What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Law Case?

What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Law Case?

What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Law Case?

With regards to criminal cases in Florida, there are technically four different potential responses that a Defendant can elect to make when formally charged at an arraignment. These options include pleading not guilty, pleading guilty, pleading no contest also known as nolo contendere, or remaining mute. Now as you might expect there are a variety of reasons as to why a Defendant might choose one of these options over another. Further, while the remainder of this passage will seek to provide information about these potential plea options, the best way to make a good decision when facing a criminal charge is to consult with a criminal defense attorney.

What Does Pleading Not Guilty Really Mean?

With the rising popularity of televised high-profile criminal law trials, many people have begun to question why so many people plead not guilty when–at least, according to the experts in social media–they’re clearly guilty. While that may seem like a reasonable question when you’re reading the news or home in front of the television, it’s important to remember that in the United States every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that public opinion or the outcries within social media networks are not evidence and will not find their way into the courtroom.

So what does a plea of not guilty actually mean? The entry of a plea of not guilty means that a criminal defendant is not admitting guilt to the crime charged. Moreover there are a multitude of different reasons why a defendant in a criminal case might enter a plea of not guilty. Some of the most common of these reasons are as follows:

  1. The Defendant is not guilty of the offense charged and wishes to contest it.
  2. The Defendant hasn’t reached a decision on how to proceed with the case and needs more time to consider their options.
  3. The Defendant has not yet secured an agreeable negotiated agreement with the prosecution.
  4. The Defendant wishes to participate in the discovery process and see what evidence the prosecution has against them before deciding how to proceed.
  5. The Defendant wishes to confer with their attorney.

It’s also worth noting that the initial entry of a plea of not guilty can be changed at a later date by a Criminal Defendant to a plea of guilty or a plea of no contest. Now before making any kind of plea in a criminal case you should always talk to a criminal law attorney, but the following might provide you with some insight on what happens when you plead not guilty or guilty.

What Happens When You Plead Not Guilty?

As mentioned above, a not guilty plea is a denial of all criminal allegations leveled against a defendant. Some people are concerned that the entry of a plea of not guilty is somehow dishonest if a person knows that they did some or all of the things they are accused of. But such concerns are unfounded as utilizing apples of not guilty is oftentimes a procedural necessity. Following a plea of not guilty additional court dates are set and a criminal defendant is given time to secure legal representation, examine the evidence against them, and in some cases negotiate with the prosecution. Therefore, for most people charged with crimes in Florida, it may be best to enter a not guilty plea at arraignment.

In short, a not guilty plea is the way a criminal defendant can preserve their rights until they have explored their options, consulted an attorney, learned more about the evidence against them, and made sure they fully understand the possible consequences of a conviction.

What Happens When You Plead Guilty?

In Florida the entry of a plea of guilty in a criminal case is an admission by a criminal defendant that they committed the criminal act with which they have been charged. Now as one might expect, the entry of a plea of guilty will not only begin the process of bringing the case to a close, but it will always be followed by some form of penalty. It should also be mentioned that the entry of a plea of guilty also results in the surrender of a number of rights possessed by criminal defendants. That means it’s usually a very bad idea to enter a guilty plea without first consulting a criminal law attorney. This is especially true because the process of trying to reverse or withdraw the entry of a guilty plea is difficult and never guaranteed.

Criminal law and procedure is crafted to ensure that certain Constitutional and other rights of the accused are respected, and that criminal defendants have the opportunity to fight the charges against them. Unfortunately these same rights are also abandoned by a criminal defendant upon the entry of a guilty plea. Thus to ensure that these rights are not forsaken in error Courts will often not accept a plea of guilty if a criminal defendant exhibits ambiguity or confusion regarding their decision to plea. And, when someone enters a guilty plea, the judge will typically list all of the rights the defendant is giving up and get confirmation that they understand and are entering the plea voluntarily before accepting the plea.

Those rights include:

  • The right to have a jury or judge determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty at a trial
  • The right to have an attorney represent them at a trial
  • The right to hear and confront witnesses against them
  • The right to compel witnesses to appear in court and testify on their behalf, and to present other evidence and arguments to the judge or jury
  • The right to testify on their own behalf
  • The right against self-incrimination
  • The right to require the prosecution to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Most appellate rights

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

Generally, once you have entered a guilty plea, you don’t have the option of changing your mind. Thus it is essential that a criminal defendant is sure they wish to enter a plea of guilty or no contest to any charge brought against them. Furthermore, while it is possible for a criminal defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest, such a result is never guaranteed. Additionally, the circumstances necessary for such a request to be granted become more onerous once a defendant has been sentenced. So making sure you’ve consulted with an experienced criminal defense attorney is always essential.

Therefore, if you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and are considering pleading guilty, you should get information and guidance from an experienced Jacksonville criminal law attorney. Unlike many criminal law firms, Lufrano Legal, P.A. offers free consultations to people facing criminal charges in Florida.

What is a Nolo Contendere Plea?

