Solutions For You
HOW WILL MY CASE BE RESOLVED?
You have a problem. You are coming to an criminal defense attorney to help solve that problem. Below are several typical methods in which cases are resolved. Keep in mind, your attorney must thoroughly investigate and evaluate the facts of your situation to help you influence the outcome of your case. This can mean reviewing the Criminal Report Affidavit, Full Police Reports, Discovery Response, talking to or deposing witnesses, conducting a defense investigation, etc.
PRE-FILE REPRESENTATION / INTERVENTION
Even though you have been arrested, this does not mean that formal charges have been, or have to be, filed against you. In some instances, early intervention by your attorney can help convince the prosecutor not to file charges or to file reduced charges. Most arrests are the product of a police officer's on scene legal determination. Police officers are not lawyers - sometimes they get it wrong. The prosecuting attorney, not the police officer, decides what crime to officially charge. In some situations, it is the job of the defense lawyer to make contact with the prosecuting authority at an early stage. Sometimes the prosecutor will not follow the recommendation of the police officer. The prosecuting attorney may be more likely to see things your way rather than the officer's if your attorney is making a good pre-file argument on your behalf.
In some instances your attorney can argue and push for your acceptance into a diversionary program. If the prosecutor agrees, the case is taken out of the court system. In order for this to occur you must be willing to waive certain valuable legal rights. You, your attorney and the prosecutor would enter into an out-of-court written "contract" where you would be required to complete several tasks. If all conditions were satisfied, the case would be eventually dismissed. Not all charges are eligible for a diversionary program. There are separate diversionary programs for felony and misdemeanor offenses which vary in length from 6 to 18 months.
You may want your attorney to plea bargain with the prosecutor or judge in order to resolve the case in your best interest. The goal is to reduce or eliminate jail time, probation time, fines and costs, as well as other conditions. Some clients are willing to admit to some wrongdoing so long as the punishment is not too harsh. You want to gain a "withhold of adjudication" if at all possible so that you will not be "convicted" and so that you will still be able to pursue a records sealing (if otherwise eligible). It is important to have a skilled attorney who can spot problems with the prosecutor’s case to be used as leverage during the plea negotiation process. It also helps when the prosecutor knows your attorney is experienced and effective in trial and is willing to go through with a jury trial if a negotiation cannot be reached.
SEALING OR EXPUNGING OF CRIMINAL RECORDS
If you were arrested in Tampa or Hillsborough County, your booking photo is available to the general public through the Sheriff's Office web site. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to have the arrest and court records taken out of the public view. Records sealing or expunging is a lengthy and involved process. However, if your petition is ultimately granted, you will be able to have your photo and record of your arrest removed from the internet. Additionally, with only a few exceptions, you will be able to truthfully and lawfully state that you were never arrested or charged. Contrary to the impression given by some law enforcement agencies and some clerks of court, the sealing/expunging of criminal records is not a ministerial function. The judge is not required to automatically grant a petition to seal or expunge even if all of the paperwork is correct. The judge has the discretion to deny a petition, and therefore, the petition to seal or expunge records should be considered the same as any other legal motion brought during the pendency of a criminal case.
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