Thursday, December 31, 2015

Driving Under the Influence in Florida: FYI before NYE

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a crime that can land anyone in jail for at least a night. There are few crimes for which we as defense attorneys represent such a wide variety of people, but DUI is one of them. It is not a crime to drink alcohol and drive a car in Florida, therefore many people of all backgrounds become at-risk for DUIs. This New Year's Eve, make sure you understand this charge, and what to do if you find yourself with new cuff links for your tuxedo.


The Basics: 
First and foremost, it's a DUI in Florida, not a DWI. Although you can drink and drive, it is a crime to have a blood alcohol content of more than .08 or higher AND/OR for your normal faculties to be impaired.  Law Enforcement determines if you are "impaired" through observation, if you give a breath sample, or if you participate in field sobriety exercises (FSEs).  Your driving privilege is affected if you refuse to participate in a breath test, but the alternative is providing law enforcement with evidence of a DUI.

The Stop: 
On nights like NYE, police are specifically looking for impaired drivers. What are they looking for specifically? Erratic driving patterns, failure to use lights or turn signals, speeding, running a red lights.... and more. Law enforcement may stop you in Florida when the observe an erratic driving pattern (weaving, slowing and speeding rapidly, changing lanes for no reason) if they believe the driver is ill, tired or impaired even if you don't commit an independent traffic violation. They can obviously stop you if you do commit a traffic violation as well.  

From a Stop to an Arrest:
It may not take a lot to stop you, but it takes probable cause that a crime was committed to arrest you. Keep in mind, when the police stop you, they don't know if you're impaired. YOUR actions determine if you give them the evidence (probable cause) for an arrest whether or not you meet the legal definition of impairment. If you cannot determine when you've crossed from a legal .07 to an illegal .08, how can law enforcement?  It's an educated guess, and police are trained that they have a duty to keep impaired drivers off the road. So while you can have a few drinks and drive, you probably shouldn't. 

Biased Observations:  
The entire stop may be recorded, but video cannot document smell or how you appear close up. Police are trained to spot signs of impairment. More accurately, they are always searching for signs of impairment when they make a night-time stop. Almost every narrative of a DUI arrests uses the phrase "odor of alcohol," "bloodshot, watery, glassy eyes," and "flushed face."   If a statement is made, we also see "thick-tonged" and "slurred speech."  Officers are trained to include these key phrases, and this will be written about YOU in the event you are stopped.  The question is, how much more evidence will you give them?

Know your rights: 
You have the right to remain silent. The officer will ask questions. You do not have to answer them. You must provide your full legal name, which is located on your driver's license. You are not going to talk your way out of an arrest. It's better that you don't say anything at all.

Getting Out of the Car: 
If you are asked to exit your vehicle, you have a problem. You should be on high alert to mitigate your circumstances. How you exit your vehicle will be used as evidence of impairment.  If you use the door for support to exit, that will be noted.  You probably cannot refuse, but it is based on the circumstances of the stop.  If you are out of your vehicle, you need to come to terms with the fact that no matter what you do from that point on, you will most likely be arrested.  It's best to start invoking your rights.

Field Sobriety Exercises (FSEs): 
If you are out of the car, you are likely going to be asked to do FSEs.  You have the right to say no, but the refusal is admissible in court proceedings to show guilt.  Your license will NOT affect your license despite what the officer tells you. 

The FSEs are all subjective. They are complicated, and whether your pass or fail is solely up to the officer's opinion. If you refuse, you will probably be arrested. If you do them you will probably be arrested.

If you choose to do them, consider the following:

(1) You must listen carefully to the instructions. They only say them once.
(2) The instructions are literal. Do exactly what they say.
(3) Take your time, but don't hesitate. That can be used against you. 
(4) Do not start until you are told to start.
(5) Remember: you're on video.

Miranda?
If you are read a Miranda warning prior to your arrest or a request for FSEs, you need to express your confusion to the officer.  Miranda is for an arrest. In Florida, the Implied Consent law states that you consent to a breath tests by virtue of exercising your privilege to drive.  You do NOT have the right to consult with an attorney prior to the test. However, if the officer reads Miranda warnings and tells you that you cannot consult with an attorney at the same time, tell the officer that you are confused.  

