Personal Injury and Criminal Defense FAQ

What if the car accident was partially my fault? When do I have a legitimate premises liability claim? What is the first step I need to take after a dog bite? We answer questions like these and many more on our personal injury Frequently Asked Questions page.

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  • What Can I Do If I Suspect Child Abuse or Neglect?

    Woman on cell phone looking very serious

    What Can I Do If I Suspect Child Abuse or Neglect?

    Anyone can and should report suspected child abuse or neglect. If you think a child is being mistreated, take immediate action.

    If you suspect abuse in Jacksonville, Florida, you can contact the Florida Department of Children and Families or call the the Florida Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day and 7 days a week at 1-800-962-2873 or fill out an online form

    The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides the following advice. 

    Information to Provide When Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect.

    When you call to make a report, you will be asked for specific information, such as the following:

    • The child’s name and location • The name and relationship (if known) of the person you believe is abusing the child

    • What you have seen or heard regarding the abuse or neglect

    • The names of any other people who might know about the abuse

    • Your name and phone number (voluntary)

    Reporting the situation may protect the child and get additional help for the family. Many nonprofit, public, education, social service, and child care organizations in your community play a role in providing supports and services to children, youth, and families. Parenting education, crisis/respite care, transitional housing, and literacy programs as well as family resource centers, teen parent support groups, fatherhood groups, and marriage education classes support families in important ways.

    If You or a Loved One Has Been the Victim of Sexual Abuse and You Have Questions

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • Can I Get Out of My Plea of Guilty to DUI in Jacksonville?

    Person drinking a beer while driving

    This question often arises after a person has plead guilty to DUI in their first appearance, or what is called J1 in Jacksonville, Florida. A person arrested is required to be brought in front of a Judge within 24 hours. This is called the J1 hearing. The Judge will review the arrest report for probable cause and make a determination on bail. People arrested on misdemeanors are also provided the opportunity to plea guilty and be sentenced immediately. There is a prosecutor and public defender present.

    When it comes to DUIs though, the consequences are often extensive and difficult to specifically articulate to a client who may have just spent 12 hours in jail for the first time in their lives. They are afraid, tired, hungry and often is a bit of shock and daze. 

    For a first time offender, this can be a very intimidating situation and without proper legal advice can lead to unnecessarily harsh plea deals and convictions that will stay on your records forever. 

    So can you withdraw a plea of guilty to DUI

    You can absolutely try. 

    The Law on Withdrawing a Plea of Guilty in Jacksonville, Florida

    Rule 3.170(f) Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, provides that “The court may in its discretion, and shall on good cause, at any time before a sentence, permit a plea of guilty or no contest to be withdrawn and, if judgment of conviction has been entered thereon, set aside the judgment and allow a plea of not guilty, or, with the consent of the prosecuting attorney, allow a plea of guilty or no contest of a lesser included offense, or of a lesser degree of the offense charged, to be substituted for the plea of guilty or no contest.” 

    A plea of guilty should be entirely voluntary and should not be induced by fear, misapprehension or persuasion. Even the slightest undue motivation should invalidate a guilty plea.

    Factors Considered in Your Argument to Withdraw a Plea 

    • Lacked capacity to make an informed and voluntary decision with regard to the plea and the waiver of rights 
    • Impaired by the fact that at the time of his hearing he/she had not eaten or slept for a substantial period of time
    • Had not had an opportunity to adequately confer with counsel
    • Had not received a copy of the Arrest and Booking Report with the stated allegations or any related DUI reports 
    • Was not informed of the exonerating or mitigating evidence contained in any reports 
    • Had not had a chance to confront any witnesses
    • Did not understand the legal issues presented in the video presentation
    • Was under duress for fear that his/her employment may be affected
    • Has no criminal record and therefore no experience in the criminal justice system

    If You Have Questions Regarding a DUI or Any Other Criminal Matter

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at  904-209-4883.

