The criminal law system in Florida can sometimes be tough to understand. Any person charged with a criminal offense is always out to do all it takes to drop such charges. This is because if you are charged and found guilty of the crime, it tremendously affects your life. Criminal defense in Florida entails several processes.
Nobody wants their freedom or certain rights taken away by locking them up in prison. Florida’s criminal court system is one of the biggest in the United States. So persons involved in it must have basic knowledge of how it works.
When you are charged with a crime, you are referred to as the accused and become the defense. You are expected to raise your shield and try to prove your innocence. Usually, the burden lies on the prosecution to prove that you committed the said offense.
This does not mean there is no work for the defense. On the contrary, you must have an excellent criminal defense attorney to help advise and represent you properly before the Court.
The moment you are charged with committing a crime in Florida, the first step you should take is to get in contact with a criminal defense attorney in Florida. The attorney will better explain the case’s pros and cons and prepare you for what lies ahead. No panic is needed if you have reached out to an excellent criminal defense attorney.
You may have been charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. These are the two crime categories in Florida, and both have different compositions.
A misdemeanor is seen as a less severe crime with a more minor penalty. Misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. This is usually for a first-degree misdemeanor, while for a second-degree misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to 60 days in prison and pay a fine of $500.
Sometimes, the judge may impose further sanctions such as community service, attending anger management classes, etc. Examples of crimes that fall under misdemeanors are stealing, reckless and negligent driving, possession of drugs, etc.
Felonies are considered more severe than misdemeanors and come with severe penalties. In Florida, a person accused of a felony is liable to imprisonment for more than one year and responsible for paying up to a $15,000 fine. In Florida, felonies are classified into five.
The first is a third-degree felony which usually carries a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $5,000. The second is the second-degree felony which is punishable by a maximum of 15 years jail time and a fine of $10,000.
Next is the first-degree felony that bears a penalty of a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $ 10,000 fine. The fourth category of felonies in Florida is the life felony, with the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of $15,000.
Death or life imprisonment without parole is the penalty for this last category of a felony. The previous type of felony in Florida is the capital felony. Examples of felonies are kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, robbery, rape, etc.
Note that there are crimes that are deemed misdemeanors or felonies. The decision is up to the prosecution under which to charge the offense. Such crimes are referred to as wobblers in Florida.
Criminal Defense Protocol in Florida
When a crime is committed, what follows are investigations into the crime by officers of the law. The officers visit the crime scene to conduct basic investigations, such as interviewing persons who witnessed the offense.
The officers are allowed to examine the home of any person whom they reasonably suspect to have committed the crime. They also have the right to bring the suspect to the station for questioning. Where they have sufficient reason to believe that the suspect committed the offense, they can go ahead to arrest them.
The arrest of a suspect must be followed by specific requirements that the law provides. The officer who arrests the suspect must spell out to the suspect his right to remain silent and to a lawyer.
An accused person has the right to not talk or give out any statement to the police officers until he speaks with his defense lawyer. Any statement that the police officers force him into making in the absence of his lawyer will be considered null and void.
When the prosecution presses charges against the suspect, he must appear before the Court to determine his case. The defendant will usually plead not guilty, and the burden shifts to the persecution to prove otherwise.
While the trial is about to commence, the accused can be granted bail upon the fulfillment of certain conditions or can be detained back in prison.
Usually, there is an option of a plea treaty that is open to the defendant. Here, the criminal defense attorney tries to mediate a deal between the prosecution and the defense. It involves the accused pleading guilty to the offense in exchange for a lighter penalty. Where a plea treaty is not attained, the matter moves to trial.
After listening to the witnesses and evidence provided by both sides, the judge or the jury will decide whether the accused is guilty or not. If the accused is found guilty, he will be returned to prison to await sentencing by the Court.
Where the accused is found not guilty, he will be acquitted and regain his freedom. A defendant has the right to appeal to a higher court if he is unsatisfied with the decision of the Court. The appeal must not be frivolous but must have legal backing.
Criminal Defenses Open to an Accused Person
An accused person in Florida has different options for raising a defense in Court. These defenses cannot be used in every circumstance but some particular cases only. Below are some reasons available to a defendant in a case.
When a defendant raises the defense of alibi, he is positing that he was not present at the crime scene at the time it is alleged to have been committed. The defendant must give details of where he was, with whom, and the time.
If the accused can successfully provide these details, the alibi defense will avail him. This defense should be raised from the beginning of the investigations and trial.
Prosecution’s failure to prove elements
In Florida, the law places the burden on proving the defendant’s guilt on the prosecution. Every offense has specific elements which make it up. This is to say that for a person to be said to have committed a violation, the elements of which the law provides for that offense must have occurred.
Since the prosecution alleges that the defendant committed the crime, they must prove the elements of the crime. Where the prosecution fails to prove this, the defendant need not raise any defense and can be acquitted.
Lack of Mens Rea
This defense can be raised where the defendant had no intention of committing the offense. This is referred to as the mental element of an offense. Note, however, that the absence of a mental component does not apply in all offenses.
For some crimes, the intention to commit the crime must be established before the defendant can be proven guilty. In some, the absence of intention vindicates the defendant or lessens the penalty reasonably.
These and several other defenses are available to you. Your criminal defense attorney should be able to identify which reason will work best for your case.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense attorney.
Being charged with a crime in Florida is something you should take seriously, as a lot is on the line. A criminal defense attorney is better positioned to ascertain your case’s circumstances and advise you on the next necessary steps to take.
To get in touch with a good, competent, and reliable criminal defense attorney in Florida, contact the Attorney Directory. You will be quickly connected and matched to a criminal defense lawyer you can trust.
FAQs on Criminal Defense in Florida
Q: How long does a criminal case last in Florida?
Ans: There is no specified duration for how long a criminal case should last in court. It all depends on the nature of the case. Usually, a misdemeanor will take a few weeks to be concluded, whereas a felony case will take longer.
Q: Is insanity a defense?
Ans: Yes, it is. You can raise the defense of insanity and successfully prove it. You will, however, need to show that you were mentally unwell when the crime was committed. You were mentally ill before or after the crime will not avail you.
Q: What is a plea bargain?
Ans: A plea bargain is an offer from the prosecution to the defendant to plead guilty and be given a lesser punishment. While this might seem good, do not rush into signing off on it. Do well to assess the offer properly with the help of your criminal defense attorney.
Q: Can my criminal charges be sealed in Florida?
Ans: Yes, it can. Although this is usually very touching to achieve. Contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney to help you with this.
Q: When on trial, must I appear in every court session?
Ans: No, you must not. Certain sessions may require your presence, but aside from them, your criminal defense attorney can represent you in court even in your absence.
Q: How do I contact a good Florida criminal defense attorney?
Ans: Connect with one through Attorney Directory