To blow or not to blow?
Again, Implied Consent applies to Florida drivers. If you blow, you are facing a DUI charge, additional sanctions for a "double blow," which means you blow two (2) times the legal limit, a DUI charge, and a 6 month administrative suspension on top of any probationary suspension as a condition of your sentence. If you choose not to blow, you are facing a 90 day wait period to get a hardship license, which will be suspended for 12 months administratively. If you have previously refused, you will be charged with Criminal Refusal, which is a separate crime and your license will be suspended for 18 months.  The same applies for  urine, even if you already gave breath.

It's not an easy position to be in. 

Blood?
Blood is slightly different,  Unless its impossible/impractical to get blood or urine, you consent, or there has been an accident with death or injury, law enforcement should not draw your blood without a warrant.  Don't consent. 

Arrested?
You will be booked. If you have $500 cash, you may be able to get a cash bond, go home, and come back for court that next afternoon. If not, you'll be in until at least 1:30 p.m. for First Appearance court. 

First appearance:
First Appearance in Duval is known as "J1."  You will be herded into a courtroom with dozens of other inmates. It's long, and there are a lot of words and terms thrown at you via a well-produced video.  You probably won't have an opportunity to consult with an attorney prior to you going before the judge unless you hire one to come with you.

You're going to be made a deal: "First Mins." All of the lawyers, and the judge will say this term several times, but you won't be clear as to what it means until you're serving probation and finding out the hard way. Get out of jail, talk to a lawyer, fight the charge, and make a good choice when you're not in shackles. Be prepared to wait several hours for your release. It may take all night on the holiday.

When you get out:
Be on your best behavior. Start collection mitigation: proof of employment, proof of your employment being affected by the charge, school schedules, code of conduct that applies to you, need to drive, et cetera. Talk to your lawyer about the facts of the case. Be patient. A good defense can take months or years.

Your license:
You need to decide if you will have an Administrative Hearing, or if you will waive the hearing and apply for your hardship license with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). This is a conversation to have with a lawyer. Here is the Application for Administative Hearing HSMV Form 78306 , and the Application for Hardship License (just save the image).

Hire a lawyer:
Despite your better judgment, you were arrested for a DUI. You should get a lawyer as soon as possible. You can typically hire an attorney for First Appearance court only, and make a choice whether to hire them later. The going rate for a First Appearance hearing is in the neighborhood of $500-$1,500. Some lawyers will apply that to the full fee if you hire them. If Jacksonville, the average legal fee is $5,000-$8,000 for a First DUI without an Administrative Hearing. Some charge more, some charge less.  The more tends to make sense, but beware of the less. 

A J.D. from Google does not substitute the knowledge of an attorney, especially in the world of DUIs. It requires someone who practices Criminal Defense, and who understands all of the ways that YOU will be affected by the charge.  You don't have to face this alone.

Happy New Year!

If you or a loved one is arrested for a DUI this New Year's Eve, call us at 904-516-5560, or email contact@plataschott.com. Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law has represented thousands of criminal defendants. If you mention this blog post, we will discount our fee by 20%.











Monday, December 14, 2015

Open Letter to the Editor


We previously posted about our client, Leonard Dillard whose Motion for Immunity from Prosecution was granted by the Honorable Judge Soud in Duval County, Florida.  Mr. Dillard's story was told again on Sunday, November 21, 2015, when Larry Hannan from the Florida Times-Union wrote an excellent article on the immunity statute in Florida knows as "Stand Your Ground."   The article questions the prudence of Stand Your Ground, and  quotes Charles Rose, from the Center for Excellence in Advocacy at Stetson University College of Law, and accomplished writer who claims that Stand Your Ground doesn't work. Here is our response:


"On my desk sits a framed verdict. Two years into practice, I had a client who was innocent. I don't mean that the State of Florida could not meet their burden at trial. I mean that he should have never been charged. I filed a motion for Immunity under Chapter 776 of the Florida Statutes, which was improperly denied. Then Mr. Chavarrio Thaxton was acquitted at trial. I think about Mr. Thaxton every day and what his case taught me- there are actually innocent men and women in the Duval County jail.  Rarely are their stories heard, but our duty as criminal defense attorneys is to use every available tool to correct the errors of prosecutors who presume guilt and rarely get an unbiased versions of events prior to filing charges.

"Our firm has been looking forward to last Sunday's article ever since Mr.  Hannan sat down with Mr. Dillard nearly a year ago.  When I read the article, I was shocked and angered by my former professor, Charlie Rose's comment that filing for Immunity is tantamount to malpractice.  Mr. Rose heads up the Center for Excellence in Advocacy from which I graduated at the #1 school for advocacy in the country- Stetson University College of Law.   For an attorney in that position to make such a comment is reckless as it dissuades vibrant attorneys who are willing to exhaust all options when it's truly appropriate.


