Whether you realize it or not, hiring a criminal defense lawyer is the most critical decision of your life. This is the person who can make a difference between you losing your liberty and livelihood or walking away with minor or no penalties. Whether you've been charged with a crime or you know you're under investigation for a criminal offense, the time to contact a criminal defense lawyer is now. But if you're like many defendants, you may have no idea how to go about choosing a criminal defense lawyer. By the end of this article, you should have the requisite knowledge to help you make a good decision about your criminal defense.
Why You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
In the United States, you have the right to a criminal defense, even if you know you're guilty. If you can't afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent you. But while public defenders in Broward, Dade, and Orange counties are dedicated to their jobs, they have heavy caseloads and won't necessarily be able to give your case the attention it deserves. Your best bet is hiring a criminal defense lawyer. While it may seem like a big expense to retain the services of a professional criminal defense attorney, when compared with the financial impact of jail or prison, as well as onerous fines, hiring a criminal defense lawyer is not only a smart move but a cost-effective one.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney When Charged With a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are generally less-serious charges that can result in up to a year of jail time, fines, loss of your driving privileges in some cases, and a criminal record. With some types of crimes, like petty theft or DUI, your misdemeanor can become a felony with two prior convictions for a similar offense, which could mean prison time and increased fines and penalties. But even if this is your first misdemeanor offense, it's in your best interest to take it seriously.
What Happens if You Don't Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you don't hire a criminal defense lawyer, you will have the option of using a state-appointed public defender or representing yourself in court. What you should almost certainly NOT do is attempt to represent yourself. If you choose to, it can have disastrous consequences since you have not been training in the rules of evidence, how to try a case, and how to handle criminal matters.
The court will assign you a public defender even if you don't have your own attorney. This is a government employee who manages a number of clients that for whatever reason have not hired their own attorneys. In all three of the counties Weinstein Legal operates, the public defender's offices are understaffed and struggle under the weight of the massive influx of new cases. Your case may be deprioritized depending on the level of your offense and a number of other factors.
If you waive your right to an attorney, you can represent yourself. However, you should know that there are virtually no legal professionals who would recommend this approach. Even attorneys barred in the state of Florida likely do not want to represent themselves. The criminal justice system in Florida can be difficult to navigate for the uninitiated and your actions could jeopardize any shot you have of receiving an acquittal or a reduced case. There is an old saying "A lawyer who represents himself, has a fool for a client." Don't be a fool, call us to represent you.
At the Weinstein Legal Team, we strongly represent individuals who are accused of crimes to hire a private criminal defense firm, even if they don't retain our services. There is simply too much at stake to not have the best possible defense you can find.
How to Hire a Criminal Lawyer in Florida
When you are searching for criminal defense lawyers, make certain that your choices cover your area. For instance, Weinstein Legal has offices in Orlando, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, where the respective courthouses are located. You should meet with your attorney before hiring them. If you're in jail, your attorney may visit, or they can interview you over the phone. Whatever you discuss is covered under attorney-client privilege, so answer the lawyer's questions truthfully.
Ask about their retainer and what would be covered. If your case becomes more complicated than it was originally believed, your attorney may require more money. Ask your potential criminal defense lawyer their opinion on your case based on the information they have. They won't be able to construct an ironclad defense in the initial interview, but they can tell you possible outcomes and your penalty exposure.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
The following are some criminal defense FAQs and the answers from our legal staff:
What Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do For Me?
A professional criminal defense lawyer will review the probable cause against you, pull police reports and documents, examine evidence and the way it was obtained, and subpoena witnesses, including the arresting officer, and file motions to suppress any evidence that should be inadmissible.
What are the First Steps I Should Take if I've Been Arrested?
Do not physically resist arrest. You are required to provide the police with basic identifying information, such as name, date of birth, etc. However, anything else you say can be used against you in court. Ask to speak to an attorney and don't answer questions related to the case.
FL Criminal Defense in Orange, Broward, and Palm Beach
Weinstein Legal has successfully defended hundreds of individuals who have been accused of crimes in Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties. Call today to schedule an initial consultation about your case.