Property Insurance Rate Changes in Florida Law

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz released the following about rate reductions Citizens Property Insurance Corporation personal home insurance policyholders will see in 2015:
“The announcement today from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation that nearly 70 percent of personal-lines policyholders could see a rate reduction next year under the proposed rates is good news,” said President Gaetz. “Coupled with last week’s vote by the Governor and Cabinet ending the 1.3 percent emergency Cat Fund assessments on property and casualty policies to pay for past hurricane losses, these reductions make it clear that Florida is moving in the right direction in addressing Florida property insurance issues integral to our real estate market. Citizens’ rate reductions for 2015 are the result of stronger reinsurance markets, 2011 legislation addressing sinkhole claims, the buildup of a significant surplus due to the recent lack of hurricane activity, and the Legislature’s continued efforts to reduce Citizens’ exposure. Additionally, in 2013 the Legislature took steps to reduce the size of Citizens by moving policyholders back into the private market through an insurance clearinghouse. Citizens announced earlier this year that it reduced to under one million the number of policies it insures and expects further reductions by the end of the year.

“While not all Citizens’ policyholders would see rate reductions, all Floridians will see a reduction due to the elimination of the emergency assessment. There is still much to be done in this area, but these positive indications are evidence that we are taking the right steps toward improving Florida’s insurance market.”

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt government corporation whose public purpose is to provide insurance protection to Florida property owners throughout the state. The corporation insures hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and condominiums whose owners otherwise might not be able to find coverage.

Citizens operates according to statutory requirements created by the Florida Legislature and a Plan of Operation approved by the Florida Financial Services Commission. The corporation is governed by a Board of Governors that administers its Plan of Operation. Florida’s Governor, President of the Florida Senate, Speaker of the Florida House and the state’s Chief Financial Officer each appoint two members to the Board.

Citizens has offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Tampa. Tallahassee is the corporate headquarters for the organization. The Jacksonville and Tampa offices provide policy services and underwriting, claims, and customer support.

Posted in Florida Law News, Florida News, Jacksonville News

Florida Divorce Rates, Information and Help

Some studies show increased adhd behaviors in children after a divorce.

Some studies show increased adhd behaviors in children after a divorce.

A Brown University study found that four of the top ten US cities with the highest divorce rates are in Florida. In 2011, the Huffington Post reported that Florida had the 8th highest divorce rate of any state in the nation. The ratio used to calculate the rate was the total number of divorces divided by the population.

The effects of a divorce are traumatizing for all those involved. Often it is the children who are hurt the worst. In March of 2012, Lauren Hansen reported at theweek.com that there are 9 common trends among children who come from divorced families.

Children Often Suffer:

  • Smoking habits
  • Ritalin Use
  • Poor Math and Social Skills
  • More Susceptible to Getting Sick
  • More Likely to Drop Out of School
  • A Propensity to Commit Crimes
  • More Likely to Suffer a Stroke
  • Greater Chance of Their Own Divorce
  • Early Death

Jacksonville Divorce Attorney

Finding someone who will take your money to represent you during a divorce is easy, but choosing a family lawyer or mediator is a difficult decision that could easily turn into one of the best or worst decisions of your life. The best divorce attorneys are never the least expensive and the cost of not obtaining great legal representation in the family court system is typically worth every penny you might spend for a strong, assertive fighter in your corner who knows the ins and outs of the judicial system.

Children and finances create havoc during a separation and a divorce. Alimony, child custody, child support and other factors may create a lifetime of headaches and further need for legal representation.

In the article, The Stages of Divorce, by Dr. Tom Merrill and Geoff Hamilton, Esq., a family law attorney in Honolulu, Hawaii, the following stages are associated with most marriages ending.

  • Deliberation Phase
  • Decision Phase
  • Transition Phase (“Crazy Time”)
  • Litigation Phase
  • Healing Phase

While it is interesting to read about the “Crazy Time” Phase in the article, it is even more interesting to see a family law attorney ignore what often follows the healing phase they refer to.

After initial mediation or litigation, settlements for alimony, child custody and child support are handed out to the divorcing couple. Many factors come together during this time to determine who gets what, when and how. The family courts recognize that over time things will change. This is when modifications to divorce settlements become possible.

Post-Divorce Modifications

Fletcher and Phillips law firm in Jacksonville, Florida is a very well established family attorney practice. On their website http://www.fletcherandphillips.com they have the follow list that details common reasons or circumstances that may warrant a divorce modification.

Why a post-divorce modification might be right for you.

  • Loss of job
  • Business failure
  • Economic downturn
  • Illness
  • Physical injury
  • Death
  • Relocating out of state
  • Moving elsewhere in Florida
  • Finding new employment
  • Change in dependant’s status

If you are considering a divorce.

Your future depends on your choice today.

The representation you decide to retain will be your buffer in the court system to help you protect your rights. While the divorce is guaranteed to be painful for all parties, the pain can be drastically decreased if the lawyer you choose does everything in their power to help you. It will pay great dividends in the long run if you find an attorney who has the years of experience required to obtain relationships with other local attorneys and even judges in the county or state where you are getting your divorce.

Posted in Family Law Articles and News, Florida News, Jacksonville Lawyer, news

Attorneys for Florida Law

There are currently 93 U.S. Attorneys in the United States. The Office of the United States Attorney was created along with the office of Attorney General and the United States Marshals Service in 1789. At that time the structure of the Supreme Court of the United States and the lower courts of the United States Federal Judiciary were formed. In 1870 the U.S. Attorneys were put under the Attorney General, with the creation of the Department of Justice.

