Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pinellas County, Florida
An Overview of Florida Criminal Laws, Penalties, and Legal Defenses in Pinellas County, Florida
The Florida Department of Law enforcement indicates that more than 700,000 people were arrested in the state during 2019, and 550,000 of those arrestees faced criminal charges. A large number of the criminal charges sought by state prosecutors involve larceny cases and other low-level offenses. Domestic violence accounted for almost 20%, or 100,000, of all of the criminal cases prosecuted in courts in Florida. Even though the population of the state of Florida continues to grow rapidly, 700,000 criminal arrests in 550,000 charges prosecuted are numbers that are shocking on their face.
Pinellas County prosecutors from the state attorney’s office in the Sixth Judicial District fight hard to win convictions and seek lengthy periods of incarceration for many offenders, even if the case itself does not warrant incarceration. When prosecutors fight vigorously to send someone to jail, the person being prosecuted needs an advocate who will fight even harder than the prosecution. The deck seems stacked against most people who appear in Pinellas County courts because the prosecutors throw the weight of their office along with the might of the law enforcement agencies servicing the area against an individual. An individual representing himself or herself is powerless against those resources. Even the public defender’s office is highly overworked and overburdened. However, having an experienced, aggressive, and skilled Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney represent you helps even the odds and even increases the chances that you will win an acquittal or avoid harsh sanctions for any crimes with which you have been charged.
Convictions for less-serious charges such as misdemeanors in Pinellas County can have a lasting and adverse effect on your life. Even facing felony charges, despite enjoying the presumption of innocence, can have severe adverse effects on one’s life even if they have never been convicted. Fortunately, Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorneys from Musca Law are available 24/7 to help fight for you. Call 888-484-5057 right now to protect your freedom.
Criminal Offense Levels in Florida
As most states do, Florida divides criminal charges into categories and sub-categories that indicate the relative seriousness of the crimes. Most of the minor crimes will not result in a first-time offender going to jail. However, even first-time offenders charged with life felonies or capital felonies could receive the maximum punishment allowed under Florida law despite no prior criminal history.
Severity of Crime
Maximum Period of Incarceration
Maximum Allowable Fine
Sixty-Days in County Jail
One-Year in County Jail
Five-Year Prison Sentence
Fifteen-Year Prison Sentence
Thirty-Year Prison Sentence
Incarceration for Life without Parole
Several factors play into the length of incarcerated sentence judge imposes after conviction. The prior criminal history of the accused, if any, history of substance abuse of the accused, the accused’s level of education, the accused’s employment status, the accused’s marital status, and whether the accused has any children, among other factors, must all be weighed by a judge when passing sentence upon an individual. Additionally, some crimes, such as narcotics trafficking offenses, carry minimum-mandatory prison sentences, and also could lead to an indictment handed down from a federal grand jury. Many people believe that Florida criminal sanctions or heavy-handed. Sentences for certain federal crimes are even more draconian than most Florida crimes.
The possibility of serving jail time and paying heavy fines are consequences of committing a crime in Florida that people generally expect to endure. Collateral consequences accompany the potential of jail and monetary fines as well. A judgment of conviction in Pinellas County, Florida, is a public record unless the court seals or expunges the record. Many people who visit Florida and wind up facing criminal charges are often dismayed and shocked to find out that possessing a large amount of marijuana or even a small amount of any other controlled substance could lead to a felony conviction in Florida. A felony conviction, even if not in this home state of the accused, has the potential to ruin an individual’s life. Accordingly, the most advantageous thing that you can do if you must appear in court to face criminal charges is to align yourself with a skilled Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney.
Musca Law: Full Service Criminal Defense Law Firm Serving All of Florida
Many law firms in Florida focus on only one type of criminal defense. Those law firms choose to restrict their practice to representing people charged with driving under the influence (DUI), boating under the influence (BUI), drug possession, or traffic offenses. In contrast, Musca Law is a full-service criminal defense law firm operating in Pinellas County. Our firm has extensive resources to represent any client who contacts our firm irrespective of the charges facing them. Our philosophy stems from our deeply rooted understanding that any criminal charge, even if a misdemeanor, is incredibly serious and must be treated that way. Fighting seemingly insignificant charges aggressively ensures that your life can stay on track even if you are arrested for a crime in Pinellas County, Florida.
Controlled Substance Defense in Pinellas County
Florida Statutes §893.13 establishes a penal scheme designed to prohibit the possession, sale, distribution, and trafficking in controlled substances. Pinellas County, Florida, law enforcement officers aggressively seek search warrants, conduct drug surveillance, and conduct undercover stings to break up drug rings. Wide-sweeping drug interdiction operations frequently ensnare drug users and low-level drug distributors who are merely selling drugs or transferring drugs to feed their habit instead of making a profit. Large-scale drug trafficking enterprises are often built upon multiple layers of secrecy to insulate the higher echelons of the drug ring from detection, arrest, and criminal prosecution.
Drug crimes in Pinellas County include:
- Simple possession of substances such as heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, marijuana, and methamphetamine along with a host of other unlawful substances,
- Possession with the intent to distribute narcotics,
- Trafficking in narcotics,
- Conspiring to commit narcotics-related offenses, and
- Possessing paraphernalia related to narcotics use.
In Pinellas County, Florida, minor, non-violent, offenses relating to drugs like possession of a small amount of a suspected narcotic or possessing drug paraphernalia do not result in a jail sentence for a conviction even if the statute allows for imprisonment. Alternatively, judges will punish relatively minor drug offenses through probationary programs designed to assist people in battling their struggle with addiction. Some programs include:
- Attending drug court where the aim is treatment instead of incarceration,
- Educational courses for substance abuse problems,
- Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and
- Random drug screening while the individual is living under the auspices of the probation Department.
Many of these programs are reserved for the first time of offenders or for people who have minimal criminal records. As the number of criminal prosecutions in one’s history grows, the more a court will consider the offender to be a recidivist and look toward incarceration in terms of punishment rather than addressing the underlying problem that brings the individual back before the court. Consequently, having the assistance of an aggressive Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney will help the individual avoid the harsh consequences of repeated offenses by arguing for dismissals or deferred adjudication.
Domestic Violence Charges in Pinellas County
Florida Statutes §741.28 is a powerful tool prosecutors use to seek harsh sentences for offenders convicted of domestic violence. Assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, false imprisonment, kidnapping, sexual assault, or sexual battery are crimes, if committed against one family member by another or one member of a household against the other that causes injury or death, that meet the definition of domestic violence.
The terms “family” and “household member” also have particular meanings under Florida law. As such, a family or household member under Florida law is people who are married or were married, anyone related by blood or people who live together as a family, or anyone who has lived together as a family. Irrespective of whether they lived together, people who gave birth to a child meet the definition of family or household members. Family or household member must have lived together in the same dwelling unit, or currently, live together in the same dwelling unit.
A conviction for domestic violence charges carries potentially severe criminal sanctions. Pinellas County judges see hundreds of cases of domestic violence each year. They will impose penalties seeking retribution for the act as well as terms of release designed to prevent future domestic violence incidents.
Unfortunately, Pinellas County judges also see numerous cases involving exaggerated domestic violence claims. Some individuals use the court system as leverage for taking revenge against another. Obtaining the assistance of experienced Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorneys can give you the leverage you need to avoid harsh consequences resulting from a domestic violence conviction.
Sex Crimes in Pinellas County
Sex crimes are a generic term for numerous criminal charges under Florida law. Examples of sex crimes prosecuted in Pinellas County, Florida, are:
- Statutory Rape;
- Failure to Register while a Convicted Sex Offender;
- Human Trafficking;
- Sex Crimes Involving Children including Child Pornography and other crimes;
- Solicitation of Prostitution;
- Prostitution; and
- Committing Lewd or Lascivious Acts.
Defending sex crimes in Pinellas County, Florida, requires the assistance of seasoned criminal defense counsel who understands the consequences of facing these charges. Even being accused of committing a sex crime has the potential to up-end an individual’s life. Despite an acquittal after trial, the person could suffer in the community. When aggressive Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorneys represent you at the outset of the case, they can try to negotiate with the state attorney for reduced charges if possible. If not, they will vigorously defend your rights in court.
Pinellas County Driving Under the Influence Charges (DUI)
Florida Statutes §316.193 sets out the crime of DUI. Many people charged with DUI in Pinellas County, Florida, have no prior experience in the criminal justice system. The severity DUI charge levied against the individual, even if that person has no prior criminal history, will depend upon the circumstances leading up to arrest. Pinellas County DUI charges may include:
- Driving Under the Influence;
- Driving Under the Influence while Driving a Commercial Vehicle;
- DUI as a Subsequent Offender (Felony DUI);
- DUI Causing Property Damage or Personal Injury;
- DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury, and
- DUI Manslaughter.
Florida law does not limit DUI charges to the consumption of alcohol exclusively. Consuming a prescription drug or illegal narcotic alone or in combination with the consumption of alcohol can also lead to DUI charges.
Florida prosecutors must prove three elements or components of DUI to win a conviction. The elements of DUI in Florida are:
- The person arrested was driving or had physical control over a motor vehicle,
- The accused was driving when his or her ability to control the motor vehicle or normal functions were impaired by the consumption of alcohol, a combination of drugs and alcohol, or narcotics, or
- Either the person’s blood-alcohol level contains 0.08 or more grams of alcohol for every 100 milliliters of blood or had a breath alcohol level of 0.08 grams of alcohol for every 210 liters of breath.
Misdemeanor charges for DUI include first and second offense DUI. Felony charges could issue against the accused for two or more previous DUI convictions, causing a collision that results in property damage or personal injury while driving under the influence, or causing a serious bodily injury in an accident while driving under the influence. DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida. The maximum penalty for which is a fifteen-year state prison sentence with a four-year minimum-mandatory period of incarceration.
Boating under the influence, or BUI, involved operating a vessel while under the influence or having control of a vessel (boat, jet ski, or other watercraft) while under the influence even if the accused is not at the helm. BUI penalties range from misdemeanors to felonies, as determined by the facts of the case. As with all crimes, severe conduct warrants harsh sentencing.
Theft Crimes in Pinellas County
Theft is defined by Florida Statutes §812.014. Section 812.014 defines theft as willfully or knowingly obtaining or procuring another’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property the right to use or benefit from the property. Theft is also defined as the act of appropriating property for use by someone other than the true owner.
Penalties for theft convictions in Pinellas County Florida carry a range of potential sentences. The length of the prison sentence is largely dependent upon the value of the property stolen or its replacement value. As always, the individual’s prior criminal history will play a significant role in determining the potential sentence as well.
Theft crimes in Pinellas County include:
- Petit Theft;
- Grand Theft;
- Burglary (See, F.S. §810.02)
- Robbery (See, F.S. §812.13);
- Embezzlement; and
- Identity Theft (See, F.S. §817.568).
Victims of theft crimes will have an opportunity to address the judge at sentencing if the accused is convicted or pleads guilty to theft. The victim’s input could play a significant role in the potential sentence the judge levies against the offender.
Violent Crimes in Pinellas County
Crimes of violence reap havoc on many communities in Florida. Accordingly, law enforcement officers and prosecutors vigorously pursue people suspected of committing violent crimes to bring them to justice. However, as with every other crime, people accused of violent crimes have unyielding constitutional rights, even if the crime is generally perceived as notorious like murder.
Violent crimes under Florida law include:
- Murder (F.S. §782.04);
- Attempted Murder (F.S. §782.051);
- Vehicular Manslaughter (F.S. §782.071);
- Arson (F.S. §806.01);
- Robbery (F.S. §812.13);
- Aggravated Battery (F.S. §784.045);
- Manslaughter (F.S. §782.07);
- Assault and Battery (F.S. §784.011 and F.S. §784.03); and
- Rape or Sexual Battery (F.S. § 794.011).
