Criminal charges are pending.
What can you do? What are your options? Learn your options if arrested for a crime in Florida.
Depending on your factual circumstances and criminal background there are an array of options for you if arrested for a crime in Florida.
We discuss them generally below.
This is the “homerun” resolution option if you are charged with a criminal case.
Your criminal defense attorney is either asking for an outright dismissal from the State Attorney or seeking a dismissal after targeted motion practice.
When seeking a dismissal of your charge without going to Court, you will need to have an agreement from the State Attorney for the dismissal.
This most commonly happens when you are able to show the State Attorney that they cannot prove the case against you in Court.
Consider Jack, who is charged with Possession of Marijuana.
The Cops pulled Jack over for speeding. The cops felt something was “fishy”, pulled Jack out of the car, and then search his vehicle.
In the trunk, the cops found a baggy of marijuana.
When asked by the Cops if Jack owned the marijuana, Jack invoked his 5th amendment right to remain silent. The Cops then arrested jack.
This version of the facts above is uncontested, meaning the cops and Jack both agree this is how it played out.
In this scenario, we know there is a very good case law that suggests the State cannot prove the case against Jack as a matter of law. (Basically, they cannot prove dominion and control over the drugs; it could have been Jack’s girlfriend.. or Mother.. ).
Therefore, the State may agree to dismiss the action before going to Court and losing.
More often, however, a dismissal is the result of Court litigation.
After all, the State filed the charge and is spending resources proceeding. They think they have a good case. So you have to show them otherwise, usually done with a Motion to Dismiss or Motion to Suppress.
Motion to Dismiss: In some cases, we can file a Motion to Dismiss the Case.
Cases can be dismissed because:
- The Case is too old;
- Your speedy trial rights have been filed,
- The undisputed facts don’t fit the crime, or
- There is a special statute that allows us to ask for a dismissal (ie Florida’s Self Defense Statute).
Motions to Suppress: In other cases, we can file a Motion to Suppress evidence in the case.
A Motion to Suppress is used when the Cops violated your rights. When the violation is bad enough, we can ask the Court to toss out any evidence that was secured by the cops as a result of violating your rights.
For example, consider the case where the Cops stopped you just for the way you look, without a substantial reason.
After they stop you for no reason, however, the realize you are drinking and arrest you for drunk driving.
In this case, we can ask the Court to suppress all of the evidence of your impairment after the stop. We do this because we do not want to encourage cops to violate US citizens rights! So we have to reprimand the cop by forcing their evidence to be excluded.
If enough evidence is suppressed, the State may look at the case again and realize they cannot prove the matter, leading to a dismissal.
A pretrial Diversion is a great option if you are eligible and your attorney can swing it.
With a diversionary program, you agree to do “something” in exchange for a dismissal of the charge.
For example, you may agree to do 50 hours of community service and pay a fine to the State of Florida. You may also agree to stay out of trouble for 6 months and report to a pseudo-probation to make sure you are staying on the up and narrow.
In exchange, the State Attorney will agree to dismiss all charges at the end of the day.
This is a great option that can keep your record clean. That way, when you look back on this a year from now, your public record will show that the charges were dismissed by the State Attorney.
Another program if appropriate that is similar to a diversionary program is Drug Court.
Drug Court is an alternative Court model that focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment.
With the drug court model, expect many drug tests and meeting with the Judge. At the end of drug court, you may be eligible for a dismissal or no conviction of the drug-related charge.
While Drug Court is a great social program. it is important to make sure you are the right fit. It is exhaustive, and most people are unable to work full time and complete the program. It should be used by those who truly are fighting drug abuse demons and can benefit from using State assistance to beat the demons.
No Conviction Resolution
For many, the damage of a criminal charge lies in the conviction.
It is the permanent branding of a convicted criminal that sticks for years afterward.
After all, in the day of the internet, any employer, dating partner, or even your child can run a quick background check on you.
A resolution without a criminal conviction can avoid this permanent branding.
And in many cases, without a conviction you may be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged.
Seek Reduction of the Charge
Sometimes the best option is to have a charge modified, or reduced, in order to save you from the stigma of a charge or minimum penalties associated with a charge.
For example, conviction for a DUI carries a strong social stigma.
Even worse, the lawmakers have decided that a DUI conviction must carry certain minimum punishments that a Judge cannot maneuver around.
The end result is huge fines, lengthy probations, and more.
But, if you can negotiate around the DUI charge to, say, a reckless driving charge, the social stigma and a big portion of the punishment can be avoided.
Plea As Charged At Arraignment
This is not a recommended option. But it exists.
You can go to the Judge at your first Court date and plea as charged.
In essence you are seeking the mercy of the Court.
This often results in you resolving your case for a significantly worse deal than if you had engaged in the discovery process and fought the charge.
In certain cases probation is a reasonable option.
When we speak of probation, we are talking about a period of supervision by the Courts where you need to stay out of trouble, pay a fine, and report on a regular basis to a supervisor.
Probation can be a hassle, but it is without a doubt much better than going to jail.
Litigation & Trial
Finally, you have an absolute right to have your case heard by a Jury of people like you at trial.
This is usually not a first resort of course.
After all, if you can work your case out for one of the options above so that it is a good deal for you given your circumstances, then great.
But sometimes you want to take it to trial because either the State will not agree to resolve the case for a fair resolution or you are simply innocent of the crime and the State refuses to dismiss the case.