Criminal Defense FAQ
Nearly 700,000 people are arrested on criminal charges in Florida each year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties account for nearly 15 percent of the state’s total annual arrests. That’s nearly 110,000 people in South Florida who are navigating the criminal justice system - many with incorrect or incomplete assumptions about the process, their rights, or how best to protect their futures.
Further proof of this: Consider there are just as many people in the U.S. with criminal records as college degrees. The FBI estimates 1 in 3 Americans has a file in its master criminal database. The number of Americans currently with a criminal record is larger than the entire U.S. population was in 1900.
Unless/until there’s some powerful political will to change this, a significant number of Floridians will likely confront the criminal justice system at some point, in some capacity. It’s best to come prepared with a good defense lawyer who understands the legal system and can advocate effectively on your behalf.
Although every Florida criminal case is different, some of the common questions we get are:
- Do I Really Need to Hire a Florida Defense Lawyer?
- How Much Does a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost?
- Should I Speak to the Police?
- Do I Need a Defense Lawyer for a Florida Traffic Ticket?
- What is Probable Cause in a Florida Criminal Case?
- What is Reasonable Suspicion in a Florida Criminal Case?
- What’s the Difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Florida?
- Do I Have to Allow Police to Search My Car or House?
- Should I Tell My Florida Defense Attorney if I'm Guilty?
- Can Police Stop and Search Me on The Street for No Reason?
- What is Protected in Attorney-Client Privilege?
- How Does Florida Handle Attempted Crimes?
- What Does it Mean to Be an Accessory After the Fact?
- What Should I Do If There’s a Florida Warrant Out for My Arrest?
- How Does Bail Posting Work in Florida?
- Should I Be Concerned About Bail Algorithms in Broward County?
- What Happens if Someone Makes a False Report to Police?
- What Are Aggravated and Mitigating Circumstances in Florida Criminal Cases?
- I’m Innocent. Do I Still Need a Florida Defense Lawyer?
- I'm Guilty. Do I Still Need a Fort Lauderdale Defense Lawyer?
- Hiring a Private Florida Defense Attorney vs. Using an Appointed Public Defender
- Is Every Defendant Entitled to a Free, Appointed Defense Lawyer in Florida?
- Do Under-18 Juveniles Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
- What Happens if I'm Arrested in Florida, But Live Out-of-State?
- Am I a First-Time Offender in Florida if My Criminal Record is in Another State?
- I’m a College Student. Will an Arrest Impact My Education?
- I'm in the Military. How Will a Florida Arrest Impact My Position?
- I Have a Professional License. How Will a Florida Arrest Impact My Career?
- I'm a Co-Parent. How Will a Florida Arrest Impact My Child Custody Case?
- I'm an Immigrant. How Will a Florida Arrest Impact My Residency?
- My Child Has Been Arrested in South Florida. What Should I Do?
- Can Social Media Evidence Be Used Against Me in Court?
- Can I Talk to My Friends and Family About My Florida Criminal Case?
- The Alleged Victim Wants to Drop the Charges. Am I in the Clear?
- Can I Be Convicted Even if I Didn't Know I Was Committing a Crime?
- Why Do Florida Crime Victims Hire Their Own Lawyers?
- Is the Government Allowed to Just Seize My Property?
- Who Can Give Consent to Search a Florida Apartment?
- Can the Police in Florida Search My Car if It's Been Towed?
- Do Police in Florida Have to Read Miranda Rights Before Talking to a Suspect?
- What's the Exclusionary Rule? Will it Help Me Suppress Damaging Evidence in a Florida Criminal Case?
- If I Wasn't Actually Arrested, Can I Still be Charged With a Crime in Florida?
- Can Police in Florida Scan or Swipe My Credit Card for Evidence?
- Can Police in Florida Seize and Search My Phone for Evidence?
- How Fast is a "Speedy" Trial? Should I Waive That Right?
- Will My Fort Lauderdale Criminal Case Actually Go to Trial?
- Can I Change My Lawyer or Public Defender in the Middle of a Florida Criminal Case?
- Is it Ever a Good Idea for Florida Defendants to Represent Themselves?
- Can I Postpone a Civil Lawsuit Against Me Until the Florida Criminal Case is Resolved?
- How Can I Be Not Guilty in a Florida Criminal Case, But Still Liable in the Civil Case?
- What Are the Benefits of a Plea Bargain?
- Will I Get a Harsher Sentence if I Lose After Refusing a Plea Bargain?
- Is My Broward Criminal Case Eligible for a Diversion Program?
- What Does it Mean to Withhold Adjudication?
- What Does a Plea of No Contest Mean in Florida?
- What's a Florida Criminal Scoresheet?
- Can a Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Guarantee Good Results?
- Can I Move if I’m on Probation in Florida?
- I’m on Probation and Got Arrested Again. Now What?
- How Hard is it to Win a South Florida Criminal Case Appeal?
- Should I Hire an Appellate Lawyer?
- Can I Get My Florida Conviction Expunged or Sealed?
