Restraining Orders: How to Behave in Court to Help Your Case

Emotions run very high in restraining order hearings. Yet emotions have no place in a courtroom during this type of proceeding. Instead, strategy should dominate. A Judge decides whether or not restraining orders are granted; there is no jury. That”s why it”s critical that the Judge find you more credible than your opponent. Because restraining order hearings usually take place during a divorce, custody battle, neighbor dispute or other heated relationship, it would be easy to lose your cool in court. Nothing could be worse.

Never Get Angry, Emotional, or Defensive.  It”ll Kill Your Case Every Time

You can never ever get angry in court. Ever. Nervousness is fine, but acting upset or difficult will hurt you every time. The Judge doesn”t have time to “get to know you,” so you have only minutes to make a positive impression. Don”t cry or carry on emotionally, either. It won”t get you any sympathy from the judge. Your job is to show the judge that you are reasonable and in control. Stay calm. Stay quiet. Answer questions politely, from both your attorney and the other side”s attorney. Outbursts of ANY kind, from you or friends and family in the courtroom, are going to hurt your case. It”s just that simple. I firmly believe that if the Judge were to describe you with one word, what we are aiming for is “gentleman” or “lady.”

How to Answer Questions That Make You Look Bad

The biggest mistake most people make is trying to “win the case” from the witness stand. If you”re asked an uncomfortable question, answer it honestly. If you think your answer will hurt your case, answer honestly anyway. Never try to dodge a question. Never lie. Let me say that again. Never lie. It will only make you look bad and untrustworthy. Your lawyer will get a chance to question you further and that”s when he or she can help you recover from an uncomfortable, but honest answer. In the end, the outcome of restraining order hearings is determined by the facts and the quality of the strategy employed by lawyers. Winning the case is your attorney”s job, not yours.

Why a Lawyer Experienced in Restraining Order Hearings is Important

The ability to avoid or downplay “bad facts” and highlight favorable points is the key to victory. Make sure that your criminal defense attorney has significant experience in conducting restraining order hearings. While these hearings technically take place in family court, it is critical that your lawyer have experience in criminal court, as the issues often involve criminal law, and the outcome of your case could have consequences in criminal court. Mark Zimmerman is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer with extensive experience handling restraining orders and violent offenses in criminal court. Don”t leave the outcome of your case to chance. Contact Mark Zimmerman for a case evaluation at (941) 364-8503 or fill out our online case evaluation form and we”ll get in touch with you immediately.

Difficult questions never have simple answers. Like all complex questions, the immediate answer is…it depends.  Is the arrestee still in jail?  If so, it might be necessary to contact a bail bondsman. If the  bond is low then the bail can be posted in full.  It will be returned in full at the conclusion of the case, assuming the arrestee made all of their court appearances. If bond is too large to make in full, then a bail bondsman will require payment, typically equal to 10% of the total bond.  That is the bondsman”s  fee, and  it will not be  returned to you.  The bondsman will also likely require that you sign over something of value as collateral to secure the bond.  This is often the title to a house, car or boat.  If the bond is so large that even paying 10% is not feasible, then effort will need to be made to lower the bond.  This requires the use of a lawyer. There are typically two opportunities to accomplish this.  The first is at a hearing held within 24 hours of arrest, at a courtroom located within the jail.  Unfortunately, family members are unable to attend this hearing.  The technical name for this hearing casino online is a Non-Adversarial Probable  Cause Hearing, however it is commonly referred to as a First Appearance.  If a a private attorney is not retained in time for this hearing, then an Assistant Public Defender will represent the arrestee. Public Defender”s will have little time to prepare for each hearing, so hiring a private criminal defense attorney provides an advantage in preparation and strategy.  If bond is sufficiently reduced at First Appearance, then the process of  posting bail outlined above would be followed.  Be aware that some people arrested in Sarasota are released on their own recognizance, also known as ROR.  In this instance, there is  no bail required and no other conditions of release that must be complied with.  The arrestee must simply show up in court when required.  Sadly, this circumstance has become increasingly rare in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  More common is that arrestees are given some monetary bond and also placed on a community supervision program known as Supervised  Pretrial Release, or SPR.  In Sarasota, this program is administered  by a government agency known as  Pretrial Services.  If an arrestee released from jail in Sarasota fails to comply with any of their conditions of release, Pretrial Services will forward a warrant for their re-arrest to a local Judge.  Typical release conditions include contacting Pretrial Services telephonically, appearing at their offices, submitting to urinalysis and attending counseling.  If bond is not reduced sufficiently to secure the arrestee”s release, then a Bond Reduction Hearing will need to be scheduled. This can be done as soon as  a few days from arrest, and occasionally could take several weeks. At this hearing, an attorney would present to the Judge the reasons why they should be confident that the arrestee will, in fact, appear for their scheduled court dates, and why they do not pose a danger to our community.  If bond is not reduced sufficiently after this hearing, it is possible that the arrestee will spend the pendency of the case  in jail.  This can occur in very serious  cases involving  certain felony charges, or where the  arrestee has a significant prior record.  In some extreme cases, the Judge will allow no bond.  This means that no amount of monetary bail can secure the arrestee”s release.  In this instance the proper motion to be filed would  be a Motion to Set Bond (as opposed to a Motion to Reduce Bond). Again, this will require the services of an attorney. Stay tuned for my future post on things to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota.

