Criminal Defense Lawyers in Hillsborough County, Florida
Overview of Florida Criminal Charges, Laws, and Penalties
Hillsborough County is one of Florida’s largest counties with a population of more than 1.4 million people. Given such a large population, it is not surprising that 46,660 people were arrested in Hillsborough County in 2019, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Of the total arrests in 2019, most relate to theft crimes, such as, among others, shoplifting, pickpocketing, purse snatching, and motor vehicle theft. However, regardless of how minor a crime may seem, Hillsborough County law enforcement officials and prosecutors will seek as many arrests and convictions possible. As such, all criminal charges – whether petty theft or violent crimes – should be taken very seriously.
When Hillsborough County prosecutors have a team of investigators and attorneys to build a case and secure guilty pleas and convictions, individuals facing criminal charges deserve the same level of support in a criminal defense lawyer. At Musca Law, our nationally-recognized team of skilled Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyers have more than 150 years of combined experience both inside and outside the courtroom.
With a devotion to only criminal law and crime-related matters, such as orders of protection/injunctions, Musca Law has the necessary resources, energy, and track record of success to provide all clients with superior legal representation. To speak the Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyers of Musca Law, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057 to discuss your situation.
Level of Crimes Under Florida Law
While some criminal charges filed in Hillsborough County will be filed at the federal level, most individuals facing criminal charges will be subject to Florida state law. When facing criminal charges, it is imperative to understand (1) the severity of the crime, and (2) the potential punishment for conviction of the crime. Like many states, Florida categorizes crimes as misdemeanors and felonies, as identified below in order from the most minor misdemeanor to the most severe felony. Jail terms are governed by Florida Statute Section 775.082, and monetary fines are governed by Florida Statute Section 775.083.
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor – If convicted of a second-degree misdemeanor, a person faces a maximum jail sentence of sixty (60) days and a maximum fine of $500.
- First-Degree Misdemeanor – If convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor, a person faces a maximum jail sentence of one (1) year and a maximum fine of $1,000.
- Third-Degree Felony – If convicted of a third-degree felony, a person faces a maximum jail sentence of five (5) years and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- Second-Degree Felony - If convicted of a second-degree felony, a person faces a maximum jail sentence of fifteen (15) years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- First-Degree Felony – If convicted of a first-degree felony, a person faces a maximum jail sentence of thirty (30) years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Life Felony – If convicted of a life felony, a person faces a maximum jail sentence of life and a maximum fine of $15,000.
- Capital Felony – If convicted of a capital felony, a person faces the maximum penalty of death.
In addition to jail time and large monetary fines, criminal convictions in Hillsborough County can disrupt a person’s life. The endless consequences stemming from one criminal conviction include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- A permanent criminal record seen by anyone performing a background check or performing a public records search;
- Long-term probation;
- The loss of some constitutional rights (such as the right to possess firearms and the right to vote);
- Difficulty renting a home or apartment;
- Difficulty obtaining credit;
- Difficulty getting accepted into a college or university;
- Loss of employment and difficulty obtaining employment; and
- Damage to relationships with family members and friends.
While a skilled Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer cannot guarantee a client that criminal charges will be dismissed or that prosecutors will offer a plea agreement, facing criminal charges without a strong lawyer may lead to substantial jail time and fines. Qualified lawyers can help to reduce the punishment as much as possible given the nature and severity of the crime. In some cases, this may mean dismissal, while in other cases, this may mean a plea deal to minimize the amount of jail time resulting from a guilty plea.
No two crimes are created equal. As such, the criminal and non-criminal penalties associated with criminal charges in Hillsborough County vary from crime to crime. Whether a person is facing a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge or a second-degree felony assault charge, the person facing charges deserves to have the best representation possible. The Hillsborough Criminal Defense Lawyers of Musca Law employ diligent and highly experienced trial lawyers who are prepared to represent clients in any criminal proceeding. Although the consequences of facing a felony charge are, without question, more serious than the consequences of facing a misdemeanor charge, clients deserve to have equally professional and superior legal representation.
Hillsborough County Drug Crimes (F.S. § 893.13)
Hillsborough County prosecutors routinely seek the harshest punishment when pressing charges against a person for alleged drug crimes. Such drug crimes range from rather minor to serious enough to land a person in jail for decades. Examples of commonly charged drug crimes in Hillsborough County include the following:
- Possession of drugs such as, among others, marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth/methamphetamine, ecstasy, fentanyl, morphine, illegally obtained Schedule I and II prescription drugs (including opiates, barbiturates, and anti-anxiety medications, among others);
- Possession of drug paraphernalia;
- Possessing drugs with the intent to distribute/sell;
- Trafficking of drugs (which may expand beyond state lines, implicating federal law); and
- Conspiracy to commit one or more drug crimes.