     

  • How can I Protect My Child Against Sexual Abuse?

    Internet security sign

    As a naturally suspicious person and father of two young boys, I have a hard time trusting anyone around my children. The stories are endless about the horrors that some kids endure at the hands of family, friends and those they are supposed to trust. I have begun my certification process to become a Guardian Ad Litem here in Jacksonville and in the process have been studying a lot more material. 

    The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an enormous amount of information regarding sexual and physical abuse of children. The below information was compiled on one of the tip sheets provided on their website. 

    What You Can Do To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

    It is important to keep the focus on adult responsibility while teaching children skills to help them protect themselves. Consider the following tips:

    • Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
    • Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom), or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
    • Ensure that organizations, groups, and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
    • Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
    • Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.”
    • Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others—even in nonsexual ways.
    • Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
    • Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).
    • Monitor children’s use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review contact lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.
    • Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don’t do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
    • If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully, and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.

    This tip sheet was created using information from Prevent Child Abuse America, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the Enough Abuse Campaign, and Stop It Now. At https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/resources/tip-sheets/, you can download this tip sheet and get more parenting tips, or call 800.394.3366.  

    If You or a Loved One Has Been the Victim of Sexual Abuse and You Have Questions

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • What Are Some Signs of Child Sex Abuse?

    There are few things worse than the abuse of a child. As a parent, I'm of course protective of my children, but what about all the other children we come in contact with. Whether it be at school events, sports, work or just around the neighborhood. How can I help if I think something is wrong? What should I look for? The Child Welfare Information Gateway has an enormous amount of information regarding sexual and physical abuse of children and how to spot suspected abuse. They have compiled the list below. 

    If you do suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect him or her and get help for the family. Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. Reporting your concerns is not making an accusation; rather, it is a request for an investigation and assessment to determine if help is needed. 

    Signs of Sexual Abuse 

    Signs in a Child: 

    • Has difficulty walking or sitting 
    • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities 
    • Reports nightmares or bedwetting 
    • Experiences a sudden change in appetite 
    • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior 
    • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14 
    • Runs away 
    • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver 
    • Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment 

    Signs in parent or other adult caregiver: 

    • Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
    • Is secretive and isolated 
    • Is jealous or controlling with family members

    ‚ÄčHow To Report Abuse in Jacksonville, Florida

    If you suspect abuse in Jacksonville, Florida, you can contact the Florida Department of Children and Families or call the the Florida Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day and 7 days a week at 1-800-962-2873 or fill out an online form

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

    If You or a Loved One Has Been the Victim of Sexual Abuse and You Have Questions

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

     

  • What Happens If I Don't Show Up For My Court Date?

    Police lights on top of car

    First thing first, if you have an attorney and you are considering avoiding a court date or actively fleeing a jurisdiction, please contact your attorney so you can understand exactly what the consequences are in your case. I'm going to talk about some general consequences, but your attorney will have more insight regarding who your prosecutor is, what your particular charge is, your criminal history and who the judge is. All of these being very important factors to consider. 

    Should I Skip My Jacksonville, Florida Criminal Court Date?

    NO! If you have been released on bail and have a court date, whether is be arraignment, pretrial or sentencing, and you are required to be there, then get your self to court. An old boss of mine you to always say "what is the first rule of holes?" "When your in one, stop digging." Your already in a hole with a criminal case so don't make it worse. 