Florida Districts and Their U.S. Attorneys

Pamela Cothran Marsh

Image of US Attorney Pamela Cothran Marsh

US Attorney Pamela Cothran Marsh

Pamela Cothran Marsh became the 40th United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida on June 25, 2010. Attorney Marsh was nominated by President Barack Obama for the position. She is the first woman ever for the Northern District of Florida.

Mrs. Marsh grew up in Tallahassee and attended elementary, middle and high school in Leon County. She attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1991. She continued her legal studies at the Georgetown Law Center, where she graduated cum laude in 1994 and served as managing editor of the Georgetown Law Journal.

Upon finishing law school, Mrs. Marsh served as a law clerk for the Honorable Jane R. Roth, a federal appellate court judge, sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Following her clerkship, Mrs. Marsh spent her first few years after law school in private practice in Tampa, Florida, before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, where she served approximately 7 years. There, she handled a wide range of cases including international narcotics trafficking, health care and insurance fraud, child exploitation crimes, money laundering, and defense contracting fraud.

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida

Lee Bentley, III

Image of Florida U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley

Florida U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley

Lee Bentley is currently the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. Previously, he served as the First Assistant to United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill.

The Middle District of Florida serves 35 of the 67 counties in Florida, which is over half the population of Florida from Jacksonville in the north, Orlando in the center of the state, through Tampa on the west coast, and south to the Ft. Myers area. Headquartered in Tampa, five offices are located throughout the district.

He graduated with the highest honors from the University of Georgia (1980) and the University of Virginia School of Law (1983).

Call US Attorney Lee Bentley at 904-301-6300 to ask him when Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will be prosecuted for her crimes against wounded warriors. See if you can find out more on who and when they will prosecute!

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida

Wifredo A. Ferrer

Image of Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney

Wifred Ferrer was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and became the attorney in 2010.

As United States Attorney, Mr. Ferrer is the chief federal law enforcement officer for the District.

In January 2014, Mr. Ferrer was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve a two-year term on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC). Prior to his appointment as United States Attorney, Mr. Ferrer held the position of Chief of the Federal Litigation Section at the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office.

Mr. Ferrer has a long career in public service. After graduating law school in 1990, Mr. Ferrer clerked for then-District (now 11th Circuit) Judge Stanley Marcus. Upon completing his clerkship, Mr. Ferrer joined the Miami law firm of Steel Hector& Davis in the fall of 1991. After three years in private practice, Mr. Ferrer returned to public service, first as a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and later as Deputy Chief of Staff and Counsel to then Attorney General Janet Reno.

After five years at the Department of Justice, Mr. Ferrer returned to Miami in 2000 to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney. While at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he served in the Public Integrity and National Security Section, the Economic Crimes Section, the Major Crimes Section, and the Appellate Division of the Office. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Mr. Ferrer handled and tried numerous high profile matters, including international money laundering, health care fraud, narcotics, international human rights abuses, immigration, and firearms offenses.

During his career, Mr. Ferrer has been recognized as one of the Top Government Attorneys by both South Florida Legal Guide and Florida Legal Elite. In addition, he received the Attorney General’s Medal in 2000, and Superior Performance and Special Merit Awards for his work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Mr. Ferrer, a Miami native, received his undergraduate degree in Economics (1987) from the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, graduating first in his class. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he was an editor of the Law Review, President of his class, and graduated cum laude in 1990. Mr. Ferrer attended Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School, in Hialeah, where he graduated as Valedictorian of his class.

Posted in Florida Law News, Jacksonville Lawyer, Law References

Florida Welfare Drug Testing Ruled Unconstitutional | TANF

Federal U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, ruled that Gov. Rick Scott’s law requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests is unconstitutional.

Scott quickly said he would appeal the latest beat down for the Republican Rick Scott. Rick Scott’s attack is aimed at Florida’s poorest residents.

Judge Scriven ruled that drug testing for welfare violates the Fourth Amendment that protects American citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

Scriven ruled that “there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.”

Scott ran his campaign using the mandatory drug tests for welfare as a strong point and he won. Is that what the majority of Florida residents want? Scott says his intention for the law was to protect children from having to grow up with drugs around.

“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful, and even abusive to a child. We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families especially those families who struggle to make ends meet, and need welfare assistance to provide for their children. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals,” Scott said after the ruling.

Florida Legislature passed the law in 2011 that required all Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants to take the drug tests. The law also makes the applicants pay for the drug tests (about $35). If the needy pass the test the money is refunded.

On the behalf of Luis Lebron, The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state of Florida. In late 2011, Judge Scriven put the law on hold. Scott then appealed. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel then agreed with Judge Scriven. A full court review of the new law requested by Scott was turned down.

Scott’s attorneys argue that TANF applicants should be an exception to the USA Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. They claim the drug tests ensure those receiving TANF benefits are ready for jobs.

Judge Scriven scrutinized expert witnesses and evidence Florida Republicans used to create the law.

Judge Scriven wrote:

“In sum, there simply is no competent evidence offered on this record of the sort of pervasive drug problem the State envisioned in the promulgation of this statute,”

“If persons in an economic demographic could be shown to have a higher rate of drug use, would all such persons in that economic group be subjected to drug testing? Even if such suspicionless testing as proposed by the State were limited to those persons receiving state funds, would college students receiving governmental assistance to subsidize their education, for example, be subjected to random, suspicionless drug testing if it could be shown that drug use is demonstrably higher among college students? The Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment precedent would suggest not.”