"Stand Your Ground is for innocent people. Typically, you don't hear about the people who are immune under the Statute. Law enforcement considers the facts and never arrests those people using the same law.

"Mr. Rose is wrong. If you know how to use this tool, it works. My law partner, Belkis Plata who is quoted in the article and I have a mere five years of experience. We each represented more than 2000 men, women and children while serving as Assistant Public Defenders. Of those, we have each represented at least one innocent person, and their names are included in the 12 men and women who prevailed with after filing for Immunity under Stand Your Ground."


We believe that Stand Your Ground immunity works if used properly. It's not intended for every defendant, which explains the rate of failure.  We understand when it is appropriate, which is why we have represented more than 16% of the people who prevailed in Duval County. 

If you or a loved one is charged with a crime and believe you are entitled to immunity, call us today or visit www.plataschott.com. 



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

D.A.V.I.D. and Goliath

It's an epic tale. Weak versus strong. The weaker of the two overpowers the strong. A story beautifully told in 1 Samuel 17 of the Bible. In modern America, this struggle is seen in the world of sport and competition. For lawyers, every case seems to be a tale of David and Goliath. The "Goliath" of them all being the Government. 

In Florida, the Driver and Vehicle Information Database (D.A.V.I.D) is exclusively for Government including law enforcement, the judiciary, prosecutors, and some related state agencies such as Department of Children and Families. (Private attorneys like us are not authorized access).  Authorized users may only access the system, which includes Driver's License information, personal contact information, emergency contacts, crash reports, vehicle registration, and more for business purposes like crash investigations, and confirming identities. 

Unauthorized use is subject to penalties under Chapter 119 Florida Statutes, which states that EACH unauthorized use is a misdemeanor in the first degree punishable by up to one year in jail, and is subject to a $500 fine. Misuse is also a violation of the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act, which provides a civil cause of action.  Additionally, it's career suicide. 

In 2012, The Orlando Sentinel exposed a 400% increase of misuse.  Some refer to the system as "Google for Cops." Many misusers of the system are simply lazy or curious. Some are just flirting. 

So why does this matter? Those who have the power to access this information may think, "no harm, no foul," but its a violation of the law for a reason, and every Floridian should request their free public record annually to see if your information was illegally accessed.  

A few months ago, we learned that a colleague had requested his D.A.V.I.D. report for free from the State.  What he discovered was shocking...a judge, a JUDGE illegally accessed the D.A.V.I.D. system and ran a background check on this attorney.   Rather than exercise his rights publicly, he quietly addressed the situation with the Chief Judge.  

So we were curious. Has anyone illegally accessed our records?  We did a public records request and here is what we found...

One (1) investigator at the State Attorney's Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Duval);
One (1) Assistant State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida;
One (1) employee of the Duval County Property Appraiser's Office;
Six (6) Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officers, and two other searches from anonymous users from JSO; and
One (1) judicial assistant for a circuit judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida (Duval). 

While we consider our next step legally, you should take a moment to request your D.A.V.I.D. search history. Here is how:

(1) Send an email to DAVIDPublicRecordRequest@flhsmv.gov;
(2) write "Record Request" in the subject line; 
(3) in the body of the email write, "I would like to request a record of every time DAVID was accessed to search my Driver’s License#  [INSERT NUMBER] from [DATE] until Present.

The agency will notify you that the first hour of the search is free, and you would owe $19.08 for each additional hour of search.  Typically, the search takes about 1-2 hours. 

If you determine that you are a victim of D.A.V.I.D. misuse and you would like to move forward on civil or criminal remedies, contact us as soon possible to discuss your legal rights at 904-516-5560 or contact@plataschott.com.

Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law are attorneys with offices in Jacksonville, FL. For more information, visit www.plataschott.com. 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Not Yet a "Victim"

We are a Law Firm for All of Life's Trials. Those aren't just words. We are trial attorneys at home in the courtroom.

When getting ready for trial, much time and effort is dedicated to preparing the theory of the case. A good lawyer starts with closing argument. They ask themselves, "what is the point of all this?" If you don't know where you're going, then you don't know what road to take. (Write that down). 
Giving him the finger.
Bernie de la Rionda pointing at George Zimmerman during Opening Statements.
Source: LoclUSNews.com 

Prosecutor John Guy also pointing at GZ.
Source: zimbio.com (June 24, 2013)

John Guy making sure everyone knows where Michael Dunn is.
Source: m.ajc.com (September 25, 2014)

Prosecutor Erin Wolfson during the Michael Dunn re-trial. 
From there, every action that you take in preparation should work toward the destination- closing argument (and preserving the record for appeal). Part of this process is filing Motions in Limine. A Motion in Limine is a motion requesting that the court limit or prevent information or evidence from being presented to the jury because the information does not comply with the rules of evidence. 

