Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys Available 24/7
It takes years of experience and refined legal skill to effectively defend clients from criminal charges. At Musca Law, our Florida criminal defense lawyers have over 150 years of combined legal experience and have established a track record of success in their field. Whether our clients need help navigating a traffic offense or sex crimes charges, our team of capable attorneys can provide legal guidance and aggressive defense. By getting to know our clients and working to understand their circumstances, we are able to effectively uphold their rights, represent their interests, and exploit any weaknesses in our opponents’ cases.
Call Musca Law at (888) 484-5057 to speak with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney
With the help of Musca Law, our clients benefit from personal attention, helpful advice, and 24/7 availability for emergencies. We can walk you through what to expect in every step of your case. Musca Law offers comprehensive criminal defense services for clients throughout Florida. We have been featured on NBC News and FOX News for our exceptional representation.
What Are Criminal Cases?
Criminal cases are crimes against society rather than a dispute between individuals or organizations. For example, a person who drives drunk and is pulled over will be charged with a criminal case because they have created a dangerous situation for people in the community, their fellow drivers, by driving while intoxicated.
On the other hand, a person who is in a collision with another vehicle may be sued in civil court because another individual, the person in the other car, has been injured, rather than the community in general.
Some major crimes committed with individual victims, such as kidnapping, may be charged in criminal court due to their severity even though an individual has been victimized.
What Are the Main Differences Between Criminal and Civil Cases?
Some examples of criminal cases include murder, arson, aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping, selling illegal drugs, and drunk driving. Notice that all of these cases involve a threat to society.
Even though it might seem that murder and arson are much more of a threat to a community or society than crimes such as selling drugs or drunk driving, all of these crimes pose dangers to society to some degree.
Some examples of civil cases include being injured on the job (such as an injured worker suing their employer for creating a dangerous work situation), overbilling for services (such as a contractor charging more for installing kitchen countertops than agreed upon by the customer, or disputes between individuals (such as a neighbor stealing another neighbors’ lawnmower). Notice that in all of these cases, individuals or organizations such as businesses are involved, rather than society in general.
Other differences between civil and criminal cases include the way their trials take place. In a criminal case, the prosecutor, representing society, must prove the defendant’s guilt. The full burden of proof is on the government. In a civil case, a plaintiff (the person suing) takes the defendant (the person sued) to court. In civil cases, both parties must argue for their side.
What Are the Average Rates for Criminal Lawyers in Florida?
Criminal cases are complex; criminal lawyers may charge more than lawyers who handle civil cases. Depending on how the lawyer bills their clients, you should expect to pay a retainer of several thousand dollars and a $1,000-5,000 flat fee per case or, if they charge by the day or hour instead of a flat fee, around $1,000 per day or $100-$300 per hour.
If you’re convicted of a criminal case, you could possibly serve jail or prison time. An experienced criminal lawyer will prove they are worth their fee by fighting aggressively for your rights.
Florida Criminal Law, Penalties, and Defenses
Every person in Florida receives the protections guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Florida. The Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida (hereinafter referred to jointly as “the Constitution”) shield individuals against government overreaching and unlawful intrusion into their lives. The Constitution gives the people living in the U.S. freedom. Consequently, every interaction initiated by the government with an individual must occur with the knowing and voluntary consent of the individual or the governmental official is constitutionally justified when interacting with a non-consulting individual.
Constitutional protections are not idle thoughts conceived by legal scholars and philosophers to discuss in the classroom or lecture hall. The contrary is true. The Constitution breathes life into the interactions the government (i.e. law enforcement officers) have every day with the people in their communities. The restrictions placed on the government by the Constitution ensure that police officers and other law enforcement agents do not turn Florida, and by extension, the whole of the United States, into a police state.
Constitutional protections provide a constant barrier between a person’s liberty and the revocation of that liberty by incarceration. Therefore, a person facing criminal charges in Florida enjoys additional protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To be sure, the Constitution of the State of Florida contains greater protections in many respects than the federal constitution. Notwithstanding, Constitutional protections begin with the initial police interaction and continue to ensure that the person receives a fair trial and due process. Only after all of a person’s Constitutional protections have been satisfied can the government revoke a person’s liberty and sent him or her to a prison cell.
