Orange County Law Blog

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State employee charged with bribery in Medicare fraud case

Health care fraud is becoming one of the largest categories of white collar crimes across the country, and Florida is no different. To see an example, one need only look at a recent case where an employee of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration federal criminal charges for allegedly accepting bribes from a wealthy nursing home owner.

The suspect is a 29-year-old female employee of the state agency that regulates nursing homes. She was paid $31,300 per year to oversee inspections at state-regulated nursing homes. According to federal authorities, she is alleged to have accepted bribes from a nursing home operator to provide advance warning of state inspections and potential violations of the laws and regulations that apply to nursing homes. She is also alleged to have provided confidential patient information to the nursing home operator. The criminal complaint alleges that she accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the nursing home owner for providing this information. The state employee is apparently the first person to be accused of accepting bribes.

Judge tosses DUI plea bargain after defendant late to court

Plea bargains are a common method of resolving criminal cases in Florida. Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys appreciate the certainty and efficiency of plea bargains, and defendants may be able to escape more serious penalties by accepting a plea agreement and a reduced sentence. In one recent case in Florida, however, a defendant's behavior in court prompted the judge to vacate the plea deal she had accepted.

The defendant was several hours late in appearing in court for sentencing under the plea bargain. When the judge began to ask routine questions, the woman cried, appeared unwilling to accept the agreement, and began to ask when she could ask to be released. The judge issued several warnings, finally telling her to "act like a grown up." When she appeared to be close to expressing acceptance of the plea deal, the woman began to criticize her former attorney.

Accused of possessing a drug such as marijuana? Fight back

If the police have arrested you and taken you into custody for possessing marijuana, this can understandably be frightening, especially if this is your first time going through it. If you end up convicted on a marijuana possession charge, you may face various punishments, including jail time, the suspension of your driver's license and even monetary fines.

In addition to facing the above punishments for possessing a drug in Florida, you will unfortunately also have a criminal record, which will drastically limit your job opportunities. With so much at stake, you have the right to fight back in the criminal court system.

Lawyer's ex-wife seeks legal fees from new wife

When most Floridians go through a divorce, they view the entry of the final order as an end to the conflict. In some cases, unfortunately, one or both ex-spouses are motivated to continue the battle. A remarkable example of this phenomenon recently occurred in a divorce in Fort Lauderdale when an ex-wife ended up accusing her former husband and his new wife of fraud and attempting to collect legal fees from the wife.

When the couple divorced in 1996, the parties signed a marital settlement agreement in which the husband agreed to pay his ex-wife $5,000 per month in alimony. He began to default in making these payments in 1997. The ex-wife obtained two court judgments ordering the ex-husband to pay her $426,000 and $236,000 plus interest. When the ex-wife tried to collect the judgments by levying on her former husband's assets, she discovered that he had transferred his most valuable assets to his new wife for virtually no payment.

Drunk driver may face homicide charges

Many Floridians consume alcohol and then operate a motor vehicle. That choice is seen by a few as low risk because the penalties for drunk driving may not seem overly harsh. (The penalty for a first DUI/DWI offense is a fine of not less than $500 and probation and incarceration for no more than one year.) This calculation can be ruined, however, if a drunk driver has an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury. A resident of Plant City learned this lesson on the Fourth of July weekend.

The Plant City man was driving his 2000 Nissan Maxima. When he failed to heed a red traffic light, he collided with a motorcycle being driven by an Ohio resident. When police arrived at the scene, the Plant City man attempted to flee on foot. An officer chased him and ultimately apprehended him. The cyclist was taken to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Bradenton woman charged with manslaughter in fatal crash

Florida laws make drunk driving a serious crime. If alcohol is involved in an accident, and if injury or death occurs, the penalties are extremely harsh. A Bradenton woman now faces several criminal charges, including homicide, stemming from an accident that killed one of her passengers, a 29-year old man from Sarasota.

According to police, the suspect failed to negotiate a dangerous curve on a Sarasota street. The car missed the turn and hit a tree. The car carried three passengers, including two women and one man. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, and the driver and the two female passengers were hospitalized for their injuries. Police noted that the curve is marked by a yellow right-hand turn sign with flashing yellow lights and a sign instructing drivers to slow to 25 mph. Post-accident investigation revealed that the car was traveling at 82 mph five seconds prior to the crash and that the brakes were not applied until 0.9 seconds before the impact.

Writing a Florida joint parenting plan

Divorcing couples in Florida who have minor children are required by statute to prepare and submit to the court a document called a "joint parenting plan." The plan is generally intended to resolve issues regarding physical custody, visitation and parent relocation. The court has the power to revise or reject the proposed plan. Obviously, preparation of a joint parenting plan is easier if each spouse can put aside any anger or hostility toward the other spouse and concentrate on the interests of the children.

The statute specifies the minimum requirements for a parenting plan. The plan must describe "in detail" how each parent will shoulder the burdens of the daily tasks associated with raising the child (or children). The schedule must specify a time-sharing schedule that will govern the time to be spent by each minor child with the each parent. The plan must also designate which parent will be responsible for providing health care and making decisions relating to health care. The plan must also provide that either parent can consent to mental health care for the child. The plan must specify which parent will be responsible for all school-related activities. Finally, the plan must specify in "adequate detail" the methods and techniques that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

My conviction was expunged. Does that mean it is gone for good?

The expungement of a Florida resident's criminal record makes it, in most cases, erased from the individual's history. An expungement seals a person's record and generally makes it undiscoverable through basic background checks.

There are a number of situations in which a person's expunged record may come back to demonstrate evidence of prior criminal conduct. For example, if a person is subject to immigration or deportation hearings their expunged records may be used to show their prior criminal past. When an individual applies to certain government agencies for employment their expunged records may be opened to determine if they may be offered a position.

Dissolving a marriage? Splitting property is a big part of it

The divorce process is never truly easy even in the most amicable of situations. After all, you and your spouse's lives are intertwined both financially and emotionally, and unwinding them can be a complicated and emotionally painful process.

One of the most challenging aspects of dissolving a marriage in Florida is addressing the division of property. The most ideal way to handle property division is for you and your spouse to decide for yourselves how you want your assets divided. If you cannot come to an agreement on this matter, the court will end up deciding it for you.

Even without fault, a divorce may still be contested

When Florida residents decide that they must end their marriages they will begin the legal process of divorce. Divorce cuts the legal ties that bind two people together in a marital union and divides their shared property and interests so that they may continue their lives independent of each other. Even if one party to divorce believes that the other is to blame for the breakdown of their relationship in Florida individuals pursue no fault divorces.

This means that rather than claiming that one spouse to a marriage abandoned or cheated on the other the filing spouse must only claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There are residency requirements that individuals must meet before they may avail themselves to Florida's divorce laws and those who plan to begin the divorce process are strongly encouraged to discuss their legal rights and options with family law attorneys in the state.

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