ACLU of Florida Attorney Maria Kayanan said Judge Scriven’s decision “is a sound rejection of the evidence that the state presented to the district court in its attempt to establish that TANF applicants used drugs at a higher rate than the general population.”

Posted in Florida Law, Florida Law News, Florida News, Jacksonville Lawyer, Jacksonville News, news

Jameis Winston | Rape | Patricia Carroll | 9/11 Call | Casher | Darby

A week after Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs of Leon County dropped the sexual assault case against Jameis Winston, because of a lack of evidence, the attorney, Patricia Carrol who represents the alleged victim, is petitioning for a further investigation.

Patricia Carroll runs a full-service law firm that specializes in the areas of Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, Probate and Wills & Trusts, but in 2000 she was rewarded by the Sunrise Spouse Abuse Shelter, Advocate of the Year. From her profile on http://lawyers.law.cornell.edu/:

While serving as a prosecutor, Attorney Carroll was assigned the domestic violence cases and was determined by the Sunrise Shelter to be worthy of an award for her vigorous prosecution.

Last month, a Tampa Attorney familiar with Sexual Battery law, Jason Mayberry reported on the case and provided some helpful insights on the Florida laws related to sexual assault and rape cases. According to Mayberry’s Report:

FS 794.011(5), Florida’s Sexual Battery Statute

At the time of this blog there is nothing more than an allegation that Jameis Winston sexually assaulted a young woman in Tallahassee. The journey from allegation to proof beyond and to the exclusion of any and all reasonable doubt is long. State attorney Willie Meggs has said, and he’s correct, that there must be a “reasonable likelihood of conviction” to bring a criminal charge. In spite of the fact that Winston’s DNA was found on the property of the alleged victim, more is needed to show that a sexual battery occurred. Necessarily under FS 794.011(5), Florida’s sexual battery statute as it would apply to this case, there has to be some showing that there was no valid consent.

As a general rule, proof of no consent is offered by showing that a rape kit was performed and that there is medical opinion of injury to the victim, amongst other items of evidence. If this exists it could be damning for Winston. His DNA, coupled with medical opinion that the alleged victim’s body was injured would be a mountain to overcome for the even the best criminal attorney.

According to recent media reports Carroll is quoted as saying:

“I just identified this issue this week, but it’s a very significant issue,” was included along with the line from http://www.nydailynews.com:

A lawyer for the woman who said she was raped by Florida State University’s star quarterback called on the state’s attorney general for an independant review of what she called a botched investigation.

The attorney, Patricia Carroll, told reporters that she is asking the attorney general to examine how the Tallahassee Police Department handled the rape allegations against Heisman Trophy hopeful Jameis Winston.

Over the next few weeks it will be an interesting case to follow in light of other recent Florida tales of police corruption. There is the questionable St. Johns story of murder, the Zimmerman cluster muck, the infamous Anthony case, and now this.

The newest revelations on the case are reported 911 calls claiming the victim, may have been hit in the back of the head and was suffering some memory loss.  Also included with these reports from nydailynews.com  was the following:

Players Chris Casher and Ronald Darby told investigators the(y) watched Winston and the woman having consensual sex at the quarterback’s apartment.

“We walked into the room, and the girl was like, ‘What are you doing?'” Darby said. “She was like, ‘get out.’ So, Chris was like ‘My bad.'”

 

Posted in Family Law Articles and News, Florida Law, Jacksonville News, National News, news

Tim Deegan First Coast News DUI | How did he get probation?

Tim Deegan Mugshot PlaceholderI wrote an article approximately a month ago on the Jacksonville lawyers website discussing Tim Deegan’s arrest for DUI in Jacksonville FL.  The article was titled Tim Deegan Arrested for DUI in Jacksonville Florida.  Deegan is a meteorologist for First Coast News.  He was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.  He submitted to a breath test.  The breath test results were a breath alcohol level of .181 and .179.  He appeared for his arraignment on November 26.  At his arraignment court date, he pleaded not guilty.  His case was passed to December 10 for his arraignment.  This is normal for most criminal cases.  When Jacksonville criminal lawyers have a case, they want time to investigate the charge.

Today, Deegan entered a plea of no contest (also known as nolo contendere) to the charge of driving under the influence.  First Coast News reported the story stating: “In court Tuesday morning, Deegan was sentenced to 12 months probation, his license suspended for six months and 50 hours of community service. In forgoing a trial, Deegan must also pay court costs and fines of $1,031 and attend DUI school.”

Minimum Mandatory Conditions for DUI Sentences in Florida

There are minimum mandatory conditions for DUI sentences in Florida.  If you are sentenced after pleading to your first DUI in Duval County, you will face a mandatory Jacksonville probation sentence.  This sentence includes 50 hours community service.  There is also a mandatory fine and court costs.  You are required to take Level on DUI School.  While your vehicle may not be technically impounded, there is a constructive impound.  You must turn the tag of your car in for 10 days.  Your license will be suspended for 6 months.  If you refused the breath test, you are looking at a 12 monthFlorida drivers license suspension.  Florida’s DUI laws also require that you complete the Victim Impact Panel.