A person convicted of violent crimes in Florida faces the potential of a lengthy prison sentence is as well as hefty fines. Additionally, a person convicted of murder faces the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Notwithstanding the potential penalties, the government has the sole responsibility to prove the case against the accused. However, given the serious nature of these offenses, the prosecution and law enforcement teams will tap into their extensive resources to investigate the accusations so that they construct the strongest case possible. Having legal representation, which also has significant resources coupled with significant experience, will level the playing field for the accused.
Cyber Crimes in Pinellas County Florida
The expansion and growth of the Internet over the last three decades have revolutionized the way we do business and communicate. Law enforcement agencies are developing sophisticated methods of investigation to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. Crimes like credit card theft, embezzlement, and identity theft are easily perpetrated by people with some computer skills. Despite the proliferation and relative accessibility of technology, many people are still intimidated by their devices and easily fall prey to scams that can wipe out their bank accounts or lose their identity. Moreover, sex crimes are easily perpetrated over the Internet. Crimes like transferring child pornography, enticement of children for sexual purposes, and sex trafficking frequently occur through Internet usage. The mysterious “dark web” is a virtual red-light district where guns, drugs, or even human organs can be transferred while evading law enforcement surveillance.
White-Collar Crimes in Pinellas County
White-collar crimes typically fall under the rubric of theft. The term “white-collar” was given to crimes like embezzlement, fraud, computer crimes, conspiracy, racketeering, and exploitation of vulnerable populations because the perpetrators of these crimes resort to non-violent means to steal from others. Florida Statutes §F.S. § 775.0844 provides a wide range of penalties for these offenses ranging from misdemeanors to felonies.
Juvenile Crimes in Pinellas County
Juvenile justice in the United States has received much publicity recently. The trend in criminal justice at this time is to treat juveniles much differently than adults who commit identical crimes. Research has shown that young males’ brains do not reach full growth until their mid-20s. Accordingly, a young man’s physical and emotional age mature at a slower rate than his physical age. Therefore, people under the age of eighteen is a juvenile under Florida law.
The juvenile justice system in Pinellas County, Florida, attempts to strike a balance between punishment and rehabilitation of juveniles. Most juveniles will be eligible for diversion programs instead of facing traditional criminal justice punishments. However, children charged with crimes of violence or other felonies could face incarceration in either a juvenile detention facility or a state prison facility depending on the nature of the offense if tried as an adult.
Children who run afoul of the law should be redirected toward a better path. Juvenile court system becomes de facto parents and guardians for many wayward youths. Fortunately, youthful indiscretion is not a permanent blemish. Juvenile charges are typically not public and do not remain on the person’s record unless the child is tried as an adult.
With a dedicated Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney by your child’s side in juvenile justice proceedings, you can give your child the best opportunity to avoid the harsh and permanent consequences of an adult criminal record and provide the guidance your child needs to navigate these frequently confusing and difficult teenage years.
Pinellas County Protective Injunctions
Injunctions for protection against certain types of abuse often accompany criminal charges. For example, the victim of domestic violence will press criminal charges and seek the additional protection of a domestic violence injunction. Florida Statutes F.S. § 784.0485 recognizes five protective injunctions which apply in particular circumstances. In Pinellas County, victims can apply for an injunction to prevent future abuse from:
- Sexual Violence;
- Dating Violence;
- Domestic Violence;
- Stalking; and
- Repeat Violence.
An alleged victim of abuse does not necessarily need to file criminal charges to avail himself or herself of the court’s protection. However, a violation of the protective order will result in criminal charges. Defending against protective order injunctions, even if they do not accompany a criminal case, is important to preserve your rights and protect your way of life from governmental overreaching.
Musca Law: 150 Years of Criminal Defense Experience
Call Musca Law today at 888-484-5057 to discuss your criminal defense. Trying to handle your criminal charges personally or relying on the public defender, who is overburdened and cannot devote the time and attention you need to achieve the best outcome, could have enormous implications for your freedom and livelihood. The fees associated with retaining a Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney is an investment in your freedom. There is no guarantee that the keys will turn out as you hope. However, you have a better chance of a favorable outcome if you having experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney by your side. Our strategic Criminal Defense Lawyers are here 24/7 to answer your questions and protect your rights.