Gainesville Personal Injury, Divorce and Alimony Attorney

Celebrity Battery or is it Domestic Battery – still a crime

Battery is a criminal offense that reaches all levels of society, as proven by the recent encounter between Jay-Z and Solange, his sister-in-law, in the elevator at the Standard Hotel. While the description of the video on TMZ refers to this wild kicking and swinging as an assault, Solange’s actions are called battery in Florida. For more on the difference between assault and battery, see my blog Assault and Battery – Very Different Meanings in Florida Criminal Law. Fortunately for Jay-Z, this video captured the altercation, otherwise he could be painted as the aggressor and could easily be the defendant instead of the victim. 

Theoretically, if the parties had lived together as a family unit, then this could qualify as a Domestic Battery or Domestic Violence. Domestic battery requires that the parties be related by blood or marriage, have a child in common regardless of marriage, or have lived together as a family unit. Except for people who have a child in common, the parties must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same dwelling unit. §741.28(3) Fla. Stat. Domestic Battery has far reaching consequences beyond that of simple battery including that a victim of domestic may also file a petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence, also referred to as a Domestic Violence or DVI and possibly a divorce or separation.

Whether a person is charged with battery or domestic battery both are criminal offenses.   Domestic or simple battery can even be charged as a felony under certain circumstances. Please consult with an attorney prior to representing yourself in any criminal action. If you or a loved one have been accused, then please click or call today for a free consultation.

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

Multiple Injuries Reported Following Bradford County Crashes

The Gainesville Auto Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC take note of two consecutive crashes that sent several victims to the hospital, with varying degrees of injury. The accidents occurred in Bradford County, shortly after 2 p.m., on Friday, May 2, 2014.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, three vehicle were traveling along State Road 100. Headed eastbound, was the driver of a 2005 Ford LN8000, 41-year-old Stephen Eugene Babcock, of Live Oak, along with his passenger, 39-year-old Karen Denise Babcock, also of Live Oak. Headed westbound on S.R. 100, was the driver of a 2011 Chevy Silverado, 66-year-old Jesse Wheeler, of Starke. Directly behind Wheeler’s westbound vehicle, was the driver of a 2006 GMC Canyon, 59-year-old Gary Thomas Proctor, and his passenger, 51-year-old Elizabeth Proctor, both from Interlachen.

As the vehicles approached the intersection at Bradford C.R. 18, FHP says that Babcock apparently lost control of his vehicle, which caused him to cross over the center line, and head-on into the path of oncoming vehicles in the westbound lane. Thereafter, Babcock’s wayward vehicle struck the side of Wheeler’s truck. As a result of this first collision, Babcock’s vehicle began to rotate, which subsequently caused a second collision—this one involving Proctor. Authorities say that prior to the second crash, Proctor had attempted to swerve in an effort to prevent an accident, but was unable to avoid being struck by Babcock.

As stated in a press release by FHP, four of the five parties involved sustained injuries. Wheeler, the driver struck by Babcock in the first crash, suffered catastrophic injury, and was transported to UF Health Shands Hospital in critical condition. Proctor, the driver struck by Babcock in the second crash, was taken to UF Starke Hospital with minor injuries. Fortunately Proctor’s passenger was not injured. As for Babcock, the driver that set both incidents into motion, he sustained only minor injuries. However, his passenger suffered significant injury as a result of the accidents. Karen Babcock was transported to Shands in serious condition.

Officials say the roadway was wet from rain, which may have played a factor in the incident. According to the Gainesville Sun, charges are pending.

As previously discussed by our Gainesville Injury Attorneys, in Rainfall Related Auto Accidents, while the presence of rain, or the accumulation of water following a storm, can certainly play a role in a collision, this factor, in and of itself cannot be said to be the cause of an accident. Stated differently, people cause accidents, not rainfall. Consequently, when the conditions of the roadway are found to have contributed to an accident, there is almost always some degree of negligence involved. Speeding, careless driving, improper lane changes, and distracted driving, such as texting while driving are all commonly associated with crashes occurring on wet roadways.

If you or a family member were involved in a car crash, truck collision, or motorcycle accident, and you suspect the incident was caused by the negligence of another, it is important that you know your legal rights regarding compensation for your damages. The professional, dedicated, and aggressive legal team at the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC have decades of practice experience, and want to help you seek the justice you deserve.

