Maintaining open lines of communication with your attorney between court dates is very important to being successful when defending against criminal charges in Florida. Just as it’s imperative for your attorney to keep you informed, your active engagement in your case is equally vital. When you hire a lawyer, you’re not just merely dumping your problems onto them to fix them – think of it more as building a legal team. Your lawyer may be the captain, but you are nonetheless an integral part of that team. At the end of the day, it is your life, and you’re the one who’s living it.
To play an active role in your case, ensure good communication with your attorney. Be prompt in responding to any inquiries they have and provide any and all information or documentation they request. Your attorney might ask for various materials, depending on the circumstances. For instance, in drug-related cases, they might suggest you enroll in a treatment program. Enrolling in something like this can have a profoundly positive impact on your case, demonstrating to prosecutors and judges that you acknowledge what you have done as being wrong and are committed to rehabilitation.
Similarly, if you’re grappling with mental health issues, seeking treatment can be equally beneficial for your case. Judges and prosecutors often view individuals who address underlying problems, whether addiction or mental health concerns, with leniency. Other issues that lead to criminal prosecution can also benefit from proactive steps. Suppose you’ve faced charges related to losing your temper and engaging in physical altercations. In such cases, completing an anger management class and providing the certificate of completion to your attorney can be advantageous.
For driving offenses like reckless driving or loss of vehicle control, enrolling in advanced driver improvement courses demonstrates to prosecutors and judges a sense of responsibility and commitment to being a safer driver. These efforts can significantly bolster your case. Additionally, your attorney might request your resume, CV, or transcripts if you’re still a student. These documents serve as valuable negotiation points with prosecutors, highlighting your character and deservingness of leniency.
Collecting character reference letters can also leave a substantial impact on prosecutors and judges. Letters from friends, family members, community leaders, or individuals who can vouch for your good moral character can help show that the crime you’re being accused of was an isolated incident, something that you’re remorseful for and won’t be repeated. These are essential actions you can take between court dates to assist with your case.
In the state of Florida, prior convictions play a significant role in shaping the outcome of a case, especially in felony cases. In every felony case, the prosecutor prepares what’s known as a criminal punishment code scoresheet, or just scoresheet for short. This document assigns specific points to each crime, whether it’s the current charge you’re facing or a prior offense from your history. A skilled criminal defense attorney is well-versed in score sheets, the criminal punishment code, and how to ensure the accuracy of the scoresheet prepared by the prosecutor.
As you could likely guess, the purpose of the score sheet is to calculate your “score,” a representation of the presumed minimum mandatory sentence upon conviction. Your score is always expressed in months, indicating the minimum duration of imprisonment upon conviction. While there are mitigating factors that can potentially reduce your sentence below this score, it serves as a starting point during negotiations with prosecutors.
My goal as an attorney during negotiations is to influence the needle on behalf of my client, either in favor of mitigation or toward an exculpatory outcome. This means presenting evidence and arguments that convince the prosecutor to reduce your sentence below the score should it not be possible to secure a complete exoneration. Conversely, the prosecutor may look for aggravating circumstances that could justify offering a sentence even higher than your score.
Prior convictions significantly impact your score because each prior offense adds points to the calculation. This means that the more prior convictions you have, the higher your score will be.
Even in misdemeanor cases at the county court level, prior offenses are a factor in the ultimate outcome. While score sheets are not used for misdemeanors, judges and prosecutors consider prior convictions when determining an appropriate sentence. For instance, if you’re charged with a first-time offense like shoplifting, you might receive a lenient offer, potentially even qualifying for pre-trial intervention or diversion programs to have the charges dropped.
However, if you have a history of repeated shoplifting offenses with multiple convictions, a judge may deem leniency inappropriate, given your seeming inability to change. They may opt for a more punitive sentence, viewing your behavior as resistant to rehabilitation.
Certain crimes in Florida can be habitualized, which means that prior convictions for the same offense can elevate the charges you currently face. Consider battery as an example, which is typically a misdemeanor for a first offense. If you have a prior battery conviction and face new battery charges, the prosecutor can upgrade the offense to a felony. Many other offenses, such as theft or driving on a suspended license, follow similar rules of habitualization.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is yet another critical example. Each prior DUI offense in your history can lead to increasingly severe consequences for subsequent offenses, resulting in longer and longer driver’s license revocations. For fourth DUI your license could even be revoked for life..
A key takeaway I hope you draw from this is the realization of how important being fully open and transparent with your attorney about prior convictions is when defending against criminal charges in Florida. This transparency allows your attorney to provide informed guidance on how to proceed with your case.
For more information on Defending Against Criminal Charges In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (407) 890-8472 today.