Florida Keys criminal defense attorneys have a lot of conversations with people facing criminal charges. One of the interesting things about these conversations is that they reveal the many myths surrounding the rights and power of someone charged with a crime. Let’s spend a little time examining some of the most common myths about facing criminal charges.
Myth #1: Silence Equals Guilt
Everyone who is arrested has the right to remain silent. However, some people charged with a crime feel that silence is an admission of guilt. At least in the State of Florida, this myth couldn’t be further from the truth. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that there is no automatic presumption of guilt just because you remained silent and didn’t answer questions during a police interrogation. Exercising your right to remain silent is important so that you don’t make incriminating statements under pressure or mistakenly say things that you regret later. While it is a common myth that remaining silent makes you look guilty, the opposite is often true. Nervous clients may talk themselves into trouble in an attempt to clear their good name. To avoid putting yourself in a bad situation, simply remain silent until you’ve had an opportunity to speak with a Florida criminal defense attorney.
Myth #2: If My Miranda Rights Aren’t Read, They Must Drop The Criminal Case
In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that the police must inform you of your Miranda rights if you are in custody and under interrogation. In “custody” and under “interrogation” could mean under arrest or it could mean any situation where you are not free to leave. But, if a police officer fails to inform you of your Miranda Rights when taking you into custody or interrogating you, your case will not be automatically thrown out because of that technicality. In the State of Florida, failure to inform a suspect of their Miranda Rights means that any information obtained during the interrogation may not be considered in the case. But, this doesn’t stop the case from moving forward and it doesn’t stop the prosecutor from using other permissible evidence against you. Instead, your attorney will have to petition the judge to have the statements suppressed. Then, if the prosecutor has no other evidence, he may dismiss the case, but it’s not likely. Usually, there is other evidence that the prosecutor believes would establish your guilt, and, as a result, will not voluntarily dismiss your case.
Myth #3: My Conviction Can Easily Be Overturned On Appeal
Generally speaking, anyone convicted of a crime has the right to appeal both their conviction and their sentence to a higher court. However, successful appeals are rare. It isn’t very common that a higher court overturns the decision of a lower court. There are a limited number of circumstances where you may successfully appeal a criminal case in Florida:
- When legal errors were made. Example: A judge ignored rules or mitigating factors when sentencing.
- When factual errors were made. Example: Your conviction and sentencing was based on incorrect information.
- When you were subjected to unfair and harsh sentencing. Example: Your sentencing does not fit the crime.
Even if you have a good reason for appealing your conviction or sentencing, going through the appeals process is difficult, time-consuming, and not likely to be successful. That’s why it’s best to aim to get it right the first time around.
If you’re facing criminal charges in Florida Keys, speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney so that you can sort fact from fiction.