Many people want to seal or expunge their Florida records after being arrested for a DUI charge.  You may be able to expunge your Florida criminal record after a DUI arrest if the charge was dropped.  You may be able to seal your Florida criminal record if you pleaded to a lesser offense.  You must have received a withhold of adjudication to be eligible for a Florida record seal.  If you want to seal a DUI charge, you may run into a problem.  If you pleaded guilty or no contest to DUI, you may not be able to seal your arrest record.  If you pleaded guilty or no contest to driving under the influence, you were likely convicted.  Florida law requires the judge to convicted you of driving under the influence if you plead guilty or no contest to the charge.  That means that adjudication cannot be withheld.  Since adjudication cannot be withheld, you will not be eligible for a Florida record seal.

What if you were arrested for DUI, but you pleaded guilty to Jacksonville reckless driving?  You may still be able to seal your record.  This will depend on whether or not your were convicted of the crime.  If you would like to seal or expunge a DUI arrest that did not result in a conviction, call 20 Miles Law at (904) 564-2525.  Speak with aJacksonville criminal attorney with experience defending DUI cases and clearing Florida criminal records.

Posted in Jacksonville Lawyer, Jacksonville News

ATT, T-Mobile, and Sprint Unauthorized Charges on Cell Phone Bills

In what is a major breakthrough in the fight against mobile cramming, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced November 21, 2013 that three of the nation’s largest mobile phone carriers— AT&T Mobility, Inc., Sprint Spectrum, LP and T-Mobile USA, Inc. will no longer charge their customers for commercial Premium Short Messaging Services, also known as “PSMS,” or “premium text messages.”

PSMS accounts for the majority of third-party charges on cell phones and for the overwhelming majority of cramming complaints. For the three companies’ customers, this means an end to the most common way unauthorized charges by third parties appear on cell phone bills, a practice known as cramming.

” AT&T Mobility, Inc., T-Mobile USA, Inc. and Sprint Spectrum, LP have taken a significant step in decreasing their customers’ risk of unauthorized cell phone charges. Terminating Premium SMS billing, which has consistently resulted in abuses by third parties, will go a long way in curbing the cramming problem for the benefit of all cell phone customers,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “We have been a member of a seven-state executive committee leading a nationwide, forty-five state effort to protect cell phone customers and will continue in this role to ensure Florida consumers are protected from cramming.”

AT&T Mobility, Inc., Sprint Spectrum, LP, and T-Mobile USA, Inc. are the second, third and fourth largest providers of mobile telephone services nationwide. AT&T Mobility, Inc. and T-Mobile USA, Inc. have confirmed they will continue to allow charitable donations to be billed via PSMS.

The Attorney General’s Office is a member of a seven-state executive committee that has been in discussions with the major carriers for several months regarding the issue of “cramming.” The other states on the executive committee include: Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Vermont.

Posted in Florida Law, Florida Law News, Florida News, Jacksonville News, National News, news

Demonte Rashaud Brown | 20 Year Sentence for Cocaine

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution announced that a Seminole County man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in a drug trafficking operation that was responsible for distributing cocaine throughout Central Florida. Demonte Rashaud Brown pled guilty in March of this year to conspiring to traffic in cocaine and was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. In addition to the lengthy prison sentence received, Brown was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.

“Our state is safer because we have put this cocaine dealer behind bars for a long time,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I commend the Volusia Bureau of Investigation on their investigative work on this case, and Assistant Statewide Prosecutor David Gillespie in my Office of Statewide Prosecution for this successful prosecution.”

Brown, 26, was arrested in February 2013 after an investigation by the Volusia Bureau of Investigation, which is comprised of various local, state and federal agencies that target mid- to upper-level drug trafficking organizations operating in Central Florida. The investigation revealed that Brown received multiple kilograms of cocaine from an organization in Volusia County which he later repackaged and distributed to cocaine dealers throughout Central Florida.

The Office of Statewide Prosecution charged Brown with conspiring to traffic in cocaine, four hundred grams or more. He was sentenced in DeLand on Monday by the Honorable Margaret W. Hudson, Circuit Judge for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.

Posted in Florida Law News, Florida News

National Mortgage Settlement Monitor’s Second Compliance Report

Attorney General Pam Bondi released the following statement on the National Mortgage Settlement Monitor’s Second Compliance Report concerning the Monitor’s review of the five banks’ compliance with the settlement’s servicing standards.

“While this second report indicates that two of the five banks successfully complied with all of the Monitor’s testing metrics, it is clear that, overall, the banks must substantially improve their efforts to better serve distressed borrowers and to comply with the servicing terms of the settlement agreement. My office will continue to work diligently on behalf of Florida’s homeowners to ensure that they promptly receive the relief they are entitled to under the settlement. The banks will be held accountable to the obligations they made under the settlement.”

The independent Monitor’s report provides results from testing conducted by the Monitor regarding improvements in the banks’ servicing standards required under the National Mortgage Settlement. The report covers compliance results during two consecutive three-month test periods, January 1 through March 31, 2013 and April 1 through June 30, 2013. The report concludes that the banks had 7 fails involving 5 of the 29 testing metrics, six in the first quarter of 2013 and one in the second quarter. The banks have implemented, and in some instances completed or are in the process of implementing, the corrective action plans mandated by the settlement to resolve these compliance issues. The effectiveness of these plans is currently being assessed by the Monitor and will be the subject of a future report once testing is completed. Highlights of the Monitor’s report include the following:

Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and CitiMortgage all failed Metric 6, which tests whether loans are delinquent at the time a foreclosure is initiated and whether account information is accurate in pre-foreclosure notification letters.

