Facing criminal charges can be a scary process. At Roelke Law, we see our jobs as more than just defending you in court. We aim to keep you informed on all matters facing you. Here are some of the most common questions people have about criminal matters.FAQ ABOUT JACKSONVILLE CRIMINAL CHARGES
- How much does a criminal defense lawyer cost?
- If the victim does not want to press charges, am I in the clear?
- What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
- If I just plead guilty without getting a lawyer, will I get a lighter sentence?
- What is a plea bargain?
- When do I need to hire a lawyer?
- Can I represent myself in court?
HOW MUCH DOES A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER COST?
The cost of a defense lawyer will depend on many factors: The charge involved, the details of the case, etc. The first consultation with Roelke Law Firm is free, though. At that consultation, we will discuss the issues surrounding your charge, and we will be able to give you an estimate of the cost of your case.
We accept credit cards, cash and checks. At the consultation, we can discuss how to make your defense affordable.
IF THE VICTIM DOES NOT WANT TO PRESS CHARGES, AM I IN THE CLEAR?
No. You may have heard that a victim can “drop” or not press charges. However, it is not actually the victim who is pursuing charges against you. It is the people of the State of Florida, represented in Duval County by the State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit.
The prosecutor is the one who actually decides whether or not to press charges. In some cases, they may pursue a case despite the victim asking them not to. This is especially true in domestic violence cases, in which prosecutors generally refuse to drop charges because they fear the victim is seeking to do so to preserve a relationship and will become a victim again.
However, the fact that the victim does not wish to pursue charges can be persuasive. In cases where the victim wants to drop charges, an attorney can help the accused obtain an Affidavit of Nonprosecution from the victim.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MISDEMEANOR AND A FELONY?
A misdemeanor is, under Florida Statutes Annotated § 775.08, a criminal offense that is, under the law, punishable by imprisonment of less than a year. A felony, under the same statute, is an offense punishable by death or by imprisonment in a state penitentiary.
Felonies are very serious matters. In addition to the mere fact that they carry more severe penalties, a felony conviction can have a lifelong impact on your rights. In Florida, people who are convicted of felonies permanently lose the right to vote. Under federal law, you will no longer be allowed to possess a firearm.
This is not to say that a misdemeanor charge is not serious. Misdemeanors can have serious, lifelong penalties, as well. A misdemeanor charge will remain on your record and could affect your opportunities for employment, housing, education and loans.
IF I JUST PLEAD GUILTY WITHOUT GETTING A LAWYER, WILL I GET A LIGHTER SENTENCE?
Probably not. The State Attorney’s job is to secure a conviction, and they will usually seek the most severe penalty. A person who just gives up is an easy target. Once you plead guilty, you have also given up your chance to obtain a plea bargain.
WHAT IS A PLEA BARGAIN?
A plea bargain is a deal struck between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, in which the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere in exchange for less harsh consequences than he or she would receive under the charges the prosecutor initially intends to file.
The plea bargain may be that charges are reduced from a more serious one to a lesser one, like from assault to breach of the peace. It may be for deferred adjudication, in which a conviction is not entered and if the defendant completes terms of an agreement, charges are dropped.
Prosecutors may accept a plea bargain to reduce their caseload and secure an easy conviction. An experienced defense attorney is best able to negotiate a plea bargain because he best understands prosecutors and knows what they want.
WHEN DO I NEED TO HIRE A LAWYER?
As early as possible. In some cases, you may be aware that police are investigating you for a crime they believe you committed. An attorney can advise you on your rights, including when you should not speak to police.
For some charges, there are certain deadlines that come up. For instance, if you have been arrested for DUI, you have 10 days to request a hearing with the DMV to protest license suspension.
In any case, the sooner an attorney can start working on a case, the sooner he can start building a defense. A thorough investigation can lead to the discovery of certain defenses and flaws in the prosecution’s case. The more time the lawyer has to conduct this investigation, the better.
CAN I REPRESENT MYSELF IN COURT?
It is your right to represent yourself in court. Doing so is called pro se representation. However, representing yourself is a very bad idea.
There are many nuances in Florida criminal procedure, and it is easy to make a mistake. It does not matter how educated you are or how clear you think your defense is. Even lawyers are advised to hire counsel when involved as a party in a case — the old saying is “The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
If you represent yourself, neither the judge nor the prosecutor is going to give you a break. The judge will advise you from the beginning to hire an attorney. If you do not take his or her advice, he or she is likely to have little sympathy for you. The prosecutor will view you as an easy target, and could pursue the harshest possible consequences.