The Zombie Apocalypse!

WD

Marketing ploy or real possibility? A short search of the internet shows that people all over the country are sleepwalking, driving, eating, dying, and even killing all without any memory of what they are doing. They are “Ambien Zombies”, and they are real.
Ambien, or Zolpidem as it is also known, is a commonly prescribed sleep aid. It causes people to frequently sleep walk, sleep talk, eat while sleeping, and drive while sleeping. While it may be embarrassing to wake up with crumbs all over you, or have your spouse ask you about a conversation you had with them in the middle of the night, it is certainly not dangerous, or criminal. But driving while on Ambien may be both.

A growing number of people have been arrested for driving while under the influence of Ambien. Florida law states that a person may be convicted of driving under the influence if they are in actual physical control of a vehicle and have a breath or blood alcohol level above .08 or under the influence of any controlled substance listed in chapter 893, Florida Stautes. Zolpidem is not listed in chapter 893. So does that mean if you are arrested while taking Ambien you’re in the clear? Not so fast.

If an individual follows the doctor’s advice while taking Ambien, then that is certainly a defense that can be used. That along with other evidence (like a .000 reading on the Intoxilyzer) may be used to defeat a guilty conviction. However, if it can be proven that the individual did not follow the prescription, either by consuming alcohol or taking more than the prescribed dosage, then a prosecutor might get a guilty conviction on a DUI charge.

It is important to remember that laws are sometimes slow to adapt to the times. Science and culture are always ahead of the law. The science of sleep aid and the cultural acceptance of such medication have advanced to a place well ahead of the legal regulations concerning them. It is not inconceivable, and indeed expected, that at some point the legislature will take up this issue of sleeping medication.

The Reed Law Firm stands ready to aggressively defend those who are charged with driving while taking Ambien or any other charge for that matter. The Reed Law Firm hopes everyone will follow the label on their prescriptions and leave the zombies to Hollywood. After all, zombies aren’t real, right?

Advertisements
Posted in Criminal Defense | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Those Who Forget the Past are Condemned to Repeat it”*

chen_600

Recent news has drawn the attention of the news media and the political cognoscenti to the great state of Texas, where a local judge has ordered a hospital to untether a young mother from life support, despite the fact that she is carrying a child into the third trimester of pregnancy.  While the implications of this decision are enormous as a matter of Texas law, the effects in Florida are only a matter of casual conversation.  This news item is instructive, however, of our own similar story of national attention; recall the regrettable tale of Terri Schiavo, the St. Petersburg area woman who was caught between her parents and her husband in a battle to determine her post-mortem directives.

The crisis, you will recall, came to a head in mid-2005 when the utterly forgettable then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist came down to Florida to visit with Ms. Schiavo.  I use the word “visit” in the loosest sense of the word, because Ms. Schiavo was deemed by her physicians to be in a persistent vegetative state, kept alive only by artificial ventilation and nutrition.  Perhaps incredibly, Senator Frist stated categorically that Ms. Schiavo was “alive” and that he could perceive something of her consciousness by looking into her eyes.  The crux of the conflict was between her parents, who wanted her alive, however artificially, and her husband, who wanted her to die naturally.  The reason this nightmare scenario even came to pass was because of the unfortunate timing of her passing.

Terri Schiavo was the victim of a complete cardiac shutdown in 1990 that put her in a coma and kept her in that persistent vegetative state when she was a mere 27 years old.  Like most 27-year-olds, Terri did not have any written plans regarding the disposition of her health and assets in the event that she died or was near death.  She designated no health care surrogate.  She had no living will.  She didn’t grant anyone power of attorney.  She had no last will and testament.  From the time her husband filed his petition to terminate her life until she finally passed away, seven years had elapsed, owing to the numerous petitions filed in state and federal court.  Had she validly executed health care directive paperwork, her tragic personal story would not have become a years-long legal fiasco.  The Reed Law Firm is happy to take on the important task of handling your “end-of-life” preparation, even if your end-of-life seems quite far off into the future.  When we consider the story of Terri Schiavo, it is important to remember another favorite adage: “There’s nothing gained from putting off till tomorrow that which you can do today.”

*Quote attributed to George Santayana

Posted in Elder Law | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Okay, So Now You Want to Buy a Car

Untitled

Some weeks ago, my daughter-in-law decided to buy a car to replace the “old reliable” she had been driving for the last couple of years. The “old reliable” was a pitch black Mercury Sable with 200k+ miles on it. So, you know, it was due to fall apart at any moment. Upon revealing her intentions, she was immediately assailed by a variety of helpful folks giving her much homespun wisdom on the topic.  I added my voice to the group, but later, I thought that this might actually be a good blog topic. After I realized that this topic has been very widely discussed, I then decided to proceed anyway and I gathered up enough reliable information for a good start. So, here goes…

The first important question that I came up with was why replace your existing car? (Just kidding…) How do you intend to pay for your car? This is an important question since it will no doubt affect the decision making process. If you intend to pay cash for your vehicle and do not absolutely have to obtain a new vehicle, then I strongly suggest you consider attending a private auction of repossessed vehicles. These auctions occur on a regular basis and careful bidders are usually rewarded.  Most auctioneers display the auction vehicles in advance and bidders have sufficient time to look up the values of each item on the NADA website, KBB website, or any other trusted source.    Often, one finds cars is relatively good condition and the winning bid is rarely more than the market value of the vehicle, and more often, it is considerably less.  (I suggest you bring a three-day temp. tag with you which can be obtained from the local tag agency for $10 or so since most auctions require you to drive your “prize” off the lot once you have paid for it.  You will have to pay tax on the title transfer so consider that cost when bidding).

If you prefer the dealerships, then familiarize yourself with the available inventory each dealer has. Pay a visit and bring a reliable friend, but DON’T BRING your purse or wallet! You are just looking…the less time you have to think between shopping and buying the more likely you are to make a mistake.  If you are looking for a foreign car, go to a domestic car dealership and look at its trade-ins (You can bet they want to move those ASAP). Likewise, if you want a domestic, go to a foreign car dealer (same rule applies in reverse).  Remember: the less attractive the color of a car, the more savings may be obtained in the deal.

If you are going to finance your purchase, then give your local bank a try first.  Look at and make a note of the retail values of the cars you wish to buy. Put a loan amortizer app on your phone.  Run a copy of your own credit reports (which can, once yearly, be obtained for free from www.annualcreditreport.com) and look ‘em over. If there are mistakes on the reports, bring those to the attention of the credit reporting agencies so they can be removed. Mistakes are expensive! Then, take your reports, last six months of pay stubs, tax return from last year (or W-2), and have your bank loan officer look them over.  First advise the bank loan officer to not run your credit until after the two of you have discussed likely terms of the loan.  Most bank loan officers can discuss potential loans and their terms without running your credit.  This will allow you to use your amortizer app  to see what your expected car payment will be before you go any further.  If your bank officer declines, then get up and leave. There are other banks (and you may consider moving your banking business to them as well). Once you have a good idea of the terms of the loan, then you may wish to seek “pre-approval” of your potential financing.  Banks are different, but sometimes pre-approval will result in the bank giving you a conditional check for the loan that is good for thirty days for use at the car dealership.  If you do not use the check and return it to the bank, the loan never occurs.  Once that is accomplished, then you may compare the conditional deal you made with the bank with the various financing offers that you will hear at the dealerships.  WARNING: make sure to be clear with the car salesman and/or finance manager that YOU DO NOT WANT THEM TO RUN YOUR CREDIT until they have told you all the terms of the potential financing and you have double-checked their offers with your amortizer app. Make sure you will have an affordable monthly payment if you have decided to go with the dealership’s financing partner and not use your bank check.  Do yourself a favor and try to keep your monthly car payment at, or below, approx. 20% of your gross monthly income.  The exquisite agony of dealing with a car salesman is too intense of a topic to include in this blog so, if there is general interest out there, I will handle that topic at another time.  Happy Hunting!

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Light Cameras Come to Clermont, But Will They Stay?

This is a follow up to a previous post where we discussed red light cameras being installed in Clermont, Florida (Lake County).

redlight-camera-3

The City of Clermont has twenty-four red light cameras at various intersections. The intersections are:

  • State Road 50 and 12th Street
  • State Road 50 and Fifth Street
  • State Road 50 and East Avenue
  • State Road 50 and Bloxam Avenue
  • State Road 50 and Grand Highway
  • State Road 50 and Citrus Tower Boulevard
  • State Road 50 and Hancock Road
  • US 27 and Citrus Tower Boulevard
  • US 27 and Hooks Street
  • US 27 and Steve’s Road
  • US 27 and Johns Lake Road
  • US 27 and Citrus Tower Boulevard/ Hammock Ridge Road
  • US 27 and Hartwood Marsh Road

 A map of the intersections can be found here.

There is a bill pending in the state legislature (H.B. 4009) that would ban installation of new cameras after July 1, reduce the initial fine from $158 to $83, and allow cities to charge a surcharge fee of $25. This new bill is significant because it strikes a blow to the cities that are depending on revenue generated by red light cameras.