    Consequences of Jumping Bail in Jacksonville, Florida

    • You lose any money that you may have put up for bail.
    • A warrant will most likely be issued, which means, law enforcement may be knocking on your door and actively looking for you. Believe me, people never get picked up on a warrant when it is convenient for them, it's always Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, your mom's or kid's birthday or in the middle of a date that was going well. 
    • When you are arrested on the warrant, most judges in Jacksonville will issue a no bond, meaning you will sit in Duval County Jail until your case is resolved.  
    • Both Florida and Federal law provide for a separate charge to be filed if you fail to appear for court. You could actually have a new charge and prison time. 
    • You will lose favor with the Judge. Depending on your case, you may have to actually stand in front of the Judge some day and have him either sentence you or accept a negotiated plea deal you have worked out with the prosecutor. If the Judge knows you as someone who doesn't respect the law or his/her courtroom, you have now dug yourself a deeper hole.
    • You will lose favor with the Prosecutor. Depending on your case, you may want to negotiate an plea deal with the State. This will only become more difficult if you show a willingness to disregard the law and avoid the consequences of your actions. 

    I Missed A Court Date, Now What Do I Do?

    Call your attorney or hire one. Your attorney can find out if a warrant has been issued. Often a motion can be filed to have the warrant removed and have you appear in court willingly. Or an attorney can arrange to have you turn your self in, safely, and work on getting another bail set. There are always arguments to be made and reasons one might miss a court date. Don't make it worse by ignoring the situation and waiting for the police to come find you. As a defense attorney, I have more arguments to make to keep you out of jail if you are honest, willing to turn yourself in or appear in court and are humble and apologetic to the Judge. 

    Take care of yourself and stop digging. 

    If You Have Questions About A Criminal Case

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • Not Wearing a Seat Belt; Can I Still Sue?

    person buckling seat belt

    Yes, you can still sue the other driver when injured in a car accident, even though you wear not wearing your seat belt. 

    However, your poor decision can effect the amount of money you may be able to recover. Florida has what is called the Florida Safety Belt Law

    Florida Safety Belt Law

    It is unlawful for any person:

    • To operate a motor vehicle or an autocycle in this state unless each passenger and the operator of the vehicle or autocycle under the age of 18 years are restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device.
    • To operate a motor vehicle or an autocycle in this state unless the person is restrained by a safety belt.
    • It is unlawful for any person 18 years of age or older to be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle or an autocycle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt when the vehicle or autocycle is in motion.

    In addition; a violation of the Safety Belt Law may be considered as evidence of comparative negligence, in any civil action.

    Seat Belts and Comparative Negligence

    In Florida, the money you recover in trial can be reduced by the percentage a jury believed you were at fault. A jury will decide whether your injuries were 100% the other drivers fault or if some action by you may have also contributed to the accident, for example, speeding or talking on your cell phone. If a jury decides you were partially at fault, say 20%, than any money rewarded would be reduced by 20%, (a $100,000 jury verdict is now $80,000 because you were 20% at fault for the accident). This percentage of fault is called comparative negligence. 

    If you are injured in an automobile accident and were not wearing your seat belt, the other driver may argue the defense of comparative negligence. So not only is it unsafe to not wear your seat belt, but it could also cost you financially if you are injured in an accident. 

    If You Have Questions About a Car Accident or Any Other Injury You Suffered

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • Should I Just Plea Guilty to My DUI?

    Dead End Sign

    In numerous consults with clients, I have heard the remark "so I should just plea guilty". This usually comes after I have directly pointed out all the weaknesses in their case. For example;

    Client comes in to speak to me about their DUI. They had caused a minor accident, it was 2:00am, the police report states they smelled like alcohol, blood shot watery eyes, slurred speech, couldn't keep their balance and difficulty performing field sobriety tests. In addition, they provided a breath sample over the legal limit. 

    This sounds like a bad case to take to trial, appears the State may have a very strong case. Unfortunately for some, they are advised to plea guilty in their 1st Appearance court date, the morning after their arrest (This is a horrible idea, NEVER PLEA GUILTY TO DUI IN 1ST APPEARANCE). 

    Anyways. Even with bad facts and/or accusations, there is still an opportunity to reach a better result. DUI penalties are severe, and for someone with no criminal record, they will now have a conviction that can never be removed. I repeat, A DUI CONVICTION CAN NEVER BE REMOVED. Often times in a DUI, a lawyer will try to get the charged amended to a Reckless Driving.

