It is nothing new for bill collectors to threaten those in debt, and there are numerous instances where third party collection agencies will threaten people with jail time if they do not pay consumer debts. This causes confusion amongst citizens that fall behind on their payments, worrying that they could go to prison for being unable to pay. However, know that, if you owe money on a debt and cannot afford to pay it, it is typically a civil matter – therefore, no jail time is involved. Instead, the creditor would have to sue you in court and receive a judgment to collect.
Debtor’s Prisons: Do They Exist?
Debtor’s prisons were used years ago as a way for lenders to imprison poor people who could not repay their debt obligations. These were used in the United States until the mid-1800s, when they were finally banned. States started to eliminate debtor’s prisons, and most have followed suit across the board, though there are some states that do have jail time for certain debts.
Essentially, you cannot go to jail for failure to pay civil debts – such as credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, or even hospital bills. These are the types of debts for which most people will encounter harsh third party debt collectors and threats.
You can, however, go to jail for not paying two specific types of debts: child support and taxes. There are also state owed debts that can result in jail time if you do not pay them. Some states and local courts in Florida will use fees, fines, and other costs as part of their criminal justice system. If you fail to pay these fees as part of a condition of your probation or parole, you can go to jail.
Three Instances That Could Result in Jail Time
There are three instances that could result in jail time for unpaid debts in Florida:
- Willfully Violating a Court Order – If you are ordered by the courts to pay for a debt, typically child support, and you are found in contempt for nonpayment, you could go to jail.
- You Refuse to Pay Income Taxes – Being behind on your tax payments do not automatically constitute jail time, but if you outright refuse to pay your tax debts and you are then prosecuted and convicted, you could go to jail.
- You Do Not Appear During a Debtor’s Examinations – These are not used in the state of Florida, but other states do use them as a way to assess a debtor’s ability to pay their obligations.
When You Are Being Threatened with Jail Time, Speak with an Attorney
It can be hard to tell if a creditor has legitimate threats or not. If you are being threatened with jail time for nonpayment of certain debts, contact an attorney to explore your options. Also, if you have been arrested for a crime, contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. today. Schedule your consultation at 904-356-8618, or fill out an online contact form with your questions.Read More
Theft crimes in Florida carry serious consequences – even if you are a first time offender. If convicted, you will have a criminal record that could impact every aspect of your life; including social, professional and financial. This is why it is critical that you hire a criminal defense attorney if you are being accused of any type of theft crime – including misdemeanor offenses.
The Types and Consequences of Theft Crimes
The state of Florida has several specific types of thefts that a person may be charged with. The consequences, regardless of the degree of your charge, are serious and long-lasting. These theft categories include:
- Grand Theft – This is based solely on the value of the property stolen. If the stolen property’s value (how much it is worth) exceeds $300, it is considered grand theft under Florida law. If convicted, you may face a third degree felony that can include up to five years in prison.
- Petit Theft – If the value of the stolen property is less than $300, but the value still exceeds $100, you will be charged with petit theft. While it is less serious than grand theft, it is a misdemeanor that carries a potential of up to one year in prison.
- Retail Theft – This crime, also referred to as “shoplifting,” is when a person knowingly obtains or conceals items from the merchant with the intent of acquiring them without payment. The charges and punishments for retail theft will vary depending on the value of the property stolen. If convicted, you may be required to not only serve jail time, but pay restitution for the property that was stolen.
- Dealing in Stolen Property – A person can also be charged with dealing in stolen property or trafficking stolen goods. This may be charged as a second degree felony or a first degree felony depending on the amount and value of goods being trafficked.
The Importance of Adequate Criminal Representation
Regardless of the theft crime you are being accused of, the penalties and consequences could be severe. Florida law does not tolerate theft and Florida authorities seek maximum consequences for those convicted of these crimes. If you have been arrested or you are under suspicion for theft, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel right away.
Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. for Your Theft Crime
Work with a criminal defense attorney that has successfully crafted defenses for these very types of cases. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. is here to help you with your theft case and mount an aggressive defense against the charges you are facing. Contact our law firm online or call 904-356-8618 to schedule a consultation regarding your arrest now.Read More
For some individuals, it can be a shock to find that their bail is denied and they are ordered to remain in custody until their trial. Because criminal trials can take months or years to complete in the state of Florida, a person can be locked behind bars for an extended period of time – and when they are innocent, that reality becomes even worse.