Under current law, the State of Florida receives $83 of the $158 fine. The cities maintaining the cameras receive the balance of $75. This is a much needed revenue source and cities depend on their residents to pay it. Cities like Clermont, which have a large number of cameras and huge lease contracts to operate and maintain the cameras, need as much of that revenue as possible in order to maintain the cameras and make their payments. According to reports from WFTV, the City of Clermont pays about $5,000 per month, per camera for operations and maintenance. That is about $120,000 per month that the city needs to keep the cameras operational. If this bill becomes law, the city would only receive up to $25 per ticket. This reduction in revenue could be enough to force the city to reduce the number of cameras in operation or get rid of them completely.

H.B. 4009 is pending in the House of Representatives and is gaining support. The situation in the Senate is much different. Opposition to red light cameras is weak in the Senate so there is a possibility that the legislation may not pass this year. Nevertheless, the growing trend against red light cameras has put these cities on notice that their use of cameras is becoming more and more unpopular.

Regardless of whether the bill becomes law or another casualty of the committee process, the Reed Law Firm stands ready to represent and defend drivers who receive one of these tickets.

Posted in Criminal Defense | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rent” is Just a Semi-Entertaining Broadway Show, but “Repairs” Would be More Interesting

Rundown_Shack

Apparently, we are in the midst of national, and presumably regional, recovery.  Apparently.  But until happy days return to the local real estate market, there will always be an inversely influential landlord’s market.  A perhaps unforeseen byproduct of the foreclosure crisis is the significant demand that has arisen for rental properties, as so many people have been driven from their now unaffordable homes by the very banks that likely induced them to buy.  As such, thousands of people in Central Florida and in Lake County are left looking for a temporary option in the form of a short-to-medium term rental.  This increased demand has, predictably, driven up the average rental price for single family units all over the region.

The crisis has also allowed for the unfortunate proliferation of the unscrupulous landlord.  Many tenants are moving into property that is in distress, disrepair, or in various other forms of dilapidation.  When the innocent tenant makes the modest request that his landlord engage a repairman, the tenant is often met with a cold shoulder, or worse.  When the tenant communicates a desire to make the repairs himself, the landlord might resist, might do nothing, or might reply by borrowing from George Thorogood: “That don’t befront me none, so long as I get my rent on Friday.”

The fact is, in the absence of a written division of responsibilities, most repair work is the duty of the landlord.  However, Chapter 83 Section II of Florida Statutes gives the tenant the right to make reasonable repairs when the landlord is either unable or unwilling to make the repairs he’s supposed to, provided that the landlord has reasonable notice (seven days) of the tenant’s intent.  Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the tenant can then deduct the cost of the repairs from the monthly rent owed to the landlord, so long as those repairs are the landlord’s responsibility under the lease or under Florida law. Contact the firm’s real estate division to learn more about available defense strategies and other options available to you under Florida law.

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Light Cameras Come to Clermont

This is the inaugural blog post from the Criminal Law section of the Reed Law Firm. I hope you all had great 2013, and are looking forward to 2014. I know the City of Clermont is because 2014 is when all of their new red light cameras begin generating actual revenue for the city. Currently, drivers are receiving warnings, but beginning in January drivers will receive a notice and a fine of $158.00.

Red light cameras are controversial in Florida. Advocates say they make the roads safer by reducing accidents at intersections and getting drivers to slow down. Those opposed say it is a way for cities to generate huge amounts of money. But, whatever your position, the reality is the cameras are here to stay. The city has invested a lot of money in these cameras and they will be around for awhile.

Red light cameras are not new to Lake County or Central Florida. The City of Groveland has a handful of cameras. The cities of Apopka and Orlando have installed cameras all over and have generated millions of dollars in revenue. In the last two years Apopka levied over $3.6 million in fines, more than any other city except Tampa, Miami, and Miami Gardens according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The City of Clermont has installed 24 cameras throughout the city on State Road 50 and Highway 27. They have more than double the amount of cameras of Apopka and stand to make a lot of money.

Clermont is hoping that drivers who receive a red light camera notice and fine will pay the fine. That is the last thing you should do. A citation generated by a red light camera can be beaten. The Reed Law Firm has beaten red light camera citations both in Lake County and in Apopka. Our price for contesting a red light camera citation is affordable and will save you a trip to the courthouse.

The Reed Law Firm wants the streets to be safe and drivers to be responsible. There are traffic laws for a reason, and we want to encourage everyone to follow them. But the laws should be enforced fairly and uniformly by trained police officers, not by robots.

