Criminal Law

What follows are some general questions and answers about criminal law in Florida. If you’d like more information, or you don’t see an answer to the question you want answered, check out our Blog, which is updated every couple of days, and is a searchable guide to many interesting questions about arrest, DUIs, obtaining a lawyer, and other areas of criminal law.

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Some answers about Florida criminal law :

What happens if I get arrested in Florida?

If you’re arrested for a felony, you’ll almost certainly be taken to jail. After you’ve been “processed,” you’ll be given a bail amount (usually called a “bond”) unless you are charged with a very serious crime. Even if you are charged with a very serious crime (even muder, with certain rare exceptions), you’ll be permitted to appear before a judge the next morning, and you’ll be given a bail amount. You may not be able to afford the bail, but you will get one. For less serious, non-violent crimes, you will probably be released on your own recognizance.

What happens if I can’t afford my bail bond?

You’ll be permitted to call a relative or friend or a bail bondsman. Most bail bondsmen will post your bail for you in exchange for ten percent of the total bail amount. The bail bondsman may also ask for collateral.

Am I entitled to a lawyer when I get arrested?

No, though most jails will allow you to call a lawyer (collect) from the jail. You are only entitled to a lawyer if you are being questioned by the police about an alleged crime. If you ask for a lawyer before or during questioning, the police should (though they don’t always) stop asking you questions. If the police don’t stop asking you questions after you ask for a lawyer, the chances are probably good that anything you say after asking for a lawyer can’t be used against you. Here’s a good rule, though: Always ask for a lawyer. It’s a very, very bad idea to talk to the police without a lawyer present.

What happens if I am under the influence of alcohol when I get arrested?

Before you are allowed to get out on bail, you will be given time to sober up.

What happens if I get pulled over and I’m drunk?

If the police officer suspects you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, y ou will probably be asked to perform exercises (like toughing your nose or reciting the alphabet) to determine if you are fit to drive. If you aren’t able to perform satisfactorily, you’ll probably be taken to the jail or to a police station to be given a “breathalyzer” test. If the “breathalyzer” shows a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, you will be charged with DUI. Even if your blood alcohol level is less than .08, you may still be charged with DUI, but the decision is up to the arresting officer.

Can I or should I refuse the “breathalyzer”?

When you got a Florida driver’s license (or when you agreed to drive in Florida with an out-of-state license), you are required to take the “breathalyzer.” (Don’t believe me? Look on your license.) If you refuse to take the “breathalyzer” test, your license will be suspended for a year, or 18 months if you have refused the test in the past. So should you take the test? Defense attorneys get asked this a lot, and I haven’t heard a good answer (or given one) yet. Failing to take the test is pretty strong evidence against you (why give up your license if you’re not drunk?), not to mention the serious consequences of refusing the test. Tough call, but you are probably better off taking the test.

Do I get a free lawyer to defend me if I’m charged with a crime and I can’t afford a lawyer?

Probably not. If you are indigent (you make very little and you own no property), you may be appointed a public defender, especially if you are charged with a felony. But even public defenders have a charge associated with them. If you cannot pay your public defender fee, it will probably be placed on your credit.

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