CRIMINAL CASES AND THE DEFENSE OF THE CLIENT
We handle all Criminal Traffic, DUI, Misdemeanor, and Felony cases in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and throughout Tampa Bay. On our webpage is a tremendous amount of information on various criminal charges, the law in Florida, and defenses to the charges. If you have a specific quesion about Florida law or an issue that you are having in your case, please do not hesitate to call us.
STAGES OF A CRIMINAL CASE
How a criminal case moves through court in Sarasota County and Manatee County
If you don't bond out of jail after the initial arrest, you are brought before a Judge within 24 hours. The judge will decide whether to set a bond and, if so, in what amount.
About one month after the arrest--You are told what you are being charged with and asked whether you will be entering a plea or will be hiring an attorney.
Pretrial Conference/ Case Management
About one month after the arraignment--The Judge will want to know what is happening with your case and how much time is needed.
The last main court date before the trial date. Will it be a plea or will we be going to trial?
Do we want a jury trial or a bench trial with no jury? Will you be testifying? Are our witnesses ready to go?
Felonies are among the most serious of criminal charges. The most minor of felonies, a third-degree felony, carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison. A second-degree felony carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. A first-degree felony carries a 30 year maximum. A capital felony is punishable by up to life in prison.
Misdemeanors and municipal ordinance violations are among the least serious of criminal offenses in Florida. Nevertheless, they should be taken seriously because the have, like all criminal offenses in Florida, the ability to put you in jail. First-degree misdemeanor offenses carry a maximum of one year in the County jail. Second-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum of 60 days in the county jail.
CRIMINAL TRAFFIC CHARGES
Criminal traffic charges are traffic related offenses. They include charges like DUI, Driving on a Suspended License, and Reckless Driving. They can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the seriousness of the allegations and whether the defendant has a prior history.
DEFENDING A CRIMINAL CASE
The first stage of the representation is usually the client intake. We spend a tremendous amount of time with our clients in the early stages so as to learn all of the details of their case. This helps us plan our investigation and develop a game-plan and defense strategy for attacking the charges.
Depending on the nature of the charges, we usually have our investigator order all police reports (the probable cause affidavit, incident reports, dispatch records, various records of communication among law enforcement, surveillance video, pictures, etc.). Along with our investigator, we will also take statements from, and speak to, all witnesses involved with the case.
Discovery is all the evidence in the state's possession that the prosecutor plans to use against the defendant. We will demand the discovery from the state. When we receive it, we will schedule a time to review it with the client so that the client understands the exact strengths and weaknesses of the case and we can adequately plan our defense strategy.
In deposition, we question the state's witnesses under oath. By doing this, we will understand what all of the witnesses will say, and be able to lock them into their statements. After depositions are completed, we will have a much better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the case and whether it will be a good idea to take the case to trial or start plea bargaining with the prosecutor.
Plea bargaining is essentially negotiating with the prosecutor to attempt to get the best possible deal for the defendant. Good plea bargaining is an art form that a criminal attorney learns through experience. Before plea bargaining, a good attorney will have thoroughly investigated the case and will have researched the legal issues therein and be armed with case law that can be used to argue the defendant's positions. An attorney may also present mitigating evidence to the prosecutor, such as evidence of hardship the defendant has suffered, evidence that the defendant is fully employed, evidence that the defendant has completed a rehab program, etc.
Motions to Suppress
If there are things that law enforcement did wrong or other constitutional problems with law enforcement's investigation, an attorney may decide to file a motion to suppress the state's evidence. If a motion to suppress is won, the state will not be able to use the evidence in trial against the defendant. Usually when motions to suppress are won, the prosecutor can no longer prove the case and the case is dropped.
After sitting down with the client and thoroughly discussing the case, the discovery, the results of the investigation, and the evidence that came out at deposition, sometimes it is determined that the best course of action is to proceed to trial. Whether to go to trial or not is always the client's decision, not the attorneys. If the client decides to go to trial there is very much preparation that needs to be done such as preparing the evidence, witness preparation. and the filing of preliminary motions, to ensure that the trial goes as smoothly as possible.