Dealing with Police and the State Attorney
Being arrested can be scary, especially if you’ve never been arrested before. But even when the police put you in handcuffs and then into the back of a patrol car, you retain your right to not incriminate yourself. Remember, being arrested is NOT the same as being charged which means if you don’t speak to an experienced attorney before speaking to police, your words can still be used against you.
When approached by police, you will likely be asked questions in a common attempt to get you to incriminate yourself. The most any police officer can do without evidence is “book” you, which consists of an arrest, processing through local jail, and holding for a short period of time. But the more you say to a police officer, without a criminal defense attorney present, the more likely it is you will be formally charged.
Remember, police officers are trained to get suspects talking which often is not in their best interest. They may threaten or intimidate you and in some cases, they may even make promises of release or lesser punishment that they cannot deliver. Do not give in to these threats or empty promises! Instead, plead the fifth, ask to speak with your lawyer, and then, if need be, repeat these two things over again. In today’s climate, it’s more important than ever to document your side which means you may benefit from having a dashboard camera for traffic stops or from video recording your exchange with any police officer or as a result of body cameras worn by officers.
One of the most important things to remember about police and other law enforcement officials is that they are not experts in the law. While they may be knowledgeable about Florida law, only prosecutors have the power to charge you which means being arrested does not necessarily mean that you will be charged with a crime. This is why it’s essential to know what it means to be arrested and what your rights and best course of action are throughout the process.
What it means to be “Booked”
In the event you are arrested, you will be “booked” which essential means you are taken to the local jail for fingerprints, processing, and holding. This is the time you or your loved one must speak to a successful criminal defense lawyer like Brian E. Gonzalez. At this point, an intake attorney will review the report brought forth by police and determine whether or not a law was broken, whether or not there is sufficient evidence against you and whether or not you will be charged. In some cases, evidence may be sufficient to provide probable cause for prosecution, which is why you need defense attorney Brian E. Gonzalez on your team. Your side of the story may be the only thing standing between you and prison. Our team of criminal defense lawyers will speak with the State Attorney’s Office, the office making the final decision on charges and we can help negotiate the best possible outcome.
By Florida law, within 24 hours, any arrested individual must stand before a judge who will then determine probable cause. This prerequisite has fairly low standards and if it is met, you could be charged. However, the judge may also set a bail bond for your release.
Most arrests result in a bond being set for your release. However, more serious crimes such as murder or other violent crimes may see the judge set no bail, in which case it is up to you and your criminal defense lawyer to win the day in court by filing a bond motion and presenting witnesses. Alternatively, some circumstances may call for your release by way of personal recognizance bond, but more often than not, you can expect a bail bondsman to be your only way out.
Bail bondsmen charge a fixed percentage of the bail amount as their fee for posting your bail. Ten percent is the typical rate for bondsmen in Florida, but the rates vary. Put plainly, they will usher out a loan that results in your freedom. However, if for some reason you do not show up for court on the assigned date, then it is the bondsman who does not get paid, and in turn, comes after you and your family to make up the difference. Whether you bond or not, you are still expected to come before a judge to make your guilty or not guilty plea. This is called the “arraignment”. After this, count on coming to court multiple times for “disposition hearing”. This can also be called a “status hearing” or “pre-trial conference” in Florida court rooms.Your lawyer will be advising the Judge about the status of the case, the direction of the discovery process and the likelihood of a trial or a plea agreement.
Facing Criminal Charges
When charges have been filed, prosecutors may offer a plea negotiation in which you are asked to make a specific plea for a specific leniency of punishment. The prosecutors determine the terms of this negotiation although a defense attorney can bargain with them. However, you do not have to take this deal. Instead, you can exercise your right to trial and put the outcome in the hands of a jury. Keep in mind that in criminal trials, prosecutors select jurors first. They also present the first opening and closing statements and are first in presenting witnesses. In these cases, you do not have to testify, and sometimes, asserting the Fifth Amendment not to become a witness is key to your success.
If you are found not guilty, you are free to go home and clear your name through expungement or sealing of records.
If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced and that separate hearing will determine your punishment. These punishments vary depending on the judge and the crime, but whether you face incarceration in the Florida Department of Corrections, probation, or fines, the Law Offices of Brian E. Gonzalez are dedicated to fighting for the more desirable outcome.
Alternatives to Incarceration in Florida
Remember that incarceration isn’t the only option for individuals who were found guilty in court. In seeking the most tolerable sentence, the Law Offices of Brian E. Gonzalez can help you secure alternatives to incarceration, such as:
- Probation – Apart from a few restrictions and requirements, individuals of probation are free to go about their usual business at home and at work. You are required to report to a probation officer monthly to ensure court orders are being upheld and no new violations have taken place. Depending on your individual circumstances, restrictions may limit you to a curfew or you may be required to undergo substance abuse counseling and random urine screens, DUI school, or anger management.
- House Arrest/Community Control – House arrest or community control is a stricter form of supervision than standard probation and entails a curfew that is enforced by the probation officer. You may attend school or work but must return home within a specified time thereafter. Compliance is verified through random and unannounced checks at the locations you are required to be. The Court may also require GPS monitoring in some situations.
- Residential Drug or Alcohol Treatment – Rather than serving a jail sentence, a Judge may require that you spend time in a residential drug or alcohol treatment facility in order to address substance abuse issues.
We are available to work with you and answer your questions at any time throughout these hardships, but it’s up to you to call!