Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

Do I Really Need An Attorney If I Plan To Enter A Guilty Plea?

If you have decided to enter a Guilty Plea as a way to handle a criminal case against you, you might be considering just entering the plea without the help of an attorney. This can sound like a good idea if you are short on cash, and are thinking that handling your plea yourself will save you some money. And while we understand how tight budgets can get, it is never a good idea to take on the criminal justice system on your own. There are just too many chances to make a mistake, and if you make a mistake, you could end up serving a lengthy sentence rather than getting a break.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are planning to enter a guilty plea:

● Do you fully understand the consequences of pleading guilty? If not, then you should have an experienced defense attorney look over your case and explain the entire range of punishment that is possible to you. This is because, if you enter a guilty plea, you may well be sentenced to the full extent of the law.
● Will you want to try and have your record cleared after you case is over? If so, then you need to understand how a Guilty Plea can impact that possibility. Not every case is eligible for expungement in the first place, but the problem can be compounded if you entered a Guilty Plea. A knowledgeable attorney will explain your options to you, so you aren’t surprised down the road.
● Could you obtain a more favorable result by not entering a Guilty Plea? This depends on the facts of your case, but in many cases there are other options that work better than pleading guilty. In order to find out if yours is one of those cases, put your trust in a qualified defense attorney and learn your options before taking action.

The type of plea you enter can have a drastic effect on not only the outcome of your case but on future action you wish to undertake. For an analysis of your case and for help deciding what is best for you, call us.

For help with criminal defense, contact us today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to find out what rights you have and how to protect those rights.

Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

Will A Judge Or Jury Decide My Case?

The criminal court process has some common steps that are the same for every case. Every case starts with an arrest, which is followed by an Initial Appearance, where the judge determines if the arrestee should be released from jail and, if so, under what terms and conditions. Thereafter, the case will be scheduled for an Arraignment, where the defendant plead Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. Clients of Alan Fowler Law, PLLC always enter a plea of Not Guilty, so their attorneys and paralegals can analyze the evidence, negotiate a plea offer, and make a recommendation to the client. After the Arraignment, the case will be scheduled for a Trial and Docket Sounding. Shortly thereafter, the prosecution is obligated to provide all incriminating and exonerating records, materials, digital media to the defense – this is called Discovery.

But what kind of trial will you get in your case? Will the judge listen to the evidence and sentence you, or will you have to stand and face a jury?
The determination as to whether you will get a judge to hear your case at trial, or a jury, depends on the range of punishment you face. For cases where the possibility of jail time of less than 6 months is the maximum punishment, you can request the judge to hear your case. This is referred to as a bench trial. The benefits of a bench trial over a jury trial are:

● Bench trials are usually faster, so you know the outcome sooner.
● An experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West can predict how a judge will handle a case. A jury, however, is made up of people who are supposed to be your peers, but no attorney can read the mind of six strangers.
● Juries can be swayed by personal feelings and emotions. This could lead to a result that does not make sense, because it could be based on a personal experience. A Judge is more impartial and may be better equipped to keep personal feelings out of the decision making process.
● Judges are more familiar with the law and how it is supposed to be applied to a particular set of facts. This gives you a higher probability that the end result is in line with the law, rather than the product of misapplication of the law by a jury. Also, if you case involves a complicated legal issue, it may be better to have a trained jurist make the decision, rather than a panel of non-lawyers, who would have to be educated about the law by the judge at the end of the case.

The decision to have a trial, whether you qualify for a jury trial or will have the judge decide your fate, is one that should only be made after careful consideration. Several factors go into deciding whether to plea out a case, or go to trial, and we can evaluate those factors for you.

For help with criminal defense and for answer about whether you should enter a plea or go to trial, contact us today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to find out what rights you have, and how to protect those rights.

Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

When The Police Intrude On My Home?

Without a doubt two of the more well-known parts of criminal law are the Miranda Warnings, and the need for the police to have a search warrant if they want to enter your home. This could be because these two topics are given a lot of attention in the movies and on TV, or it could be because these are two of the most fundamental rights of a criminal defendant. But, even though we have all seen a show where the police say, “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law[,]” or seen one of our favorite characters block the entrance to their home and demand a search warrant be produced before letting the police in, this does not mean these rights are this cut and dry. There are exceptions to these rules, and in order to make sure your rights are protected you need to know some of the basics. Luckily, there is no lack of cases on these subjects.

For example, just over a year ago, in the case of Thompson v. State the following two key components were identified when the issue of whether warrantless searches are legal, and if so whether any evidence obtained from a warrantless search can be used:

● If you allow the police to enter your home and conduct a search, then, of course, the police may enter your home and conduct a search without a warrant.
● If you gave a statement to the police as part of an interrogation, those statements cannot be used against you. This is different from engaging in mere conversation, and the key here is that the statements were made as part of being interrogated. To make the distinction, you will need to present evidence of the facts and circumstances surrounding the questioning. One fact in your favor in this type of scenario is that you asked for an attorney to be present, but were denied that request.

If you are successful in keeping evidence out of court, you can wind up winning your case or at least using the success in having the evidence suppressed as a bargaining tool with the prosecution. Let us review your case and handle the evidence for you.

For help with criminal defense and for answer to questions about searches and what evidence can be used, contact us today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West to find out what rights you have, and how to protect those rights.

Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

Why Was More Than One Charge Filed When I Only Got Arrested Once?