Expelled From School: Now What?

An expulsion notice starts a countdown ticking. As parents, you have only 10 days or less before the expulsion hearing. That means you have to get ready right away. Here are five steps you should take to prepare your family for an expulsion hearing:

  1. Ask to see your child’s school record. Reading the record will help you understand what the school believes has happened. It should have information about the incident, including names of witnesses that the school might ask to testify at the hearing and documents the school may use as evidence at the hearing.
  2. Talk to witnesses. Try to talk to as many of the school’s witnesses as you can before the hearing to find out what they plan to say.
  3. Make a list of people who can be witnesses to help you tell your side of the story. Talk to these people so you will know what they will say and ask them to come to the hearing. You may also want to find some “character” witnesses. A good character witness would be an adult from outside the family, such as a scout leader, someone from your church, or a coach who knows your child and can say some positive things about him or her.
  4. Plan your strategy for the hearing. Remember the two issues that will be decided at the hearing:  1) whether the child should be expelled and;  2.)how long the expulsion should last.
  5. Ask for help if you need it or contact an attorney. If you have trouble doing things on time or keeping track of paperwork, ask a friend or family member to help you prepare for the hearing. Practice what you would like to say before you’re at the hearing. If you’re nervous about the hearing, ask someone you trust to drive you there and stay with you for support. If possible, talk to an education attorney.

 

What if My Child has been Arrested and has to Appear in Juvenile Court?

It is not unusual for a child to face expulsion and criminal charges for the same incident. The school can expel the child even if the criminal case is resolved, so the child should be careful not to make statements at the expulsion hearing which could be used against him/her later in the Criminal or Juvenile Court. Be sure to consult with the criminal defense attorney handling the criminal matter about what, if anything, your child should say at the expulsion hearing.

Attorney Mark Zimmerman has been helping to guide students and their families in dealing with school disciplinary matters and related criminal charges in Sarasota and Manatee Counties since 2000.

Contact the Zimmerman and Zimmerman Law Firm today at (941) 364-8503 so that your child doesn’t have to go it alone.

Important Facts About Burglary

How many times do I have to watch a movie or TV show where people come home to find out that their home has been broken into and their valuables stolen and they declare, “we’ve been robbed!”  To criminal law practitioners this is so annoying!  Why? Because it is obvious to us that these unfortunate folks were not the victims of a robbery, rather they were the victims of a burglary.

The Difference Between Burglary and Robbery

So what is burglary?  How does it differ from robbery? And why should you care? Most commonly, burglary is defined as the breaking and entering into the dwelling of “another” coupled with the  intent to commit a crime within that dwelling.  Robbery involves the taking of one person’s property by the force of another.  Acts we commonly refer to as mugging and purse snatching are forms of robbery.

