Criminal Defense Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Seek Legal Advice?

You should seek legal advice whenever you are unsure of your legal rights. If you have been served any form of court order, complaint, or summons, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Don’t rely solely on the advice from friends and family members. An experienced attorney can make sure your rights are protected.

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Should I Get My Own Lawyer Verses A Court Appointed Lawyer?

If you are accused of a criminal offense, it is your Constitutional right to have legal representation even if you are unable to pay for it. Other situations in which you may be appointed legal representation include a termination of your parental rights, a mental health commitment, or a Child in Need of Assistance action (or CINA). Individuals who are incarcerated are also appointed an attorney when they file civil rights lawsuits. Attorneys appointed by the court are just as diligent, hard-working, and competent as a private practice attorney. However, an attorney in private practice may be able to dedicate more time to you and your case. Choosing your attorney is an important decision and should not be taken lightly.

What Is The Difference Between A Misdemeanor And A Felony?

The difference between misdemeanors and felonies is best described by their corresponding punishments.  While misdemeanors may sometimes be off-handedly considered “minor” crimes, they can actually be punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000.00.  The punishments for felonies (including crimes such as kidnapping and homicide) start where misdemeanor punishments leave off.  Maximum sentences for felonies range from 5 years in prison up to a life sentence or even the death penalty.  In both misdemeanors and felonies, the severity of the crime will determine the extent of the sentence.

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The Police Are Investigating Me And Have Asked Me To Come In And Give A Statement

The police are investigating me and have asked me to come in and give a statement. Should I go in and just tell them my side of the story?

Always make sure to consult an attorney before giving any type of statement to the police.  Since you already know that the police are investigating you, they will be building a case against you with the hopes of obtaining enough evidence needed to make an arrest.  Any statement you give police can be used against you, and the detectives interviewing you are professionally trained to get people talking.  Furthermore, the detectives are under no obligation to tell the truth while questioning you, and may use deceptive tactics to convince you that they will “put in a word” with the District Attorney if you tell them everything.  This is a baseless promise and would most likely not make a difference even if the detective did talk to the DA.  Don’t leave yourself unprotected from false promises. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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Should I Be Concerned About Having A Felony Conviction On My Record?

Absolutely. Having a felony conviction on your record can impact your life in ways you might not expect. Your rights to gun ownership, to vote, or to obtain a green card will be restricted for the rest of your life. Even certain employers will disregard your application once it is discovered you have a felony conviction. A felony conviction can never be sealed or expunged from your criminal record, and will remain on your criminal record for the duration of your natural life. If you are facing a felony charge, contact an attorney so they can help you review your case.

Is There A Way To Find Out If There Is A Warrant For My Arrest?

Yes, there is. Contact a professional bail bondsman. Simply ask if there are any warrants out for your arrest and they will be able to tell you. Additionally, some counties report outstanding warrants to the centralized, statewide Florida Department of Law Enforcement (F.D.L.E.) database, which is searchable online here. Some county sheriffs and Clerks of Court also provide their own online searches for outstanding warrants in their specific county. For example, The Marion County Sheriff’s Office provides an online searchable database of outstanding warrants issued in Marion County, which is searchable online here. Having an open warrant against you is very serious, so call an attorney as soon as possible. Make sure the attorney is in the same jurisdiction as the warrant.

I have been accused of a crime I didn’t commit. Won’t the prosecution view my retaining a criminal defense lawyer as an admission of guilt?

Not at all. If you are charged with a crime, it is your Constitutional right to have professional legal representation present. Regardless of your involvement (or lack thereof), the right to an attorney is one of the most important rights you have as an American.

I have already been arrested and charged with a minor crime. Do I really need a lawyer if I just want to plead guilty and get it over with?

I have already been arrested and charged with a minor crime. Do I really need a lawyer if I just want to plead guilty and get it over with?

Even if you are being charged with a minor offense to which you believe you are guilty, you should always have an attorney review your case before entering a plea. Even if you are being charged for possession of alcohol, the penalties for a first offense range from hundreds of dollars in fines to 60 days in jail. Any type of conviction for drug charges will come up whenever a prospective employer runs a background check, and will also make you ineligible to receive federal financial aid for college. An attorney may help you find defenses you did not even know were available. If all else fails, your attorney may be able to negotiate for leniency or a reduced charge.

Can A Law Enforcement Officer Detain You Without Arresting You?

A police officer can detain you for a reasonable time if you are suspected to have been involved in criminal activity. The police officer may perform a pat-down if there is any reason to suspect that you may be carrying a weapon. If you are carrying a weapon (regardless of any involvement in the activity for which you are being detained), the officer may remove the weapon for the purposes of safety. It is likely the officer will ask you questions, but you are within your rights to refuse to answer. Remember – when speaking with any law enforcement officer regarding suspected criminal activity, you always have the constitutional right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present with you for all questioning. Never speak with any law enforcement officer about your involvement in suspected criminal activity without first consulting with an experienced attorney!

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