In addition to Metric 6, Bank of America failed two additional metrics: Metric 5, which tests the accuracy of amounts the bank claims to be due from borrowers in affidavits filed by the bank in bankruptcy proceedings; and Metric 19, which tests the timeliness of the banks’ notification to borrowers of missing documents or information in the loan modification application.

In addition to Metric 6, J.P. Morgan Chase failed Metric 19, which tests whether the bank timely approves or denies a first lien loan modification application within 30 days of receipt of all documentation, and communicates its decision on the application to the borrower within ten days of the decision.

In addition to Metric 6, CitiMortgage failed Metric 23, which tests whether the bank notifies borrowers of any missing documents within 30 days of receipt of the borrower request for a short sale.

Wells Fargo and ResCap/Ally/GMAC were found in compliance with all tested metrics.

For more information regarding the report, visit MortgageOversight.com.

Posted in Florida Law, Florida Law News, Florida News

My Kid Was Arrested. What Will Happen?

From the United States Attorneys’ Manual

Arrest of a Juvenile

A juvenile may be arrested on a warrant issued on either a complaint or a juvenile information. When arrest is unnecessary, the court may be asked to issue a summons on the complaint or information. In either case, it is advisable to have the complaint and/or information placed under seal to avoid public disclosure of the juvenile’s identity.

By statute, the officer arresting a juvenile is required to advise a juvenile of his rights in language intelligible to a juvenile, and must immediately notify the Attorney General (notice to the United States Attorney is sufficient) and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian of the arrest. The arresting officer is also required to notify the parent, guardian, or custodian of the rights of the juvenile and of the nature of the alleged offense. The juvenile must be taken before a judicial officer as soon as possible and, in any case, within a reasonable period of time. 18 U.S.C. § 5033. The duties and limitations on magistrates are set forth in 18 U.S.C. §§ 3401(g) and 5034.

Juveniles in the Court System

Before a United States Attorney may certify a juvenile to be proceeded against in a court of the United States, an investigation must occur. In cases of exclusive United States jurisdiction, the United States Attorney should, at a minimum, research the applicable case and statutory law. It is also advisable to obtain the concurrence of the local prosecutor in a finding of exclusivity of jurisdiction. It should be noted that local juvenile prosecution based upon in loco parentis jurisdiction may be available and preferable even if the offense took place on a federal enclave. A release to state authorities of juveniles who are alleged to have committed an act of juvenile delinquency on a United States military base or other federal enclave is not precluded by the fact of the enclave’s “exclusive jurisdiction” status. As long as the state is willing to accept jurisdiction over the juvenile and has available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles, a juvenile may properly be turned over to the state for non-criminal juvenile treatment. When a juvenile is charged with committing a violation of federal law on an exclusive jurisdiction enclave, the United States Attorney should determine whether the state is willing to assume jurisdiction over the juvenile and has adequate juvenile programs available. Such a determination may be made on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the local prosecutor, or it may be based on a general understanding reached with the local prosecutor regarding the state’s willingness to assume jurisdiction over juveniles who commit offenses on federal enclaves. As to Indian juveniles, jurisdictional questions may be directed to Ezra Friedman of the Office of Enforcement Operations.

In cases of concurrent jurisdiction, the appropriate local prosecutor should be briefed on the facts of the case, and a determination made as to whether he/she is accepting or refusing prosecutorial responsibilities in the matter. If a local prosecutor refuses to assume jurisdiction over the juvenile, federal prosecutors may wish to consider whether it would be helpful to attach a confirming letter from the local prosecutor to the certification filed with the court.

With regard to the adequacy of state juvenile programs and services, the United States Attorney should request that the Chief Probation Officer in the judicial district conduct periodic investigations into the state juvenile corrections system to determine whether there are available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles. Federal prosecutors may wish to consider whether it would be helpful to attach to the certification a statement from the probation officer addressing the adequacy of local programs.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 allows certification for federal juvenile prosecution in felony crimes of violence, or an offense described in 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(x), 924(b),(g), or (h), or 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 952(a), 953, 955, 959, or 960(b)(1), (2), or (3) where there is a “substantial federal interest in the case or offense to warrant the exercise of federal jurisdiction.” The federal government will continue to defer to state authorities for less serious juvenile offenses. See S.Rep. No. 98-225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. 389 (1983). The determination of a “substantial federal interest” is based on a finding by the United States Attorney that the nature of the offense or the circumstances of the case give rise to federal concerns. Id. Examples include assault on or assassination of a federal official; aircraft hijacking; interstate kidnaping; espionage or sabotage activity; large-scale drug trafficking; and willful destruction of United States property.

If, after investigation, any one of the above factors are found to exist, the United States Attorney shall proceed with the certification. The certification should state that an investigation was made and, as a result of the investigation, which of the factors allowing federal jurisdiction was found to exist.

Sentencing a Juvenile

Upon an adjudication of delinquency, the judge has discretion to impose any of the conditions listed in 18 U.S.C. § 5037. These include restitution, probation (and conditions of probation), and official detention, but not fines. There are currently no sentencing guidelines which are applicable to juvenile proceedings.Official detention may not extend beyond the defendant’s twenty-first birthday for defendants under eighteen at the time of disposition, or five years for defendants between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one at the time of disposition. In addition, the period of detention may not exceed the maximum period of imprisonment statutorily authorized for adult defendants.

