FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do you have a payment plan?
In most instances, we can work out payment arrangements. That depends in large on the amount of the fee and how long it is going to take to resolve your case. If possible, putting your fee on a credit card or a relatives, friends or employers credit card is the best option. If you are unemployed or have a bad credit history or your own friends and relatives will not help you, it is unlikely that we will extend credit. Feel free to discuss your options with us.
The police did not read me my rights. Will my case be dropped?
There is a common misconception from TV shows that the police must "read you your rights". It is simply not true. The advice of rights is only necessary if the police intend to question you and use something you say against you.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Felonies are crimes punishable by imprisonment for over one year. They are generally the more serious crimes and are prosecuted in Circuit Court. If you receive a sentence of over one year, you will go to State prison. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes punishable by no more than one year and are prosecuted in County Court. County Court sentences are served in County jail. Some misdemeanors can become felonies if you repeat the offense multiple times. Some examples are petty theft, driving on a suspended license and DUI. These are known as enhanceable offenses.
Should I use the Public Defender?
In some instances, you have no choice. It is similar to saying, should I go to the Public Health Clinic? Private criminal defense attorneys generally have lower case loads and can spend more time and attention on your case. In many instances, private defense attorneys have substantially more experience. The biggest difference is that private lawyers handle matters that the Public Defender does not. Some examples are domestic violence injunction hearings, Department of Motor Vehicle license hearings and Department of Children and Family matters.
If I am guilty, do I really need an attorney?
Absolutely. Many times the issue is not guilty or innocence, but rather the appropriate punishment. Diversion, probation or house arrest is obviously better alternatives than County Jail or State Prison. Hiring an attorney before formal charges are filed may make an enormous difference in the outcome of your case.
Should I wait until my Court date to hire a lawyer?
Absolutely not. There is a window of opportunity between your arrest and the formal filing of your charge. Competent effective criminal defense attorneys may convince the prosecutor not to file the charge or file a reduced charge. The Public Defender is often not appointed until after the prosecutor has already made a decision. This is an example of the value of hiring your own private lawyer. Timing is critical.
How do I choose a good lawyer?
Examine a lawyer's experience. How long has he been doing this? Does he have experience in law enforcement or was he in the past a prosecutor? Call the lawyer and go in to meet with him. Ask yourself, is this the attorney I want standing beside me in court? Does he treat me with respect and compassion? Is his fee reasonable? Some lawyers are simply good at advertising. Choose the lawyer you feel comfortable with and one in which you have confidence.
The Public Defender has been appointed. Can I switch to a private attorney?
The answer is yes. The courts frown on last minute changes. If you are uncomfortable with the representation you are receiving and you can now afford to hire your own lawyer, it is possible for your new lawyer to step in and take over your case.
It is my first offense, am I looking at jail time?
That depends on the type of crime you committed and whether or not the Florida Sentencing Guideline scores you for State prison. Some crimes carry mandatory minimum jail sentences. A good lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced or some charges dropped and help you avoid jail.
The police did not ask permission to search my car. Can they use the evidence they found?
The law of search and seizure is incredibly complex and changes all the time. Having an attorney that knows the law and one that can effectively argue your case to the Court may result in the Court ruling the search illegal and the suppression of the evidence. Discuss the facts of your arrest immediately with a private lawyer. If your attorney can convince the prosecutor that the search and seizure was illegal, your case may be dropped.
I am innocent, why do I need a lawyer?
The Florida Prison System has innocent people in jail. This may be the result of a false identification, false testimony, tampered evidence or an incompetent lawyer. You only have one life and your freedom is precious. Leave no stone unturned in your defense. Getting a free lawyer may not be your best choice. Sometimes free is not a bargain. The same goes for hiring a cheap lawyer. Would you want to buy the cheapest parachute?
How do I know if there is a warrant outstanding for me?
There is no way to really tell. If you missed a court date or violated probation, you may be able to examine the Clerk's file online and determine if the judge issued a warrant. In some instances where you have not yet been arrested, the warrant may be outstanding but will only show up in law enforcement computer searches. In some instances, a private lawyer may be able to contact the detectives or officers and find out if a charge is outstanding. It is always better to voluntarily surrender rather than wait to be arrested.
A bondsman recommended a particular lawyer, should I use him?
In Florida, it is illegal for a bondsman to recommend a particular attorney. There are sound reasons behind this law. In selecting an attorney, do you own research. Go on the Internet. Talk to friends and relatives and interview several lawyers before making your choice.
Can a lawyer represent more than one person in a case?
Generally no. There is a high potential for a conflict of interest. An attorney owes his allegiance and duty to his client and no one else. Even if someone else paid the fee, the attorney's duty is to his client alone. Some lawyers try to justify representing more than one party in a case and claim the conflict can be waived. Use extreme caution in dealing with such attorneys