Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense Law
Q: What types of criminal cases does Weinstein Legal handle?
A: The team at Weinstein Legal handles criminal defense cases throughout the state of Florida.
Q: What happens after a person is arrested?
A: i. Generally, when a person is arrested, they are typically brought to the local county jail for processing. This entails providing a persons biographical and personal information, which the police use to determine if the person has any open warrants and/or criminal history.
ii. If you are being arrested for a misdemeanor, the officer in some cases can decide NOT to book you in the county jail and provide you with what is called a notice to appear. If you have ever heard the term “written arrest”, this is what a notice to appear is; it is a summons or requirement that you appear before a judge on a specific date and time.
iii. If you are booked in the jail for a felony, you will be processed and depending on the charges, you will either have a schedule bond that you or a bondsman can pay OR you may have to physically see a judge the following morning. Cases like domestic battery require someone to see a judge.
Q: Do I need to speak with the police before or after I am arrested?
A: i. If you are being investigated for committing a crime, you have the right to remain silent under 5th amendment to the U.S. constitution. When being interrogated and detained by the police, many times they are looking to lock you into a statement or place you at a specific location where a crime occurred. Most times, your best defense is to remain silent or explain you do not wish to answer any questions in a respectful manner. Then, you should LAWYER UP and express that you want a lawyer.
Q: What is a first appearance or magistrate court?
A: i. When someone is arrested in Florida, the first hearing they attend is a first appearance or magistrate court. This hearing is typically held within 24 hours of their arrest. It is at this time that a Judge formally reads the criminal charges out loud to you. A prosecutor will likely read off your criminal history, or lack thereof, and any times in the past that you have failed to appear in court.
ii. The purpose of this hearing is to set your bond (bail) based on two factors: (1) Are you a danger to the community and; (2) how likely is it that you will appear for your future court dates.
iii. In determining your bond, Judges consider the charges, your criminal history, prior times you missed court, and the allegations in the reports presented to them.
iv. Some criminal charges do not entitle a person to bond, however, most do and Judges can require you post a monetary bond, attend and keep in touch with some form of pre-trial services department, require an electronic monitor (house arrest), or a mixture thereof.
Q: What is an arraignment?
A: i. The arraignment is your first opportunity to enter a plea in the case. 99.9% of cases start with the attorney entering a plea of NOT guilty. It is only until the attorney has completed their due diligence on the case and investigated all avenues, before they entertain changing your previously entered plea, IF at all.
Q: How long does a criminal case last?
A: i. Many factors come into play when determining how much time your criminal case will take. For instance, how complex the matter is, your criminal history, the county in which you were charged, and if it is a misdemeanor or a felony are all considerations when determining how long your criminal case will take.
ii. The complexity of a case will affect how long it takes. A simple misdemeanor might be resolved within a few weeks or a few months, while a felony case might last for several months or over a year. If the prosecution makes a reasonable plea offer early in the process or there are some motions to exclude evidence. the case will end much sooner than if it goes to trial.
Q: I’m guilty, do I still need a lawyer?
A: i. YES! You may be saying to yourself “why do I need a lawyer, I know I’m guilty. What could they possibly do?”
ii. When you are arrested and charged with a crime, the United States Government, arguably the most powerful organization in the world, is literally fighting to put you in jail, prison, convict you, and take away your rights. Do you want to go into that fight alone?
iii. Many times, defense attorneys represent guilty individuals, however, through their training and experience, can work out settlements that are advantageous to you and would not have been offered if you were not represented by a lawyer.
iv. Many times, you may be guilty but there is a rule of evidence that would keep certain incriminating evidence out of the case. And sometimes, once that is pointed out to the government, through motion or negotiations, without that evidence, the government’s case weakens so much that they make you a deal you can’t refuse or drop the case completely.
Q: What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A: i. In Florida, crimes are separated by misdemeanors and felonies, and then subdivided into degree and offense level. For a basic understanding, when someone is charged with a misdemeanor, the maximum punishment is typically up to one year in the county jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
a. Driving under the influence (DUI) and some other misdemeanors, have different maximum and minimum penalties associated with them.
ii. IF you are charged with a felony, that means you are facing prison time, meaning any amount of time spent behind bars for longer than one year, all the way up to life in prison.
a. The length and potential mandatory minimum sentences associated with felony arrests all depend on a specific person’s criminal history, charges, whether people were hurt, or what amount of damage was done, etc.
b. A criminal score sheet, prepared by the prosecutor will be the best determination as to what maximum and minimum punishments you specifically are looking at.
Q: Can I expunge or seal my case?
A: i. In Florida, when someone wants to seal or expunge a case from their record, they must meet specific criteria to qualify.
ii. For instance, if you are charged with a few specific crimes, regardless if the case was dropped, you CANNOT expunge or seal the case.
iii. If you have ever been convicted of ANY crime, even something as minor as trespassing, you CANNOT seal or expunge a case.
iv. If you have been adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile , you CANNOT seal or expunge any case.
v. If you have already sealed or expunged a case in your past, you CANNOT seal or expunge a case.
vi. However, if your case is not on the list of excluded crimes and all charges against you were dropped, you will likely be able to expunge your case. This means the record will be totally destroyed at the local police agency that arrested you and at the clerk’s office in the county which you were arrested. The only organization that will have a master file, which is NOT viewable to the public, is Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
vii. If you plead guilty BUT were NOT convicted, meaning you received a WITHHOLD OF ADJUDICATION OR ADJUDICATION WITHHELD, then you will likely qualify to SEAL your case.
viii. If you completed a diversion program like drug court , pre-trial diversion, pre-trial intervention, or the like where your charges were dropped, then you would likely qualify to have your case expunged.
a. Sealing a case has the same practical effect as expunging the case, meaning no record is viewable to the public, however, the record can be unsealed upon a signed order from a Judge.
Q: How do I bail someone out?
A: i. You have two options when trying to pay someone’s monetary bond
a. (1) pay the bond amount in cash at the jail
b. (2) pay a fee (usually 10% of the total bond) to a bondsman/bond company
Q: What is speedy trial? Should I waive it?
A: i. A person charged with a criminal offense in Florida is entitled to the statutory speedy trial rights provided under Florida Statutory provisions which provide for very specific time limits. The speedy trial time limit for a misdemeanor is 90 days. The speedy trial time limit for a felony is 175 days.
ii. Oftentimes, defense attorneys waive speedy trial in order to obtain discovery (reports, statements, evidence) in the case and to prepare for trial.
iii. Once speedy trial rights are waived, they can be recaptured by filing a demand for speedy trial.
iv. Additionally, certain actions taken by the accused or their attorney can waive speedy trial rights.
Q: I got a DUI, how do I get my license back?
A: i. In Florida, depending on if this is your first DUI and whether you provided a sample of your breath or refused to do so, will determine if and when you can apply for a hardship license.
ii. In some instances, you will not be able to obtain hardship license and your only option is to challenge the administrative suspension by requesting a formal review hearing.
Q: Should I do roadside exercises or provide a breath sample if I get pulled over for DUI?
A: i. When an officer requests you to do roadside exercises, their request is not a requirement. These exercises are voluntary, and you do NOT have to complete them if you choose not to. While there may be negative consequences from this choice, they are 100% voluntary exercises.
ii. As it relates to providing a sample of your breath, this is a requirement. Should you not provide a sample of your breath your license can be suspended for a specific period of time, dependent on various circumstances.
iii. However, keep in mind, the more information you provide law enforcement, in the form of roadside exercises and breath samples or blood tests, the more evidence they will have to use against you.
Q: How much does it cost to hire a criminal defense attorney?
A: i. The cost to hire an attorney to defend you against allegations of criminal conduct varies and there are many factors that impact the pricing structure. For instance, two people can be charged with the same exact crime, yet the details of their specific case can be totally different and justify different fees. Additionally, fees change based on the jurisdiction that your case is located in, what type of defense you want to mount, whether you want to hire experts, and more.
ii. At Weinstein Legal, we offer a variety of payment options including payment plans, flat fees, or hourly rate payments, structured payment schedules based on specific services rendered, and offer discounts during certain circumstances.
iii. We accept all major credit cards, cash, check, or a mixture of the three.
Q: What can I expect when I hire you?
A: i. You can expect an experienced and qualified ally fighting in your corner from day one. As a former prosecutor, I have established and maintained relationships in the South Florida legal community and built a reputation for being a hard-working advocate for my clients. I PROMISE to always do what is in your best interests and get you the best result possible based on the circumstances.
Q: I want a guaranteed result; can you do that for me?
A: i. Per the Florida Bar rules of ethics and professional responsibility, I cannot guarantee a specific result. Meaning, I cannot tell you before you hire me or to induce you to hire me, that I will guarantee your case will be dismissed.
ii. However, I can advise you on the likely outcomes based on my training and experienced with cases and situations similar to yours, but that is by no means a guarantee of any sort.