Criminal defense attorneys in the Boca Raton Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin have decades of experience representing clients charged with crimes in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Below are answers to some of the questions we encounter most frequently from people facing criminal charges.
Q. I was arrested on misdemeanor charges. Do I need a lawyer?
A. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can include fines and imprisonment up to one year in jail. Even if penalties are suspended, you will still have a criminal conviction on your record that can interfere with your ability to obtain employment in certain areas. Also, a misdemeanor conviction may result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Even minor charges can have major consequences. A qualified, experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential to protecting your rights.
Q. Will I lose my license for a drug crime?
A. Your drivers’ license is subject to suspension upon conviction of any number of drug crimes or theft offenses. Also, a business or professional license may also be suspended or revoked upon felony conviction of sale or trafficking in a controlled substance, or conspiracy to sell or traffic in a controlled substance. A business or professional license, permit or certificate may be reinstated upon completion of a drug treatment program and submission to periodic drug testing.
Q. When can a conviction be avoided?
A. If you are adjudged not guilty at trial, then you are acquitted of the charges and are free to go without any criminal conviction on your record. Besides obtaining a verdict of not guilty, you can also avoid a conviction through withheld adjudication or a pre-trial diversion program.
Q. What is withheld adjudication?
A. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to criminal charges, you may be sentenced to probation without actually receiving a conviction or adjudication of guilt. Since there is no conviction, you are not disadvantaged in society in many ways, such as when filling out employment applications or residential leases, or applying for a firearms permit. However, you will still have an arrest record, unless you seek to have the record sealed or expunged. A withheld adjudication is definitely preferable to a conviction, but it is not available for every offense or in every instance.
Pre-trial diversion programs are also available that can result in the charges being dropped without ever going to trial. Speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer about your options for withheld adjudication or pre-trial diversion programs.
Q. Is it better to cooperate with the police or remain silent when questioned?
A. If you are under an arrest or in a custodial interrogation where you are not free to leave, you have a constitutional right to remain silent. If you do answer questions, anything you say can be used against you at trial by the prosecution. The fact that you refused to answer questions cannot be mentioned to the jury or used against you. The best decision is to remain silent and request an attorney immediately. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to advise on whether and how you should respond to questioning.
Q. Should I plead guilty if I believe I have committed the offense I am charged with?
A. A plea bargain may be preferable to an expected outcome at trial, depending upon the strength of the prosecutor’s evidence and whether any police misconduct may have occurred in the investigation or arrest. Remember that it is the prosecutor’s burden to prove to a jury that you committed every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and this is often a steep burden. Also, pleading guilty can have serious consequences aside from just criminal punishment. For instance, non-U.S. citizens could be subject to deportation or denial of naturalization.
While the decision of what plea to enter is ultimately up to you, it should be thoughtfully made only after advice and counsel from a qualified, experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Hopefully, the answers to these questions have been helpful to you. If you have further questions or are seeking an experienced attorney to represent you in a criminal case, contact the Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin for immediate assistance.