Posted in Criminal Defense | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Out of the Game? No way! You’re Just Getting Your Second Wind!


WonderfulLife

Can’t you understand what’s happening here? Don’t you see what’s happening? Potter isn’t selling. Potter’s buying! And why? Because we’re panicking and he’s not. That’s why. He’s picking up some bargains. Now, we can get through this thing all right. We’ve got to stick together, though. We’ve got to have faith in each other.”—quote from the character George Bailey. Capra, F.(1946) It’s a Wonderful Life, United States, RKO Radio Pictures Studio.

Welcome to 2014: Sometime after September, 2007, you suffered through a foreclosure. You filed a bankruptcy.  You endured the pain of a short sale or signed a deed in lieu and handed your house over to the mortgage company.  So now you are destined to be a renter for the rest of your life with no security for retirement, right? Not necessarily. Home ownership is not out of the picture. However, it will take hard work, attention to details, and the creation of a savings plan that works for you—any savings plan is a good start!

You’d be surprised to learn that the United States Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can provide a ray of hope through the mists of a stormy financial past.  However, the more useful information you have now, the better you can plan for success.  The following is a summary of a recent FHA article and some of my own helpful suggestions (in italics):

1.  NO CREDIT HISTORY: Two lines of credit are necessary to apply for an FHA loan. However, in the event you do not have sufficient credit on your credit report the FHA will allow substitute forms.

So, pay your living expenses timely, and start collecting the proof you’ll need in the form of utility statements, water statements, gas bills, lawn care, furniture rental bills, or doctor, dentist, or hospital statements, all of which show your timely payments.

2. CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY: FHA will consider approving you even if you’re still paying on a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy if those payments have been satisfactorily made and verified for a period of one year. The court trustee’s written approval will also be needed in order to proceed with the loan. You will have to give a full explanation of the bankruptcy with the loan application and must also have re-established good credit, qualify financially and have good job stability.

Sit down with the proposed mortgage lender and “preview” the expected loan terms with them to assure that the mortgage looks like a smart deal to the Bankruptcy Court, then meet with your attorney.  That way, if the loan does not appear workable, you don’t waste your time or money seeking approval of a proposed mortgage loan that is not likely to be approved.

3. CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY: At least two years must have elapsed since the discharge date of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, according to FHA guidelines. This is not to be confused with the bankruptcy filing date. A full explanation will be required with the loan application. In order to qualify for an FHA loan, you must qualify financially, have re-established good credit, and have a stable job.

Make sure to keep a complete copy of your bankruptcy paperwork and all documents you received from the Court, your trustee, your lawyer, and your creditors.  These documents will help you when dealing with the proposed mortgage lender.  Be prepared to explain what led to the bankruptcy filing in the first place and the changes in your life that have occurred since then that make a re-occurrence of such conditions unlikely.

4. LATE PAYMENTS: During an underwriter analysis of your credit, the overall pattern of credit behavior is being reviewed rather than isolated cases of slow payments. If a good payment pattern has been maintained, regardless of a specific period of financial difficulty preceded it, you may escape disqualification.

Make sure that you have looked at your credit reports (e.g., Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, et al.)  long before the mortgage lender does so that you can bring to the attention of these credit reporting agencies any errors/omissions on the reports as to payment history or other important account details.

5.  FORECLOSURE: FHA insured mortgages are generally not available to you if your property was foreclosed on or given a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure within the previous three years. However, if the foreclosure of the your main residence was the result of extenuating circumstances, an exception may be granted if you have since established good credit. This does not include the inability to sell a home when transferring from one area to another.

Consider this provision very carefully and take a good hard look at whether or not there were extenuating circumstances concerning your foreclosure and what you are able to prove.  Always have back-up proof that supports your position.  

6. COLLECTIONS, JUDGMENTS AND FEDERAL DEBTS: A collection is minor in nature usually does not need to be paid off as a condition for loan approval. It is stated as such in FHA guidelines. Any judgments will have to be paid in full prior to closing. If you are delinquent on any federal debt, such as tax liens, student loans, etc., you are not eligible.

If you have not eliminated debts in a bankruptcy, then come up with a realistic plan to settle all of your long term debts. It is pointless to waste your time seeking approval for a mortgage if you know that you have “unfinished work” to do with your creditors.  Mortgage lenders LOOK AT EVERYTHING.  So, do yourself a favor and settle your differences with your creditors.  You may want to enlist a competent and reliable attorney to help you with this activity.   

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment