Facing criminal charges is a stressful and confusing ordeal. You might not know what to expect, what penalties you face, or what types of options and defenses you have available. Enlisting the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County will give you a better possible chance of a good outcome.
Dealing with the criminal justice system can be overwhelming, especially if your future and freedom are at risk. If you have been arrested for a crime, regardless of whether it is a minor misdemeanor or a serious felony, you need an aggressive criminal defense lawyer to look out for your best interests. Book a free consultation with our defense lawyers to discover the legal options available for your case and to best protect your interests.
What is Considered a Criminal Offense in Florida?
In broad terms, a criminal offense is an act or behavior that breaks the law and that by doing so violates society’s standards. Criminal offenses are punishable acts and the associated penalties will vary depending on the severity of the offense.
Law enforcement in Pinellas County takes crime very seriously. In fact, in 2019, Florida registered 679, 221 total arrests, 5.35% of which took place in Pinellas County.
If you or a loved one has been arrested, retaining and having an attorney on your side to protect your rights and look for the best solution for your case. Contact a defense lawyer at Goldman Wetzel for a free consultation.
Types of Cases that Our Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorneys Handle
Goldman Wetzel represents clients facing criminal charges in Pinellas County and surrounding areas. Some of the most common cases that our criminal lawyers can help with include:
- Domestic violence charges: As its name suggests, a domestic violence charge is the offense of physically harming a family or household member. Some examples of domestic violence charges are assault, battery, child abuse, kidnapping, and stalking.
- DUI: DUI charges are offenses where the accused was found Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of a controlled substance or alcohol and that affected his or her faculties to operate a motor vehicle.
- Drug charges: In Florida, drug crimes can be classified into different categories such as possession, distribution, trafficking, possession of drug equipment, and manufacturing or cultivating drugs.
- Federal crimes: a federal crime is an offense where the accused broke a federal law or committed a crime on federal property or across state borders. Usually, these types of crimes result in harsher penalties.
- Sex crimes: As its name suggests, a sex offense is an illegal or coerced sexual act or behavior. Some examples of sex crimes in Pinellas County include sexual battery, indecent exposure, child pornography, and prostitution.
- Violent crimes: a violent crime implies the use of violence or the threat of harming another person. Examples of these offenses include assault, murder and manslaughter, battery, arson, robbery, and kidnapping.
- White-collar crimes: These are illegal acts to obtain financial gain. They’re not violent in nature and, usually, take place in commercial environments. Some examples of white-collar crimes are embezzlement, money laundry, racketeering, tax evasion, fraud, and bribery.
Most Common Crime Arrests Pinellas County
According to the data presented by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, with 16.9%, assaults and violent crimes were categorically the single most common type of arrest in Pinellas County, FL in 2019.
Closely following, the second most common type of arrest were drug crimes – both misdemeanors and felonies – at 15.8%, followed by property-related crimes (including theft, robbery, and burglary) at 12.4%.
How Can Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Help?
If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal lawyer in Pinellas County to help you with your case. The sooner you get in touch with an experienced attorney, the sooner they can intervene and improve your chances for the best possible outcome. If you call us after being arrested, the attorneys at Goldman Wetzel will review your charges and make sure your statements don’t hurt your case.
Depending on the characteristics of your case, our legal team will negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or drop the charges. During this process we’ll file motions and other important documents for your case. If we need to go to court, Goldman Wetzel lawyers will collect evidence and witnesses to present a strong and aggressive defense.
How to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Pinellas County?
When facing charges, having the right defense attorney can help you obtain a better outcome for your case. In order to choose the best defense attorney for you, there are some factors that you should look for before hiring a lawyer:
- Has good experience with criminal law: the Florida criminal justice system is very complex, so you need an experienced lawyer that can find the best solution for your case. A good criminal defense attorney should also have experience dealing with the law enforcement and prosecutors.
- Handles cases similar to yours: since criminal law has different types of cases, you should enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney that focuses on or has experience with cases like yours. This way they will be familiar with specific strategies that can help your defense.
- Has trial and negotiation experience: with most criminal cases, attorneys will try to negotiate to reduce your charges or may have to defend your case in court. As a result, having negotiation and litigation skills will be crucial for a successful outcome.
- Location: each courtroom has a different set of protocols and rules to follow. It’s important that your defense lawyer has experience in the county where your case will be handled.
- Successful cases: even though it’s difficult to win all cases, the best criminal defense lawyers have the strongest track record of successfully achieving favorable outcomes for their clients. Before hiring a lawyer, ask for past case results and look for cases with favorable plea bargains, charges reduced or dismissed, and diversion programs.
What Happens After an Arrest in Pinellas County?
One of the first things you should do immediately following an arrest is to invoke your right to counsel. You have the right to have an attorney present when police and investigators question you.
Do not provide information to law enforcement without getting legal advice and representation first. At this stage of the process, you might say something that could be detrimental to your case. Politely tell the officer that you want to speak to your attorney and then call our office at 727-828-3900 at your earliest opportunity.
