Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need a lawyer’s help if I am accused of a crime?
A: It is always in your best interest to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be facing the criminal justice system. Whether or not you believe you have been wrongfully accused, an attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights and monitor the proceedings for legality and fairness. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal counsel.
Q: What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A: The traditional definition of a felony is a crime that is punishable by a year or more in jail. A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of less than one year. Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors.
Q: What does a “withhold of adjudication” mean?
A: If you enter into a plea deal with the State, (your initial charges may change for example from a felony to a misdemeanor) you will have to change your initial plea to the charges against you from “not guilty” to either “guilty” or “no contest”. “No contest” means you are not saying you are indeed “guilty” but that you are going to change your plea because it is in your best interest not to go to trial. “Guilty” means “guilty”.
If you are not going to be sentenced to a period of jail time and will receive only a probationary sentence, the Judge may “withhold adjudication”. This means that if you complete probation without violating probation conditions you will not be found not guilty; even though you at one time changed your plea to “guilty” or “no contest”. If this happens you may even be eligible to seal the record or expunge your case.
Q: How does a Personal Injury case proceed?
A: How a personnel injury case proceeds is based upon the initial decision of whether to file a lawsuit directly after the accident or try and settle your case without the expense or extra attorney fees. Every case is different. The seriousness of your injuries and who caused the accident are the main factors in determining if and when a lawsuit should be filed.
Being treated by a competent doctor who can determine if you are permanently injured is another factor in how your case proceeds. In Florida, you must have a treating physician who can testify at trial that you are indeed permanently injured from an accident caused by somebody else, which means finding a competent doctor is imperative.
When the Insurance Company receives medical records, reflecting a permanent injury, they will, at that time, make an offer to settle your case. If a lawsuit is filed, your case will eventually be sent to mediation in an attempt to settle it. If the case does not settle then you will proceed to a jury trial. Most cases settle at meditation or just before trial.
Q: Am at fault if my motor vehicle gets hit from behind and I am pushed into a motor vehicle in front of me?
A: Unfortunately even though you did not cause the accident you can be held liable. But ultimate liability lies with the person who caused the wreck.
Information and Resources
Finding a Job After a Criminal Conviction
If you have been convicted of a crime, you may wonder if you will be able to find employment. Employers are becoming increasingly concerned about knowing whether applicants have criminal records. Part of this concern stems from large jury verdicts that have been rendered against employers for negligently hiring people with criminal histories who subsequently caused harm to others while on the job. Another concern for employers relates to whether they will have to disclose the criminal conviction. For example, if a company is trying to raise capital, it may need to make certain disclosures to a bank. Will the company have to disclose that an employee has a criminal conviction for embezzlement or money laundering?
The laws about which criminal records an employer must or may access, what an employer may ask a potential employee and what the job applicant must reveal vary widely from state to state. If you have a criminal record and seek a job, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in criminal law so that you go into the job search fully informed of your rights.
Criminal Defense Resource Links
A Capital Defense Handbook For Defendants and Their Families” provides information and advice about death-penalty cases from the defense point of view.
A resource provided by the American Civil Liberties Union with information on national and state efforts to recognize and protect prisoner’s rights.
Justice Denied is a magazine devoted to helping people who have been wrongly convicted of crime in the US and internationally.
A national leader in the development of alternative sentencing programs and in research and advocacy about criminal justice policy.
The Prison Policy Initiative conducts research and advocacy about incarceration and criminal justice policy.