Unlawful Searches and Seizures
The inalienable right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures is one with which most people are familiar. In essence, the police must have justification to take away someone’s liberty and freedom, even for a short amount of time. The police must justify every action based on the amount of evidence possessed by the officer. If not, then the individual’s rights have been violated as set out by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 12 of Article 1 of the Constitution of the State of Florida.
Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
Reasonable suspicion is the lowest amount of evidence a police officer needs to detain someone. A police officer can walk up to a person and ask for his or her name and address or any other question. By the same token, the person can terminate that encounter by walking away, unless the officer has reasonable suspicion a crime has been, is in the process of, or will be committed by that individual. The easiest example of a stop based on reasonable suspicion is a car stop for a traffic infraction. Observing a traffic violation gives the officer reasonable suspicion to stop the car to investigate.
Probable Cause to Arrest
Any observations the officer makes while permissibly encountering a person could elevate the encounter from a simple stop to an arrest. A police officer may affect an arrest only if the officer obtains probable cause that the person committed a crime. At that point, the officer may take the person into custody. The officer can place handcuffs on the individual, pat-frisk the person for weapons, and even place the person in a police car. The officer could then make a formal arrest, that is, bring the person to lockup for official booking and charging.
Probable cause to arrest may arise in numerous circumstances that are not based on officers’ perceptions, but upon the investigation. Rarely does a police officer witness a murder, rape, domestic abuse, or bank robbery. However, the officers could pursue an investigation, and develop probable cause based on the witnesses’ stories and identify the alleged perpetrator of the crime.
Neutral and Detached Magistrate Issue Warrants
The affidavit requirement strives to guarantee that the police are telling the truth when applying for a warrant. An affidavit is a statement made by an officer upon oath, subject to the pains and penalties of perjury the information contained in the affidavit is true to the best of the officer’s knowledge. A magistrate must review the affidavit for probable cause, and the magistrate must decline to issue the warrant if the evidence contained in the affidavit fails to meet that standard.
The warrant must state with as must specificity as possible where the officers want to search and for what. General warrants are unconstitutional.
Arrest on a Warrant
A police officer who possesses an arrest warrant can place a person into custody by authority of the warrant. The officer does not need to develop individual probable cause at that time and can rely on the existence of a warrant as sufficient proof to arrest. The arrestee is subject to pat frisk, booking, and other processes.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
Anytime the police do something that violates the Constitution, the aggrieved person may seek redress from the court. A criminal defendant who claims was the victim of unconstitutional police interaction can ask the court to suppress that evidence unlawfully seized. The judge must also throw out evidence seized from the “Poisonous Tree.” Extrapolating from the car stop example, if the officer stops a person for running a red light but was mistaken, and then removes the person from the car, searches the car, and find drugs, then the person can ask the judge to throw out the drugs if the stop was unconstitutional. The drugs are the “Fruit,” and the car stop was the “Poisonous Tree.”
The Right to Remain Silent-The Fifth Amendment
Many people are familiar with the so-called Miranda Warnings. The warnings announced by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, are described as “prophylactic,” meaning that the police must give the warnings to protect the people who are under arrest from incriminating themselves.
Every person has a right under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 9 of the Florida Constitution to be free from state-compelled incrimination. However, the police do not need to give the Miranda warnings in every arrest. Rather, Miranda warnings are constitutionally required when the person is in custody, that is not free to leave, and police are asking questions of the person that, if answered, could incriminate the person in a crime. If those two conditions are satisfied, then the officer must inform the person of his or her right to remain silent, warn that anything said will be used in court, the person has a right to a lawyer present during questioning, and a right to a free lawyer if the person cannot afford one. The best legal advice a lawyer can give to a person who may be questioned by the police is to remain silent. The goal of a police interrogation is to get people to talk, and many people will talk to police with the idea that they could talk their way out of a bad situation.
Prohibition Against Double Jeopardy and Right to Grand Jury Presentment
These amendments protect individuals from being tried more than once for the same crime. Additionally, the Fifth Amendment and Section 15(a) of the Florida Constitution obligate law enforcement, including the prosecuting party, to present a case to a grand jury or information when a person is charged with a felony.
