Archive for the ‘Criminal Defense’ Category

Hiring a Lawyer in Sarasota

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

People frequently ask us, “How do I choose the right lawyer for my case?” We are trial lawyers, so my comments are directed in that arena. Hiring a transactional lawyer might require a different analysis. Experience is paramount.

Trial lawyers should  have actual trial experience. Hiring a Florida Bar Board Certified Trial Lawyer will ensure that your lawyer has the requisite experience. Only five percent of Florida lawyers have this experience.

Credibility is also key. Do Judges and adversaries respect the lawyer? Here is where credentials can help. Involvement in legal and local organizations is a sure sign of an attorney’s standing in the community.

Third, check out the word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to ask around. Good lawyers have good reputations. Check out their office. Is their staff professional? Is their office organized and well-appointed? You are engaging this person for what may be the fight of your life. Would you hire someone who can’t keep their own shop in order? I hope not.

Finally, you should have a comfort level with your counsel. This does not mean that they become your friend. This is a professional relationship. But, you should get the feeling that your attorney truly cares about the outcome of your case.  Sarasota and Bradenton possess a vibrant legal community with many highly qualified lawyers.

Don’t fall for flashy marketing  gimmicks. Closely scrutinize your prospective counsel to ensure that you enter into a relationship that will help you achieve your desired result.

Arrested in Sarasota? What Should You Do First?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Difficult questions never have simple answers. Like all complex questions, the immediate answer is…it depends.

Getting Bond Posted

Is the arrestee still in jail?  If so, it might be necessary to contact a bail bondsman. If the  bond is low then the bail can be posted in full.  It will be returned in full at the conclusion of the case, assuming the arrestee made all of their court appearances. If bond is too large to make in full, then a bail bondsman will require payment, typically equal to 10% of the total bond.  That is the bondsman’s  fee, and  it will not be  returned to you.  The bondsman will also likely require that you sign over something of value as collateral to secure the bond.  This is often the title to a house, car or boat.  If the bond is so large that even paying 10% is not feasible, then effort will need to be made to lower the bond.  This requires the use of a lawyer.

Getting the Bond Lowered

There are typically two opportunities to accomplish this.  The first is at a hearing held within 24 hours of arrest, at a courtroom located within the jail.  Unfortunately, family members are unable to attend this hearing.  The technical name for this hearing is a Non-Adversarial Probable  Cause Hearing, however it is commonly referred to as a First Appearance.  If a a private attorney is not retained in time for this hearing, then an Assistant Public Defender will represent the arrestee. Public Defender’s will have little time to prepare for each hearing, so hiring a private criminal defense attorney provides an advantage in preparation and strategy.  If bond is sufficiently reduced at First Appearance, then the process of  posting bail outlined above would be followed.  Be aware that some people arrested in Sarasota are released on their own recognizance, also known as ROR.  In this instance, there is  no bail required and no other conditions of release that must be complied with.  The arrestee must simply show up in court when required.  Sadly, this circumstance has become increasingly rare in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  More common is that arrestees are given some monetary bond and also placed on a community supervision program known as Supervised  Pretrial Release, or SPR.  In Sarasota, this program is administered  by a government agency known as  Pretrial Services.

Release Conditions

If an arrestee released from jail in Sarasota fails to comply with any of their conditions of release, Pretrial Services will forward a warrant for their re-arrest to a local Judge.  Typical release conditions include contacting Pretrial Services telephonically, appearing at their offices, submitting to urinalysis and attending counseling.  If bond is not reduced sufficiently to secure the arrestee’s release, then a Bond Reduction Hearing will need to be scheduled. This can be done as soon as  a few days from arrest, and occasionally could take several weeks. At this hearing, an attorney would present to the Judge the reasons why they should be confident that the arrestee will, in fact, appear for their scheduled court dates, and why they do not pose a danger to our community.

What If I Can’t Make Bond?

If bond is not reduced sufficiently after this hearing, it is possible that the arrestee will spend the pendency of the case  in jail.  This can occur in very serious  cases involving  certain felony charges, or where the  arrestee has a significant prior record.  In some extreme cases, the Judge will allow no bond.  This means that no amount of monetary bail can secure the arrestee’s release.  In this instance the proper motion to be filed would  be a Motion to Set Bond (as opposed to a Motion to Reduce Bond). Again, this will require the services of an attorney. Stay tuned for my future post on things to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota.