Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense Law
When it comes to Florida criminal defense, the experienced attorneys at Weinstein Legal have handled it all. From juvenile defense to sealing and expungement, our attorneys approach every case with a detailed plan to achieve the best possible outcome for you.
If you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney, we’re sure you have questions. Here are frequently asked questions that our criminal defense attorneys are poised to explain and help you defend.
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.
Q: What Kind of Criminal Cases Does Your Firm Handle?
A: Weinstein Legal’s experienced team handles a wide range of criminal defense, including Arson Defense, Burglary/Theft, Child Endangerment, Criminal Traffic Violations. Domestic Violence, DUI, Restraining Orders/Injunctions, Sexual Battery, Violation of Probation (VOP), Violent Crimes and Weapons & Firearms.
Q: What Should I Do if I am Falsely Accused of a Crime?
A: If falsely accused of a crime in Florida, you need to immediately contact an attorney at Weinstein Legal and we will help you.
Q: What is the Difference between a Dismissal and an Expungement?
A: A dismissal means the prosecuting authority or a Judge dropped or threw out the charges against you. Sometimes, it means there was not enough evidence to convict you of a crime you were charged with. An expungement ensures all records of that charge, such as arrest, is erased from public record.
Q: Why is it Important to Get My Records Expunged or Sealed?
A: It’s important to get your records expunged or sealed so that something like an arrest is only discoverable under limited means. It preserves your dignity and privacy.
Q: What is Bail?
A: If you’ve been arrested, think of bail as your financial commitment to showing up for your court appearance. A judge determines the amount of bail based on the alleged crime, your danger to the community and whether they deem you as a flight risk.
Q: Can I Be Released without Bail?
A: You can be if a judge allows you to be released on “own recognizance”, or “O.R.” Many conditions may apply.
Q: Should I Represent Myself in a Criminal Case?
A: It is not advisable to represent yourself in a criminal case. You may be taken advantage of based on what you do not know. The experienced lawyers at Weinstein Legal are here to help you.
Q: Can Criminal Charges Be Sealed in Florida?
A: Getting criminal records sealed in Florida is a challenging and involved process. The Weinstein Legal team is experienced in sealing and expungement.
Q: Does a Person Have to Speak to the Police After Being Arrested?
A: You have the right to remain silent after being arrested, and to not say anything until you have secured an attorney. we advise you invoke that right.
Q: Was I Under Arrest if the Police Did Not Read My Rights?
A: Just because you were not read your Miranda Rights, it does NOT mean you were not placed under arrest. It also does not mean your case will be thrown out. It only means that whatever you said before your Rights were read to you may be suppressed in court.
Q: What is the Difference Between an Acquittal and a Not Guilty Verdict?
A: “Not Guilty” means there the jury found you were not guilty of the charges presented. An acquittal means you are free from all charges brought against you.
Q: What is criminal negligence?
A: This means that someone failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to others. For example, a business that has wet floors with no signs posted could qualify for criminal negligence.
Q: What Are My Rights if Arrested?
A: If arrested in the state of Florida, you have the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present, and the right to due process.
Q: How are Children and Youth Prosecuted for Crimes?
A: Under Florida law, juveniles (under 18) can be prosecuted for a wide variety of crimes. It’s important to retain an experienced juvenile attorney and not leave your child’s fate to a public defender.
Q: What are the elements of a crime?
A: Every crime has a specific set of elements a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict the defendant of that crime. There is sometimes a specific mental state needed and always some act or set of acts to constitute the elements of a crime.
Q: What happens if I am charged with a crime in Florida, but I live in another state?
A: States have jurisdiction to prosecute any crime that occurs within their boundaries. If you have been charged with a crime but are not a resident, you must still face those charges in Florida.
Q: Can the police legally conduct a search of my home or car?
A: You must consent to a search or the officer may conduct a search without your consent if they have probable cause or the search is conducted “due to an arrest.”
Q: Can you go to jail for a “minor” crime?
A: Yes, it is possible. Your best course of action to avoid jail time is to immediately call the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Weinstein Legal.
Q: What is the maximum penalty for a crime in Florida?
A: The maximum penalty for a crime depends on a great number of factors about the crime and the offender. A criminal defense attorney will take those factors into account and help to defend your record.
Q: What is a “sentencing alternative”?
A: A “sentencing alternative” is a way to offer an offender a second chance. While there is some degree of punishment still, it is an alternative to jail time, especially for first offenders.
Q: If I get pulled over, do police have the immediate right to search my vehicle?
A: Not necessarily. Police can search your vehicle if you have given consent, if there is probable cause or if the search is subsequent to an arrest.
Q: What is a civil asset forfeiture?
A: A civil asset forfeiture means a person must give up their property if they are convicted of a crime, and it is proven their property was involved in the commission of the crime.
Q: What is Florida’s “Three Strikes” law?
A: Florida’s Three Strikes law means a judge can give strict sentencing, up to life in prison, for someone convicted three times of violent felonies.
Q: Am I going to lose my license if I got a DUI in Florida?
A: That depends on a number of factors, including your blood-alcohol level, if you have incurred previous DUI charges and if you are in fact found guilty of a DUI. Contact us immediately if you have been charged with DUI.
Q: Why am I facing multiple charges when I only did one thing wrong?
A: Sometimes numerous charges can be brought against a person for one incident if multiple laws were broken during the incident.
Q: Can an attorney defend someone they know is guilty?
A: There is a difference between legal guilt and factual guilt; a good criminal defense attorney’s only focus is providing the best legal defense possible for a client. Just because you may be guilty, does NOT mean you don’t deserve a defense.
Q: Can a criminal defense attorney contact the victim?
A: If a criminal defense attorney has any contact with an alleged victim outside a courtroom, it is advisable to have a witness present during the interaction, however, a criminal defense attorney can contact an alleged victim as they are a witness in the case.
Q: Should I give the police my side of the story?
A: We strongly advise you to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Weinstein Legal before giving a statement to the police regarding an incident you were involved in. Invoke your 5th amendment right to remain silent and let your attorney talk for you.
Q: Can a law enforcement officer detain you without arresting you?
A: Sometimes. If there is reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity, a police officer may lawfully ask for identification and your reason for being in a certain place.
Q: What is willful blindness?
A: Willful blindness under Florida law is also known as “deliberate avoidance of positive knowledge.” In other words, intentionally avoiding information to appear ignorant.
Q: Can I Talk To Friends & Family About My Case??
A: A common criminal case FAQ that we hear here at Weinstein Legal is regarding whether or not a defendant can, or should, discuss their ongoing court proceedings with those they are to. We understand that this is likely a time of significant stress, uncertainty, and challenge in your life, and of course, it is essential to surround yourself with a proper support system.
However, it is also imperative to recognize that the things you say–even to friends and family–may come back later in your case and the last thing that you want is the prosecutor’s office to use that information against you. For this reason, it is best to refrain from discussing details of your case and the alleged crime with those who are not on your legal team. It is absolutely essential to avoid posting about your case on social media, discussing it with the victim, or with their family.
Q: What Should I Do If There Is An Arrest Warrant For Me?
A: Another common criminal defense question regards what to do if you find out that there is an arrest warrant for you. The first and most important thing to do is to remain calm and not panic. Gather all of the relevant information pertaining to the warrant, such as what jurisdiction the warrant is out of and what the alleged crime is, and then contact a defense attorney right away–before you contact the police.
A criminal defense lawyer, such as attorney Matt Shafran at Weinstein Legal, will review the facts of your case and the circumstances surrounding the arrest warrant to provide legal guidance on next steps. If there is another person involved in the case, such as a co-conspirator or a victim, do not contact those individuals. Only a practicing lawyer can best advise you on what to do next–they may advise that you turn yourself in to the courts to avoid further penalties or there may be another option.
Q: Do I Have To Allow Police Into My Home?
A: In criminal defense law, we often receive questions relating to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids illegal search and seizure. This legal right extends not just to your body, but also to personal property such as your home and vehicle. If police are attempting to enter your home, contact an attorney who specializes in criminal defense law such as Matt Shafran immediately.
The short answer is that no, you do not have to allow police to enter your home. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if law enforcement presents a warrant that is signed by a judge, they are legally entitled to enter the premises, conduct a search, and obtain any items or documents as noted in the warrant.
Another common question pertains to those who rent their homes and do not own the property. Can a landlord or property management company allow the police to enter your dwelling without your permission? The answer is still that, without a warrant, no they may not. Do not allow a property owner or the police to try to tell you otherwise and contact a criminal defense lawyer right away.
Q: What Should I Do If I Think I Am Going To Receive Criminal Charges or I Think Police Are Going to Arrest Me?
A: If you believe that police are about to arrest you, or that criminal charges are imminent, remain calm and contact an attorney who specializes in criminal defense law immediately. It is important that you take swift action and have a plan in place in case you do receive charges, whether you believe they are justified or otherwise.
Do not attempt to hide from the police, do not leave the state, and do not commit any other crimes. If you are on probation, parole, or entered into a pre-trial diversion program, abide by all other terms of your release. An attorney will advise you on the proper next steps. However, it is best that you contact said attorney ahead of time so that they can begin preparing in the event that you receive criminal charges. Do not wait until after police arrest you to hire legal representation.
Q: What Do I Do When Police Try to Question Me?
A: Having police question you can be stressful, worrying, and may cause fear or anxiety. These are all-natural reactions, whether you are part of a formal interrogation or police stop you on the side of the road. We often hear from clients during criminal case FAQ that they participated in a conversation with police because they felt pressured, afraid, or unsure.
Know that it is your right to remain silent and that you do not have to answer any questions from police without a lawyer present. Do not allow police to tell you otherwise. If they attempt to question you, request to speak with your attorney and politely inform them that you will not be providing a response until your legal representation arrives.