If I believe that I am being investigated for a crime should I wait until I am contacted by the police or arrested before I consult with an attorney?
Answer: Absolutely Positively No! You should contact an attorney experienced in criminal defense immediately! Having an experienced criminal defense attorney for a pending case has several advantages, including: 1) an attorney can be a contact and intermediary for official contacts between a suspect and the police, 2) the presence of an attorney can give the police assurance that a suspect will not flee the jurisdiction, which may lead to lower bail or immediate release after an arrest, and 3) an attorney already familiar with the allegations, who is “up to speed”, can act quickly in some cases to avoid his client from being arrested and after an arrest to effectively advocate on his or her behalf.
What if I am contacted by the police concerning a criminal matter or if I am told by a police officer that I am suspected of committing a crime.?
Do I have to let the police or anyone else search my house or car?
Answer: No. In most situations the police need either your consent or a search warrant to enter your house. Most police officers will ask your permission to search because it saves them a great deal of hassle in getting a search warrant. The sufficiency of any search warrant can later be tested to see if it was properly obtained. However, if you give consent, any defects in procedure or evidence will probably not help your situation and the search will probably be permitted.
Motor vehicles are a slightly different matter. Usually the police will be able to search your car if you are being arrested. However, this usually does not include stops for speeding or other minor traffic violations. If you are stopped by the police in your vehicle, you always have the right to say "No, you cannot search my car." If the police have the legal right to search it, they will do so anyway. If they were wrong, anything they found cannot be used in court. Unfortunately, if you consent to the search, the items found will likely be used against you, even if they had no legal right to search.
Q: Can the police lie to me when questioning me about a case?
Answer: It is frightening that the answer is YES. The police are allowed to tell you an outright lie in their attempt to get you to incriminate yourself. One of the most common lies is to say they have witnesses or other evidence when they do not, or to tell someone that their accomplices have already confessed so they should as well. You have a right to remain silent and a right not to talk to the police. It is almost always best to exercise that right no matter what the police tell you or the promises that they may offer.
Q: The alleged victim in my crime called me and asked me to apologize. Are the police behind this?
Answer: Probably. The police frequently use what is called a "pretext phone call" to try to get a confession over the phone. This usually occurs in alleged sexual assaults and consists of the alleged victim calling the alleged perpetrator and asking him to apologize or explain why he did something. Most of these phone calls are recorded and forwarded to the district attorney. Therefore it is best not to apologize to a victim, certainly not without first obtaining the advice of experienced counsel.
Q: The police are offering me a deal to give them evidence on others involved in my crime. Can I trust them?
Answer: Depends on the cop. Many police officers are men and women of their word, but some are not. The best policy is to have an attorney negotiate with the police and the State or United States Attorney and get the agreement in writing. Many times the police exaggerate the trouble you are in or the evidence they really have. Many people wind up getting strung along as the police keep asking for just one more piece of information. An agreement should include exactly what benefit(s) you are to receive, what they are expecting, who it is they are trying to arrest, and how long or how many times must you assist. These things should be explored before putting yourself at risk as an informer.
Q: The district attorney has offered to let me plead guilty with no jail on my first offense. Is this a good deal?
Answer: Not necessarily. It really depends upon the level of violation and the charge itself. Many have accepted an unfair plea simply because they were promised that they would not get jail time. A number of these people probably had little or no risk of actually serving a jail sentence even if they went to trial and lost.
Most people who get misdemeanor charges do not go to jail on their first offense. In most cases this is because the State Attorney could not get the judge to give a jail sentence to a first-time offender. It is best to have an experienced attorney evaluate your case to determine what a reasonable offer from the State Attorney might be.
Individuals who are charged with felonies are looking at penalties ranging from 1 year to the rest of their life in prison. Again, in many cases it is possible and sometimes likely that the judge will forego any prison time in favor of probation. Further, many felony cases can be reduced to misdemeanors, or you may receive a deferred sentence (an agreement to stay out of trouble and comply with other specified conditions in return for a dismissal of the case). Additionally, the law and facts sometimes warrant that a case be totally dismissed.
Each case is different and you should have an experienced attorney review your situation before accepting any disposition. Some criminal charges have mandatory jail or prison sentences. Information is power and to make an informed decision in your case you should consult with an experienced attorney.
It is always best to contact an attorney as soon as you are charged with any crime. There are time limits and rules that must be followed to make sure that every opportunity to challenge and investigate the case against you is undertaken.
Q: My spouse, relative or friend has been charged with a crime. Can I bond him/her out of jail?
Answer: Probably. Most people charged with a crime in the Sate of Florida are entitled to have a reasonable bond set in their case as a matter of right. Felony cases usually have bonds ranging from $5000 to $250,000. However, in very serious cases such as murder or other very serious violent offenses there is no automatic right to bond and there must be a hearing before bond is set.
To bond someone out of jail you must give the courts the amount of money equal to the bond. This money then serves as a guarantee that all court appearances will be made. Once the case is complete the money will be returned to the person who posted the bond.
If you are unable to post a cash bond in the amount needed you can consult a professional bail bondsman. These companies will charge you a premium of usually 10-15 % to bond a person out of jail. This money is their fee and you will not receive any of that money back once the case is complete. Depending on the amount of the bond and the nature of the case, the bondsman might ask for some form of collateral on the bond (often it is a lien on your house or property).
Bondsmen do not represent you in a criminal case. They are not advocates, nor can they give you legal advice. It is illegal for a bondsman to refer you to an attorney. One reason it is illegal for a bondsman to refer you to an attorney is that the bondsman may decide to revoke your bond at a later date and if you are using the lawyer he suggested it might be that your lawyer has a relationship with the bondsman. This means the attorney may have a conflict of interest and could not adequately be fair to you and the bondsman. It is better for you to have an attorney who is independent and does not owe any loyalty to your bondsman.
What should I do if my child is arrested?
Answer: Your child, if a minor will be taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). The personnel at JAC will assess whether to release your child to you, or remand the child to the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC).
At JAC, your child might be interrogated both about the alleged offense and about the child’s social history. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if your child should be released to your home, lodged in JDC or be referred to other services.
Important: Your child does not have to answer any questions at JAC!
If your child is lodged at JDC, you will be notified of the detention hearing. The court must hold a detention hearing within 48 hours, not counting weekends and holidays. Notice of the detention hearing shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the hearing.
At the detention hearing, your child must be released to you unless your child is a danger to himself or others, or your child is at risk of not returning to court. The court could impose a bond for the release of your child.
If you want your child released to you, then your child’s lawyer should come prepared to show that your child has never harmed his or herself or others. Your lawyer should also show that your child has never run away. If possible, your lawyer should show the court that your child is involved in school and other activities that make it unlikely that he or she will run away.
Do I need a lawyer if my child has been arrested or is being investigated for a crime?
Answer: Yes! All children must be represented by counsel in juvenile proceedings. You need to have a lawyer with the necessary experience to represent your child in a system that is different than the criminal system.
Do I need to inform my employer if I have been convicted of a crime?
Answer: Maybe. Employers are becoming increasingly concerned about knowing whether employees have criminal records. Part of this concern stems from large jury verdicts that have been rendered against employers for negligently hiring people with criminal histories who ultimately harm others. However, the laws vary widely from state to state about which criminal records an employer must or may access, what an employer may ask a potential employee and what the job applicant must reveal. If you have a criminal record and seek a job, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in criminal law and employment law so that you go into the job search fully informed of your rights.
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