While Interviewing Criminal Attorneys One Stated He or She Could Guarantee Results

No one can guarantee a future event especially in a Criminal Defense Case.  In fact guaranteeing results is against the Florida Bar Rules. The outcome of a criminal case is a future event like any other. An experienced criminal trial attorney can usually give opinions as to the possible outcome, but these are no more than professional opinions. Be careful not to mistake a criminal defense attorney's opinion for a guarantee. If the criminal defense attorney is truly giving you a guarantee contingent upon hiring the lawyer, ask the attorney to give you the guarantee in writing. For more information call the Florida Bar Association.

Can I find out how long my Florida criminal defense lawyer has been practicing?

Yes, you can look up his or her name on the Florida Bar website at www.flabar.org.  It will give you the individuals date of admission.  Its important to review you lawyers experience prior to hiring him or her.  Make your criminal defense lawyer has criminal TRIAL experience.  State Attorneys know who is not willing to go to trial and they take advantage of that fact.  Also make sure that your attorney is not just referring you to a more experienced attorney.  At Bradford Cohen Law, the attorney you speak with is the attorney who will me handling your matter.

What is the difference between a State and Federal Charge?

State System:

Circuit Courts try felony cases like possession of cocaine, Grand Theft, Battery with serious bodily injury, or battery on a law enforcement officer, to name a few. If you so choose to go to trial on a Circuit Court non-capital matter you are entitled to a 6 person jury with one alternate Juror.  A felony case is considered to be any case punishable by a sentence greater then 364 days.

County Courts try misdemeanors in which jail is a possibility, like DUI's, First Driving While License Suspended, Simple Battery, and Petit Theft, to name a few. The maximum punishment in Criminal County Court on a 1st degree misdemeanor is 364 Days in Broward County Jail.

Traffic Tickets that are non-criminal in nature such as speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign are handled by court magistrates in Traffic Court.  These civil fines are not punishable by any period of Jail.

The State must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt in any case before the State Court. In regards to a probation revocation in which the hearing is before a judge and the state need only prove a violation by a preponderance (more likely than not) of the evidence. This is a far less degree of proof.  You do not even need to be found guilty of a substantive offense to be found in violation of your probation.

In a plea bargain, the District Attorney and the accused agree on a sentence to recommend to the judge. The bargaining is over sentencing: how much time an accused spends in prison, jail, or on probation.  In regards to plea sentences in a Felony case, a score sheet is used to find the range of sentencing available for the Defendant. The state calculates all prior offenses and the current offenses scoring them pursuant to statute.  They then total that amount and enter it into an equation to get you sentence in months.  This is known as the "bottom of the guidelines", meaning that is the lowest you could get sentenced to, absent any departure Motions.  The lowest possible sentence that can be scored is known as an "Any non-state sentence".  This means you could get anything from probation up to the maximum for you offense.  The maximum for your offense depends on the degree of felony.  In Florida we have 3 degrees of felonies.  Generally, the maximums are as follows:

1st Degree:   30 years Florida State Prison 

2nd Degree: 15 years Florida State Prison

3rd Degree:  5 years Florida State Prison

After a Jury trial you are permitted to file an appeal.  An Appeal is based on a mistake in the law that was applied in you criminal case.  Appellate Courts do not review witnesses that are lying.

In the Federal system

US District Courts try mostly federal felonies, although there are some federal misdemeanors as well. An accused has a right to a jury trial.

In Federal Court there are many tactics and strategies that are different then State Court, largely because the Sentencing Guidelines drastically restrict a federal judge's flexibility.  Even though the "guildelines" in Federal Court are no longer held to be mandatory on the court, the court gives them great weight in sentencing the Defendants. 

Most of the conflict in federal sentencing takes place over the judge's power to make a "downward departure" from the sentence indicated by the defendant's sentencing guideline score.  Even though technically in the wake of recent case law it is not a downward departure.  There are many arguments over what is known as your "PSI".  This document is prepared by the Dept. of Probation and adds up the points the Defendant allegedly scores to come to a sentencing recommendation. The arguments can be over amounts of monies used to set a certain point value or the roll the Defendant played in the offense.  A good lawyer makes all the difference in your score, so hire one with Federal Criminal experience. 

The most important thing for a defendant in any criminal case is to make sure not to unwittingly give up the appeal rights, which can easily happen not appealing in the allotted time for appeal.