Criminal Defense FAQ
Answers from a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer
The police know I committed the crime, so why should I hire an attorney?
One of the foundations of our criminal justice system is that you are legally presumed innocent until proven guilty. You cannot be convicted of a crime unless it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that you committed the offense. They police may have some evidence against you, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer from Taracks & Associates may be able to find weaknesses in the case to use to your advantage. You should also keep in mind the police are allowed to lie to you during questioning by saying that they have the evidence, in order to get you to confess. The actual evidence may not be strong enough to support a conviction, and your lawyer can help you prove this in court.
How is it possible to fight the charges when there is evidence against me?
Even if there is evidence that indicates that you are guilty, it may be possible to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that your rights were violated during the investigation. For example, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution secures your right against unreasonable search & seizure, so a police officer cannot lawfully pull you over to investigate you for DUI or search your property to find evidence of a
drug crime without reasonable suspicion or a warrant.
Is it possible to clear my criminal record?
Under certain circumstances it is possible to have a criminal record sealed by petitioning the court for an expungement. This essentially gives the individual a fresh start by effectively removing the stigma associated with having to disclose a past conviction during a job interview or on an application for housing.
What can I do to improve my chances of avoiding a conviction?
At all times, you should exercise your Fifth Amendment right against acting as a witness against yourself. "Plead the Fifth" by refusing to speak with investigators and be sure to insist on your right to have an attorney present to advise you and represent you. It is in your best interests to avoid speaking with anyone about the case: for example, if you are charged with a sex crime, you may receive a phone call from the alleged victim requesting an apology or an explanation. The police sometimes stage calls like this so that they can make a recording to later use as evidence. Safeguard yourself by remaining silent about the case.
What are the consequences if I am found guilty?
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, such as
shoplifting or a minor
assault & battery, you can be sent to jail for up to a year, fined and placed on a lengthy probation. You may additionally be required to perform community service or attend anger management or substance abuse classes.
Felony crimes carry similar penalties, but a conviction can send you to state prison for anywhere from a year to life, depending on the severity of the crime. Certain offenses carry special penalties, such as a possible restraining order for a
domestic violence arrest, or mandatory sex offender registration for many sex crimes.
What is a criminal appeal?
If you have been convicted of a criminal charge by jury or by judge, you have the legal right to appeal that finding. In order to do so, you must go through the criminal appeal process. This process begins when you ask a higher or Appellate court to review the lower court's findings during the original trial. You are not allowed to bring in new evidence, and the primary goal of an appeal is to get the lower court to admit error. For example, it may discovered that the lower court erred in addressing the jury by giving incorrect jury instructions. If the Appellate court, or high court, grants the appeal, then the court can grant you a new trial. Once this happens, you have a chance at getting your case dismissed.
What are the advantages of a plea bargain?
At any point during a criminal case, your criminal defense attorney and the prosecution may decide to reach an agreement known as a plea bargain. You can enter into a plea bargain at any time from the moment you are arrested until the moment that the final verdict is read, and there are some distinct advantages to doing so. A plea bargain can reduce your charges, reduce the number of charges against you, and resolve your case more quickly. Plea bargains are critical to avoiding a messy trial that could potentially harm your reputation, and your criminal defense lawyer will handle the negotiations on your behalf.
What is testimonial evidence?
You have likely seen testimonial evidence at trial in many movies and TV shows. Testimonial evidence is when a witness is called to the stand under oath in order to provide testimony to a jury about what they know in regards to the case. The testimony that is given can be used by the prosecution and by the defense to prove various points. Expert witnesses can be called on to give testimonial evidence about their special knowledge of a particular area.