Fair Trial Rights
An individual’s rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 16(a) of the Constitution of the State of Florida apply upon the accused’s first appearance in court and are essential for the fair administration of justice.
Every person charged with a crime and facing possible incarceration has the absolute right to have a lawyer. The person can elect to defend the case as a self-represented individual; however, a criminal defense lawyer in Florida will know the substantive laws, along with the court procedures, that marshal a case through the court system and give the person a better chance to defend the allegations successfully.
Compulsory process rights are vitally important to a criminal defendant. Compulsory process guarantees that a witness for the defense will appear in court to give evidence favorable to the accused. The government cannot prevent the accused from serving a person with a trial subpoena compelling him or her to attend court and testify. Also, the accused has the right to offer evidence on his or her behalf. If applicable, the accused can offer evidence of insanity provided by Florida Statutes 775.027, justification under Chapter 776, consent, voluntary intoxication in limited circumstances pursuant to 775.051, involuntary intoxication, and all other defenses available at common law.
Confront and Cross-Examine Witnesses
An indispensable component of a fair trial to which every accused is guaranteed is the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses appearing against them. Cross-examination is the great equalizer. A skilled Florida criminal dense attorney can poke and prod the testimony from the government’s witnesses and show a bias, inconsistent statements, or false testimony. The criminal also has the inalienable right to be present in court and watch the witnesses testify.
Trial By Impartial Jury of Peers
A person charged with most crimes can elect to have a judge alone decide his or her guilt. However, the person has the absolute right to have jurors selected at random from the community to sit in judgment upon him or her as a jury of peers. The trial must be held in public.
Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The amount of proof necessary to obtain a conviction in the United States is and shall remain, beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge shall instruct the jury on what reasonable doubt means and caution the jurors that they must be satisfied that the government proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the person of a crime.
Take the Stand in Defense
The right to remain silent is personal, and the government cannot compel a person to take the witness stand. Conversely, the government cannot keep the defendant from taking the witness stand. An accused person has every right to take the stand and tell his or her story.
Right to be Released on Personal Recognizance
Unless the criminal defendant faces a capital murder charge, the person has the right to reasonable bail and should be released unless there is a reason to believe that he or she might not return to court.
A violation of any of these rights will invalidate any conviction obtained by the government against the accused.
Punishment in Florida
Florida law distinguishes punishments for crimes be degree. The rule applies to misdemeanors and felonies. Classification of a crime as a felony or misdemeanor and the degree of the crime will depend upon the severity of the crimes alleged and the accused’s prior criminal history.
Florida statutes 775.08(1) defines a felony is a crime in which the maximum penalty is death or incarceration in the state penitentiary for at least one year. Felonies have varying degrees. Florida statutes 775.081 divides crimes into degrees and 775.082 delineates the maximum penalties for each crime, including misdemeanors. Thus, Florida law recognizes crimes for which the maximum penalty is:
- a) Capital felony whose punishment is death,
- b) Life felonies, meaning that the maximum term of incarceration in life in prison or no less than 30 years in prison,
- c) First-degree felony, the maximum penalty for which is life incarceration with the potential for parole but could include minimum sentences depending on the offender’s prior history and degree of violence involved in the underlying crime,
- d) Second-degree felony, the maximum penalty for which is 15 years, and
- e) A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
Florida statutes 775.08(2) defines a misdemeanor as any crime that carries incarceration of one year or less in county jail. However, a first-degree misdemeanor carries at most one year in imprisonment in the country jail. A second-degree misdemeanor in Florida carries a maximum penalty of 60 days. s
The Role of a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
A Florida defense attorney is the defender of the rights guaranteed to a criminal defendant by the Constitution, and, as such, will take the appropriate steps to ensure that his or her client receives the benefit of all of the rights to ensure the process is fair and balanced.
150+ Years of Collective Experience at Musca Law
At Musca Law, we’ve been around too long to think that emergencies only happen during office hours. We are available 24/7 to take our clients’ calls and to provide them with legal guidance when they need it. Additionally, for client convenience, we offer free case evaluations to get the process started.