Rhetoric, the art of persuasive speaking is a skill that every good attorney has mastered. Yet, sometimes even poor advocates have the benefit of buzz words on their side. For example, the word "Defendant" has a negative connotation in our criminal justice system. If you are a defendant (emphasis on the -Ant), most people assume that you have done something wrong. When a prosecutor or plaintiff attorney calls someone "defendant" over and over, finger pointed, it's easier to emphasize the negativity. (Fourth Judicial Circuit Prosecutors are especially good at this (see photos)). The same goes for the word "victim." 

A few years ago, Belkis added a new tool to her practice:  filing a Motion in Limine to keep the State from calling the alleged victim, "victim." Brilliant! But, it didn't work with the particular judge that she was practicing in front of at the time.

Last month, we tried again on a case that we handled pro bono as "Special Public Defenders." It worked. Probably because the argument went something like this:

Court: Ms. Schott, can I have argument on Defense Motion in Limine number 3?

Ms. Schott: Your honor, we would rely on the arguments made in the four corners of the motion. The alleged victim is not a victim until the State proves their case. Furthermore, the State does not need to call her a victim to prove the case. It's highly prejudicial.

Court: State?

State: Judge, she is a victim! Because the defendant committed this crime and made her a victim! 

Court: (laugh). Granted. 

#proudmoment 

Please feel free to use the motion below as often as appropriate. God's Speed.



* Editor's note: While we did not invent this motion, it's not used enough. We wanted to remind our colleagues that it is a good tool and we would love to see everyone use it more ofter. 





Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Word of the Day Wednesday: Crimmigration

Crimmigration: Noun. The merger of Criminal Law and Immigration Law in practice.


IMMIGRATION IN THE US


America, as you know, is a country founded by immigrants. Quick history: Native Americans were here for eons when the French and the Spanish started showing up. The first immigrants actually came right here to Jacksonville, Florida. In 1562 Jean Ribault, a French naval officer, established Fort Caroline. In 1565, Ponce de Leon founded present day St. Augustine and killed the French (sadly).


Most of us are German, FYI
Then the English and other Western Europeans appeared. 406 years ago, in 1607, Englishmen settled in what is now Virginia. Since the land was claimed for England as a colony, the settlers weren't exactly immigrants (but some later rebelled). For 175 years, these colonials came in droves in what is considered the longest immigration of US history. Several hundred miles north, the Pilgrims settled New England starting in 1620. The Dutch settled in New Amsterdam starting in 1626.  

Then all of these immigrants became Americans.


The Irish and Germans immigrated in the 1800s and by the 1850s the first prejudices against immigrants began. Anti-Catholicism fueled the conflict between the Irish Americans and everyone else. Then the Potato Famine struck and immigration tripled with more than 1.7 million Irish, German and French coming to America just before the Civil War.

When the California Gold Rush started, 100,000 more came from Asia, Australia and South America, leading to California becoming a State with 90,000 people.

From the late 1880s until 1930s, more Catholics and Jewish immigrants from Italy and Russia came to the United States. From there, a steady flow of people from all nations, including War Brides led to the Melting Pot that America is today.


IMMIGRATION REFORM AND CONTROL ACT (IRCA)


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fidel Castro emptied all of the jails and mental institutions in Cuba. He then sent all of the people who he considered "undesirable" to Miami. What followed was an era of Cocaine Cowboys and what Time Magazine called Paradise Lost.  Whether or not the Mariel Boatlift was related to the terror in South Florida, what resulted was blatant discrimination against (mostly Hispanic) immigrants.

When the IRCA was passed in 1986, it provided an opportunity for amnesty for individuals who were already here. It also specifically deterred immigrants from coming to the US illegally, punished employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and increased boarder patrol. At that point in our national history, "immigrant" became an ugly word. 


MODERN IMMIGRATION


The goal of the US today is to limit, deter, and punish immigration. Since everyone is entitled to civil rights and liberties whether or not they are a citizen, the ways to get rid of immigrants are limited.  Since no one likes criminals, the Feds saw the perfect opportunity to crack down on immigration. 