There are a couple of steps you can expect after any arrest in Pinellas County, FL:
Go through police booking procedure
After being arrested, the police will take you into custody and may start a ‘booking’ process. Some of the things that the police might do during this process include:
- Ask for your personal information
- Check your past criminal record
- Take your fingerprints and photographs
- Record information about the alleged crime
- Confiscate personal belongings such as phone, keys, wallet, etc.
Attend to your ‘First Appearance’
During the first appearance, the judge will decide if there is probable cause to detain you. If you’ve hired a criminal attorney, they will attend this hearing with you. However, if you still don’t have a lawyer, the judge will inform you about your right to legal representation.
After reviewing your case, the judge will decide if there is a lack of probable cause, in which case, the state will release you. However, if there is probable cause, the judge will decide on bond terms (if any).
Enter a Plea
Once the charges are presented, your defense attorney will recommend you to enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. Most of the time, the criminal defense lawyers from Goldman Wetzel can handle this without you having to go to court.
Before making any agreements, our legal team will try to convince the judge and the prosecutor to drop the charges or reduce your penalties. In order to have the best outcome in these negotiations, it’s important that you retain a criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County as soon as possible.
Prepare for Pretrial
During the pretrial stage, your lawyer will explore the best strategy for your case. In order to build a strong defense, Goldman Wetzel attorneys will collect evidence, speak to witnesses, order mental health evaluations if needed, file motions and will take care of depositions.
The way the pretrial phase develops depends on your charges, the circumstances that surrounded your case and the strategy that your criminal attorney decides to pursue.
Go to Trial
If your case has not settled before trial, your lawyer will make all the necessary preparations for the hearing, from collecting a plethora of evidence and preparing to argue against the prosecutor’s case to helping you prepare for testimony.
When your case goes to trial, the criminal lawyers from Goldman Wetzel will represent you ethically and aggressively. Based on our previous research, we will bring strong, supportive evidence and testimonies to present your case in a good light.
What is the Prison or Jail Time for Criminal Charges in Florida?
The time prison that a person can face will depend on the severity of the alleged crime, the existence of aggravating circumstances as well as the individual’s past criminal record.
In Florida, a criminal charge can be classified as an infraction, misdemeanor or a felony. Infractions are small offenses that are only punishable with a fine, but they do not result in jail time.
Misdemeanors are not nearly as serious as felonies, but they still carry some penalties. Some examples of these offenses are simple assault, disorderly conduct, theft, weapon violations, possession of drugs. Depending on its severity, a misdemeanor offense can be classified into:
- First degree misdemeanor: Punishable up to 1 year in jail/probation and maximum $1000 fine.
- Second degree misdemeanor: Punishable up to 60 days of jail or 6 months of probation and a maximum fine of $500.
Felonies include more serious crimes and, as a result, the penalties for these offenses can be more severe. Some common felonies are drug crimes, aggravated assault, burglary, homicide, child abuse and sexual battery. Felonies are classified as:
- First-degree felony: up to 30 years of prison time and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Second-degree felony: up to 15 years imprisonment. Maximum fine of $10,000.
- Third-degree felony: up to 5 years of jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- Life felony: life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $15,000.
- Capital felony: life imprisonment or death penalty.
Is it possible to reduce the penalties I am facing?
If you’re facing criminal charges, there are various strategies that your criminal attorney can use to try to get your penalties reduced. However, the outcome depends on the severity of your charges, your record, the state’s evidence against you, and how accessible the available defenses are in your situation.
You might not know what to do on your own to defend against the charges and avoid jail time, but we do. We will give you a no-nonsense rundown of what might be possible for your case and the best way to go about it.
Can I represent myself in a criminal case in Florida?
In Florida, a person charged with a crime has the right to represent themselves in court if they choose. However, this is only advisable in minor infractions that do not require a strong and complex defense. Some examples of these minor crimes are traffic offenses or shoplifting.
If you decide to represent yourself in court, the success of your case will fall on you. This means that you will need to get familiar with laws and rules that may affect your case. In addition to this, you will also be responsible for gathering evidence to support your case and filing petitions, claims and other documents.
Before appearing in court, you will also need to learn the courtroom rules and procedures that you need to follow when presenting your case. Even though you can represent yourself in court, the Florida criminal justice system is very complex. As a result, it is always a better idea to hire an experienced Pinellas County criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.
Florida Courts Help: The Florida Courts Help will provide you with information and resources to navigate through the court system.
Gulfcoast Legal Services: Legal aid for clients that cannot afford an attorney in Pinellas and Manatee Counties.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Victim Service: Provides assistance and services to victims of crimes including support services, 24/7 crisis intervention and information to alleviate the financial, emotional and physical impact of a crime.
Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller: Provides court case records and appearance dates for the defendants. It also contains information about court services such filing an appeal or a petition of protection.
Contact our Criminal Defense Attorneys
Goldman Wetzel provides legal representation for clients facing criminal charges in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Sarasota, Bradenton and surrounding areas.
If you’re facing criminal charges, schedule a free consultation with the Pinellas criminal defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel. Call at (727) 828-3900 or contact us through our email form for a free, no-obligation consultation.