Juveniles sentenced to official detention are committed to the custody of the Attorney General. The Federal Bureau of Prisons designates a place of confinement. Juveniles may not be placed in an institution in which they have “regular contact” with adults convicted of crimes or awaiting trial on criminal charges. There are at present no federal facilities for juveniles; the Bureau of Prisons ordinarily places them in state juvenile or other suitable facilities under contract. When possible, they are to be placed in foster homes or community-based facilities located in or near their home communities. See 18 U.S.C. § 5039.

Posted in Jacksonville Lawyer, Law References

Jeremy Banks | Michelle O’connell | Brad King | FDLE | Murder or Suicide

Florida Law Enforcement

While the full truth of the police corruption in Florida proven by the Allied Veteran’s case is being hidden from media and the public, the following may be another case where the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is not protecting citizens, but rather themselves. As you will see below Jeremy Banks certainly had things to hide from Florida Law enforcement. Excerpts from court documents show he was very concerned about his email and phone records.

Case History | Michelle O’connell | Suicide or Murder

In 2010 St. Augustine resident Michelle O’connell died from a bullet that came from police officer, Jeremy Banks’ gun. Now, 3 years later, eyes around the nation are being turned to focus on the case again. Initially ruled suicide, there are 2 witnesses who say they heard O’Connell scream for help, and we have recently learned about emails circulating that may point more evidence towards a murder rather than a suicide. We will release the emails after consulting with attorneys on possible implications in future trials of Jeremy Banks, the St Johns County Sheriff deputy who may have killed Michelle O’connell.

A petition from http://www.change.org/ is being circulated by Ciara Morris is asking Florida State Attorney, Brad King to bring the case and the evidence against Jeremy Banks to a grand jury. According to the petition:

On September 2, 2010 Michelle O’connell became a victim to domestic violence. Florida Department of law enforcement has found an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to homicide at the hands of her boyfriend who is a police officer at St. Johns County Sherriff’s Department. Michelle’s friends and family were asked to keep this case quite for nearly 2 years while the investigation was done and now 2 years later we are told that Brad King will not take this case to a Grand Jury. The findings of this case warrant a grand jury. There are witnesses that have passed Secret Service/FBI issued polygraph tests stating that they heard screams for help, Two shots were fired (one into the ground next to Michelle) Jeremy’s police issue service weapon was used to commit the crime, Jeremy had worn the gun to work that day yet no DNA or fingerprints were on the weapon, no blood was on the gun although the blood spatter expert states there should have been, the gun was found in the cocked position, Michelle would have had to use her left hand to fire the weapon although she was a right handed person, Michelle was packing to leave when she was shot, Michelle sent a text to her sister stating she was leaving to get her daughter and less than 5 minutes later was shot and killed. Florida Department of Law enforcement has requested an inquest into Michelle’s death and State Attorney Brad King has ignored it, FDLE was called in to do the investigation and if their findings warrant a grand jury why are we denied one?

The New York Times recently took the charge of helping seek justice for Michelle O’connell. Following their lead news4jax.com has also began pressuring the FDLE and other Florida Law officials for a full investigation. News 4 Jax is reporting that Jeremy Banks was able to use the corrupt Florida law enforcement agency to access the investigative file before being interviewed by a detective. As anyone familiar with the legal system would know, having this file would give Jeremy Banks an extreme advantage during any type of questioning.

Florida Attorney, Robert L McLeod II may protect bad cops

In response to the recent investigation by the NYT, Jeremy Banks Florida Attorney, Robert L McLeod II, filed a Complaint with the St Johns County Circuit Court on behalf of Deputy Jeremy Banks and against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and its agent, Rusty Rodgers on November 13, 2013.

Excerpts of the document are below and they show that the Banks’ legal team certainly had something they wanted to hide.  Imagine a loved one you know committed suicide. Would you have any issues with allowing law enforcement access to your email or phone records if you had done nothing wrong?

The Complaint sues FDLE and Rodgers for their behavior and actions in violation of Jeremy Banks’ constitutional and civil rights, their malicious prosecution and false arrest of Banks and the negligent supervision of Rodgers by the FDLE involving the investigation.

The then supervisor of Rodgers, Dominick Pape, has since left the FDLE and Rodgers is suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into his behavior and tactics in the matter by William Cervone, State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit who Governor Scott appointed by Executive Order to investigate the issues.

The complaint continues:

19. Defendant, Agent Rodgers, violated Plaintiff Jeremy Banks’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizure.

21. Based upon the fabricated and misrepresented evidence set forth in Agent Rodgers’ affidavits, the Court issued two search warrants granting authority to search those premises and seize any computer hardware and software found therein, and to conduct a search of such hardware for the described evidence.

22. Agent Rodgers executed these searches and seizures pursuant to the warrants
which were unlawfully obtained.

23. Additionally, Agent Rodgers conducted an interview of Jeremy Banks at PDLE’s Jacksonville office on April 14,201 I. At the conclusion of the interview, after being threatened by Rodgers and being told by Rodgers he had (non-existent) “evidence” against him, Banks, fearful of an . injustice about to occur, asserted his constitutional right to an attorney. Immediately thereafter, Agent Rodgers unlawfully and physically seized Banks’ iPhone from his person in order to conduct a forensic download.

24. Agent Rodgers specifically advised Jeremy Banks he had a warrant to seize and search his iPhone; however, no search warrant authorizing Agent Rodgers to seize and search Bank’s cellular phone existed. Rodgers simply lied. He also purposely and knowingly exceeded the scope of the warrant he had already obtained through false pretenses and representations.

