Frequently Asked Questions

Dealing with criminal charges can be a daunting and bewildering ordeal, especially if you’ve never encountered the legal system before. The complexities of the criminal justice system can leave anyone with a flood of questions and uncertainties about their situation. To help ease your apprehensions, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions and their answers.

Typically, during an arrest, the police will first take you to the station. They will advise you generally as to the charges against you. However, keep in mind that these charges may be changed at a later time at the discretion of the government.

You may be required to participate in a line up, give a sample of your signature, or speak certain phrases for voice identification purposes. They may ask you to put on certain clothing or give a sample of your hair. The police will often read you your Miranda rights and question you about the situation. Further, you may be asked to sign documents or make a formal statement. Whether or not you chose to speak is ultimately up to you, but you are not required to do so. Whatever information the police gather during the course of their investigation can and will be used against you. If you are being arrested and/or investigated for committing a crime, it’s almost always advisable to refrain from speaking with the police without an attorney present.

You have the right to remain silent. You are not required to answer any questions by the police during the course of their investigation. In fact, if you make it known that you are invoking your right to remain silent, the questioning should cease.

Anything you say can and will be used against you. Getting a confession is an important part of the police investigation. In many cases, a confession can be the strongest evidence the state has. Consequently, the police will do whatever is within their power to get a confession out of an arrestee. Legally, they may lie and use manipulation during interrogation. However, if you invoke your right to remain silent, or your legal right to an attorney, the questioning should cease.

You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint the Public Defender on your behalf. If you qualify as indigent under certain criteria, you can speak with the Public Defender before further questioning. Under federal and state law, you are legally entitled to an attorney when accused of any crime which carries a possible jail sentence.

You have the right to know what crime(s) you are being charged with and by whom. Additionally, you have the right to know the name of the police officer(s) involved in your case.

You have the right to communicate with your attorney, family, or a bonding agent within a reasonable time.

You are legally under arrest when law enforcement officers either take you into custody, or otherwise deprive you of your freedom in a substantial way, in order to question you concerning a crime.

You may be under arrest even though no one has used the word “arrest”, or any similar phrase. At the time of arrest, the police are obligated to identify themselves, and tell you why you are being arrested, unless the circumstances make it impossible for them to do so.

A police officer may temporarily detain you without making an arrest. The officer may require you to identify yourself and explain your presence without actually making an arrest. However, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity, and the temporary detainment must last no longer than is reasonably necessary for the officer to dispel the suspicion.

If the police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect you may have a weapon, he/she may pat you down to ensure that you are not armed. If during the course of this limited pat down search, a suspicious object is found, it can be removed by the officer for the officer’s protection. Unless the officer places you under arrest, the frisk or search must be limited to suspected weapons. After this temporary detention, a police officer may either arrest you are let you go.

A warrant is an order from the court telling law enforcement agencies to perform a specific task. An arrest warrant is an order from the court telling law enforcement agencies to make an arrest of an identified subject. A search warrant on the other hand, commands and empowers law enforcement agencies to conduct a search of a specified area (home, vehicle, business, etc.). When a search warrant is issued, officers may only search areas specifically identified and listed in the warrant. You are entitled to have a copy of this warrant if you are present during the search.

A police officer may arrest you at any time if he/she has a warrant for your arrest, or if he/she knows that a warrant for your arrest has been issued.

No. A police officer may make an arrest without a warrant under many circumstances. If the arresting officer has a reasonable belief that a felony has been or is being committed and that you are the offender, he/she may make a warrantless arrest. Alternatively, an officer may make a warrantless arrest when a misdemeanor is committed in the presence of the officer. Further, Florida law gives police the power to make arrests for certain misdemeanors that were not committed within the presence of an officer.

The laws regarding search and seizure of property are complicated. While it is never a good idea to resist a search with force, one shouldn’t consent to an unreasonable search. If you object to having your property or person searched, you need to strongly verbalize your objection. Tell the police that they do not have your consent to conduct the search. Further, ask them for identification, and an explanation. This will be helpful information for your attorney as your case progresses.

If the officers have a warrant, they are confined to the scope of what the warrant allows. They may not search areas or things that are not particularly identified in the warrant. If you are arrested in your home, the police may search the immediate area without a warrant. Further, they can check the entire house for dangerous people, and they can seize anything that is in plain view. If you are involved in a traffic stop, and then arrested, your car may be impounded and then later subject to an inventory search. However, if you can arrange for someone to pick up your vehicle, this may be avoided.

An arraignment is a court proceeding in which the court addresses the defendant, apprises them as to the nature of the charges, and gives them the opportunity to enter a plea to those charges. At arraignment, the defendant will either plead “not guilty,” “no-contest,” or “guilty.” If you have an attorney at this stage, he/she may file a written plea with the court and waive your appearance. If this is done, it won’t be necessary for you to attend the arraignment.

A plea of no contest is treated as a guilty plea for purposes of imposing your sentence. However, a “guilty plea” is different from a “no-contest” plea. Unlike a plea of “guilty” which is an admission of criminal wrongdoing, a plea of “no-contest” is simply an acceptance of the conviction without specifically admitting you committed the crime(s). A plea of “no-contest” is ideal for defendant’s who deny the charges against them but would rather accept a plea bargain than risk going to trial. A plea of “no-contest” is also useful, because it is not considered a direct admission of guilt in a subsequent civil proceeding.

Hiring an attorney is a serious and important decision. A defense attorney will act as an advocate for your rights. It is the judge’s job to be neutral and objective, and it is the prosecutor’s job to prove your guilt and secure a conviction. In that regard, an attorney is the only person vested with the responsibility of fighting for your interest.

A skilled and experienced attorney will understand the legal system, the laws, and how to defend your rights. While much of an attorney’s job involves representing clients in court proceedings, an experienced attorney may additionally interview witnesses, evaluate evidence, research discrepancies in the state’s case, and take other measures to prove your innocence and improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome.

Legal fees charged by attorneys can vary depending on the severity and complexity of the charges involved, the amount of time involved to effectively investigate the facts and to explore all legal defenses that may be viable, the amount of skill experience and expertise the attorney has in the subject matter, and the anticipated amount of time necessary to prepare the case for trial—if necessary. The Law Office of William B. Wynne charges a flat rate fee agreed upon in advance. Depending on the nature of the charge, there may be an additional trial fee. Additional costs and fees include things such as court fees, the cost of filing documents, obtaining copies from other agencies, mailing fees, travel expenses, etc. Please feel free to contact the office for a free consultation.