When a criminal defendant enters a plea of nolo contendere, sometimes called a “no contest” plea, it means that they are not admitting guilt, but they are also not elevating to contest the charges against them. That being said, the result of a plea of no contest is the exact same as the entry of a plea of guilty for purposes of criminal prosecution. That said, entering such a plea may be more tolerable for a defendant who doesn’t believe they have violated the law, but are concerned about the risks of a potential trial. However, not all judges in Florida will accept pleas of no contest.

What Happens When You Remain Mute?

This is technically the fourth option a criminal defendant has when confronted with an arraignment. While this is rarely relevant to the majority of criminal cases there are a select few where such a plea is important. Anytime a defendant remains mute at arraignment the judge will enter a plea of not guilty on their behalf and the case will proceed as if they plead not guilty.

Talk to a Jacksonville Criminal Law Attorney

Navigating the criminal justice system is complicated, and it’s easy to make mistakes that may haunt you for years to come. If you’re facing criminal charges, your best next step is to learn more about your rights and options. You can schedule a free consultation with attorney Matthew Lufrano right now by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out the contact form on this page.

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Many people who have been charged with crimes in Florida assume there’s no point in hiring a criminal defense lawyer if they’re planning to enter a guilty plea. That’s usually a mistake. Here are two key reasons you should seriously consider hiring a Jacksonville defense attorney even if you are planning to plead guilty to a crime.

1. You Might Not Want to Plead Guilty

Pleading guilty may seem like the best option for you right now. Maybe it is, but then again maybe it’s not. For instance, what if you don’t have all the information or you don’t understand what each piece of evidence actually means. In such situations it might seem like pleading guilty is your only option, when in fact it’s not. Additionally attorneys are trained to be able to explain our options and how the presence or absence of various pieces of evidence might impact your case. So if you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal offense, it’s always a good idea to get the advice of a criminal defense attorney. .

There May Be Weaknesses in Your Case You Don’t Know About

Now some people charged with crimes may assume they are going to be convicted and as a result they might as well save time and money by pleading guilty. But doing so could result in a defendant missing significant weaknesses that may be present in your case. After all, an experienced criminal lawyer has the training to identify weaknesses in the case and to look for any potential basis for the suppression of evidence.

If the prosecution has offered you what seems like a great plea deal, think about why. It’s possible that the deal you’re being offered is standard for your type of charge, or that the prosecutor is cutting you a break because you have no prior criminal history. But, there’s another possibility. The prosecutor may know there’s a problem with the case and be offering a good deal so you’ll plead guilty without talking to an attorney who might recognize the weaknesses and encourage you to fight the charges.

There May Be Consequences You Don’t Know About

You may also not be aware of indirect consequences of a guilty plea. Some criminal convictions can have a serious impact on other areas of your life. For instance convictions for drug charges, even misdemeanor possession of cannabis will result in a driver’s license suspension. Likewise if not a US Citizen a plea to a criminal charge could result in deportation from the US or prevent reentry into the US. But these are just some of the collateral consequences of certain criminal cases. Others can include increased insurance costs, making you vulnerable to civil forfeiture of property, making you ineligible for certain employment, or providing a basis for the denial of certain housing accommodations. That said, you don’t want to find out about this type of consequence after you’ve entered a guilty plea. So reach out to your local criminal defense attorney today.

2. You May Not Be Getting the Best Deal Possible

Another reason you might want to consult with a criminal defense attorney prior to entering a plea of guilty is to ensure that you’re actually getting a decent sentence. Said differently, most people lack the perspective needed to evaluate the quality of any proposed plea deal. Without this perspective or experience all uncounseled defendant’s can do is hope that they get a good plea deal. Unfortunately, hoping for a good plea deal is generally not an effective strategy. Thankfully experienced criminal defense attorneys can help. These attorneys have the knowledge training, and perspective to provide a genuine assessment of the quality of any proposed plea deal.

Don’t Roll the Dice with Your Future

If you plead guilty without an agreed upon deal then it will be up to the presiding judge to determine an appropriate sentence at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing. In such scenarios there are a number of factors that can impact the ultimate sentence a criminal defendant receives including who the judge happens to be, whether a defendant has a guideline score under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, whether there is any basis to depart below the guideline score, and how prepared a defendant is to argue and present mitigation at a sentencing hearing. Thankfully a local criminal defense attorney can help you address each of those factors. More importantly after considering those factors an attorney will be able to explain to you whether or not pleading guilty without a deal is even wise.

You May Not Be Aware of All of Your Options

An agreement with the prosecution doesn’t necessarily mean pleading guilty to the charges against you. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to:

  • Dismiss the charges pending against you.
  • Divert your case into diversion, where upon the completion of conditions the case would be dropped.
  • Dismiss some charges and allow you to plead guilty to just one count.
  • Enter into a plea agreement for a lesser charge that carries a lighter sentence and won’t look as serious on your criminal history.
  • Agree to a sentence that doesn’t include jail time or minimizes other consequences.

In some cases, entering into an agreement may not even result in a criminal conviction. For example, Florida judges have the option of withholding adjudication in certain types of criminal cases. That means that even though the defendant pleads guilty, the defendant is not convicted of the offense. In such instances a defendant is instead placed on probation.

