Frequently Asked Questions about Criminal Charges
The Morris Law Firm represents Florida and non-Florida residents charged with DUI, drug crimes, white collar crimes, and other criminal offenses. Here we provide answers to some frequently asked questions about retaining defense representation and facing criminal charges in Panama City.
To learn more about our services and the integral role defense counsel plays in criminal proceedings, please consult the questions below. For more information about how we can help you in your specific case, please contact us for a free initial consultation with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. We are dedicated to fighting for our clients’ rights and liberties.
What are my rights once I’ve been accused of a crime?
Every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden is on the prosecutor and the state to prove your guilt. You never have to prove your innocence, which means you are not required to testify or call witnesses at a trial. If you are charged with a criminal offense, you have the right to:
- A public trial by judge or jury
- An attorney (as well as the right to a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one)
- Remain silent
- Cross-examine your accusers
- Testify (but only if you want to)
- To compel witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Appeal a conviction to a higher court
This is my first arrest, and I just want to put it behind me; why not accept the consequences and move on?
Going through an arrest and encountering the criminal justice system for the first time leaves most people scared, intimidated, and embarrassed. Of course you want to put the situation behind you and move on with your life. In many cases, however, simply accepting a conviction can cause you to revisit the incident long after you have completed your punishment. A criminal record can prevent you from obtaining a professional license, joining the military, or enjoying certain rights as a citizen.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can often achieve excellent results for first-time offenders. For example, through proactive and aggressive representation, the Morris Law Firm has helped many clients reduce criminal charges to infractions, thus avoiding a criminal record, and we have obtained outright dismissals in many cases.
What is a plea bargain?
A plea bargain is an admission of guilt to certain charges in order to avoid a trial and possibly worse consequences if convicted. While you may avoid a risky and lengthy trial by agreeing to a plea bargain, the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction on your record can be much worse than fighting the charges in court. Moreover, a plea bargain does not always guarantee a lighter penalty.
Do not enter into a plea bargain until you discuss your case with an attorney. In many cases, people have viable defenses to the charges brought against them, which means trial can result in a better outcome than a plea bargain.
What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
A felony is a major crime that can be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. Most violent crimes are classified as felonies. A misdemeanor is an offense lower than a felony that can be punished with a county jail term of up to one year and/or a fine. Violations of some state laws and many city and county ordinances are classified as misdemeanors.
While a misdemeanor charge is less serious than a felony, a misdemeanor conviction—like any criminal conviction—can haunt you for the rest of your life. In many cases, especially first offense cases, the charges can be argued down or eliminated with effective legal counsel.
Is a probation violation a misdemeanor or a felony?
If you are placed on a period of probation after being convicted of a crime, you must comply with many conditions ordered by the judge. If you fail to meet one of these conditions, you have most likely violated your probation, and can face up to the maximum amount of time you were facing on the original charge. Thus, a probation violation carries a misdemeanor or felony sentence depending on the charge for which you received probation.
What is an arraignment and do I have to attend?
In Florida, the arraignment hearing is where a plea is given: not-guilty, guilty, or no contest. When you retain our firm, we will file the appropriate paperwork that will allow us to waive your right to an arraignment. Specifically, we will submit a not-guilty plea in writing to the court system for you and save you the trouble and headache of traveling to the court house for your arraignment. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty, so we will enter your not-guilty plea as your first step in the defense process.
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- In the Orlando area? Our friend, Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby is located at 1217 E. Robinson Street, Orlando, FL 32801 and can be reached at 407-540-1551.
- Some additional DUI information.