Open or Active Warrants in Criminal Cases

Oftentimes in criminal cases, a person who has an active or open warrant for their arrest needs assistance. A warrant for arrest issued by a court can be for many different reasons. An order for arrest can be issued if a person missed a court date, violated probation, or was the subject of a criminal investigation. Sometimes a commit order is issued when a person violates the terms of, fails to comply with, or there is a failure to submit proof that conditions were completed in a deferred sentence.

In an investigation, a person may or may not know that they are the subject of the investigation. Law enforcement generally is not interested in your side of the story. Sometimes a sworn complaint is filed in the courthouse and the State Attorney’s Office will review the matter, and then request a warrant if they believe a crime has occurred. Some people are surprised to learn that they have an active warrant in this scenario.

Other common ways to earn a warrant are to miss a court date, violate probation or violate the terms of a deferred sentence. A deferred sentence occurs when the court sentences to jail or prison but leaves a person free with certain conditions. A violation of those conditions or failure to comply or complete the terms will result in a warrant or commit order.

Normally, the only way to deal with an open warrant is to be arrested or surrender. Ideally, someone with an open arrest order should surrender themselves as this usually helps to achieve the best result possible. Somtimes, a person can demonstrate changed circumstances and/or mistake or lack of prosecution by the State then good things can happen.

Whether the warrant is old or new, if you or a loved one has an active warrant, the best course of action is to contact a lawyer immediately. Please click, fill out the form or call today for a consultation.

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

Three Victims, including FHP Trooper, Killed in Crash on I-75

The Gainesville Auto Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC discuss a horrific incident that caused the death of three victims. The accident occurred on Saturday May 4, 2014 along Interstate 75, south of Ocala. According to officials, 30-year-old FHP Trooper Chelsea Renee Richard, was investigating a two-vehicle crash that had occurred near Mile Marker 341. Also present at the scene was a tow truck driver, John Duggan, 57, of Levy County, as well as the father of one of the victims involved in the initial crash, George R. Phillips, 55, of Ocala.

Shortly thereafter, another accident, involving 7 vehicles, occurred nearby. Authorities say that following the pileup crash, a pickup truck hauling a trailer traveled off the road and subsequently collided with the trooper’s vehicle. The truck then struck the three—Richards, Duggan, and Phillips—as they stood on a grassy shoulder along the side of the highway. Tragically, Duggan and Richards suffered fatal injuries, and were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Phillips was transported to Ocala Regional Medical Center in critical condition, but sadly, died from his injuries later that evening.

The Wrongful Death Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC send our condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of all three victims, as they struggle to grieve over these heartbreaking losses. The nature of this incident compels us to reflect upon the dangers that motorists, or other persons present at the scene, can face following the occurrence of an accident along a busy highway.

When a collision occurs along a highway, or other high-traffic roadway, there are several safety considerations that the parties involved, as well as any other individuals that may be present at the accident scene, need to remember. Safe positioning following an accident requires an assessment of your location, in relation to both the distance from the vehicles involved or present at scene AND your distance from the roadway in general.

Distancing yourself far enough away from the vehicles involved in a crash is important for two primary reasons. First, you never know if a fire, or even explosion, might occur as a result of the impact from an auto collision. More importantly, though, there is always the risk that an oncoming motorist may collide with one or more of the vehicles involved in an accident.

In consideration of the accident discussed herein, the importance of positioning yourself at a safe distance, also applies to any other vehicle present, whether an ambulance, fire truck, police car, or other vehicle. Details regarding the accident, as provided by the Gainesville Sun, stated that approximately 20 minutes prior to the collision that killed the three victims, another vehicle, carrying Phillips’ wife and daughter, had left the scene after the victim told them that “it wasn’t safe to be on the side of the road.” As accident attorneys, we can’t help but think of what may have occurred, had the two remained.

While making sure that you are far enough away from any stationary vehicles along the roadway can be highly vital to your safety, it is equally important that you are also positioned as far away from the roadway as possible. However, ensuring full safety demands that both be taken into consideration in conjunction with one another. The next logical inquiry, then, is where is the safest location for persons present at an accident scene to position themselves? The answer—behind any vehicles present, and at a distance that is furthest from the roadway as is possible—and also making sure that you reposition yourself as necessary if other vehicles arrive.

Substantive versus Technical Violation of Probation

What is the difference between a technical and a substantive violation of probation? This is a common question when a family is facing a violation of probation or VOP. There are basically two ways a person can violate probation. One type of probation violation is called substantive and the other is technical.

