If you’ve been arrested or are facing criminal charges in or near Tampa, FL continue reading to learn about the justice process, factors that could impact your case and how a criminal defense lawyer can help.
Being accused of a crime and placed under arrest is a frightening and frustrating ordeal. A criminal charge might result in severe penalties that can include fines and time in prison. Having a Tampa criminal defense attorney on your side will help you protect your rights and work towards a favorable outcome for your case.
A criminal record can damage your career and reputation. With your future at risk, dealing with the criminal justice system can be difficult and stressful. If you have been accused of a crime, regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor or felony offense, you need the help of an experienced criminal lawyer.
Type of Criminal Offenses We Handle in Tampa, FL
In Florida, a crime is any unlawful action or behavior that not only violates the law, but also violates social standards.
Some of the most common cases that our Tampa criminal defense attorneys can help with include:
- Domestic Violence: a person can face domestic violence charges when causing physical or emotional harm to a family member. Examples of these cases are child abuse, stalking, assault, kidnapping, battery, false imprisonment and sexual battery.
- Drug Crimes: depending on the circumstances of the offense, drug charges that defendants in Florida commonly face can range from drug possession, trafficking/distribution, cultivating or manufacturing.
- DUI: In Florida, a DUI offense occurs when a person was arrested because their faculties for operating a vehicle were affected by Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or any controlled substance.
- Federal Crimes: a crime can be filed as a federal charge if the offense broke a federal law or took place across two state lines, a military base, federal waters or federal government property.
- Sex Crimes: A sexual offense is an unlawful sexual act or behavior committed by one person to another. Some of the most common sex crimes are prostitution, sexual battery, indecent exposure, lewd and lascivious behavior, possession of child pornography, and traveling to meet a minor.
- Violent Crimes: As its name suggests, violent crimes are offenses that imply the use of violence or the threat of harming another person. Common violent crimes are assault, aggravated assault, murder or manslaughter, and robbery.
- White-collar Crimes: Unlike most crimes, these offenses are not violent. White-collar crimes take place in business environments where the person commits an illegal act to obtain financial gain. Examples of these offenses are racketeering, money laundry, tax evasion, credit card fraud, forgery, embezzlement, and wire fraud.
What are the degrees of criminal charges in Florida?
In Florida, a crime can be classified as infractions, misdemeanor or felony. These classifications are designated based on the severity of the crime as well as the penalties that the convicted might receive. An infraction is the non-criminal transgression of an administrative regulation or traffic rule. Examples of these infractions include:
- Drinking in public
- Traffic violations
- Disturbing the peace
Although a misdemeanor is not seen as very severe crimes, these offenses are more serious than infractions. Depending on the severity of the offense, these crimes can be classified as first or second degree misdemeanors. Some examples of misdemeanors include:
- Simple assault
- Disorderly conduct
- Driving without a license or a suspended license
- Petit theft and shoplifting
- Indecent exposure
- Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana
- First offense for domestic violence
A felony is a more serious crime and, therefore, the penalties for these offenses can be harsher than the punishments for a misdemeanor or an infraction. Examples of common felonies include:
- Aggravated assault or battery
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Drug possession
- Drug trafficking
- Murder and manslaughter
What is the jail time for criminal charges in Tampa?
As mentioned above, in Florida, the penalties for a crime are determined depending on different circumstances such as the type of offense, the presence of aggravating factors as well as the offender’s past criminal record.
Florida penalties for misdemeanors
Since misdemeanors are less severe crimes, in some cases, the accused might face either imprisonment or probation time.
|Type of misdemeanor||Maximum imprisonment||Maximum probation time||Maximum fine|
|First-degree misdemeanor||1 year||1 year||$1,000|
|Second-degree misdemeanor||60 days||6 months||$500|
Florida penalties for felonies
The penalties for felonies are more severe than misdemeanors. However, depending on your case, a criminal attorney in Tampa might be able to negotiate and reduce your charges.
|Type of felony||Maximum imprisonment||Maximum fine|
|First-degree felony||30 years||$10,000|
|Second-degree felony||15 years||$10,000|
|Third-degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Life felony||Life imprisonment||$15,000|
|Capital felony||Life imprisonment/ Death penalty||N/A|
Florida takes crime very seriously. As a result, according to data, in 2019 6.87% of the arrests took place in Hillsborough County. Out of the 46,660 total number of arrests, 16.4% represented violent crimes such as murder, simple and aggravated assault, robbery, rape and manslaughter.
What makes a crime a capital offense in Florida?
In Florida, crimes considered a capital offense include first-degree murder and capital drug trafficking. Additionally, the following crimes might also be considered a capital offense if the commission or attempt of these offenses cause the death of another person:
- Aggravated abuse of a child, disabled adult or elderly person
- Aggravated stalking
- Human trafficking
- Sexual battery
Depending on the aggravating factors as well as the offender’s past criminal record, the penalties for a capital felony can result in life imprisonment or the death penalty. In order to determine the sentencing, the court will carry out a separate proceeding.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, you need a Tampa criminal defense attorney that has experience dealing with the Florida criminal justice system. On top of providing you with aggressive legal representation, some ways that an attorney can help include:
- Protect your rights: in some cases, during the criminal process, a person’s right might be violated without the person knowing. A criminal lawyer will make sure that the prosecutors and law enforcement officers respect your rights. Additionally, if there was any infringement, your attorney may use this as a strategy to reduce or get your charges dropped.
