Criminal Defense Attorney Services and Strategies
A criminal lawyer may either represent a person who has been accused of a crime or the government in prosecuting the accused. In a typical criminal case, a defense lawyer represents the defendant while an opposing attorney, called a prosecutor, stands in for the government. A criminal law lawyer who practices defense law can specialize in a few practice areas from defending a person against a speeding ticket charge to advocating for an alleged criminal during a murder trial.
Although an individual has the right to represent himself or herself during criminal trial proceedings, the consequences of having poor legal representation can be severe. Misdemeanors, which are lesser crimes, might only entail a fine or a brief jail sentence, but felonies, which are more serious crimes, can lead to long prison terms. This is why it is so important to have someone knowledgeable about the law argue on your behalf. Since 1992, the likelihood of an arrest leading to a conviction has generally risen. Although some defendants think that they can “beat the system” on their own, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to prevent becoming another statistic.
One of the primary tasks of a criminal law lawyer is to advocate for his or her clients. Few people understand the criminal justice process. The following provides an overview of what you can expect if you are arrested in Florida.
In most cases, you are entitled to a reasonable bond set by the court. Generally, this requires that you post a bond with the court. A bond is a binding agreement to pay money to the court in the event that you do not appear for your scheduled court dates. A bond is intended to ensure your appearance in the case. Your bond may either be a cash bond in smaller cases, or a surety bond in larger cases.
Once you are arrested and have been in custody for twenty-four hours or more, you are entitled to a magistrate hearing for determination of whether probable cause exists for your arrest. Probable cause for an arrest is facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that a crime has been committed. If no probable cause is found for your arrest, you will be released on your own recognizance.
Tracking Your Case
Within one to two days, the probable cause affidavit, or initial arrest report, on your case will find its way to the Clerk’s Office from the booking desk at the jail, and you will be randomly assigned a case number and judge. This information is computerized and viewable online at the Broward County Clerk of Courts Online Search. You can track certain information about your case, including court dates and case status from this web site.
Case Filing Decision
The State Attorney’s Office will generally begin to review the case filing package on your case within two weeks of your arrest and, if you are in custody, make a filing decision within 21 days of your arrest. If you are not in custody, the filing decision generally takes about 30 days, or longer. Once the State files what is known as an “Information” in your case, the Clerk’s Office will post your charges into the Clerk’s computer and you will be noticed with an arraignment date. You may also have changes to your bond on the same date, assuming there are added charges, or charges changed from those that you were originally arrested for by the police. This is common, because police do not always arrest you for the identical offenses that you are ultimately charged with by the State Attorney’s Office.
Before your charges are filed, you have an opportunity to provide the case filing Assistant State Attorney with additional materials, such as witness statements, documents, recordings, and papers for his or her consideration in determining what, if any, charges should be filed against you by the state of Florida. Often, supplemental materials filed by you will greatly reduce charges that are in the process of being filed against you. Therefore, the pre-filing package represents the first line of defense. If you do not file supplemental materials with the State Attorney’s Office, the case filing Assistant State Attorney will rely solely upon the case filing package of materials received from the police department, and may accept all allegations and statements contained in the police package as true. This could result in more serious charges being filed against you . Your defenses will rarely be set forth in the police reports used as the basis to arrest you. It is unfortunate that more defendants do not utilize the pre-filing package opportunity in an effort to have charges reduced.
The Defense Case
After arraignment in your case, you can file a “notice of discovery”, which is an official request for the state to file a discovery response listing witnesses, papers, and other specific evidence upon which the state will rely in attempting to prove its case against you. You are entitled to take discovery depositions, at your expense, from all material state’s witnesses in the preparation of your defense. The state will also provide you with copies of all relevant papers in your case, which may include witness statements, lab reports, photos, crime scene reports, and all other materials. You may also list defense witnesses and use defense exhibits in your case, provided that you give notice of these witnesses and materials to the state in advance. This is known as reciprocal discovery.
As your case progresses and as your attorney prepares your defense, pretrial motions may be filed on a variety of legal issues. As a general rule, the harder your attorney works on your case, the better your ultimate disposition in the case will be. Your attorney should examine the facts of your case to determine whether any or all of the charges filed against you can be dismissed and file the appropriate defensive motions for dismissal. The results achieved in every case depend upon a variety of factors, such as the nature of the charges, your prior arrests, the strength of the state’s case, the strength of the defense’s case, the judge, and the Assistant State Attorney assigned to your case. Being fully prepared for all possibilities is the key to a successful defense.