Understanding Bond Hearings in the State of Florida
Under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a person cannot be held in jail awaiting trial if the courts require an excessive amount of bail. However, the constitution and state statutes do not define what “excessive” is nor do they list what is considered a “reasonable” amount of bail. Florida law does recognize that the “reasonable” amount of bail will vary depending on the crime a person is being accused of as well as the criminal history of that individual – and other factors specific to the case. That is why a bond hearing is used to help discover what a reasonable amount of bail is in a particular defendant’s case.
A judge overseeing the bail hearing is guided by two separate principles:
- The bail issued should be enough to ensure that the defendant will appear in court.
- The bail amount required will protect the community from the defendant.
Excessive bail is considered unconstitutional, but too little bail does not give a defendant reason to return to court or avoid harming the community again while they are out on bond. Therefore, judges look for the appropriate and reasonable amount that will not only give the defendant incentive to attend their own hearing, but also ensure they do not commit other crimes while out on bail.
How Bail is Determined by a Judge
Florida law does provide overseeing judges with some guidance as to how they can determine a reasonable amount of bail. During the bond hearing, a judge will consider several factors to help determine bond, which include:
- The nature of the crime;
- The strength of evidence against the defendant;
- The defendant’s ties to the community – such as being employed, having a family, etc.;
- Any previous convictions on record or failure to appear in court in the past;
- The risks of danger to the community if the defendant was released on bail;
- How the defendant will pay for bail;
- If the defendant is currently on parole or probation;
- Other relevant factors presented by the defense and prosecution.
Judges are given wide discretion when determining bail amounts, and if a person’s bail is denied, it often means that the facts of the case were either presented too weakly by the defense, or else very strongly by the prosecutors.
Contact an Attorney for Your Bond Hearing – Call The Armstrong Law Group, P.A.
Having a criminal defense attorney present during your bail hearing is critical. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. has represented numerous clients through each stage of the criminal process – including bond hearings. Schedule your case evaluation now by contacting an attorney online or by calling 904-356-8618.Read More
Some individuals feel that a misdemeanor is nothing to worry about. They know the penalties are not as harsh and they assume the chances of going to jail are small, especially if they are a first-time offender. Misdemeanors, however, are still crimes – and some carry harsh penalties that individuals may not realize. Also, there are situations that can turn a simple misdemeanor into a felony charge – which is why, regardless of the charge, it is imperative a person have legal counsel.
Reasons You Want an Attorney
Whether it is a misdemeanor or you plan to plead guilty to a lesser charge, you still need an attorney to help you. If you think skipping the costs of hiring a defense attorney are worth it, here are a few reasons to reconsider:
- Protect Your Rights – You have the constitutional right to hire an attorney or have one provided for you. You also have the right to an attorney while you are being questioned by the police. Criminal defense attorneys protect your rights and they can possibly spot Fourth Amendment violations regarding the search and seizure of your property; which means your case may be dismissed.
- Protect You From Self-Incrimination – When speaking with the police, you may accidentally say or do something that incriminates you – without knowing it. By having a criminal defense attorney present, you can protect yourself from self-incrimination and your attorney will ensure you do not say anything that can later be used negatively against you in court.
- Case Analysis – An attorney can look at the evidence in your case and see if you have a viable defense strategy. For example, if you were pulled over and the police had no probable cause to do so, any evidence found after the pullover could be suppressed in court. Even if the case is not dismissed, having an attorney there strengthens your negotiating power with the prosecution.
- Better Plea Deals – Most importantly, an attorney knows how to negotiate plea deals and possibly reduce or eliminate jail time altogether. Attorneys can consider the offers made by prosecutors and counteroffer or reject them and wait for a better deal.
- Diversion Program Options – An attorney knows about diversion programs and may help you avoid conviction as long as your crime meets specific circumstances.
- Enforcing the Plea Deal – If you intend to plead guilty, an attorney will file the right paperwork and help enforce that plea deal – ensuring prosecutors do not go back on their word and that everything agreed to orally is officially entered with the courts.
Hire a Skilled Defense Attorney – Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A.
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor, contact a criminal defense attorney regardless of how “minor” you think your charge is. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. offers aggressive, experienced defense services that can help reduce charges or even help you avoid jail time altogether. Contact us online or call 904-356-8618 to schedule a case evaluation now.Read More
Life after a criminal conviction is not easy. Your criminal record makes it more difficult to gain employment, get into school, and may even make finding adequate housing difficult – even though housing is one of the most basic necessities for survival. Because of this risk, you may be tempted to hide the fact that you are a convicted criminal when filling out a housing application.