    How Does Getting a Reckless Driving Conviction Benefit You?

    First, and most importantly, it is not a DUI. With a Reckless Driving disposition, you are often giving a Withhold of Adjudication (WH). A WH means you are not convicted of the crime and allows you to get your record sealed, along with the police report which often does not paint the client in the best light. Although you may still have to do probation, DUI school, victim impact panel and community service, you will not have a criminal record. 

    So how can this be done?

    Mitigation in a Criminal Case. 

    Although the State may be able to convict you in trial, they are not always heartless bastards. Mitigation is a way to show the prosecutor who you are and that your obvious mistake was out of character and you have a lot to lose if convicted of a crime.

    Mitigation is used in almost every criminal case negotiation, however I'm going to focus on DUI's. 

    You are nothing more than a name on a piece of paper, the prosecutor does not know you and will certainly take a guilty plea any day of the week. So how can a lawyer help you?

    A good lawyer will early and often get in the prosecutors ear about who you are:

    • Age
    • Criminal History
    • Job
    • Schooling
    • Family
    • Children 
    • Future Aspirations

    A lawyers job is to paint the picture of who you are present that picture to the prosecutor. Letters from friends, family and employers will often also be provided in order to show your true character. By presenting mitigation to the prosecutor and pushing hard for their client, a lawyer can sometimes take a loser of trial case and still get a good result. 

    Anyone can get a DUI. All demographics; race, age, religion, economic status, they all get DUI's. I have represented grandmothers, teenagers, bankers, pillars of the community, lawyers, felons and all sorts of very nice people after they were arrested for a DUI. Don't just give in, you have a story and it should be told to the prosecutor and you should be given a chance. 

    If You Have Questions Regarding a DUI or Any Other Criminal Matter

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

     

  • Are There Time Limitations on Suing for Sexual Abuse?

    close up of clock

    Are There Time Limitations on Suing for Sexual Abuse? 

    Yes. Florida has Statutes of Limitations for both civil and criminal cases. A statute of limitations provides how long you have in order to file a suit, once the limitations time period is over, you may be barred from ever seeking justice through the courts. Below I will provide a brief overview of the time limits placed upon suing your sexual abuser and/or having them prosecuted in criminal court. 

    Statute of Limitations for Claim of Sexual Abuse. 

    • 7 years after age of 18
    • 4 years after leaving the dependency of the abuser
    • 4 years from the time of discovery by the injured party of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse, whichever occurs later.

    That last one is obviously the most confusing. The Florida legislature thankfully took into account the unique nature of sexual abuse and the often seen scenario of repressed memories. What the law allows is what is commonly called the "delayed discover rule". The 4 years statute of limitations does not begin until the victim either knows or reasonably should know of the wrongful act giving rise to the claim. So an adult who finds out many years later that he/she was abused as a child, can still sue as long as they do it within 4 years of making the discovery of the abuse. As is often the case, the issue of when someone knew or should of known, is going to be argued over. You should find an attorney who can begin putting together the timeline and building any arguments necessary to make sure your claim survives. Just know that you may still have a lawsuit even though the abuse happened years ago. 

    If you want to report your case to the police and have the person prosecuted, there are also statutes of limitations.

    Statute of Limitations for a Criminal Case 

    • No statute of limitations for aggravated rape cases. These cases involve serious physical injury, weapons or sometimes more than one person.
    • No statute of limitations for for sexual battery on minor.
    • 8 years for a prosecution for a first or second degree felony violation of sexual battery, if the victim is 16 years of age or older at the time of the offense.
    • There is a DNA exception that allows for prosecution of a rapist within 1 year of discovery of the DNA match. 

    This post is only a brief summary and these laws can and do change, so help yourself by contacting an attorney who can do the proper research on any issues. 

    If You Have Questions Regarding Your Rights as a Survivor of Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.