Final Disposition of Your Case
At some point you will need to decide whether you want to resolve your case by agreement with the state, to “plead open” to the mercy of the court, or to proceed to trial. To resolve your case by agreement with the State Attorney’s Office, your attorney and the Assistant State Attorney must come to a complete agreement regarding all the terms of an agreement for all of your pending charges. The court can accept or reject the terms of the agreement, but cannot modify the terms without your advance consent. If you decide to “plead open” to the mercy of the court after consulting with your attorney, the judge will decide what sentence will be imposed, after considering your “Criminal Punishment Code Sheet”, which lists your offenses in severity and assigns points for those offenses. If you decide to go to trial, you and your attorney should have some legal defense and be otherwise fully prepared. The fact that the state’s case against you is very weak is a defense in itself. Generally, if you do not have a defense that will present well in court, you should consider another option. There is nothing worse than going to trial unprepared.
Sentencing Issues and the Criminal Punishment Code
The Criminal Punishment Code Score Sheet is like a report card that the judge reviews at the time of sentencing. The score sheet tabulates a specific number of points per offense as set by Florida statute and scored at time of sentencing. If your total combined score is less than or equal to 44 points, the judge can impose a non-state prison sanction, which could mean county jail time of one year or less, house arrest, probation, a fine, payment of court costs, or even no punishment at all. If total points are greater than 44 points, the court will impose mandatory state prison time, unless the court finds a legal reason to depart downward, and is willing to depart downward from the minimum prison sentence set by the criminal punishment code. A downward sentence is a sentence below the minimum permissible sentence, based upon a legally permissible exception in sentencing laws. The judge does not have to grant a bona fide downward departure motion and it is completely within the court’s discretion to disregard it under the law. Your attorney can assist you in deciding what course of action is best, depending upon your charges and other factors unique to your case. No two cases are the same.
Criminal Defense Attorney Services Pre-Trial
Criminal defense attorneys can assist clients throughout the criminal justice process, including pre-trial. Some people choose to retain a lawyer during the investigation period of a crime, before they are even charged. This often happens if someone is a suspect and has reason to believe that he or she will soon be charged. In these instances, a criminal defense lawyer may help instruct the individual while being questioned by authorities to ensure the suspect doesn’t divulge any incriminating information.
A criminal defense attorney can also help convince a court to drop charges against you based on insufficient evidence or improper procedure. For example, in many instances a police officer must have probable cause before making an arrest. Probable cause means a compelling reason to believe that you may have committed a crime. Criminal defense attorneys have a nuanced understanding of probable cause as it is defined within your jurisdiction and may be able to present a challenge to the officers reasoning in court. If the attorney can show that the officer may not have had probable cause to investigate the alleged crime scene and make an arrest, charges against you may be dropped before a trial even begins.
In addition, when you are arrested for a crime, you may be detained pending trial. However, you usually can be released as long as you provide a certain amount of money called bail. Bail is intended to ensure you show up for trial. A criminal defense attorney can attempt to persuade the court to reduce your bail or waive it altogether.
If you know you will be found guilty of committing a crime, you may want to try to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution. A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement to reduce charges to a lesser crime or reduce sentencing. Your attorney can represent you during plea negotiations to increase your chances of receiving a reduced punishment. For example, if you are a minor and are accused of assault, some jurisdictions may wish to charge you as an adult. However, with the use of an attorney, you may be able to negotiate a deal so you instead are charged with juvenile assault.
Criminal Defense Attorney Services at Trial
Criminal defense attorneys can also assist you during the criminal trial. They can analyze your case, identifying its strengths and weaknesses. From there, your attorney and you can collaborate to come up with a defense strategy.
Your attorney can also discuss the pros and cons of pleading guilty, especially when a plea bargain may be on the table.
Your lawyer can also assist with the standard steps of a criminal trial, from jury selection to providing opening statements to questioning witnesses. And if your trial does not go in your favor, criminal defense attorneys can assist you with the appeals process. Source-Attorneys
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are accused of a crime, your freedom, your family, your reputation, your immigration status, and your job may be at stake. The outcome you receive in the criminal justice system depends upon the experience and knowledge of the defense attorney you choose to represent you.
When you retain the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., you do not simply retain a nationally recognized criminal defense lawyer. You retain a criminal defense team who has worked together for years and successfully represented clients in virtually every type of criminal case, including:
- Animal cruelty, such as dog fighting, cock fighting and abandonment
- Drug crimes, such as drug trafficking and Oxycodone offenses
- Fraud, such as mortgage fraud, insider trading and mail fraud
- Traffic offenses, such as DUI
- Violent crimes, such as domestic violence and battery
Contact our law firm to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.