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4 Important Reasons for a Will in Florida

November 29, 2023 • ryan

Here in Florida at the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. However, when it comes to ensuring the well-being of your loved ones, planning for the future is crucial, no matter how busy you are. One essential document that you should never do without is your last will and testament. Here are some important reasons why:

  1. Distribution of Assets:

Without a valid will in Florida, the state’s intestacy laws will determine how your estate will be disbursed to your heirs. By having a will in place, you retain control over who receives what. A simple will can be written to record how you want your assets distributed.

  1. Guardianship for Minor Children:

For parents of minor children, a will is especially critical and important. In the absence of a designated guardian named in a will, the court will appoint someone to care for your children. By designating a guardian for your children in your will, you take charge of their future in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

  1. Executor Appointment:

Appointing an executor in your will is a strategic decision that can help expedite the probate process. Your chosen executor will be responsible for managing your estate, paying outstanding debts, and distributing assets according to your wishes. This hopefully minimizes stress for your loved ones during an already challenging time.

  1. Minimizing Family Disputes:

Without a clear will, disagreements among family members often arise, leading to disputes over the distribution of assets. By articulating your wishes in a legally binding document, you minimize the likelihood of family conflicts and can provide guidance that can hopefully reduce stress during such a sensitive period.

In Bay County, as elsewhere, a will is a vital part of an estate plan. While addressing the end of life questions and scenarios may be challenging, taking the proactive step of creating a will is an act of love and responsibility toward those you care about most.

To work with a lawyer to write your will in Bay County, Florida, give one of our lawyers at The Morris Law Firm a call.  We offer free legal consultations and are waiting to help you provide peace of mind to yourself and your loved ones.

Our will and estate planning attorneys at The Morris Law Firm can be reached at (850) 257-5680.

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What are the Penalties for Underage Drinking on Panama City Beach during Spring Break?

March 21, 2023 • ryan

With all the fun things to see and do on Panama City Beach we really hope you will have a great time here! However, if an underage person (a minor, juvenile, or other person under 21) is caught in possession of alcohol or alcoholic beverages, the penalty for the accused is generally a second degree misdemeanor charge. 

In addition, some Panama City Spring Breakers and locals (regardless of age) are also being charged with consumption of alcohol on the sandy beach. According to the Panama City Beach ordinance, during the month of March “it shall be unlawful for any person to possess or consume any alcoholic beverage on the sandy Gulf beach of the Gulf of Mexico, within the City limits. For purposes of this section, ‘sandy Gulf beach‘ shall mean all loose or uncompacted sandy areas, including sand dunes and vegetated areas, lying between the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the seaward boundary of the seaward most public vehicular right of way.” The penalty for this violation can be found here.

So the question we often receive at our Panama City law office is; “My child has been charged with a minor in possession and alcohol on the beach charge. He/she is a good student and good kid who just made a mistake. Can you help?” The answer is yes! Our experienced Panama City attorneys have been helping visitors (and locals) with underage drinking charges and drinking alcohol on the sandy beach charges for many years.

We have successfully defended many clients on these underage drinking and sandy beach charges and are here for you, your spring breaker, or a loved one. Please give our spring break defense lawyers in Panama City a call at (850) 257-5680 for a free consultation to discuss your best possible outcome to these alcohol related charges.

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What are the penalties for possession of marijuana oils or edibles in Florida?

February 21, 2023 • ryan

Florida lawmakers implemented Florida Statute § 381.986 in response to the passage of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the November, 2016 ballot. 

What are the laws in Florida for edibles containing marijuana for medical use? There are many restrictions outlined in the Florida Statute referenced above which relate specifically to edibles for medical marijuana use. Those restrictions include the specification that edibles may not be attractive to children or “bear any reasonable resemblance to products available for consumption as commercially available candy.” Under this law, edibles, such as pot gummies, that look like candy or are attractive to children are illegal even for medical marijuana use.

Is it a felony in Florida to possess marijuana edibles or oils without a prescription? Yes, a person caught without a prescription in possession of marijuana in the form of an edible or a vape is at risk of being charged with a felony offense pursuant to Florida Statute § 893.13(6)(a) and §893.03(1)(b)(190).

Due to the greater availability of marijuana vapes, oils and edibles, we have seen a number of felony charges for the possession of marijuana oils and edibles by clients who did not have a medical marijuana card at the time of the possession of the marijuana vapes, oils and edibles.

The penalties for a felony offense in the state of Florida are significant.  A third degree felony is punishable by up to five years incarceration and/or probation.  If you find yourself charged in Bay County or the surrounding areas with felony possession of marijuana oils and/or edibles, it is extremely important that you contact a good Panama City criminal defense attorney to assist you in your case. 

If you have been arrested and need legal assistance from a criminal defense attorney with a possession of marijuana oil or marijuana edible charge in Panama City or Panama City Beach, contact The Morris Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Planning a trip to Panama City Beach during Spring Break? 9 laws you need to now.

February 10, 2023 • ryan

I’m Dana Morris, a criminal defense attorney in Panama City, Florida, and it’s that time again for me to warn you about some of our unique spring break laws passed by the local PCB City Council and Bay County Commission.

We hope that you and your family will plan your spring break vacation here in Panama City and enjoy all that these beautiful beaches have to offer.

Many of the best things to do on Panama City Beach include pontoon boat rentals, parasailing, fishing, off-shore fishing, shopping at Pier Park, eating at seafood restaurants, golf, night clubs, Shell Island dolphin tours, go-karts, putt-putt golf and so much more.  However, there are some unusual spring break laws that you need to know about.   

Here are some of the Spring Break rules in place on Panama City Beach during Spring Break:

1. During the month of March, no possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages on the sandy beach of Panama City Beach. You must leave the alcohol in the room during March.

2. No alcohol possession or consumption in commercial parking lots.

3. During the month of March, all alcohol sales on Panama City Beach end at 2 a.m.

4. No open house parties.

5. Parking in a closed business parking lot is not allowed.

6. Overnight scooter rental is not allowed.

7. It is illegal to climb, jump from or throw things from balconies of hotel or condominiums on Panama City Beach.

8. Parking is prohibited on unmarked or unpaved portions of the road after dark.

9. Metal shovels are not permitted on Panama City Beach, and any holes dug in the sand should not be deeper than 2 feet.

I am a criminal defense attorney at the Morris Law Firm in Panama City, Florida, and have helped with countless spring break arrests of wonderful people who were in violation of these 9 spring break laws.  I want you to be informed and avoid the hassle of having to hire a Panama City attorney to help you navigate through the legal process.  If you do find yourself in need of an experienced attorney in Panama City, I am experienced in defending spring break law violations and will work hard to get your charges dropped or minimized.  Call me, Dana Morris, for a free consultation, (850) 257-5680.

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Top 4 Reasons You Need a Will Regardless of Your Age

April 26, 2021 • ryan

As a Panama City attorney, I am often asked by my clients, “I don’t have much, do I need a will?”

My answer is, “Absolutely! You need a will”

  • If there is no will in place, a judge will decide who cares for your children. We all know, the judge’s choice may not be the same as yours. For parents, making a will is one of the most important thing you can do. This allows you to determine who your minor children are cared for should anything happen to you.
  • In your will you can designate someone (personal guardian) to care for your children if you pass before they become legal adults. You can also name a trustee (property guardian) to manage your money for your children until they reach adulthood. You can appoint one person to act as both personal and property guardian, or choose two people to carry out the separate roles.
  • If you want to disinherit one of your children or would like to give more to one child than another, you must specifically establish your intentions in a will.
  • You can change or revoke your will at any time. In addition to helping you write a will, one of our Panama City attorneys at The Morris Law Firm can help you with a codicil, which is an amendment to an existing last will and testament.
  • Any person who is of sound mind and either 18 years of age or older or an emancipated minor may make a will.
  • In Florida, the Florida Probate Code states that a will must be signed by two witnesses to be valid. We have notaries available on-site to help with this.

Categories: General
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Hurricane Michael Disaster Relief Information

October 16, 2018 • ryan

I’m Dana Morris, attorney at the Morris Law Firm, and I will do my very best to pass along the information that I receive about assistance available to victims of Hurricane Michael.  It is important to me that you are informed about help available to you.

How to register for financial assistance following the devastation of Hurricane Michael in Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor,  Wakulla and Washington counties

Residents have several methods to register for financial assistance grants from FEMA.

  • Call 1-800-621-FEMA
  • Visit www.disasterassistance.gov
  • Talk with a FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance team
  • FEMA teams are going door-to-door to help people register. FEMA representatives are wearing blue vests with FEMA logos and are carrying FEMA identification. Do not provide personal information to anyone who does not have that identification.
  • Representatives will be at Sam’s Club on 23rd Street in Panama City, Bay County, starting October 16th to help with filing a claim and we have been told that they will be offering temporary housing allowances for those who are not insured.  This has not been confirmed, but we hope that it is true.