- Provide legal representation: due to its complexity, the criminal justice system can be difficult to understand. As a result, the alleged might say or do something that could be detrimental for her or his case. For this reason, having a defense attorney will prevent you from affecting your case and will provide you with legal options that serve your best interests.
- Evaluate your charges: in order to provide legal options, criminal defense lawyers need to assess the charges and the evidence held against the defendant. Depending on the case, the attorneys at Goldman Wetzel may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or drop the charges. Our team of criminal lawyers has experience negotiating with local Tampa prosecutors.
- Investigate and build your defense: good criminal lawyers have strong research skills that allow them to investigate their client’s case. Based on the information available, our attorneys may collect evidence and witnesses that can support your defense.
- Represent you in court: if the circumstances of the case don’t allow for negotiation, a defense attorney with significant trial experience is prepared to provide legal representation and a strong defense in court. Our legal team will present evidence and describe the circumstances to convince the judge to reduce your penalties.
What Happens After an Arrest in Florida?
In Florida, when a person is arrested the police officer must inform them about their rights: the right to remain silent and right to counsel. During the arrest, it is not in your interests to give a statement without a criminal defense lawyer present since it might be harmful for your case.
So, in order to increase the chances of a better outcome, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. After the arrest, the most common procedural steps for criminal cases include:
- First appearance: Within 24 after the arrest, the offender will appear before the judge. The goal of the first appearance is to inform you about your rights and the charges that you are facing. Based on the law enforcement report, the judge will decide if a bond should be set. The defense lawyers at Goldman Wetzel might attend with you to your first appearance and try to negotiate the terms of your bond.
- Arraignment: At the next hearing, arraignment, the offender will be formally informed of the charges that he or she is facing and the judge will ask him or her to enter their official plea of guilty or not guilty. At the arraignment, the judge will determine a date for the trial. Usually, defendants do not need to attend this hearing since their lawyers can represent them. Before entering a plea, your criminal defense attorney might attempt to convince the state not to file charges or to file a lesser charge. The arraignment might take place several weeks after your first appearance.
- Pretrial: during the pretrial, criminal lawyers may file different motions that can help to build a strong defense for your case. Additionally, they might have meetings with the judge and the prosecutor to address any matters related to the case such as making sure that the case progresses in time and form for the upcoming trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa might be able to use the pretrial to negotiate and settle the case without having to go to trial.
- Trial and sentencing: if your case has not been dismissed, diverted or resolved prior to this point, your criminal defense lawyer should provide you with aggressive representation in court. In order to obtain a favorable outcome, we’ll gather a list of witnesses and evidence that can support your defense. Based on the arguments presented by your criminal lawyer and the prosecutor, the judge will conclude your case with a sentencing or acquittal.
Does being arrested mean I’m charged?
When a person is arrested in Florida, it does not mean that she or he has been charged with a crime. However, it does mean that the law enforcement has reason(s) to believe that you might have committed a crime.
Being arrested means that you have been taken into custody and that the law enforcement may file a report about the incident to the prosecutor or district attorney. Based on the evidence against you, the prosecutor will decide whether or not to charge you with a crime.
If the prosecutor files charges against you, you will appear in court to be notified of your charges. To take early action on your case and be able to reduce the penalties, you should seek legal counsel by contacting a Tampa criminal lawyer.
Factors to consider when choosing a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa
Facing criminal charges means that your future and your rights might be at risk. For that reason, you need the help of a lawyer that can offer you legal representation and build a strong defense. Some of the factors that you should consider before hiring a criminal defense attorney include:
- Extensive experience with criminal law: in order to maximize the chances of a successful outcome for your case, you need an attorney that knows how the criminal system works.
- Handles cases like yours: a lawyer with experience in cases similar to yours will know and have practical experience with specific strategies and defenses that can work for your situation. Before engaging the services of a law firm, check their case results to see if they have experience with similar cases.
- Litigation experience in local courts: a defense lawyer with trial experience likely has good negotiation skills that can be helpful in dealing with the prosecutor and reducing your charges. Additionally, your attorney will be able to represent you in the trial. Since each court has its own protocols, it is important for your lawyer to be familiar with these procedures.
Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts: Offers jury and court services including forms for civil and criminal matters as well as information on how to file petitions. Additionally, it provides information for people that wish to represent themselves in court.
Bay Area Legal Services: Legal help for domestic violence victims, family law matters and expungement of criminal records. This nonprofit law firm offers its services to eligible people in the Tampa Bay area including seniors and veterans across Florida.
The Spring of Tampa Bay: Provides aid and support to victims of domestic violence. They offer a 24/7 hotline, temporary shelter for individuals and families, and legal counsel for victims of stalking, dating violence, sexual and domestic violence.
Florida Courts Help: The Florida Courts Help provides people with information and resources that will help them navigate through the court system.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office: Offers different services such as filing an online report, access to crash, missing persons and arrest records, etc. Additionally, visitors have access to a crime map.
Contact a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
Goldman Wetzel is a defense law firm that provides aggressive legal representation to individuals facing criminal charges in Tampa, Hillsborough County and surrounding areas.
If you were arrested or are facing criminal charges, schedule a free no-obligation consultation with our defense lawyers. Contact us through our contact form or call us at (888) 727-4652 to speak with a criminal attorney about your case.