A substantive violation is when there is an accusation of a new law violation also called a new substantive charge or case. For example, if a DUI defendant had their license suspended at sentencing, then becomes accused of driving in violation of driver license restrictions, or the suspension while on probation for the DUI, will have what is called a substantive violation. This is because there is a new case for a separate criminal violation or offense for knowingly driving on a suspended license.

A technical violation is defined as “not substantive”. Literally, if there is not a new law offense or arrest, then the violation of probation will be classified as a technical violation. For example, the probationer failed to follow the rules of probation. If there is a rule or condition of probation that is broken, such as a missed curfew, missing a class, a dirty urine or failed drug screen, then that will be a technical violation. If the driver’s license is not suspended at sentencing and the probationer is accused of driving, in violation of a special condition of probation, then that would be a technical violation.

The Court can sentence a probationer to the maximum penalty even if the alleged violation is merely a technical. Another common question is “I have a violation of probation but it is just a technical, what can they do to me?”

Any violation of probation is a serious matter. Please click or call today for an initial consultation into your probation matter.

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

Victim Paralyzed when Branch Fell from City-Owned Tree Still Awaiting Payout Nearly 3 years Following Incident

Gainesville Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC comment on some rather disconcerting circumstances that have left a paralyzed teen and his family waiting for millions in proceeds—more than 11 months after the order authorizing settlement was entered by the court—and—nearly three years after the victim was injured.  What seems equally upsetting is that the Defendant, the City of Jacksonville, has agreed to the $3.5 million award in monetary damages, and council members are also pushing for the victim’s receipt of the full settlement amount.

Most disturbing of all is that the accident could have been prevented. Despite multiple complaints from community residents, over a period of several months, notifying Jacksonville officials of two rotting city-owned trees in their residential neighborhood, nothing was done to fix the problem. Eventually the smaller of the two trees fell, and the city did come to remove the debris, but failed to address the issue with the larger tree. Six weeks later, a branch from the larger tree fell, causing catastrophic injury to 15-year-old Aubrey Stewart, as he stood in his family’s driveway. Heartbreakingly, the teen was paralyzed as a result of the incident.

The City of Jacksonville, in recognition of their fault in the incident, agreed to settle the matter with the Stewart family for $3.5 million. So, why haven’t the Stewarts been paid the full award amount yet? Well, the answer to this resides partly in a Florida Statute that requires approval from the Legislature for claims against a city, county, state, or other government entity, that are in excess of the $200,000 statutory limit. Although the Stewarts, with the support of the City of Jacksonville, have sought relief through the appropriate procedural means—filing a claims bill with the Florida Legislature seeking approval for the remaining $3.3 million—the family has yet to be paid.

So, why then, in the presence of a statutory remedy that provides victims with an alternative means to recover excess damages, are the Stewarts still awaiting payment? The alarming answer—Florida Senate President Don Gaetz has refused to hear the Stewart’s claims bill, or any other claims bills, during his two-year term, which ends later this year. The reasoning Gaetz provides in support of his refusal to hear claims bills, is that he feels that the state’s system for paying such claims is broken. “It’s simply a process that sometimes leans this way and sometimes leans that way and tends to be not fact specific and not fair,” Gaetz stated in March. He feels that “we’ve really not had a process that allowed claims bills to be heard on their merits.” Gaetz went on to say that “[i]nstead it’s been who the lobbyist is, who the sponsor is, and how the biscuits were in the majority or minority office that morning.”

Yet, despite his identification of problems with the system, Gaetz has done nothing to fix it—not for the Stewarts—and not for other victims that have been left in a similar predicament. In short, Gaetz has neither introduced new legislation aimed at reforming the system, nor has he been willing to make an exception for the Stewarts. Which makes one wonder if Gaetz real goal is to fix the system or paralyze it completely.  Moreover, his failure to take action continues even in the face of unanimous support from Jacksonville City Council members. As provided in a statement by Councilman Stephen Joost:

“We admitted liability…It was our fault. We owe $3.3 million and we need to pay it…Put yourself in this guy’s place. He’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. We ruined the man’s life, and we need to pay him. It’s that simple.”