After filing for assistance through FEMA you will want to apply for a loan through the SBA (Small Business Administration).

  • Call 1-800-659-2955
  • Visit www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/

The assistance offered through SBA after a disaster is available to both homeowners and business owners.  You do not have to be a business owner to qualify for a loan through the SBA disaster loan program.  It is a low interest rate loan that can be used for, among other things, home repairs by homeowners or for business losses such as economic injury by business owners.  We contacted SBA today and were told that the interest rate for a homeowner’s SBA disaster loan would be between 2% and 4%.  The rate for the SBA disaster business loan would be approximately 4%.  30 year and 7 year terms would be determined.

Tax Relief is available for residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Michael

Individuals who reside or have a business in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor,  Wakulla and Washington counties may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Oct. 7, 2018 and before Feb. 28, 2019, are granted additional time to file through Feb. 28, 2019. This includes taxpayers who had a valid extension to file their 2017 return due to run out on Oct. 15, 2018. It also includes the quarterly estimated income tax payments due on Jan. 15, 2019 and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Oct. 31, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2019. It also includes tax-exempt organizations that operate on a calendar-year basis that had an automatic extension due to run out on Nov. 15, 2018. Businesses with extensions also have the additional time including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2017 extensions run out on Oct. 15, 2018.

How to apply for unemployment benefits for victims of Hurricane Michael

  • Call 1-800-204-2418
  • Visit https://connect.myflorida.com/Claimant/Core/Login.ASPX

You must provide the following information to complete your application:

  • Social Security number.
  • Alien registration number and expiration date (if applicable).
  • Name and address of your last employer.
  • If you worked in another state during the past two years, have the name and address of the out-of-state employer.
  • If self-employed and have proof of self-employment for the past two years. (For example, W-2 statements, state or federal tax returns, bank records of accounts, statement from a bank showing your business account, or a copy of title or deed to a business property.)
  • If you were scheduled to work but could not work due to the disaster, you must have the name and address of the employer and date you were scheduled to work.

Contact your mortgage company if you were impacted by Hurricane Michael to see if your mortgage company is offering deferred payments

  • Many homeowners are eligible to stop making mortgage payments for up to 12 months, during which time they:
    • will not incur late fees during this temporary payment break
    • will not have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus
Categories: General
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Florida Penalties for a DUI

July 8, 2018 • ryan

The Florida DUI penalties are very strict and can vary on a number of given factors including whether this is your first DUI offense, how long it has been since your last DUI offense, who you had in the car with you at the time of the DUI arrest, etc.  Provided below is a list of penalties for a DUI in Florida.

First Offense DUI

A misdemeanor with penalties that include:

  • Up to 6 months imprisonment
  • 1 year probation (combined with imprisonment)
  • $500 to $1,000 fine
  • 6 months to 1 year license suspension
  • Community service (at least 50 hours)
  • Substance abuse course (DUI school)
  • Vehicle impoundment for 10 days

First Offense DUI, Enhanced Penalties

A DUI with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over .15 or if there was a minor, a person under the age of 18, in the vehicle, will result in enhanced penalties.  The penalties will include the above penalties modified with these changes:

  • Up to 9 months imprisonment
  • $1000 to $2000 fine
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for up to 6 months

Second Offense DUI in More than 5 Years

A misdemeanor with penalties that include:

  • Up to 9 months imprisonment
  • Up to 1 year probation
  • $500 to $1000 fine
  • 6 months to 1 year license suspension
  • Substance abuse course (DUI school)
  • Vehicle impoundment for 10 days
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for 1 year

Second Offense DUI in More than 5 Years, Enhanced Penalties

A second DUI with a BAC over .15 or accompanied by a minor in the vehicle include the above penalties with these changes:

  • Up to 1 year imprisonment
  • $2000 to $4000 fine
  • 6 months to 1 year license suspension
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for 2 years

Second Offense DUI in Less than 5 Years

A misdemeanor with penalties that include:

  • Mandatory 10 days to 9 month imprisonment
  • Up to 1 year probation
  • $500 to $1000 fine
  • 5 years license suspension
  • Substance abuse course (DUI school)
  • Vehicle impoundment for 30 days (not concurrent with incarceration)
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for 1 year