The legal world is unfamiliar to most people. Many of the legal terms used are derived from Latin or are poorly-titled by our politicians. You’d be hard pressed to find many people who have a fluency in Latin and, perhaps, even less people who can make sense of the acts of our elected officials. In order to make sure your case is handled properly, it is best to put it in the hands of a trained legal professional, so all of the rules are followed and your I’s dotted and T’s crossed, especially if the type of case you are involved in is a criminal matter against you.

When you have a question, a qualified criminal defense attorney will be able to provide accurate answers and help guide you towards a resolution that makes sense. One of the common first questions is the interplay between an arrest and the charges that are later filed against a defendant. Often, a criminal case is made up of more than one charge, even though you are only arrested one time. This is because a single incident can include multiple “bad acts.” Here are some examples:

● If you are arrested for drunk or disorderly conduct, you might also face a charge of battery, if you were in a fight during the incident.
● An accident caused by driving while intoxicated can result in one arrest but multiple charges for DUI and for causing the accident.

This reality becomes important when you are developing your defense strategy. You are required to defend against all of the charges against you, and sometimes you can dispose of one charge by agreeing to enter a plea on a more serious charge. This type of resolution is not uncommon in misdemeanor cases, and most particularly in DUI matters where an underlying traffic charge exists. In that instance you might agree to enter a plea to the charge of DUI in exchange for the prosecution dropping a Reckless Driving charge that led up to you being pulled over. Another part of that type of defense strategy may include an agreement to go on probation for the DUI in exchange for the DUI charge being reduced at the end of your probation. In order to receive that type of treatment, you will need to successfully complete your probation by fully complying with all of the probationary requirements.
The above example makes clear that there are many different combinations of charges, and just as many different ways to defend those
charges. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology and process, it can be like learning a foreign language. For an evaluation of your case and our advice on how to best defend the charges against you, call us today.

Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West for help with criminal defense. We offer assistance on a wide range of cases, and can help you. Contact our office today for more information about what to do next.

Criminal Procedure Uncategorized

What To Do If You Are Charged With A Probation Violation

If you have been arrested for a crime and agreed to go on probation to resolve the case against you, your most important job is to stay on course with all of your probationary requirements. The benefit to staying on track with probation is that you get to stay out of jail, and at the end of your probationary term, you will get the benefit of the bargain you made. For most people, the bargain incudes doing certain things while on probation, in exchange for having the charges against you reduced or dropped at the end of your probation. But, this can be much easier said than done, and a good number of people are not successful on their probation. When a misstep takes place, probation can be revoked and the defendant forced to face the full range of punishment for their crime as well as have to defend the violation.

If you are charged with violating your probation, you will need to act fast, if you wish to resolve the violation, as well as the original charges against you, satisfactorily. Here is a short list of where to start, if you are facing a probation violation in Florida:

• Depending on the type of violation, the prosecution will need to prove that you willfully violated one or more of the requirements of your probation. This is your chance to explain what happened to the Court and dispel any notion that you acted intentionally.
• If the violation is that a new crime has been committed, you need to think long and hard about how to handle that case. Since you are already on probation, it may not be possible to enter a plea to the new charge, but if that is a possibility you need to know how a plea can impact the first case.
• Where were you on the probationary timeline? Sometimes probation comes to an end shortly before a “violation” takes place. If your probation has ended, the Court will lack the jurisdiction to hear a claim that it has been violated. Depending on the timing involved in your case, this is always a good issue to address.

We have helped people negotiate favorable probationary terms, and have also helped people who have been charged with violating their probation. Whatever your concerns are about probation, give us a call. We are here to help.

If you have questions about how to handle a probation violation, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West. Call us today for help.

Criminal Procedure Drug Crimes Uncategorized

Am I Eligible For Drug Court?

The judicial system is designed to dispose of legal issues between parties, whether in civil or criminal court. Things like car wrecks and divorces are heard by civil judges, whereas people who have been arrested and charged with a crime will appear in criminal court. But even this system has its limitations, and there exists a subset of case types that require specialized tribunals. A good example is juvenile court, which is a system of jurisprudence that deals only with underage defendants. Another type of matter where a specialized court can be helpful is drug court. This type of court handles drug-related matters, which can often be lost in the shuffle of a criminal justice system that deals with more serious matters, such as murder or embezzlement. The need for a court system of this type was first recognized in the State of Florida, when drug courts were implemented in Miami-Dade County in 1989. Since that time, many defendants have had their cases heard in drug court, and if you are facing a drug-related crime you might consider this option, but will first need to learn if you qualify.

There are several criteria to qualify for drug court. To qualify for drug court in Florida, you will need to take a look at the following two programs:

● The Felony Pre-Trial Intervention Program is available to first time offenders with substance abuse problems, charged with a certain type of drug crime. Admittance to this drug court program is voluntary.
● The Misdemeanor Pre-Trial Substance Abuse Education and Treatment Intervention Program is available to those who do not have prior felonies and who have not been in a program previously. Admittance to this program is also voluntary.

The goal of drug court programs is to address specific problems, related to drug use and/or abuse. The thought is many of these defendants would benefit more from a program that addresses the underlying problem, rather than imposing a harsh punishment that lacks educational and rehabilitative aspects. The hope is that with the proper education and rehab, repeat offenses are avoided. Reduction in the crime rate is always a positive, and when possible it is best to allow a person to learn from their mistakes rather than spend their time in a jail cell where nothing is learned.

Drug court is not an easy process, and it has strict requirements, such as weekly urinalyses, weekly meetings, and monthly court hearings. The big benefit, however, is that, at the end of the program, the charges are dismissed. Therefore, admission into drug court can be a good option for many defendants.

For help with drug charges, and to learn whether you are eligible for drug court, contact our office today. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.