham, a retired Escambia County Circuit Judge, who helped begin and set up Pensacola’s drug court program based on other models in use around the country.

This article is designed only to give you a basic outline of how drug court is used in Northwest Florida and Escambia County or Pensacola. Please see the statute for a more complete explanation of how “drug court program” actually works or give our office a call and we’ll be happy to assist you.

no contest plea, pensacola, florida, Gulf BreezeMany of us have heard the term “no contest,” or in Latin “nolo contendere,” which means “I do not wish to contend,” on television or maybe during a trip to court here in Pensacola, but what does that mean and what is the difference between a plea of no contest and a plea of guilty in Florida?

Sometimes there is, effectively, no difference and sometimes there is a considerable difference.

If someone pleads guilty, they are admitting to the facts and legal consequences of those facts.  However, by entering a no contest plea, a person is not admitting their guilt but is admitting there are facts the prosecution can prove that would result in a conviction.  Specifically, by entering a plea of no contest a person is neither denying their guilt or admitting it. Rather, they are admitting that it is in their best interest to enter the plea.  The sentencing consequences can be, and usually are, the same.

plea agreement, Pensacola, attorney, crimeA plea agreement is a negotiated contract between a defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor that spells out the sentence that is acceptable to both parties. That sentence is then recommended to the court; it is then up to the court to accept or deny the terms of the plea agreement.

Provided the court accepts the terms agreed to, there will be no need for a trial. If the court does not accept the conditions, the defendant is generally allowed to withdraw the plea and choose to either plea without a plea agreement “straight up” to the court or go to trial.

Plea agreements have the advantage of certainty for the defendant. Almost always, the sentence agreed upon in the plea agreement is something less severe that the maximum allowable punishment under the law – otherwise there would be no reason to enter into a plea agreement.

Like anyone doing their job, law enforcement officers should be treated with kindness and courtesy. They put their lives on the line every day in the name of public safety. The role police officers play in our society deserves a high degree of respect.

However federal and state law enforcement officers, which include Pensacola Police Officers, Escambia Sheriff’s Deputies, and other law enforcement officials operate under certain limitations enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s 4th amendment protections, other federal and state laws and court cases interpreting those laws of how they can search your person and your property — and that includes your car!

Fourth Amendment Protections Applies to Your Car

spring break partyFew things can put a damper on a spring break trip to Pensacola Beach, Navarre, Ft. Walton Beach or Destin like getting arrested.

As disheartening as that can be, the right attorney may be able to help you avoid a mandatory court appearance or, possibly, even having a blemish on your record. Here are some common reasons – and remedies – for spring break arrests:

Minor in possession of alcohol or marijuana: Although those arrested for being a minor in possession are not usually taken to jail, they are issued what’s called a “Notice to Appear.” That is a legal requirement to appear in court on a particular date, usually a few weeks later. In Florida,  it has the same effect as an arrest, unfortunately. The defendant must appear at that court date unless he or she hires an attorney who can waive the requirement to appear.  Sometimes an agreement can be reached with the prosecutor eliminating the need to appear or even come back to Pensacola.

Law students at Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown Universities can elect to be excused from taking final exams if they feel disturbed by the grand jury decisions relating to the Ferguson and New York City decisions. As I understand it, this means that they would still have to take exams but could do so after receiving counseling and at a later date. I anticipate other law schools to follow suit if the administrations of these top tier law schools are allowing students to opt out and postpone taking finals. I think this acquiescing to law students’ demands is totally out of place. However, I disagree that law students and lawyers should be emotionless in how they approach their cases and careers as lawyers.

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Many law professors in the academia elite feel this “opting out” to be totally inappropriate.
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Potential Client,

Until January 1, 2010 this blog entry contained one of many client testimonials our office has received because of our work ethics including the thoroughness of our investigatory work, communications with clients and results obtained because of our compassionate work ethic.

However, last November, the Supreme Court of Florida issued an opinion that required websites that are controlled or sponsored by a lawyer or law firm to comply with Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-7.2. Rule 4-7.2 regulates the type of information that lawyers may provide on their websites or blogs. Although there was a six month moratorium imposed in which websites were allowed to bring their websites into conformity with these new rules, we felt it prudent to make these changes immediately to bring our site in full compliance with ethical rules.

When John’s Mother learned he was arrested in Pensacola and placed in jail on a $100,000 bond she didn’t know what to do. She had never had any dealings with an attorney before in her life and neither had John who had no criminal history except a couple traffic tickets. She didn’t know what she needed to do to help her son who was calling from in the jail begging for her help. For the first time in her life she felt helpless. Does she call a bondsman? Who are they and what do they do? Or does she call an attorney? Where would she find one? She picks up the Yellow Pages and sees page after page of attorneys advertisements, some claiming that they will “fight hard for you” and others ads saying self-serving, aggrandizing statements of what they will do if she hired them. She had limited resources and knew she wanted her son out of jail. Should she just start calling them? She decided she needed to do something so she started calling attorney after attorney. Many didn’t call her back. How interested could they be in helping if they didn’t call back? Or maybe they were just too busy. Some called back but didn’t want to talk to her for very long with charging a fee. How could she know if the person was the right attorney for representing her son?

Unfortunately, this is the situation many people are faced with when a loved one is arrested. I know I hate to pick up a phone book and call any service related business, be it plumber, electrician, car mechanic, out of the blue and hope that I get someone who will be honest with me and who I can trust. The other day I had trouble with a car who my regular mechanic didn’t service, so I called him and asked him who would he call if he had a car like mine to give me honest and trustworthy service. I knew good service wouldn’t be cheap. Much the same can be done if your loved one is arrested. Call friends who may know an attorney and ask them their advice. Chances are even if the attorney who they know doesn’t handle criminal cases he will refer you to several who he considers reputable. Ask that attorney, if he or she were in trouble, or if a loved one was in trouble, who would they use? If you know people who work in the court house, or people who know people who work in the courthouse, get them to call for you and get some names of reputable attorneys.

phonebook.jpgPicking someone out of the phone book may yield good results; however, the phone book is probably not the best place to obtain someone’s name who will have the responsibility of having your loved one’s future life and liberty in their hands. You want someone who you can communicate with easily, who doesn’t talk over your head, who listens extremely well. Most attorneys are not trained to be good listeners. Law school doesn’t teach lawyers how to listen; if fact quite the opposite: it teaches people how to be adversarial. Being adversarial is not necessarily, in my opinion, what wins cases or what your loved one may need in an attorney. The best attorney in the Courtroom is the most prepared attorney in the Courtroom. One side wins by being more prepared than the other. Of course, facts cannot be changed and not even the most prepared attorney can always win. There is no real life Perry Mason. (By the way, Perry did lose one case; of course it was reversed on appeal. How Hamilton Burger, the prosecutor, kept his job I don’t know).