Disclosing Your Criminal History
Despite the fear your application will be denied, it is better that you disclose your criminal record than let a landlord discover it during a criminal background check without any explanation from you. Landlords can access the central repository via the Federal Department of Law Enforcement to search for any potential criminal history by name; therefore, even if you do not disclose it, they can still discover a criminal record.
By taking responsibility for your criminal past and being honest, you increase the likelihood that a landlord will approve you despite your history.
Applying for Public Housing
Federal and state public housing authorities cannot discriminate against race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. when choosing their housing applicants. They can, however, consider an individual’s criminal record when renting out public housing. They are also permitted under the law to consider new criminal convictions as grounds for eviction.
After incarceration, you will have four main options for long-term housing. If you do not qualify for any of these, you may want to consider short-term housing, such as a halfway house or staying with family until you can qualify.
- Rentals Offered by Management Companies – Management companies typically have policies against renting to those with criminal convictions or even arrest records. There may be exceptions to this policy if you have proof of a completed probation or proof your crime was not violent or drug-related.
- Rentals Offered by Smaller Private Landlords – You may have more opportunities with a small, private landlord because they can use their own discretion when selecting their tenants. You should explain your criminal history before they conduct a criminal background check to improve your credibility.
- Rentals Offered for Past Convicts – Local landlords may be part of a program that offers rental properties to convicted criminals. You often will need to enclose a letter explaining your crime and future goals, and the landlord will select based on preference.
- Rentals Offered by Public or Affordable Housing Programs –Affordable housing programs may deny applicants based on criminal background checks; however, you may be able to appeal the decision with the local housing authority.
A solution to having to disclose your criminal history is to have your criminal record expunged. The rules for expungement in Florida are strict and not all crimes or arrest records may qualify. However, if you successfully expunge your criminal record, a landlord will not find your criminal past on the central repository, and you are not required to disclose your past to them.
Get Answers to Your Legal Questions – Contact the Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. Now
If you have questions regarding a conviction or you would like to learn more about expunging your criminal record, The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. can help. Call us at 904-356-8618 or complete an online contact form to get started.
Police officers are naturally intimidating to some; therefore, it is not uncommon to see individuals say something inappropriate or admit to something due to that intimidation. Whether you are being questioned by the police or you have been arrested under suspicion of a crime, there are certain things that you should never say to a police officer. These statements not only give officers probable cause for arrest, but could lead to criminal charges for a crime you did not commit.
Statements to Never Make to a Police Officer
These statements can provoke police or give them ample cause to arrest you. Therefore, avoid such statements during any encounter with police officers.
Insulting the Police – Regardless of the situation, never insult a police officer. There may be tensions present already, but insulting a police officer can give an officer grounds to arrest you – even if there were not any before. Also, police have discretion in the upcoming charges brought against you and how it will develop. They can add charges too, which could change a misdemeanor offense into a felony charge.
Do Not Admit to Anything, Including Minor Details – Police officers may question you about a potential crime. They may even skirt around the obvious questions and ask for minor details, such as your whereabouts, your relationship to a crime victim, etc. Do not admit to anything or answer any questions without an attorney present – even minor details. Admitting to small things can still result in an official arrest, even if you are innocent.
Do Not Give Permission to Search – If an officer does not have a warrant, they must get your verbal permission to search your home or vehicle. Do not allow the police to intimidate you into giving them permission. You have the right to refuse a search and request that the officers return with a warrant.
Do Not Give Police Permission to Re-Enter Your Home With You – If you have been arrested outside of your home, the police officer may offer you an opportunity to go inside your home to freshen up or grab something you have left behind. They do this because they can escort you inside and then search the premises. Do not allow police to re-enter the home; instead, say that you would prefer to go straight to the police station.
Do Not Use Force – It is against the law to use force to resist an arrest, even if the officer is arresting you without cause. Using force can result in a resisting arrest charge or possibly battery of a police officer. Your attorney can help if you are arrested without cause, but not if you resist forcefully.
The most important statement you can make to an arresting police officer is invoking your right to counsel. State that you will not answer their questions until you have an attorney present. It is your right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney – use it. Once you have invoked your rights, do not speak unless it is to answer basic information such as your name, address, date of birth, etc.
Invoke Your Right to Counsel – Contact The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A.
