Criminal Defense Overview
Winston Law, P.A. specializes in fighting for clients charged with all types of felonies, misdemeanors and juvenile crimes. Susan Winston, the founding partner of Winston Law, P.A. has defended thousands of complex criminal cases in Palm Beach County since 2004.
If you are arrested, given a notice to appear, under investigation, or have been charged with any felony or misdemeanor, please contact Winston Law, P.A. for a free consultation, at (561)670-9375 or firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Classification of Crimes
Crimes are classified based on severity or age of the defendant and put into three major categories; felonies, misdemeanors, and juvenile delinquency.
Felonies. A felony is any crime punishable by over one year and one day in prison. Felony crimes are filed in Circuit Court. Felonies in Florida include:
Capital Crimes- crimes punishable by death. Capital crimes include First Degree Murder and Capital Sexual Battery (which at common law was punishable by death but is punishable by life today).
Felonies Punishable by Life (PBL) (i.e. Second Degree Murder, Burglary with Assault/Battery and Robbery with a Firearm).
Felonies of the First Degree- crimes punishable by up to 30 years in prison (i.e. Sale of Cocaine with in1000ft. of a School/Park/Daycare and Home Invasion Robbery).
Felonies of the Second Degree- crimes punishable by up to 15 years in prison (i.e. Burglary of a Dwelling and Dealing in Stolen Property)
Felonies of the Third Degree- crimes punishable by up to 5 years in prison (i.e. Grand Theft Auto, Burglary of a Structure, and Possession of Cocaine).
Misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is any crime punishable one year or less in the county jail. Often police will issue a notice to appear in court rather than make an arrest. Misdemeanors are filed in County Court. Examples of common misdemeanors are assault, battery, domestic battery, trespass, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and Driving Under Suspended License (DUS).
Juvenile Delinquency. Juvenile delinquency cases are felonies and misdemeanors filed against children. Juveniles do not have the right to jury trials in the State of Florida. Instead all juvenile trials are heard and decided by a judge. Because the goal of juvenile delinquency law is deterrence rather than punishment the consequences of juvenile crime do not include traditional prison time but instead probation and/or time in a juvenile program. In some situations, children might have their cases filed in adult court this is called direct file. It is common, especially in Palm Beach County, for juveniles with a prior record or who are charged with serious felonies to have their charges filed in adult court. Juveniles charged in adult court face the same consequences as adults including prison time.
Withhold of Adjudication v. Adjudication
If you have been arrested for a crime, you will have a criminal record. That criminal record shows arrests, the type of crime and the disposition (how the case was resolved) of the case. If you are convicted of a crime in Florida there are two ways to resolve the case, with a withhold of adjudication or an adjudication. An adjudication is a formal finding of guilt that will remain on your record permanently.
If you have been adjudicated of a crime it may cause difficulties finding a place to live, getting a loan, and finding employment. If you have been adjudicated of a felony you will lose certain rights such as the right to possess or own a firearm, the right to vote and the right to jury duty. Felony convictions can be devastating to a person’s life.
In certain situations, Florida law allows the court to withhold a formal finding of guilt and results in a withhold of adjudication. This allows a person to state they have not been convicted of a crime on job, school, housing, and bank applications. It is intended to give first time offenders a second chance by not formally convicting them of a crime. A withhold of adjudication preserves certain rights such as the right to vote, possess a firearm, and serve as a juror. A person who as a withhold of adjudication on their record may also be able to have their record sealed or expunged depending on the crime.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Talk to the Police?
NO, if you are arrested or being investigated for a crime it is not in your best interests to talk to the police. Telling the police you do not want to speak to them is much more difficult than it sounds. Police officers, especially detectives, are specifically trained to use coercive techniques to obtain confessions. They may make promises or indicate that they will help you by reducing your charges or letting you go home. If the police try to interview you about your case tell them you want to speak with a lawyer (even if you are not currently represented by a lawyer).
What happens if the police do not read my Miranda rights?
Miranda rights were established in Miranda v. Arizona a United States Supreme Court case decided in 1966. That case established that police must tell you that “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say will be used against you in a court of law, you have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you.”
Unlike on television, if a police officer fails to read your Miranda rights your case is not automatically dropped. The police are only required to read you Miranda rights if you are in custody and they want to question you about a crime. Police do not have to read your Miranda rights at the time of arrest. If police do make an error involving your Miranda rights, it does not automatically result in the dismissal of your case. Instead any incriminating statements you may have made will be suppressed. Prosecutors can still move forward with your case by using other evidence.
What happens after an Arrest?
If you or someone you know has just been arrested it can be critical to hire an attorney as soon as possible after that arrest. Florida Law requires that within 24 hours of an arrest, an arrestee must have a First Appearance Hearing. At this hearing, a judge determines whether there is probable cause for the arrest. If a judge does find probable cause the next step will be to determine the conditions of release for the arrestee.
It is important to have an attorney at this hearing. Winston Law can help preserve important evidence such as photographs or witness information even before the First Appearance. At the hearing, Winston Law can argue for an affordable monetary bond for the arrestee or even an “OR” (own recognizance) release.
What Happens After the First Appearance?
After First Appearance, the State of Florida has 30 days to file charges against a defendant being held in custody. If you are released from jail the State can extend their filing deadline up to 45 days. It is important to hire an attorney before charges are formally filed. Prosecutors have the power to “No File” a charge or reduce charges from a Felony to a Misdemeanor. Winston Law can help you by presenting the Prosecutor with alternative evidence or can attack the police version of the evidence before charges are even filed.
Does an Arrest Mean I will be Found Guilty?
No, an arrest is just the beginning of a criminal case. Under the law you are innocent until proven guilty beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. This is why having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney is so important. Winston Law can help you by working to get the charges reduced or dropped, deposing or interviewing witnesses and police officers, hiring experts to aid in your defense, hiring investigators to uncover facts and witnesses to help your case, negotiate with prosecutors, fight for you in trial and more….
If you or a loved one needs a knowledgeable and experienced attorney please contact Winston Law for a free consultation, by calling (561) 670-9375 or by emailing email@example.com