While Hillsborough County prosecutors are tough on alleged drug offenders, minor drug crimes are dealt with differently than serious drug crimes that are classified as felonies under Federal law. Minor drug offenses may be dealt with in Drug Courts which have the goal of treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to criminal punishment. As part of the process of addressing minor drug crimes in Hillsborough County Drug Courts, alleged offenders may be required to participate in one or more of the following:
- Substance abuse counseling and education courses;
- Substance abuse treatment programs;
- Community service; and
- Probation which could last one year or longer depending on the alleged drug crime.
Even though Hillsborough County Drug Courts handle minor drug offenses, if a person facing minor drug crimes has a criminal history – regardless of whether that criminal history relates to drug crimes or something else – may have difficulty participating in an alternative sentencing program that avoids jail time. Therefore, no matter how serious the drug charge, anyone facing such a charge must act quickly to work with a Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Hillsborough County Domestic Violence Crimes (F.S. § 741.28)
Domestic violence is an issue that affects families throughout Hillsborough County. While all allegations of domestic violence should be taken seriously, the person accused of committing acts of domestic violence also deserves to be heard and taken seriously. Unfortunately, prosecutors and members of the public often side with the victims before knowing the entire story. As such, prosecutors charge the most serious crimes when the facts (if true) support a finding of such charge under Florida law. With the help of the right Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer, alleged perpetrators will have a strong advocate to identify how and why a prosecution’s case is lacking.
To satisfy the definition of “domestic violence” under Florida law, Hillsborough County prosecutors must prove that a person has committed “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” The key to proving the domestic violence case is establishing that the alleged victim is a “family or household member.”
Florida defines “family or household members” as “spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.”
If the prosecution cannot establish the basic elements of proving a crime of domestic violence has occurred, the case against a defendant should be dismissed. However, a defendant may not reach this conclusion without the help of a Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer who will thoroughly evaluate the case to determine what legal defenses may exist.
Hillsborough County Sex Crimes
Sex crimes in Hillsborough County are some of the most serious criminal charges a person can face aside from violent crimes. Per Florida law, sex crimes encompasses a wide variety of criminal charges that include, among others, the following:
- Failing to Register as a Sex Offender;
- Human Trafficking;
- Lewd and Lascivious Acts;
- Prostitution and Solicitation of Prostitution;
- Sexual Crimes Involving Children (including child pornography);
- Stalking; and
- Statutory Rape.
Some individuals facing sex-related criminal charges have been charged with more the one sex crime. Given the serious nature of such crimes, a defendant must ensure he or she has hired a lawyer who has extensive experience handling such criminal matters in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough County Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Crimes (F.S. § 316.193)
While the state of Florida, including Hillsborough County, has seen an overall decline in driving under the influence (DUI) charges over the past five to ten years (likely given the introduction of ride-share vehicles like Uber and Lyft), prosecutors still routinely charge individuals with DUI crimes in Florida. DUI charges under Florida law include the following:
- DUI Involving Commercial Drivers;
- Felony DUI; and
- DUI Manslaughter.
To convict a person of a DUI charge under Florida law, the prosecution must prove the following:
- The accused person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle; and
- (1) The accused person is under the influence of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances to the extent the person’s normal faculties are impaired; or
- (2) The accused person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
- (3) The accused person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
Conviction of a first or second DUI offense is a misdemeanor which may result in some jail time and fines, although, such an outcome may be avoided with the help of a skilled lawyer. A third, fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within a 10-year period is a third-degree felony. A third, fourth or subsequent DUI conviction more than 10 years after the prior DUI conviction is a misdemeanor. If any DUI offense involves bodily injury to another person, the offense is a third-degree felony. A person may face DUI manslaughter if the DUI offense involved the death of another person.
Hillsborough County Theft Crimes (F.S. § 812.014)
Theft crimes are some of the most commonly charged crimes in Hillsborough County. Florida law defines “theft” as knowingly obtaining, using, or endeavoring to use “the property of another with the intent to, either temporarily or permanently,” (1) “deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property,” or “appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.” The criminal penalties for theft crimes under Florida law range from minor misdemeanors to severe felonies.
Commonly charged theft crimes include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- Petit theft;
- Grand Theft;
- Identity Theft (F.S. § 817.568);
- Robbery (F.S. § 812.13); and
- Burglary (F.S. § 810.02).
Minor theft crimes may not lead to jail time. However, reaching this outcome requires the help of an experienced Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Hillsborough County Violent Crimes
Violent crimes are by far the most serious crimes a person can face under Florida law (with the exception of some sex crimes). Violent crimes include the following:
- Murder (F.S. § 782.04);
- Attempted Murder (F.S. § 782.051);
- Manslaughter (F.S. § 782.07);
- Vehicular Manslaughter (F.S. § 782.071);
- Robbery (F.S. § 812.13);
- Assault and Battery (F.S. § 784.011 and F.S. § 784.03);
- Aggravated Battery (F.S. § 784.045);
- Rape/Sexual Battery (F.S. § 794.011); and
- Arson (F.S. § 806.01).
Being convicted of any violent crime can change a person’s life forever. As such, nobody facing a violent crime should move forward without consulting with a highly reputable and skilled Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Hillsborough County Internet Crimes
Internet crimes have been on the rise since the internet swept the world by storm decades ago. Most internet crimes are theft-related and include, but may not be limited to, identity theft, credit card theft, and embezzlement. Many other internet crimes are sex-related and include, among others, possession of child pornography, transmission of child pornography to or from the internet (i.e., uploading or downloading child pornography), enticement of a child for sexual purposes, and sex trafficking.
Hillsborough County White Collar Crimes (F.S. § 775.0844)
Non-violent crimes that involve large-scale thefts and exploitation are known as “white collar crimes.” Such crimes, although non-violent, have serious consequences if a person faces a conviction under Florida law. Examples of white collar crimes include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- Computer-related crimes to defraud others;
- The exploitation of certain groups of individuals, including the elderly and disabled;
- Illegal financial transactions;
- Conspiracy to defraud; and
- Non-violent theft crimes.
Some criminal defense lawyers do not handle white-collar crimes. As such, when facing such crimes, an individual must employ a Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer who regularly handles white-collar crimes.
Hillsborough County Juvenile Crimes
Juvenile crimes often involve DUI charges, minor drug charges, and some violent crimes. If a criminal charge is serious enough, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. However, in most cases, juvenile crimes are dealt with in juvenile courts, and the consequences of being convicted of a crime as a juvenile in Hillsborough County are more akin to rehabilitation than punishment. Moreover, juvenile criminal records are sealed, allowing juveniles to move forward in life without the severe consequences of having a criminal conviction on their record.
Hillsborough County Orders of Protection/Restraining Orders (F.S. § 784.0485)
Restraining orders, also known as orders of protection and protective injunctions, are non-criminal orders that often relate to criminal conduct. Commonly referred to has protective injunctions under Florida law, restraining orders are aimed to protect a victim from alleged abuse and/or violent conduct. While restraining orders are civil, and not criminal, matters, the violation of a restraining order is grounds for criminal charges. Each time a restraining order is allegedly violated, the person subject to the order may face a separate criminal charge.
Five Types of Protective Injunctions Under Florida Law
Protective injunctions, also known as restraining orders, are issued in cases involving allegations of violent or potentially violent conduct. Protective injunctions are civil court orders that are decided by a judge rather than a jury. In Miami-Dade, individuals can seek five different types of protective injunctions, which include the following:
- Dating Violence Injunctions;
- Domestic Violence Injunctions;
- Repeat Violence Injunctions;
- Sexual Violence Injunctions; and
- Stalking Injunctions.
Because protective injunctions in Hillsborough County often involve a related criminal matter, anyone served with a protective injunction must work with a Hillsborough County Criminal Defense and Injunction Defense Lawyer.
A Strong Defense Begins with a Strong Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer
The first step to fighting criminal charges in Hillsborough County is to ensure the lawyer handling the matter is not only well-versed in criminal law, but is also known in the legal community to have excellent trial and negotiation skills. A qualified lawyer should have a good reputation with area prosecutors and judges. Such a reputation helps lawyers provide clients with legal representation they may not receive elsewhere.
The instant an experienced Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyer reviews a client’s case, he or she will promptly determine what potential defenses exist. Some defenses may be on legal grounds, while others may be based on the facts underlying the case. Although any licensed attorney in Florida can technically represent a client in a criminal matter, choosing to work alongside an attorney who does not focus solely on criminal law runs the risk of facing harsh penalties resulting from a conviction at trial or guilty plea that is not the best result for the client
Contact the Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
Whether you are facing a minor misdemeanor or a serious felony, you need a strong advocate to protect your constitutional rights in the courtroom. At Musca Law, our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers have a reputation for ensuring their clients receive the best legal representation possible. Our lawyers are nationally-recognized for having excellent trial skills, achieving positive results for many clients. To find out how the Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Attorneys of Musca Law can help you, contact our office 24/7 by calling (888) 484-5057.