Banks and his attorney, Robert L McLeod II claim there has been serious emotional distress caused by the investigating agent Rodgers. It will be interesting to see how the NYT story unfolds and we will publish what are being called damning emails asap.

Posted in Florida Law News, Florida News, National News, news

Jacksonville Unemployment Drops to Six Percent

Florida Governor Rick Scott highlighted that the Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was among the top five metro areas in the state for job growth in October 2013 with 11,200 new jobs. The Jacksonvile MSA’s unemployment rate declined by 1.6 percentage points over the year, from 7.6 percent in October 2012 to 6.0 percent in October 2013.

Governor Scott said, “The creation of 11,200 new jobs last month is great news for the Jacksonville area. As the local unemployment rate continues to decline over the year and new jobs continue to be created, it is clear that it’s working for Florida families.”

In October 2013, the Jacksonville metro area was among the top two metro areas in Florida for gains over the year in professional business services with 7,500 new jobs and in construction with 1,500 new jobs.

Housing starts were up 28.6 percent over the year in the Jacksonville MSA in August 2013. In October 2013, the Jacksonville MSA was among the top five metros in Florida for online job demand with 24,765 openings and also ranked fifth for STEM job openings with 4,714 job ads. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and these jobs are considered high wage and high skill.

Florida’s unemployment rate decreased to 6.7 percent in October 2013, down from 6.8 percent in September 2013 and 7.0 in August 2013, and down 4.4 percentage points since December 2010. The statewide unemployment rate has remained below the national average of 7.3 percent since March 2013. Florida has created 440,900 private sector jobs since December 2010.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in October 2013, down 0.1 percentage point over the month, and down 1.5 percentage points from 8.2 percent a year ago.  The state’s October rate was the lowest since August 2008 when it also was 6.7 percent.  There were 625,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 9,396,000.  The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in October.  Florida’s unemployment rate was 0.6 percentage point lower than the U.S. rate and was below the national rate for the eighth consecutive month.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted total nonagricultural employment was 7,618,900 in October 2013, an increase of 44,600 jobs (+0.6 percent) over the month.  Compared to October a year ago, the number of jobs in the state was up by 182,200, an increase of 2.5 percent.  Florida’s annual job growth rate in October 2013 was the fastest since June 2006.  Nationally, the number of jobs was up 1.7 percent over the year.  Florida’s annual job growth rate has exceeded or been equal to the nation’s rate since March 2012.

United States and Florida Unemployment Rates (seasonally adjusted)

Source:  U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Labor Market Statistics.

Florida’s Nonagricultural Employment by Industry (Seasonally Adjusted)

  • • The number of jobs in Florida was 7,618,900 in October 2013, up 182,200 jobs compared to a year ago.  October 2013 was the 39th consecutive month with positive annual job growth after the state lost jobs for over three years.  The industry gaining the most jobs was trade, transportation, and utilities (+56,300 jobs, +3.6 percent).
  • • Other industries gaining jobs included leisure and hospitality (+39,500 jobs, +3.9 percent); professional and business services (+38,500 jobs, +3.6 percent); construction (+26,600 jobs, +7.7 percent); private education and health services (+15,100 jobs, +1.3 percent); financial activities (+9,000 jobs, +1.8 percent); other services (+3,000 jobs, +1.0 percent); information (+2,800 jobs, +2.1 percent); and manufacturing (+400 jobs, +0.1 percent).
  • • These industry job gains were partially due to increases in food and beverage stores; food services and drinking places; employment services; specialty trade contractors; ambulatory health care services; real estate; repair and maintenance; and fabricated metal product manufacturing.
  • • Total government (-9,000 jobs, -0.8 percent) was the only major industry losing jobs over the year.  All government sectors were down from October 2012, with over half of the losses in federal government.

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

  • • In October 2013, Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate (3.8 percent), followed by Walton County (3.9 percent), Okaloosa County (4.4 percent), Alachua County (4.7 percent), and St. Johns County (4.9 percent).  Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates were those with relatively high proportions of government employment.
  • • Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate (12.0 percent) in Florida in October 2013, followed by Flagler County (9.4 percent), St. Lucie County (8.8 percent), Putnam County (8.6 percent), and Miami-Dade County (8.5 percent).  Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in October, due mainly to long-term job losses in state government.  Hendry was the only county in Florida with double-digit unemployment in both September and October.

Area Nonagricultural Employment (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

  • • Twenty of the 22 metro areas in the state had over-the-year job gains in October 2013.  The areas with the largest gains were Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (+39,800 jobs, +3.4 percent), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (+29,100, +2.8 percent), and Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach (+18,900 jobs, +2.6 percent).
  • • The two metro areas that lost jobs over the year were Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach (-2,200 jobs, -3.0 percent) and Palm Coast (-700 jobs, -3.4 percent).

The mission of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is to promote economic prosperity for all Floridians and businesses through successful workforce, community, and economic development strategies.  Please visit www.floridajobs.org for more information.

Posted in Florida News, Jacksonville News, news

Short Sale Laws From Jacksonville Attorney George Beckus

George Beckus has nearly 10 years legal experience.  He began his legal career in the Offices of the Public Defender 7th Circuit in where he handled thousands of criminal cases, both felony and misdemeanor.

George Beckus started his own Law Firm in 2011, concentrating primarily in areas of bankruptcy, foreclosure and criminal defense. The following is some free information he offers about the benefits of a short sale.

