Whether you received notification that you are the subject of a law enforcement investigation or you were arrested, the enormous power and resources of the government can make a frightening situation seem overwhelming. We frequently hear from people who inadvertently make their situation worse because they delay in seeking legal advice from experienced Florida criminal defense lawyers. Law enforcement officers recognize they possess advantages in experience, familiarity with the situation, knowledge of the law, your fear, and the power to deprive you of your liberty. Law enforcement officers know the chances of securing incriminating statements, consent to searches, and other damaging evidence remain much higher before an individual has the benefit of legal counsel. In this blog, we highlight a few ways to seek legal advice and retain an experienced Florida criminal attorney to provide a significant advantage when facing allegations of illegal conduct or formal criminal charges.
Protection from Unreasonable Search and Seizure
Florida law and the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures limits the government's power to arrest and detain, as well as to conduct searches of your person or property. Even if a search would otherwise be unlawful, many people make the mistake of voluntarily agreeing to a search that would have been barred. Legal representation during a search means that you have someone on your side who understands the limits placed on searches of your home, person, business, vehicle, or workplace. By effectively opposing a search or limiting the scope of a search, the government might be denied access to potentially incriminating evidence.
Exposure of Unlawful or Unethical Prosecutor Tactics
While most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are ethical and follow the law and applicable rules, a skilled criminal defender will recognize overzealous and unlawful tactics. Attorneys can limit the scope of the investigation or seek to have improperly obtained evidence excluded from use in a criminal case. When a lawyer devotes significant time and resources to defending people accused of crimes, they have the knowledge to identify unlawful conduct and to employ the appropriate strategy for protecting the rights of a person facing potential criminal charges.
Navigating Applicable Law and Procedures
The legal standards, procedural and evidentiary requirements, court rules, and other facets of the criminal justice system are voluminous and confusing. Your lawyer can explain your rights, applicable law, and potential defenses. While no one wants to face criminal prosecution, experienced legal counsel will guide you through the complex procedural steps while demystifying the relevant legal terminology and standards.
Exploring Alternative Dispositions & Sentencing
While our approach to every case is tailored to the specific facts and circumstances as well as our client's preferences, we always explore options that avoid a criminal conviction (especially a felony conviction). When negotiating with prosecutors, skilled criminal defenders will explore options for keeping you out of jail. When a person faces criminal charges, the long-term consequences can affect your employment, housing, educational opportunities, and rights under state and federal law. However, your legal representative's job is to mitigate the impact of the charges on your life.
Negotiating with the Prosecutor
While the content of any plea agreement depends on many factors, prosecutors know which attorneys will not hesitate to take a case to trial when it is in their clients' interest. These negotiations can be affected significantly by the strength of the defense strategy and evidence developed by the defense. The prosecutor will be more amenable to a plea agreement favorable to the accused when they have legitimate concerns about the strength of his case.
Favorably Changing the Charging Decision
Experienced criminal defense lawyers know that aggressive early representation can affect the prosecutor's charging decision. Sometimes the prosecutor can be persuaded to file lessor or fewer criminal charges or to decline to file any charges based on the apparent strength of the defense strategy and underlying facts of the case. Even if the prosecutor still files criminal charges, early aggressive representation can result in a more favorable outcome because the initial charging decision affects the scope of plea options considered by the assistant district attorney.
Developing Effective Defense Strategies
When crafting an effective defense strategy, your legal representative will analyze the evidence and prospective witness testimony to tailor your approach to the facts and circumstances. Attorneys who regularly handle criminal cases have experience with many defense strategies, such as seeking exclusion of evidence obtained in unlawful searches; attacking the credibility of government witnesses, including the alleged victim; exposing a lack of evidence to prove the elements of the criminal offense; alibi, mistaken identity; and others depending on the specific circumstances.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Although state and federal law, including the United States Constitution, provide valuable rights to the criminally accused, neither law enforcement nor prosecutors have an interest in protecting your legal rights. These rights include but are not limited to Miranda rights, right against self-incrimination, protection from unreasonable search and seizures, right to an impartial jury, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, a speedy trial, and more. Many criminal cases turn on effectively asserting an accused's legal rights in a timely fashion. Detectives and police officers have no incentive to rush to ensure a suspect has legal counsel because they want the scales of justice stacked in favor of the government.
Although we have described a few ways that the skill and experience of your legal representative can impact the outcome of your criminal case, these are merely a handful of examples. There are many other ways that the quality of your attorney can impact your freedom, reputation, and criminal record. While you might have the right to have counsel appointed if you are indigent, you might prefer to choose your lawyer with so much at stake. While a government-appointed lawyer or public defender might be skilled and experienced, appointed attorneys face obstacles like limited resources and heavy caseloads. These disadvantages often limit communication to a few minutes in the halls of the courtroom or prohibit the use of expensive scientific evidence or knowledgeable experts.