Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I need an attorney before I’ve been formally charged with a crime?
- What should I do if I learn that I am the target of a criminal investigation?
- Will the police become angry if I refuse to answer their questions?
- Should I take my case to trial?
- What is a plea bargain?
Do I need an attorney before I’ve been formally charged with a crime?
Absolutely! In fact, the period between the occurrence of the crime and when charges are formally levied by the prosecutor is the most critical stage of the case. That’s because whatever you were arrested for has little to do with what you may ultimately be charged with. Arrests are made by police officers who are not trained lawyers and make complex charging decisions under quick, stressful situations. Consequently, they frequently apply the wrong law. Once an arrest is made, the police reports are then sent to the State Attorney’s Office where a prosecutor (who is an attorney) evaluates the case and makes the ultimate decision on what to do. The prosecutor can do anything from drop the case or file a lesser charge to filing a more serious charge or multiple charges.
The critical factor is this: Prosecutors have considerable discretion regarding what, if anything, should be charged. They lose much of their discretion, however, once that filing decision has been made. In essence, the case has now been carved in stone, and must be dealt with at that particular level.
Therefore, it is critical to have an attorney who can provide the prosecutor with the type of information that will eliminate or lessen any charges against you. Mr. Nichols has over 10 years of experience as a former prosecutor in the Broward and Pinellas County State Attorney's Office, and is therefore very familiar both with the prosecutors who make these decisions as well as knowing exactly what type of information will result in a favorable outcome. Consequently, many times our job is finished before any formal charges have ever been filed, which is the best-case scenario for you.
What should I do if I learn that I am the target of a criminal investigation?
First and most importantly, don’t panic! Your first step is to immediately call a criminal attorney to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case. Next, a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to always remain silent. Therefore, it is imperative that you decline to discuss any aspect of your case with any law enforcement officer until after you have consulted with your attorney. A defendant’s refusal to speak with the police can never be used against them in a criminal prosecution; however, anything you say to the police can and will, often very effectively, be used against you in court.
Will the police become angry if I refuse to answer their questions?
No. All police officers know that all defendants have a constitutional right to remain silent. In fact, once they’ve made an arrest, the first thing the officer does is to advise the suspect of those “Miranda Rights.” They also know that once a suspect has stated that they want to speak with their attorney, all questioning must immediately stop. This is always the best course to take when you are the target of any investigation.
Should I take my case to trial?
Although you are entitled to make the ultimate decision of whether to proceed to trial, many times a case can be resolved more favorably before trial. For example, some factual scenarios simply will not play out well in trial, and, therefore, the client may decide that the risks are simply too high to proceed to trial. Even in cases where the facts are favorable, however, it is always advisable to try to negotiate a favorable resolution. Many times our clients are genuinely shocked to hear the types of drastic reductions and plea bargains that we are able to negotiate after presenting our complete investigations of the matter. Should your case proceed to trial, however, Mr. Nichols has personally litigated over 300 criminal jury trials in Florida, most of which involved complex felony cases.
What is a plea bargain?
Plea bargaining is another name for negotiating with the prosecutor to try to obtain anything from a dismissal to reduced charges to simply an acceptable sentence offer. Plea bargains are simply offers extended by the State, and never have to be accepted by you unless you agree. In nearly every criminal case, it is always advisable to at least attempt to negotiate some type of reduction before deciding to proceed to trial. We pride ourselves on our ability to convince the State to offer very favorable plea options. We strongly believe that every person is better than the worst thing they have ever done in their entire life. In other words, you should be judged by the sum of your life, not just the empty facts of your case. We will work hard to present a fair and complete picture of you as a human being.