The Elements of Burglary

All crimes have component parts called elements. The elements of burglary include the unlawful entry into the home and the crime committed inside the home.  Be aware, burglary can occur in places other than a home.  This is the distinction between burglary of a dwelling (home) and burglary of a structure (store, shed, chicken coop, etc.) or burglary of a conveyance (car, truck, RV).  Burglarizing a home is a higher level of crime than the other types of burglary.

Burglary Without Theft

What most people don’t realize is that you can still have a burglary without theft.  If someone breaks into a home in order to damage the home (criminal mischief), rape (sexual battery) or to commit assault or battery, these are still burglaries.  You can be charged with both burglary and the specific crime committed inside the home in this circumstance. Burglary can be one of the most complex crimes to defend.  These cases often include matters related to eyewitness identification, the admissibility of alleged confessions, permission to enter, and a host of others.

How Burglary Charges Can Rack Up Fast

In Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice, burglary is treated very seriously in our court system.  Under our current sentencing framework in Florida, persons convicted of burglarizing a home are presumed to go to prison.  It takes skilled legal representation to avoid such a fate.  Locally, the most common burglary scenario typically involves a group of three to four young persons accused of testing door handles to see if a naive owner left their door unlocked.  Because this crime is often committed over a period of time during which dozens of car doors are tested, a person can find themselves facing 10 to 20 counts of  auto burglary from a single night of foolishness.

Contact Zimmerman and Zimmerman at (941) 364-8503 for a free consultation regarding your burglary  charge in the Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice or North Port areas.

Car Accident in Sarasota, Bradenton or Venice

Let’s face it, life is tough enough. But when you’re in a car accident, life gets a lot more difficult. The decisions you make after a crash can have long-lasting effects. Almost immediately you will have to make decisions affecting your legal rights, finances and most importantly…your health and well-being.

Who Can You Trust After a Car Accident?

Few people are prepared make decisions after a car accident without the help of an attorney. Who can you trust? The majority of people won’t feel comfortable putting their future in the hands of lawyers they found through a 1-800 number or on a park bench or bus stop. Meet your lawyer before you choose your lawyer. That’s right, your lawyer, not the lawyer’s assistant, paralegal, or “case manager.” Know the identity of the actual person that will be handling your case. There are so many issues that must be dealt with after your accident, and you need prompt, reliable information from an experienced professional. Issues relating to: civil infractions issued as a result of the crash, rental car matters, hospital bills, contact with insurance company personnel, insurance coverage questions, treatment options and more.

At Zimmerman and Zimmerman you will receive personal service from knowledgeable, experienced and caring attorneys. Give us a call at (941) 364-8503 for a free consultation regarding your personal injury case.

DUI Charges in Sarasota are Like 3 Cases in One

If  you’re facing a DUI charge in Sarasota,  Bradenton, or Venice,  it’s important that you understand the process that lies ahead of you.  While you might think that you only have one case to deal with, in fact you probably have three.  Let me explain.

  1. First you have your criminal case which will include the charge of DUI and any other additional criminal charges that stemmed from the incident.
  2. Second is any civil infraction which you may have been given during your arrest.  This could include speeding, careless driving, failure to maintain a single lane and a host of other potential citations.
  3. Third is an administrative law case against the DMV for the suspension of your driving privilege if you blew over the legal limit of .08 or refused to take a breath test.

These are complex matters with potentially devastating consequences if not handled properly.  Mishandling these issues could result in further loss of driving privileges, financial consequences and even jail time.  If you or someone you care about is charged with DUI in the Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice area, then call Zimmerman and Zimmerman for a free consultation so we can explain your rights, the legal process you will be facing and how we can fight the system and win.

You Have The Right To Remain Silent…Use It

What if I told you that you have the right to eat as much as you want and not gain any excess weight?  Sounds pretty good, huh?  The point is that if you have the “right” to something, it is probably a good and valuable thing.  Well, anyone who has ever watched a police or attorney themed TV show or movie knows that in America we have the “right” to remain silent.  But what exactly does that mean, and how can we use this “right” to our advantage?