Every non-citizen who is arrested can expect that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will come calling. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. In the UCLA Law Review Article, DOING TIME: CRIMMIGRATION LAW AND THE PERILS OF HASTE by Juliet P. Stumpf, Ms. Stump points out that, "[c]riminal law and immigration law play different roles: the former regulating conduct within a community, and the latter governing the entry and expulsion of individuals across borders. Criminal law and immigration law have in common that they serve as systems both for excluding individuals from the community and for determining when individuals may join (or rejoin) society." 58 UCLA L. REV. 1708 (2011) (citation omitted). Likely, anti-immigrant sentiments are the cause of the rise of crimmigration.


KNOWING WHAT WE DON'T KNOW


It's a scary feeling for many of these individuals who may face obstacles like language barriers because their Criminal Defense attorney cannot accurately predict all of the possible outcomes of their circumstances. Truth be told, many Criminal Defense attorneys generally lack the knowledge to advise immigrant clients because Immigration Law is a highly specialized area of practice. Without practicing Immigration Law, a Criminal Defense attorney may miss opportunities to keep their client in the United States. Furthermore, Criminal Defense attorneys and judges know so little about the Immigration side of things that most of them just tell their client, "you're probably going to be deported." It's a worst-case scenario easy-out. We are covered for the purpose of malpractice, but just dolling out worst-case scenarios can cause a lot of unnecessary worry for your client and their entire family here and abroad. We are supposed to be counselors, not just advocates.  


WHAT CAN WE DO?


Criminal Law practitioners and Immigration Law practitioners are teaming up to make sure that both groups are knowledgeable enough counsel with a degree of certainty based on knowledge and experience. We spoke to Andrea P. Reyes from Reyes Legal, PLLC for a few tips for practitioners.



  1. "Illegal" is not an noun. It's offensive.  Non-citizens who do not have the proper immigration paperwork should be referred to as “undocumented immigrants”
  2. Deferred Action is NOT the equivalent of amnesty.  Amnesty is the “act of a sovereign power officially forgiving certain classes of persons who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted." Amnesty provides a pathway to Citizenship.  Deferred Action is a discretionary decision not to prosecute or remove an undocumented immigrant and does not provide a means for an undocumented immigrant to become a permanent resident of the United States, and therefore no path to become a U.S. Citizen.
  3. The Department of Homeland Security is prioritizing undocumented immigrants who commit “significant misdemeanors.” Now,  a DUI, Domestic Battery, or an offense for which you are sentenced to 90 days or more can lead to automatic priory for removal (unless they qualify for some other form of relief under U.S. Immigration Laws). Practitioners should know what crimes qualify and make efforts to negotiate lesser included offenses or other charges to resolve a case.
  4. Even Legal Permanent Residents can face the severe immigration consequences.  Convictions for any of the following can result in prioritized removal: a “crime involving moral turpitude” punishable by a sentence of at least one year; two or more crimes involving moral turpitude where the two crimes did not arise out of a single scheme of misconduct; an aggravated felony; a drug crime (or a conspiracy or attempt to commit one), whether in the U.S. or another country; illegally buying, selling, possessing, or engaging in other transactions concerning firearms, weapons, or destructive devices; or committing, or conspiring to commit espionage, sabotage, treason, or sedition, if punishable by at least five years in prison.
  1. The BEST advice we got is that any time a Criminal Defense attorney represents a non-citizen, it is most effective to seek an Immigration Law attorney to determine if there will be any immigration consequences to their criminal activity or the proposed outcome of the case. Team work makes the (American) dream work. 



Plata Schott Attorneys and Counselors at Law is based in Northeast Florida. Their attorneys are licensed to practice in Florida and Federal Court. Learn more at www.plataschott.com.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

THIS is a CRIME

Source: News4Jax


On May 24, several bouncers were caught on camera punching, and  kicking patrons of the Conch House in St. Augustine. Some went so far as to throw unconscious people in the water. 

Let me be clear: Bouncers are NOT law enforcement officers. They CANNOT attack people. They CANNOT sucker punch someone as they walk away. Pursuant to Section 509.143, Florida Statutes, on behalf of the owner/operator of an establishment, they may only, "take a person into custody and detain that person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time if the operator as probably cause to believe that the person was engaging in disorderly conduct in violation of s. 877.03 on the premises of the licensed establishment and that such conduct was creating a threat to the life of safety of the person or others." Then, they MUST call law enforcement. 

Call us at 904-516-5560 if you think that you were a victim of the Conch House Brawl





Monday, January 5, 2015

Burning Man


Florida wants the state to be "Scorched Earth" for sex offenders. It's the concept behind the recent "Scorched Earth" legislation passed in the wake of highly-publicized kidnapping and murder of Cherish Periwinkle in Jacksonville. Prior to that, the murder of Jimmy Ryce motivated the former laws.  Both murders were extremely disturbing.

A Sad Lot:


Sex offenders are very sad people. Their lives are so limited already. They cannot hold certain jobs ,and they cannot live in most places. We have worked with many, many people accused or convicted of sex offenses. Some people are "Registered Sex Offenses" for doing things that the law says is a sexual crime, but may just be kids being kids.

There is a lot of concern about young people becoming registered sex offenders who have no likelihood of reoffending.  But then there are people who are sick -- people who commit sexually motivated crimes and struggle every day to conform to societal appropriate behavior. For those sex offenders, conforming is simply impossible. This struggle is illustrated in the new show, The Missing on Starz. 

Offending and ReOffending:


In 2012, Lynn University conducted a study about recidivism with 500 convicted sexual offenders. 5.2% of the sample were re-arrested for a new sexual crime after five (5) years. After ten (10) years, 13.7% were rearrested for a sexual crime. One new offense, the State of Florida believes, is too many.

What Do We Do With Theses People:


For decades, Criminal Defense Attorneys and Judges have advised Defendants that, "you could be civilly committed for an indefinite period of time" when they enter a plea to more than 365 days.   If your sentence is 365 or less, you are in county jail under the supervision of local law enforcement, and previously were not exposed to civil commitment.

Under the Jimmy Ryce Act, the Department of Children and Families is tasked with evaluating offenders who are about to be released from the Department of Corrections' supervision to determine a need for civil commitment. Once you hit a year and a day, you are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. With these new laws, one day of incarceration can lead to civil commitment for an indefinite amount of time if the State Attorneys Office "red flags" you. Recently, the first non-prison civil commitment red flag was placed on a local sex offender who committed a new petit theft, a crime that normally carries a maximum of 60 days in jail.

Finding a Balance:


It is important to note that a offender need not have committed a "sex offense." If the crime was "sexually motivated" (for example, if someone burglarized a home with the intention of raping someone, but was stopped), they too can be civilly committed. "Ryce Law" as it's called, is a large practice area, in which attorneys defend the limited constitutional rights of sex offenders who have been civilly committed and attempt to reverse the commitment. It's not something that a lot of attorneys are inclined to do, but it's important to remember that these people are still Americans and have the benefit of the Constitution.  Although our practice is dedicated to defending the rights of others, it's hard to see the righteousness in this task.

These laws do protect the community, but we are here to help the unjustly committed. If you or someone you know is wrongly civilly committed under these laws, please contact us at 904-516-5560.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

#Equality in 2015!



Today is a great day for equality in Florida! The Honorable Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled this afternoon that all Florida Clerks must issue a marriage license to same-sex couples starting Tuesday, January 6th. There is a three (3) day waiting period in Duval County before the ceremony is preformed. The license must be used within 60 days of issuance, and must be filed within ten (10) days of the ceremony. Meaning, you can't get married until Friday, January 9th.  Here is what you need to get a license in Duval County
            • valid ID for both people
            • Social Security Card for both
            • Cash and possibly exact change: 
              • $61.00 with valid proof of premarital counseling, or 
              • $93.50 without counseling
            • Read The Florida Marriage Handbook (bring a printed copy in case they make you sit there and read it in front of them. They only have a few copies and you can avoid the line if you have your own).

It is likely that clerks who are begrudgingly issuing these licenses may suddenly have unusual requirements. Make sure you have a least $110 in cash with lots of small bills and change. Consider also having two forms of ID and maybe even proof of residency. I say this because the clerks have openly opposed same-sex marriage. 

Because the elected clerks disagree with same-sex marriage,  Duval, Clay and Baker Counties have decided to cancel all weddings performed at the Courthouse because they do not want to discriminate against same-sex couples. (Too late.)

If they won't marry you, we will!

If you and your same sex partner would like to be married in Duval, Clay or Baker (Nassau, or St. Johns too), Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law will preforming marriages for any couple. For a nominal fee, we will marry you in our beautiful conference room, or at a location of your choosing (including travel costs), and draft and execute a will, and other directives that all couples need. Call us for more information at 904-516-5560. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!