Call George with any questions at

(904) 448.5335

Due to the poor economy you may have fallen behind or your mortgage and are either no longer able to make the payment or you find that your home is so upside down that there really is no incentive for you to continue with the mortgage, well  what should you do at that point in time?

The best option for someone in this situation is to call a reputable realtor that has experience in short sales.  There are many advantages to negotiating a short sale prior to your property being foreclosed upon:

Better for your credit:

While a short sale does ding your credit, it is much better than having a full blown foreclosure on your credit report.  Therefore, you will be better off every way possible trying to get a short sale as early in the foreclosure process as possible.

Waiver of deficiency:

Whenever I negotiate short sales on my client’s behalf, I always insist the bank expressly state in the contract that any and all deficiency will be permanently waived.  Let me explain, when dealing with a short sale the mortgage is always more than the value of the property.  So if your home is worth $100,000 and your mortgage is $200,000 and the bank accepts the short sale amount, you would legally still owe the difference of $100,000, unless the bank forgives it.  Conversely in a foreclosure you will always owe the difference and the bank will in all likelihood come after you for it in the future.

Avoid taxes:

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act – Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, signed by the President on December 20, 2007, IRS code 108(a)(1)(E), says that a taxpayer cannot be taxed upon cancellation of debt income if the following conditions are met: The short sale property was the taxpayer’ principal residence. The cancellation of debt is Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness* Applicable to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 – 2012.  This act was extended until 2014.  Hopefully congress can get their act together and extend it past the deadline.

Avoid Bankruptcy:

If a foreclosure judgment is issued against you that is usually not the end of your ordeal but the beginning.  After the foreclosure judgment is issued the bank then has the opportunity to come after you for the “deficiency judgment”.  What is a deficiency judgment?  That is the difference between what the bank recovers after the sale of the property and the amount of the foreclosure judgment.  So if your home sells for $100,000 but there is a foreclosure judgment against you for $200,000 you would legally owe the difference.  The bank will then be able to come after you for the difference, by attempting to garnish your salary, placing liens on property you own currently or in the future, by attaching tax returns and any other means possible.

Now in the case of owner occupied residential property, the “deficiency judgment” is the difference between the judgment amount and the fair market value of the property on the date of the sale.   The statute of limitations period for a lender seeking a deficiency judgment on a note secured by a mortgage on residential property (one to four family dwellings), is one year, for a deficiency action commencing on or after July 1, 2013, regardless of when the cause of action accrued.

It is important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney as there are a lot of potential pitfalls to be navigated throughout the foreclosure process.  Contact the Beckus Law Firm for a free consult.

Call (904) 448.5335

Posted in Bankruptcy, Florida Law, foreclosure, Jacksonville Lawyer

Seal or Expunge Florida Criminal Record

From Jacksonville Attorney Cynthia Veintemillas:

As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have represented people charged with offering prostitution and those charged with solicitation.  If you are arrested or given a notice to appear citation for prostitution, it will show up on a Florida background check.  This is public record.  It is important to realize this before you enter a plea of guilty or no contest to the charge.  If you are convicted or adjudicated guilty of the crime, you are not eligible for a Florida record seal.  Talking to aJacksonville criminal defense attorney is beneficial to understand the consequences.  If you were not convicted of the crime, you may be able to seal or expunge your criminal record.  Call (904) 564-2525 to speak with a Jacksonville criminal lawyer about your case.

The Florida prostitution law is Section 796.07.  It seems that police have making many arrests under this law lately.  Fall must be the season for prostitution stings, because I am continuously finding articles of people being arrested for prostitution in Florida.  In September, I wrote an article on the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyers website called Clay County Prostitution Sting Leads to 16 Arrests. The article was about several people that were arrested at massage parlors in Clay County for prostitution related offenses. It appears that this type of investigation is occurring all over Florida. Yesterday, First Coast News of Jacksonville reported on a prostitution sting in Winter Park FL. The article stated:

“The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation arrested two women on prostitution charges Wednesday afternoon in Winter Park.  Investigators said the Happy Panda Massage Parlor had been under surveillance for six months after a number of complaints about late-night activity at the business near Fairbanks and U.S. 17-92.  Agents seized cash and equipment. Officers said this is the third time workers at the Happy Panda have been arrested for prostitution.”

Just three days ago, police conducted an prostitution sting in Bradenton.  The Bradenton Patch reported:

“On November 5, 2013, the City of Bradenton Police Department’s Casual Clothes and Narcotics Unit conducted an undercover Prostitution Operation throughout the city’s jurisdiction. The operation targeted individuals attempting to procure the services of an individual for the purpose of prostitution, or for any other lewd act…. The City of Bradenton Police Department will continue its city-wide enforcement effort to prevent and stop the illegal acts of prostitution.”

Last month, there was a large prostitution bust in Naples FL.  NBC news stated:

“Ten people were arrested during a prostitution bust on Friday. The Naples Police crime suspension team, along with Collier County Sheriff’s Office vice and narcotics bureau, conducted a prostitution operation on Friday. According to reports, nine suspects solicited an undercover officer to perform a sexual act in exchange for money. One suspect offered to perform a sexual act with an undercover officer for payment.”

These prostitution stings are leading to arrests all over Florida.  I am sure that many people will just plead to the charges believing it will not affect them in the future.  This is a misconception.  Not only will this create a criminal record, past convictions for prostitution can be used against you if you are arrested for prostitution in the future.

Posted in Jacksonville Lawyer, news