Our team of experienced Broward criminal defense lawyers can answer your questions, advise you of your legal options, and work to help you emerge from this entire ordeal with as few serious, long-term consequences as possible.
Your Rights & Responsibilities During Police Interactions
Police serve an important society function, but they are expected to treat everyone fairly - with respect for each person’s rights under the law. Part of our job is ensuring that happens. We’re also committed to ensuring you understand your rights - and responsibilities - when dealing with police.
Interactions with police can be innately stressful, confrontational, and anxiety-inducing. But you do not have to engage beyond the minimum amount. Some of your rights include:
- The right to remain silent. Probably the best known right, it’s also the one many people fail to avail themselves of during police encounters. You do not need to tell the police where you are going, where you’re traveling from, what you are doing, where you live, or where you were born, or whether you’re a U.S. citizen. Some people freely and voluntarily provide this information, so police may label you “uncooperative” if you don’t answer their questions. But that doesn’t change the fact that you aren’t required by law to do so. You may be asked to properly identify yourself, and lawfully arrested if you do not or if you provide a false identity. Beyond this, however, you are free to exercise your right to silence. If you plan to do so, assert this loudly and clearly. “I am exercising my right to remain silent, and I want to speak to my lawyer before answering questions.” And then stay quiet! Don’t make any decisions or give any statements without first talking to a lawyer. You cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions.
- The right to withhold consent to searches. Officers may lawfully pat you down if they suspect you may be carrying weapons. And your refusal to consent to a search of your person, your car, your belongings, or your home may not entirely stop them from doing so. However, timely refusing consent to a search can help preserve your rights in later legal proceedings if the lawful basis for that search is later called into question. Officers and federal agents must have a search warrant to enter your home and conduct a search without your permission. If they do not have one, deny consent. Do not physically resist the search, but verbally state - loudly and clearly - that you do not consent to it.
- The right to an attorney. Contrary to popular belief, you are not entitled to a free defense lawyer for every possible charge in Florida. If you are deemed indigent (not able to afford a lawyer on your own), an attorney will be appointed by the state to represent you - but only if you are facing possible jail time. There are many good reasons to hire a good Florida criminal defense attorney for a traffic ticket, but you aren’t necessarily entitled to one free if you aren’t facing any amount of time behind bars.
- The right to be read your rights. This one comes with a lot of caveats. You’re likely familiar with the term Miranda Rights and the “You have the right to remain silent…” drill from cop shows. However, as noted in the 2000 Fla. 5th DCA ruling in State v. Wilson, law enforcement isn’t required to expressly state these rights unless they’ve said or done something to indicate you’re in police custody. If you volunteer self-incriminating information to police prior to arrest and/or when you’re not in police custody (or police taking action to make you believe you’re in their custody), that can likely be used against you - even if police never read your Miranda rights.
If you’re arrested, you have the right to make a local call. If you contact a lawyer at this time, police are not allowed to listen in, as this is protected under attorney-client privilege. However, if you call someone else, expect that call to be monitored.
Consider also your responsibilities during these interactions. These are not all requirements by law, but they’re generally advisable during most police encounters. They include:
- Remain calm. Obviously, this may be a heightened emotional situation, but the more you can reign in any big reactions, usually the better off the outcome.
- Don’t lie or provide false documents. The state cannot hold your silence against you - but if you lie, that can be used against you in court to damage your credibility.
- Do not obstruct or interfere. Don’t run. Don’t argue. Don’t resist. Keep your hands where they can be seen. Even if you are innocent and the police are violating your rights, such actions may be used as the legal basis to arrest, detain, or use force. Unlawful actions by the police may be later remedied with a civil rights lawsuit, but you don’t want to give them any basis on which to charge you with a legitimate crime like obstruction or resisting arrest.
- Stay silent and ask for a lawyer. You don’t need to explain. You don’t need to sign any paperwork. You don’t need to make any decision with legal implications without first discussing it with a criminal defense attorney. If you think your rights are being violated, take mental note of as many details as possible - officer names, badge numbers, locations, witnesses, etc. - until you get somewhere that you can safely write it all down.
How a Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
As a defendant in a South Florida criminal case, you may be facing the possibility of losing your livelihood, your money, your housing, your education, your family - your very freedom. A criminal defense attorney is essential to ensuring that someone who understands the legal system - what is at stake and how to successfully navigate the most serious challenges - is on your side.
The involvement of a Broward criminal defense lawyer early on in the case can help:
- Prevent wrongful conviction.
- Push back against charges with insufficient evidence.
- Fight excessive sentencing.
- Present mitigating circumstances and affirmative defenses.
- Downplay the assertion of any aggravating factors.
We recognize the Florida criminal justice system can feel like a formidable beast. But our Broward defense lawyers have the right skill and experience to have successfully seen many clients through to the other side of serious cases with minimal long-term impacts on their lives. We’re committed to fighting for the same for you.
If you have been arrested in South Florida, call The Ansara Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.