  • How Long Until My Personal Injury Case Is Settled?

    Hour glass pink sand

    How Long Until My Personal Injury Case Is Settled?

    You have been injured, you are seeing a doctor and following their treatment plan, you have missed some work and maybe are still out of work and you are wondering when, if ever, your case will be settled and you will be compensated. You have waited months and are starting to think there will never be an end.

    You, the client, will have to show extreme patience, your case may take 6 months or it could be several years. Do you want a quick result or the best result?  A personal injury case can best be described as a marathon not a sprint. There is a steady pace to the case but a long way to the finish line.

    So Why Does A Personal Injury Case Take So Long?

    The most important part of an injury claim is your medical treatment. In order to gauge how much your case is worth, an attorney will need to know the complete cost of your medical treatment. If you are still treating, it is difficult to tell how much money will be necessary to complete your treatment. Will you need future treatment or surgery? If so, those costs need to be calculated in and if they are unknown and arise after you settle, you could be out a substantial amount of money due to having to pay for that treatment or surgery. Patience and concentrating on getting better should be your goals. 

    An attorney will need to have a full picture of your medical history and future in order to properly negotiate with the insurance company. Insurance will demand documentation to back up any claims and demands for compensation. In addition, it will take time to realize the full extent of possible lost wages. 

    Quick Case Outline

    Your case will begin with your treatment. Making sure you are getting the medical care you need. It may take months to fully recover and have a doctor state that you have completed treatment. It may take a year or two to reach that point, but a full picture of medical cost and future medical care is necessary to not only make sure you are better but also that you are compensated for all the cost that medical care brings along. 

    Your attorney will also be negotiating with the insurance company. Your attorney will share medical records and demand what they and you believe to be a reasonable amount. Negotiations may take a few months, may take a year. 

    If the insurance company is unreasonable and will only provide a small settlement, then you may need to file a lawsuit. Taking a case to trial could add on another year or two to your timeline due to everything that will have to be done before trial, including depositions, mediations and the probable delay tactics of the defense attorneys. 

    So What Can I Do?

    You should concentrate on getting better physically, mentally and getting your life back on track. Allow an attorney to handle your case and take that burden from you. An attorney will help getting you paid for lost wages and medical bills and will fight for you against the insurance company. 

    If You Have Any Questions Regarding An Injury In Florida

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883

     

  • How Much Does A Personal Injury Attorney Cost?

    two people signing a contract

    How Much Does A Personal Injury Attorney Cost?

    The majority of personal injury attorneys in Florida will take a case on a contingency fee basis. In other words, the attorney gets paid a percentage of what he/she is able to recover for you. You will not need to pay anything up front. 

    Florida rules require A contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial, or appeal, litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. 

    Sample Percentage Agreements

    As compensation (attorneys’ fees) for services, the client hereby agree to pay said attorneys from the amount of money awarded by the Court or from the gross proceeds of any recovery the following fee, whichever is greater.                                   

    (a)        Before the filing of an Complaint:

    • 33 1/3% of any recovery up to $1 million; plus
    • 30% of any portion of the recovery between $ 1 million and $2 million; plus.
    • 20% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.

    (b)        After the filing of a Complaint:

    • 40% of any recovery up to $ 1 million; plus
    • 30% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million; plus
    • 20% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.

    (c)        If all defendants admit liability at the time of filing their answers and request a trial only damages.

    • 33 1/3% of any recovery up to $1 million; plus.
    • 20% of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $ 2 million; plus.
    • 15% of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.

    Understand Your Rights As A Client

    Remember all contingent fee agreements must be in writing. In addition, before a lawyer enters into a contingent fee contract for representation of a client the lawyer shall provide the client with a copy of the statement of client’s rights and shall afford the client a full and complete opportunity to understand each of the rights as set forth therein.

    If You Have Questions About An Injury You Suffered

    Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.