What Are Miranda Rights?

Most people mistakenly believe that if they are arrested and the police fail to read them their “rights,” then the arrest is somehow invalidated.  If only this were true.  In fact, the police don”t have to read you your “rights” at all.  First of all, let”s explain what “rights” we are talking about.  A U.S. Supreme Court case from the 1960″s known as the Miranda case explained that in casino spiele order for prosecutors to use certain statements against people accused of crimes, in court, the police would have to do certain things before those statements could be used in court.  Essentially, if police question a suspect that is in custody, the answers to those questions cannot be used against the suspect in court unless the police first advised them of those “rights”  I”ve been referring to.  Basically, we have the “right” to remain silent when the police are questioning us when we are in custody.

When am I Considered “In Custody?”

Remember, “custody” isn”t limited to the police station, patrol car or handcuffs.  Any significant restraint on your movement could mean that you are “in custody.”  So what is it that I am suggesting you do when “in custody” and questioned by the police?  Use that right and remain silent!  Do I have to repeat this?  You might think you”re going to talk your way out of trouble, outsmart the police or receive favorable treatment for your honesty and cooperation.  Keep dreaming.

Who Should I Talk To?

If you want to speak to someone when you are the subject of a police investigation, then I have the perfect suggestion for you.  Contact a criminal defense lawyer.  In Sarasota or Bradenton, I suggest that you contact a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer.  Good luck, and remember to zip it!

How to Choose a Sarasota Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’re the victim of someone’s negligence, be it an auto accident or a slip and fall in Sarasota, hiring the right lawyer is perhaps the most important step in ensuring that justice will prevail in your case.  As the local landscape is filled with lawyers advertising on every park bench, taxi and billboard, how can one sort out the highest quality counsel from the unscrupulous? It’s actually easier than you might think.

What Does “Board Certified” Mean?

For many years Florida has a system in place where the best lawyers can become Board Certified in their given area of practice.  Only five percent or 1 in 20 lawyers in Florida are Board Certified.  These attorney have passed a rigorous written exam, have vast experience and passed a stringent peer review  process.  For Personal Injury, the area of certification is Civil Trial Law.

Hire a Lawyer Experienced in Dealing with Insurance Companies

The next area of inquiry should be the lawyer’s career background.  Personal Injury lawyers battle insurance companies.  Does the lawyer you are considering have insight into the inner workings of the insurance industry?  This is critical to successfully negotiating your claim.  If negotiations breakdown or the insurance company is being unreasonable, you will need a lawyer with real trial experience.  Typically that experience comes from starting your career as either a prosecutor or working as in-house counsel for an insurance company.  In both of these jobs, lawyers gain valuable experience trying many cases to juries.

Look For Community Involvement

Finally, you want a lawyer with strong community ties.  A history of involvement in  local legal organizations is a good indication that a lawyer is well-respected in their city.

Learn More About Laurie Zimmerman

Laurie Zimmerman is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer.  That means she is  a Specialist in trying civil cases which include Personal Injury cases.  Ms. Zimmerman spent over five years as in-house counsel for All State Insurance Company. She knows the inner workings of the insurance industry and how they go about opposing your case.  In that time Ms. Zimmerman successfully tried many cases before Sarasota judges and juries.  Before that Laurie started her career as a prosecutor here in Sarasota.  In those years she tried over one hundred criminal trials in Bradenton and Sarasota.  Laurie lives, works and raises her family in Sarasota.  She is a former President of the prestigious Inn of Court in Sarasota where she has further established herself as one of the true leaders of our legal community.

Attorney Zimmerman on Good Morning America

Hiring a Lawyer in Sarasota

People frequently ask us, “How do I choose the right lawyer for my case?” We are trial lawyers, so my comments are directed in that arena. Hiring a transactional lawyer might require a different analysis. Experience is paramount.