Police are trained to coax out incriminating information. Whether you are being questioned or you have been arrested, do not give them more information than necessary. Instead, contact a criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Timothy Armstrong, P.A. Call 904-356-8618 or fill out an online contact form and an attorney will be in touch with you shortly.Read More
Each May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and countless private safety organizations and motorcycle clubs observe Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. While riders here in Florida get to use their bikes year-round, May is when other parts of the country start to thaw and riders start to get back out on the roads.
The Importance of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is a great opportunity for riders and drivers alike to remind themselves of the risks of careless and aggressive driving. While the influx of riders in northern states serves as a natural reminder, we don’t get that here in Florida. If you’re wondering why this is an important issue, the answer is simple: Motorcycle accidents are on the rise.
According to NHTSA, the latest data available show that the number of fatal motorcycle accidents increased by seven percent from 2011 to 2012. That amounts to more than 300 additional deaths from the year before. Overall, motorcycle accidents are up by a whopping 15 percent – with 93,000 total injuries in 2012. When compared to car drivers, motorcycle riders are roughly six times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
Safe Riding Practices
As a motorcycle rider, there are several things you can do both to avoid accidents and to mitigate your injuries when you lay it down. This year, NHTSA is emphasizing two issues in particular for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month:
- Wear a DOT-rated helmet. While riders over 21 with $10,000 in medical benefits insurance are not required to wear helmets under Florida law, wearing a helmet is still highly recommended. Studies show that helmet use has hovered around 60 percent for the last decade. However, there is no disputing that helmets save lives in dangerous situations. If you are getting in the saddle, remember the riders’ mantra: All the Gear, All the Time.
- Don’t drink and ride. It is no secret that alcohol use results in significant impairments when you hop on your bike or get behind the wheel. But, did you know that even being below the legal limit can still put you at a significantly-increased risk of either causing or being unable to avoid an accident? If you have been drinking, play it safe and call a cab or ask a friend to take you home.
Drivers: Share the Road
This May, NHTSA is reminding drivers to share the road with motorcyclists as well. Since we have motorcycles on our roads every day of the year here in Florida, it is easy for drivers to get complacent about motorcycle safety. The next time you go driving, make it a point to actively watch for motorcycles, and be sure to respect their right to share the road.
The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. provides aggressive and experienced representation for individuals who have been injured in motorcycle accidents. To learn more about our services, please contact us today.Read More
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Each year since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has used this month as a time to raise awareness about the risks and treatment options available for alcoholism and excessive use of alcohol. At The Armstrong Law Group, P.A., we are proud to help promote this extremely important cause.
This Year’s Theme
NCADD picks one particular area of focus each year to develop its theme for Alcohol Awareness Month. This year’s theme is, “For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction.” As the name suggests, NCADD has chosen to focus on raising awareness of the risks of underage drinking in 2015. As discussed on the organization’s website, “[a]dolescence is a time of heightened risk taking,” and alcohol kills more teens than all illegal drugs combined. Using alcohol puts teenagers at heightened risk for:
- Car accidents
- Sexual assaults
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that 5,000 underage drinkers die each year as a direct result of alcohol-related incidents. Another 190,000 visit the emergency room for alcohol-related injuries. By educating teens on the dangers of alcohol consumption, we can all make a difference in helping to reduce these numbers.
Get Involved in Alcohol Awareness Month
NCADD’s website provides a wealth of information for individuals and families seeking to get involved in Alcohol Awareness Month. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has published a detailed toolkit and extensive list of resources for promoting awareness of alcohol-related issues. Some of their recommendations include:
- Encouraging friends and family members to be vigilant about monitoring their teens for alcohol use and limiting their own consumption of alcohol.
- Hosting or participating in a community event to raise awareness of the risks of alcohol consumption, or focusing on specific issues such as drinking and driving.
- Spreading the word about Alcohol Awareness Month on social media (DHHS’s toolkit has sample tweets, ecards, web badges, and resources to share online).
- Asking your doctor to talk to your children about the risks of underage alcohol use
For parents, educators, and community members who regularly interact with teens, the NIAAA also recommends watching for these warning signs:
- Changes in behavior or academic performance
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Hanging out with a different group of friends
- Depression and fatigue
- Finding alcohol among their personal belongings
These are all known to be indicators of potential alcohol abuse.
Contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A.
Attorney Tim Armstrong represents individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and other alcohol-related crimes. He also represents victims of alcohol-related accidents. To learn more about the risks of drinking and driving or consuming too much alcohol, call 904-356-8618 or contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. online today.Read More