What are my rights if I have been accused of a crime?

Those who have been accused of a crime have a number of rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. These rights include: the right to remain silent in order to avoid self-incrimination, the right to competent legal representation, the right to reasonable bail, the right to a fair and public trial, the right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to be confronted with the witnesses against you and to gather witnesses of your own, and a number of other rights.

A criminal defendant is also presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means the prosecutor has the burden of proving (beyond a reasonable doubt) that you committed the crime or crimes in question. This also means that a defendant does not have to do anything or say anything to prove his innocence.

There are also laws regarding search and seizure which require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to search a specific place, at a specific time, specific persons, evidence, contraband, and/or other items. It is important to keep in mind that there are some circumstance where the police do not need a warrant to search and/or arrest you.

What should I do if I have been arrested?

If you have been arrested, answer all questions about your identification– such as name, address, and birth date– truthfully. However, you have the right to refrain from answering self-incriminating questions. Giving officers a hard time during the arrest process is also not very beneficial. It usually just makes things tougher on you.

What should I do if I get a call that a loved one has been arrested?

Try to gather as much information as possible about the arrest and write it down. The following questions may be useful: What are the name, birth date, and social security number of the arrested person? What has he been charged with? What law enforcement agency made the arrest? Where is the arrested person being held? Has bail been set and, if so, what is the amount? Call Mr. Moffitt immediately.

How do I get out of jail after an arrest?

If bail has been set, the only way to get the person out of jail is to pay the bond for his/her release. The bond can be paid at the jail or through a bail bondsman. A bail bond is like insurance; it means that the person agrees to appear at all subsequent legal proceedings. Failure to do so can result in forfeiture of the bond, the issuance of an arrest warrant, and the loss of subsequent bail privileges. In certain criminal cases, bail may be denied. If the judge believes there is a high risk that the defendant will flee, or if he has been charged with a serious crime like murder, bail may be denied.

Why should I hire a criminal defense attorney?

The importance of competent legal representation in a criminal case is so great that the Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to an attorney. A criminal attorney is your best asset after being charged with a crime. This expert knows the laws and court customs relevant to your case, and can apply this knowledge to protect and maximize your legal interests. No matter what your legal situation, a criminal defense attorney will help you more than you could help yourself by going it alone. In fact, some judges won’t even consider a plea bargain from a defendant without legal representation.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Most crimes are divided into two categories, based on the severity of the crime: misdemeanor or felony. State law governs which crimes are considered more serious than others. Generally speaking, a misdemeanor crime is one where the maximum penalty is one year in jail or less.

A felony crime is a more serious crime that can result in jail or prison time for more than one year. Felony charges also bring a number of other legal repercussions if the defendant is convicted. In Florida, under certain circumstances, a crime can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specifics of the case. A qualified attorney can try to maximize your chance that your crime is charged as a lesser offense.

In some cases, however, a crime may only receive a fine and it will still be counted as a misdemeanor.

What types of punishments do I face if convicted of a crime?

Sentencing can vary depending on the location of the case, the crime, the judge (and sometimes the jury), and other specifics of the criminal case. In some cases a punishment for a particular crime is governed by the sentencing guidelines, and the judge does not have a big impact on determining the punishment. In other cases, the sentence is up to the judge’s discretion, who will take a variety of factors into account when determining a fair and appropriate punishment.

The most common punishments for a criminal conviction include: incarceration (in jail, or prison), fines, restitution (money to the victim), probation, and community service. There are a variety of other penalties that may be more specific to the criminal case. For example, if you are convicted of a DUI you may be required to attend a DUI school or a drug/alcohol treatment program. You may have to have a Breathalyzer installed in your vehicle. Your drivers license may be suspended. And there are more sanctions available to the Judge or the State Attorney.

If you would like to ask a legal question or get legal advice, Call Mr. Moffitt at 239-298-6538 for a free initial consultation.

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