Trial lawyers should  have actual trial experience. Hiring a Florida Bar Board Certified Trial Lawyer will ensure that your lawyer has the requisite experience. Only five percent of Florida lawyers have this experience.

Credibility is also key. Do Judges and adversaries respect the lawyer? Here is where credentials can help. Involvement in legal and local organizations is a sure sign of an attorney’s standing in the community.

Third, check out the word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to ask around. Good lawyers have good reputations. Check out their office. Is their staff professional? Is their office organized and well-appointed? You are engaging this person for what may be the fight of your life. Would you hire someone who can’t keep their own shop in order? I hope not.

Finally, you should have a comfort level with your counsel. This does not mean that they become your friend. This is a professional relationship. But, you should get the feeling that your attorney truly cares about the outcome of your case.  Sarasota and Bradenton possess a vibrant legal community with many highly qualified lawyers.

Don’t fall for flashy marketing  gimmicks. Closely scrutinize your prospective counsel to ensure that you enter into a relationship that will help you achieve your desired result.

Arrested in Sarasota? What Should You Do First?

Difficult questions never have simple answers. Like all complex questions, the immediate answer is…it depends.

Getting Bond Posted

Is the arrestee still in jail?  If so, it might be necessary to contact a bail bondsman. If the  bond is low then the bail can be posted in full.  It will be returned in full at the conclusion of the case, assuming the arrestee made all of their court appearances. If bond is too large to make in full, then a bail bondsman will require payment, typically equal to 10% of the total bond.  That is the bondsman’s  fee, and  it will not be  returned to you.  The bondsman will also likely require that you sign over something of value as collateral to secure the bond.  This is often the title to a house, car or boat.  If the bond is so large that even paying 10% is not feasible, then effort will need to be made to lower the bond.  This requires the use of a lawyer.

Getting the Bond Lowered

There are typically two opportunities to accomplish this.  The first is at a hearing held within 24 hours of arrest, at a courtroom located within the jail.  Unfortunately, family members are unable to attend this hearing.  The technical name for this hearing is a Non-Adversarial Probable  Cause Hearing, however it is commonly referred to as a First Appearance.  If a a private attorney is not retained in time for this hearing, then an Assistant Public Defender will represent the arrestee. Public Defender’s will have little time to prepare for each hearing, so hiring a private criminal defense attorney provides an advantage in preparation and strategy.  If bond is sufficiently reduced at First Appearance, then the process of  posting bail outlined above would be followed.  Be aware that some people arrested in Sarasota are released on their own recognizance, also known as ROR.  In this instance, there is  no bail required and no other conditions of release that must be complied with.  The arrestee must simply show up in court when required.  Sadly, this circumstance has become increasingly rare in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  More common is that arrestees are given some monetary bond and also placed on a community supervision program known as Supervised  Pretrial Release, or SPR.  In Sarasota, this program is administered  by a government agency known as  Pretrial Services.

Release Conditions

If an arrestee released from jail in Sarasota fails to comply with any of their conditions of release, Pretrial Services will forward a warrant for their re-arrest to a local Judge.  Typical release conditions include contacting Pretrial Services telephonically, appearing at their offices, submitting to urinalysis and attending counseling.  If bond is not reduced sufficiently to secure the arrestee’s release, then a Bond Reduction Hearing will need to be scheduled. This can be done as soon as  a few days from arrest, and occasionally could take several weeks. At this hearing, an attorney would present to the Judge the reasons why they should be confident that the arrestee will, in fact, appear for their scheduled court dates, and why they do not pose a danger to our community.

What If I Can’t Make Bond?

If bond is not reduced sufficiently after this hearing, it is possible that the arrestee will spend the pendency of the case  in jail.  This can occur in very serious  cases involving  certain felony charges, or where the  arrestee has a significant prior record.  In some extreme cases, the Judge will allow no bond.  This means that no amount of monetary bail can secure the arrestee’s release.  In this instance the proper motion to be filed would  be a Motion to Set Bond (as opposed to a Motion to Reduce Bond). Again, this will require the services of an attorney. Stay tuned for my future post on things to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota.