Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My friend was arrested. What do I do?

If your friend was recently arrested, you're probably wondering what a "good friend"  would do for your now-incarcerated buddy.  Depending on the type of charge, and the county of arrest, your friend could be in custody without the ability to post bail (money to be released) for 12 hours-24 hours unless they are not able to post bail.  Every jurisdiction has first appearance court.  Some counties hold first appearance court once a day, other's hold it twice a day.    Your first step is to call the jail (or ask the arresting officer) when your friend will go to his or her first appearance/bond hearing.  (For children, this is called a Detention Hearing). 

Hopefully you already know why your friend was arrested.  But even if you don't know the charge, handcuffs equal Criminal Defense attorney.  Your second step is to call a local Criminal Defense attorney.   This step is important.  Your friend has the absolute right to choose their own attorney, but you can get the ball rolling for your friend by getting an experienced Criminal Law attorney to review the case and possibly attend the bond hearing.  It could be the difference between thousands of dollars of bail, and possibly catching a legal deficiency like a lack of probably cause.  Appearance at bond hearings could range from $500-$1500 or more depending on the day or the charge. You have the right to negotiated that the bond hearing fee be applied to the retainer if your friend hires the attorney. 

How do you find a good Criminal Defense attorney?  If you know a lawyer (or another friend who had a legal run-in), call them and ask for a referral.  If you don't, try avvo.com.   Be patient with this process.  If it's in the middle of the night, go to sleep, wake up at 7am and start calling law firms.  Very few people can get back to you at 2am, but you'll have a great chance at 8am.  Must Criminal Defense attorneys know that emergency calls may come in right before court starts.  

Finally, attend the bond hearing and get as much information as you can about the case and what happens. If your friend cannot get out of custody, make sure that you encourage your friend to invoke their right to remain silent, and hire an attorney.  Be supportive during this tough time.  Remember that it's a better investment to hire a good attorney than to get out of custody if your friend is torn between the two options.  

Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law is a Jacksonville, Florida law firm with attorneys practicing Criminal Defense, Juvenile Defense, Family Law and Personal Injury Law.  For more information, visit www.plataschott.com. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Belkis Plata keeps making us proud!

Belkis Plata to be honored in DC next week.

Belkis Plata will be honored by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership kicking off their 6th Annual Mentoring Summit at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC on January 27, 2016.

Ms. Plata experienced the benefit of mentoring as a mentee through Take Stock in Children.  She began her career as a mentor while studying at the University of Florida.  She continues to mentor now formally as a mentor for Take Stock, and informally by helping young attorneys and speaking to high school students about the consequences of crime.  

Ms. Plata is honored with two other champions of mentoring: Dr. Sharon Rose Powell and Curley M. Dossman, Jr.. 

For more information, the entire press release may be read here

Thursday, January 14, 2016

An open letter to the Florida Powerball winner.

Dear Florida Powerball winner: 

Congratulations! 1.5 BILLION dollars divided by three equals $533,333,333.  Amazing! You life is about to change, but the choices that you make in the next few days and weeks will determine if you live comfortably for the rest of your natural life, or you life spirals out of control into a tragic end. Choose wisely....your life may depend on it.  You have 180 days to claim the prize. Do not feel rushed.  But, please SIGN YOUR TICKET right now!  

The Florida Lottery website is currently down, but here are some tips for the time being. 

(1) Do NOT tell anyone..except your spouse and your attorney.

You are probably thrilled!  You think your problems are over, but if you tell people that you won, you are putting yourself at risk of financial and physical harm.  People are crazy, and crazy people do not think things through.  Google yourself right now... your address, phone number, part of your social security number, and more is right there for everyone to see.  This is the largest jackpot ever, and everyone is going to want to know who the winner is.  Some people are merely curious, and others want to find you to ask you for a cut of the money because you can afford to help everyone, right? 

Some winners have been kidnapped, burglarized, hustled, sued and more.    Human nature can be unpredictable, and you don't want to take a chance.. Now that you have won, you deserve to quietly enjoy every cent for the rest of your long, natural life. I know you love you friends, you significant non-spouse other, and your co-workers, but just don't.  

(2) Hire an attorney today. 

Not all attorneys are created equal.  A personal injury attorney who you see on TV is not your best option right now.  Estate Law and Tax Law attorneys are your best bet.   You NEED an attorney who can advise you on the law regarding the Florida Lottery and taxes.  Remember, attorneys are bound by confidentiality, so you can freely discuss your new life with them.  

An attorney will explain how you claim and how to fill out the claim form. 

An attorney will be able to correctly advise you as to how to accomplish everything that you would like to do... paying off debts, gifting, saving, investing, spending, and making your money last.  You can discuss the benefit of the lump-sum verses the annual payments.  They can also help you create a trust to claim the prize and take steps to protect your privacy after you claim your prize.  Florida Law requires that the winners name, age and city of residence are published, but you and your attorney can talk about ways to protect you even if that information is published.  

Attorneys can offer a free consultation and work on a contingency fee (taking a percentage of your claim) so that you don't have to pay prior to claiming your prize.  In your case, you should not pay more than 1% contingency fee and even that is a lot.  Our firm agreed that .01% is fair. 

 (3) Pace yourself.

Pay off your debts then slowly upgrade.  If you want to send people money, have an attorney send confidentiality agreements prior to sending money.  Pay off mortgages or loans rather than cash presents for tax reasons.  

Buy a new house, but keep your old house so people have no idea.  Use your new trust to purchase property so your name is not on the deed and no one knows.  

(4) Deal with your problems today!

I hope that you are the salt of the Earth.  If you are not, that's OK, but it is time to get help for problems that may drain your bank account like a bad relationship, poor money management, addiction, alcoholism, mental illness or other legal issues.  There are experts for hire who can assist you with kicking al of those problems to the curb.  Don't give all of your money to drug dealers and bondsmen. If you know that you will not be able to contain yourself, consider a conservatorship. Hey, it worked for Britney

If you were not happy before, you will not be happy now. Consider counseling and a life coach to help you find peace and happiness in life so that you can enjoy your new wealth.  Consider moving away from a really bad situation and surround yourself with positive, stable people.   If you're already a happy person, don't let this windfall destroy that and hire professionals to handle the less-fun side of money management. 

(5) Get a Will. 

(6) You have to tell your spouse. But if you want out of the relationship, a Family Law attorney can also help.

(7) Be safe! 

Don't engage in risky behavior.  The point is to live forever now that you have the money to do so.

(8) Remember that a big win doesn't make you OR YOUR FAMILY a legal, financial or business expert. 

Remember: money doesn't make you, your family, or friends smarter, but it can buy you a hell of an education.  If you want to invest or donate, allocate 10% for that purpose and have it managed for that purpose (charitable donations, helping young entrepreneurs or family inventors).  Consider making objective standards for giving money away that a trustee may follow.  For example, you only donate to organizations that help children who have terminal illnesses in the United States.  Or, you pay the student loans for young single parents with professional degrees.  The possibilities are endless.  

Just trust the experts, unless of course you are one!  And for the love of God, don't trust friends and family to manage your affairs or speak on your behalf unless they are licensed professionals.  

(9) If it floats or flies, rent don't buy. 

Are you required to fly weekly to various meeting around the globe? No? You DO NOT need a boat or a plane!  Planes and boat depreciate as soon as you make the purchase. They are terrible investments.  You can get a membership to one of many companies that will have jets on call for you at any time.  You can also rent the most luxurious yachts in the world for weeks at a time and walk away as soon as the fun is over.  Trust me. 

(10) Deactivate Social Media.

We all wish you the very best, but don't rub it in.  You're not a #richkidofinstagram. 

Good luck making this money last for generations to come! 

Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law is a Jacksonville based law firm serving all of North Florida. For more information, call 904-516-5560 or visit our website at www.plataschott.com.