When I speak to a potential criminal client, either on the phone or in my office, I am sometimes asked "Do I need an attorney"? My response is almost always the same: unless you have a law degree, are familiar with Florida and federal constitutional law, evidence, trial procedure, and are capable of navigating what is often a complex and confusing criminal justice system, you may want to give it some very serious consideration.
Many experienced criminal attorneys have worked as state or federal prosecutors prior to entering private practice and did so for years. Spending that kind of time learning and understanding criminal law and procedure, trying cases, and gaining a solid understanding of where potential proof problems can lie is invaluable. I can say that my six years at the state attorneys office was the best investment of time I ever made. The skills I learned there, and relationships I formed, will be with me for the rest of my professional life. It has served me well as a Tampa bay area criminal defense attorney and, needless to say, my clients too.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can often make some very quick assessments upon meeting with a potential client, including:
- Are there going to be proof issues with this case that could result in the filing of a no-information or a lesser charge?
- Are there mitigating circumstances sufficient to warrant the filing of a no-information or a lesser charge?
- Does the person qualify for a diversion program?
- If the offense is drug related, does the person qualify for admission to drug court? If so, are they a good candidate?
- Is there a basis to file a pre-trial motion to dismiss (based on the statute of limitations, prior jeopardy, or under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(c)(4))?
- Is there a basis to file a pre-trial motion to suppress based on illegally obtained tangible evidence or statements?
- If the charge is to be filed, is the court or the state in a position to legally withhold an adjudication of guilt?
- Is the person scoring mandatory prison on the sentencing guidelines by virtue of the charged offense, additional offenses, or prior record? If so, can we negotiate with the state for the filing of a less severe charge to avoid a prison sentence? If not, is there a legal basis for a guideline departure?
- Does the offense carry a minimum mandatory sentence? If so, can we negotiate for the filing of an alternative charge to avoid a minimum mandatory? If not, is there a lawful basis to avoid the imposition of the minimum mandatory?
- Will the charged offense result in an enhanced penalty designation, such as a Prison Releasee Re-Offender?
- Does the offense carry any sort of collateral consequence, such as the loss of a driver's license or a sex offender designation?
- If the person is not a U.S. citizen, will a plea to the charged offense result in deportation?
- Can we work to resolve this case in a manner that will allow the person to seal or expunge his or her arrest record?
These are just some of the issues your criminal defense attorney will address. In many instances, the attorney will be very familiar with what steps you, as the client, need to take to assist with mitigating the impact of your charge, such as enrolling in counseling, or paying restitution.
At The Kilfin Law Firm, we seek to provide our clients with the highest quality of representation at affordable rates. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney can help. In the end, choosing not to hire a lawyer may prove far more costly that hiring one.