The reason why you want to hire an attorney as opposed to being appointed an attorney, if you can afford to hire an attorney, is because you get to pick the lawyer that’s actually going to represent you. And that becomes very important because you’ve got to be able to communicate, trust and get along with the attorney that’s representing you on a such a serious matter. You have to have faith that they are going to do the work that’s required to prepare a defense on someone that is looking at life, or potentially the death penalty.
And so, it’s for those reason that you want to hire a qualified attorney to represent you. Obviously, if you can’t, then you need to fall back on the services of the public defender.
Your rights are that you have a right to remain silent. You have a right to an attorney. You have a right to a trial by jury. You have a right to confront the witnesses that the prosecution would call that supposedly have evidence against you. Those are your rights if you’re charged with a crime in Florida.
The first thing that happens upon you getting arrested, is that within 24 hours you’re going to be brought in front of a neutral magistrate who’s going to determine whether or not you should get released, either on your own, or whether you should get released pursuant to a bond. After that, once the formal charges are filed, you will have an arraignment. At the arraignment is the time when you plead not guilty. You demand something called discovery, which is all the information that the prosecution has on you and your case.
Your attorney, at that point, begins to work in reviewing that discovery material, and setting, what are called, depositions. After the depositions, or the discovery, is concluded, at that point, you’re either going to have motions to file, that could potentially get rid of your case, or cause it to be dismissed. Or, you’re going to get a plea offer, that you may or may not want to take. Or, you’re ready to go to trial. Those are the steps of your case.
You should never speak to the police if you’re arrested. It does you no good to speak to the police if you’re arrested. The police will use certain kinds of psychological tactics to make you believe that it’s in your best interest to speak to them without a lawyer being present. They will say things like, “Well, if you didn’t do it, now’s the time for you to tell us about it.” The worst thing you can do is speak to the police. The first thing you should do is ask for a lawyer, invoke your right to remain silent, and wait until you speak to the lawyer to determine whether or not there’s any benefit in you speaking to the police.
You should never give a statement to a police officer or a federal agent without the advice and the consent or the opinion of a qualified criminal defense attorney. Typically, it does not do anybody any good to make any statements to law enforcement, especially if they have not previously sought the advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Florida has Florida sentencing guidelines. So unless you’re charged with a crime like first degree murder that carries with it only a possibility of being sentenced to life in prison or death or another life kind of crime, you’re sentencing gets determined by a calculation that’s done pursuant to the Florida sentencing guidelines. It’s going to have a bottom end and the top end is going to be whatever the statutory maximum potential sentence is for the crime for which you’re charged.
Do not speak to FBI agents. They don’t record any statements that are given to them. After they speak to you, they later summarize those. Many clients will subsequently say, “I never said that.” But now it’s your word against the federal investigator, and it’s going to be an uphill battle for you. The best course you can take, if FBI agents leave a card at your door, or contact you and say they want to speak to you, is for you to say, “Well, you know, I’m not going to speak to you now,” and contact, and hire, a qualified criminal defense attorney to represent you in the matter.
You absolutely need an attorney to represent you even if you’re innocent, because obviously the police have reason to believe that they’ve got evidence to charge you, and so for you to be able to establish that they’re wrong, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can get their attention by presenting the facts that proves that you did not commit this crime.
You can appeal your sentence if it was an illegal one. Unless your sentence was illegal, you will not have the ability to appeal your sentence unless you filed some sort of a pretrial motion that was denied by the judge. And in plea-ing, you reserved your right to appeal.
If you hire an attorney, you can choose the attorney that’s going to represent you. If you get court appointed an attorney, you cannot choose the attorney that represents you. Instead, you’ve got to have the attorney, who gets assigned your case, by whatever the agency is, that is subjected to representing people that are indigent for costs.