As Accident and Injury attorneys, we find the state’s inaction in this matter shocking, to say the very least. First of all, the $3.5 Million settlement is a mere third of what economist Frederick Raffa estimates the family will spend in future cost of caring for the now, 18-year-old victim. Further, consider the ability to care for the victim with just the $200,000 the city is able to pay the family. According to Life Expectancy calculator, as of 2014 Aubrey is expected to live at least until the age of 82, with an additional potential life expectancy of 88. That’s another 64 to 68 years. Applying a median range of life expectancy, this would provide the Stewarts with a little more than $3,000 a year to care for Aubrey. Yet, the average cost of raising a child without disabilities is more than $10,000 a year in Florida.

The attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC support the numerous Florida residents, City of Jacksonville, activist groups, lobbyists, and most of all, the Stewarts, in their efforts to ensure that the victim receives the compensation he deserves. At the same time, we must also remember that the Stewarts are not the only family affected by this issue. Certainly it seems that the issues surrounding Florida’s caps on government liability, should be a top area of reformative concern and Gaetz goal in paralyzing the system, just as this young man was paralyzed, a top question for Florida voters.

FHP says 4-month-old Killed in Lake City Crash was improperly secured in Car Seat

The Gainesville Automobile Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC discuss a tragic car wreck that has left a Columbia County family in mourning over the loss of their infant son. The accident happened along U.S. 27 in Suwannee County, shortly after noon on Thursday, May 1, 2014. FHP reports that the driver of a 2007 Chevrolet Impala, 81-year-old Charles E. Giddens, of Forth White, was stopped on a shoulder of the westbound side of U.S. 27, in preparation to make a U-turn. Headed eastbound on U.S. 27 in a 2002 Kia Spectra, was 29-year-old Thomas B. Ingram, of Lake City, along with two passengers, including a 4-month old child, Conner Michael Ingram.

The crash occurred when Giddens turned into Ingram’s path as he attempted to make a U-turn, thereby resulting in a side-impact collision between the two vehicles. Ingram’s infant passenger was transported to Lake City Medical Center, where sadly the child later died from his injuries. Neither Ingram nor his other passenger reported any injuries, however, Giddens sustained minor injuries. Authorities are still investigating the incident, but say that the infant was not properly buckled into his child safety seat at the time the crash.

As Accident attorneys, we have seen the devastation that can occur in collisions involving children that are improperly or unsecured in a restraint device. In some cases, the right type of car seat is being utilized, but in the wrong manner. In other cases, the car seat may not be suitable given the age or size of a particular child. We have even seen cases where children have suffered serious injury or fatality in an accident, as a result of a defective car seat.

In an April 24th blog post, Several Injured Following Gainesville Car Crash, we discussed how the proper use of safety seats to secure a driver’s 2-year-old and 11-month-old passengers, was a potential factor in reducing the extent of injuries suffered by the children following an accident. In recognition of the abundance of statistical data demonstrating the ways that car seats, when properly used, aide in the prevention of injury and fatality suffered by child accident victims, the Gainesville Injury lawyers of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC wish to expand on this important topic. Our hope is that discussion of the issue might assist in promoting safety and awareness amongst the residents of our community that travel in vehicles with small children aboard.

According to NHTSA and Seatcheck.org, 7 out of 10 children in safety seats are not properly buckled in. As provided by these sources, the most common child safety seat installation mistakes include:

  • Not using the right child safety seats for a child’s size and age;
  • Not placing the child safety seat in the correct direction;
  • Incorrect installation of the child safety seat in relation to the vehicle’s air bags;
  • Incorrect installation and tightness of the child safety seat to the vehicle seat;
  • Not securing or tightening the child safety seat’s harness and crotch straps;
  • Improper use of locking clips for certain vehicle safety belts;
  • Not making sure the vehicle’s seat belts fit properly across the child when using a booster seat; and
  • Using a defective or broken child safety seat.

For many parents, the selection, installation, and use of child safety seats is just another example of how the process of parenting is a continuous learning process. And while children do not come with user guides, car seats do. However, as any person that has ever used a car seat knows, they are not as simple to use as one might think—even with the assistance of a user manual. Fortunately, there are a number of online resources that parents can access to ensure the safe transport of their child. In addition, NHSTA’s Safety Seat Inspection Locator  provides a list of locations where parents can have a car seat examined by a certified inspector, as well as obtain valuable information regarding its use and installation.

The Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC encourage parents to take advantage of any resources that may provide the enabling tools necessary to allow for them to safely utilize child safety restraint devices.