Criminal Law in Florida
The bottom line of this article is that it’s imperative that you consult with a Florida criminal defense attorney if you are being questioned or have been arrested in a Florida crime.
We’ll go ahead and provide you with helpful general educational information about Florida criminal law; however each criminal case is unique. Your individual situation must be fully analyzed by a criminal defense lawyer to determine the best strategy for an effective defense.
In this article (which is based upon Florida criminal law), we’ll discuss:
- Florida specific criminal laws;
- What you need to know about criminal defense in Florida; and
- How to work with your Florida criminal defense attorney.
Florida Criminal Laws
Criminal law designates certain actions or inactions as crimes to uphold social control, deter criminal behavior, and punish those who commit crimes. Rehabilitation is also cited as a reason for the punishment of criminal acts.
Florida criminal laws are found in the Florida Criminal Statutes (Title XLVI). There are hundreds of crimes listed in the Florida criminal statutes, including cruelty to animals, credit card crimes, bigamy, trespass, lewdness, indecent exposure, DWI, sale of anatomical matter, domestic abuse, perjury, defamation, theft, criminal mischief, and a myriad of drug-related offenses.
Statute of Limitations
Criminal charges must be brought within a certain period of time or be forever barred.
For example, in Florida, the statute of limitations for:
- A 1st degree misdemeanor is 2 years; 2nd degree misdemeanors are 1 year.
- A capital or life felony has no statute of limitations.
- A 1st degree felony or 2nd degree felony for abuse or neglect of aged or disabled adult is 5 years.
This is but a very brief sampling; ask your criminal defense lawyer if the statute of limitations may be a complete defense in your particular case.
Punishment such as community service, fines, restitution, jail, and capital punishment are used to deter future criminal behavior, provide restitution, protect society, and encourage rehabilitation.
Although judges often have discretion, Florida has sentencing guidelines that provide standard punishments. In Florida, a “score-sheet” (Criminal Punishment Code Score sheet, pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.992(a))tallies previous criminal history and the circumstances, include whether violence was involved in the crime, seriousness of victim injury, and whether any other additional criminal offenses were committed.
Sentences need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney, but we’ll provide some examples:
- 1st offense DUI is punishable up to 180 days in a county jail (assuming there are no enhancements which would increase the sentence).
- Murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment with no parole;
- Drug trafficking is punishable by up to 30 years on jail and a $10,000 fine.
What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense
Your life, liberty, and money may be at risk. If you are being questioned about or have been arrested for a crime in Florida, seek legal counsel.
- Attorneys are not all the same. You need a qualified Florida criminal defense lawyer, immediately.
- What you say to your attorney is confidential. You need to be completely honest and open with your attorney.
- What you say can and will be used against you. Do not make a statement to police, other than to ask for an attorney.
How to Work with a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
Your defense depends upon your cooperation and good sense.
- You’re paying for legal advice. Take and abide by the advice given by your attorney.
- Even if you think something will make you look bad, disclose it. Tell your defense attorney exactly what happened.
- Return phone calls promptly.
- Provide all requested information in a timely manner.
- Make sure the criminal defense law office has your current address and phone number.
- Your attorney may ask you hard questions or make you angry. This is normal and an important part of the development of your defense.
- Your attorney will likely be polite and cooperative with police officers, alleged victims, investigators, and the prosecutor. This is normal, professional, and an important part of the development of your defense
Bottom Line: Qualified criminal defense attorneys know criminal law, understand the criminal charges against you, and know how to best put forward a strong and strategic defense. Ask the bar association or friends for referrals or simply Google, “How to find a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney.” Do not hesitate.