Second Offense DUI in Less than 5 Years, Enhanced Penalties

A second DUI with a BAC over .15% or accompanied by a minor in the vehicle include the above penalties with these changes:

  • Mandatory 10 days to 1year imprisonment
  • $1000 to $2000 fine
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for 2 years

Third Offense DUI in More than 10 Years

A misdemeanor with penalties that include:

  • Up to 1 year imprisonment
  • Up to 1 year probation
  • $2000 to $5000 fine
  • 6 months to 1 year license suspension
  • Substance abuse course (DUI school)
  • Vehicle impoundment for 10 days
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for 2 years

Third Offense DUI in Less than 10 Years

A third degree felony with penalties that include:

  • 30 days to 5 years imprisonment
  • Up to 5 years probation
  • $2000 to $5000 fine
  • 10 years license suspension
  • Substance abuse course (DUI school)
  • Vehicle impoundment for 90 days
  • Interlock Ignition Device on all vehicles for 2 years

Third Offense DUI within 10 Years, Enhanced Penalties

A third DUI with a BAC over .15% or accompanied by a minor in the vehicle include the above penalties with these changes:

  • Minimum $4000 fine

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer to defend your DUI charges at The Morris Law Firm – We Put Our Clients First

If you or a loved one needs the assistance of a DUI attorney, do not hesitate to contact The Morris Law Firm. We’re available 24/7, so call us now if you need help from an experienced lawyer in Panama City or the surrounding areas, (850) 257-5680. We have a Spanish translator available if you are looking for a Spanish speaking criminal defense attorney (abogado de defensa criminal) on your defense team.  We’ll provide the compassionate support, sound legal advice, and aggressive advocacy you need to get through this difficult time.  Furthermore, we’ll be happy to schedule a free consultation with you and our attorney to discuss your case and your rights at your convenience.

Categories: Criminal Defense, DUI, General
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Spring Break ordinances in place on Panama City Beach during Spring Break

March 7, 2018 • ryan

9 of the best things to know before you party on Panama City Beach during Spring Break in March

I’m a criminal defense attorney in Panama City, Florida, and it’s that time again for me to try to do my best to warn you about our unique spring break laws passed by the local PCB City Council or Bay County Commission.

On Panama City Beach, Florida, each year we have our own version of March Madness; it’s called Spring Break!  The weather is typically sunny and beautiful and college students and families flock to our beautiful beaches for rest, relaxation and a great time.   We hope that you will plan your spring break vacation here and enjoy all that these beautiful beaches have to offer.

Here you will find many of the best things to do on Panama City Beach like pontoon boat rentals, parasailing, night clubs, Shell Island dolphin tours, go-karts, putt-putt golf and so much more.  However, you will also find some unusual spring break laws that you need to know about.

Here are the Spring Break ordinances in place on Panama City Beach during Spring Break:

1. During the month of March, no possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages on the sandy beach of Panama City Beach, so leave the alcohol in the room.

2. No alcohol possession or consumption in commercial parking lots.

3. During the month of March, all alcohol sales on Panama City Beach end at 2 a.m.

4. No open house parties.

5. Parking in a closed business parking lot is not allowed.

6. Overnight scooter rental is not allowed.

7. It is illegal to climb, jump from or throw things from balconies of hotel or condominiums on Panama City Beach.

8. Parking is prohibited on unmarked or unpaved portions of the road after dark.

9. Metal shovels are not permitted on Panama City Beach, and any holes dug in the sand should not be deeper than 2 feet.

I am a criminal defense attorney at the Morris Law Firm in Panama City, Florida, and have helped with countless spring break arrests of wonderful people who were in violation of one or more of these 9 spring break laws.  I want you to be informed and avoid the hassle of having to hire a Panama City attorney to help you navigate through the legal process.  If you do find yourself in need of an experienced attorney in Panama City, I am experienced in defending spring break law violations and will work hard to try to get your charges dropped or minimized.  Call me, Dana Morris, for a free consultation, (850) 257-5680.

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Who is the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Panama City?

January 18, 2018 • ryan

In your search for hiring the right attorney, your first question might be, “Are you the best criminal defense lawyer in Panama City?”

When people ask me who to hire as the best criminal defense lawyer in Panama City, my answer here is the same as I tell clients on the phone when they call for a free consultation.  While impossible to know for certain the outcome of your case, the most important thing that I can promise you is that I will work very hard on your case.  I work hard on every case that I take.  I give each and every case my full attention, as if I were defending my own son or daughter’s charges.

In your search to hire the best criminal defense attorney I suggest that you do your homework.  Hiring the right criminal defense attorney is a very important decision that has far reaching ramifications.  I highly recommend that you hire a lawyer that is familiar with the court system, and someone who does criminal defense work every day.  I also suggest that you meet with the criminal defense attorney that you are considering hiring before any money changes hands.  If the attorney you are considering does not have time for you before you pay him or her, he/she will most certainly not have time for you afterwards.

Here at the Morris Law Firm we encourage everyone to come in for a free consultation.

At this meeting, we want you to ask questions about your case, your specific facts and any concerns you may have.  Many times at this meeting we are able to determine that what you need is not an attorney, but just some good, free, sound legal advice.  If this is the case, I am certainly happy to save you some time, money and stress.

I will leave you with a few good questions to ask a lawyer:

How many cases like this have you handled before?  What were the outcomes?

How long have you been practicing law?  Have you ever prosecuted cases?

When was the last time you were in the courthouse?  How many cases have you defended at trial?

Give me a call  at (850) 257-5680.  I’ll be happy to answer your questions.  You may also check out my profile to learn more about my legal practice and my experience.

~Dana

Categories: Criminal Defense, General
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Hiring a Bail Bondsman in Florida

August 2, 2017 • ryan

Bail Bond in Panama City, Florida

Are you looking for the best way to bail your friend or family member out of jail and find yourself confused?  You are not alone. It is at this time that it is most important to hire the best criminal defense attorney in the Panama City area to guide you through the process and secure a good bail bondsman that you can work with for a bail bond.

One of the first things that is going to happen after the arrest is for a judge to determine if a person can be released from jail and under what terms.  The judge will usually take into account the nature of the alleged offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the person who has been arrested.  After the judge determines the amount of the bail, you will need to decide if you are going to pay the full amount upfront (cash bond) or hire a bail bondsman and pay a surety bond.

If you decide to go with a surety bond, this can best be thought of as an insurance policy.   The bondsman will issue a bond for you, which is really just a promise to the court system that you (or the defendant) will appear for hearings. Once the bondsman issues the bond in the required amount you will be released from jail.  This means that the person will be released for less money up front and will remain free while their case makes its way through the legal system.  So what does the bail bondsman charge for this “insurance policy?”  In Florida, the bondsman may charge 10% of the total amount set for bail.  For example, if the bail is set at $5,000, you will pay a bail bondsman  $500 for the surety bond.  The $500 never comes back to you, that is the fee that a bondsman keeps.

Cash Bond vs. Surety Bond

When you decide to pay the entire amount upfront, you are posting a cash bond.  The full amount of the bond is paid in order for you to be released.  If you successfully comply with the terms of the bond, the full amount of the bond, minus court fees, will be returned to you.

If you are unable, or unwilling, to pay the entire amount upfront, you may decide to go with a surety bond.  A surety bond can best be thought of as purchasing an insurance policy.   The bondsman will issue a bond for you, which is really just a promise to the court system that you will successfully comply with the terms of the bond. Once the bondsman issues the bond in the required amount you will be released from jail.  This means that you will be released for less money up front and will remain free while your case makes its way through the legal system.  So what does the bail bondsman charge for this “insurance policy?”  In Florida, the bondsman may charge 10% of the total amount set for bail.  For example, if the bail is set at $5,000, you will pay a bail bondsman $500 for the surety bond.  The $500 never comes back to you, that is the fee that a bondsman keeps.

What happens if I don’t comply with the terms of the bond?

If you disappear and do not comply with the terms of the bond, several things will happen. The court will issue an arrest warrant for your appearance (also called a capias), and the bond will be considered in default. If the bond was set at $5,000 and you paid the entire $5,000 in a cash bond, the court will keep the entire amount and refund you nothing. If you hired a bail bondsman and were released on a surety bond, the bond company will have to pay the court the $5,000. The bonding company may now choose to sue you for their losses or you will lose the collateral that you secured the bond with. Finally, the bondsman may look for you to return you to jail.

Free Legal Advice from a Panama City Defense Attorney with over 17 Years Experience 

If you are in need of advice from a local criminal defense attorney in Northwest Florida with over 17 years experience, please give us a call now at (850) 257-5680.  We will be happy to arrange a free consultation in our office or over the phone to discuss your case and offer our assistance.
Categories: Criminal Defense, General
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