If probation is successfully completed, no conviction is entered. Depending on the individual and the charges, withholding adjudication can make a big difference. For example, if adjudication has been withheld, you can honestly answer “no” when an employer asks whether you’ve been convicted of a crime. Similarly, you may avoid consequences like ineligibility for certain housing or licensing.

Your criminal defense attorney can explain in more detail how adjudication withheld differs from a plea agreement with a conviction–even if the terms of your probation are exactly the same.

Talk to an Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer

The decision you’re making right now could impact the rest of your life.

The best defense against an unnecessary conviction or a bad plea deal is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Attorney Matthew Lufrano knows how important accurate information is. That’s why he offers free consultations to people facing Florida criminal charges. Call 904-513-3905 to schedule yours now.

Why, When, and How You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

Why, When, and How You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

Why, When, and How You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

People who have been charged with crimes in Jacksonville and throughout the state often question whether they need to hire a criminal defense attorney. While the technical answer is no, it is almost always in a person’s best interest to retain a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney when you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime. 

Why You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

In Florida the criminal courts operate by using a system of rules and procedures that are unfamiliar to most outside the legal system. When you choose to proceed without an attorney, you are still expected to know and follow these long established protocols, just like a trained and seasoned attorney. Moreover, if you fail to follow the procedural rules Courts in Florida will not typically excuse such breaches and the consequences can significantly impact the outcome of your case. 

For instance, while in many cases defendants’ charged with crimes want to suppress evidence obtained by the government. But achieving such a result is far more complicated than simply telling the Court you want something suppressed. First, it has to be determined that there was a violation that would support suppression of the seized evidence. Second, one has to develop an effective way to prove the facts demonstrating this violation. Then once such circumstances are in place, it is necessary to file a formal motion to suppress that lays out the legal precedent and justification for the suppression. After this a person would be required to present facts and argument at a formal suppression hearing that convince the Court that suppression is warranted. 

If this is starting to sound complex and a bit overwhelming, that’s because it is. And that is just a cursory overview of one potential aspect of a criminal case. Said more bluntly the criminal justice system in Florida is complex and attempting to navigate it on your own without proper training could lead to disaster. As a general rule, any time your freedom is at stake, it’s in your best interest to have an experienced advocate handling your defense. But, what about relatively minor crimes like misdemeanors? 

Do You Really Need a Criminal Defense Attorney when Charged with a Misdemeanor?  

Sometimes people believe that misdemeanors are minor offenses and it isn’t necessary to get an attorney. Unfortunately people who adopt this view and choose not to confer with an experienced criminal defense lawyer almost always regret it. The reason being that criminal prosecutions, even for a misdemeanor can often have unforeseen and far reaching consequences. For example convictions for misdemeanors like battery might bar you from finding certain housing in the future or prohibit you from entering or remaining in certain fields of employment. Likewise, a conviction for possession of cannabis without a prescription will result in a suspension of your driver’s license. But these are just some of the varied consequences that a person could bring down upon themselves if not properly advised or represented. So regardless of how minior you may initially think an offense to be, if you’re charged with any crime in Florida you should always confer with an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

But if that example wasn’t enough to convince you that it’s best to have an experienced attorney aiding you if charged with a crime, here’s another. Did you know that some misdemeanor offenses have more than just a criminal component to them? Well they do. In fact when it comes to a DUI there is a criminal side and an administrative side to address. Moreover, ignorance of the dual nature of these proceedings could not only cause an individual to miss out on a critical opportunity to challenge the suspension of their drivers license, but it could also cost them a chance to obtain priceless discovery. 

So if you or a loved one have been arrested for or charged with a misdemeanor don’t ignore it or overlook its significance. Instead reach out to a skilled and respected criminal defense lawyer for assistance. You’ll be glad that you did.  

What Happens if you Don’t Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

People often ask, “what happens if I get arrested or charged with a crime and I don’t hire a criminal defense lawyer?” The answer to this question depends upon the reason why a defendant doesn’t hire an attorney. If a person charged with a crime cannot afford an attorney then the Court will appoint a public defender to represent them at no cost to them. However if an individual is charged with a crime and simply chooses not to hire an attorney, then this person would be required to represent themselves. Unfortunately, self-representation is almost always a bad decision as most people don’t have the training, experience, and knowledge to effectively represent themselves. Furthermore, when life and liberty are on the line, such things are better left to the capable hands of an expert in criminal trial law. So if you or a loved one have recently been arrested, don’t wait, call Lufrano Legal at call 904-513-3905 or fill out our contact form to set up a free consultation. 

When You Should Hire a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

The short answer is “right away.” As you’ve already seen, one reason it’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney is that what you don’t know can hurt you. That means it’s easy to make mistakes, whether that means missing a deadline you weren’t aware of or saying something in court or in a discussion with the prosecuting attorney that could be misconstrued and used against you. 

Your defense attorney can also save you time and stress by quickly identifying pressure points, weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, witnesses, evidence in your favor, and opportunities to suppress evidence against you. Depending on the circumstances, your defense attorney may be able to use this material to negotiate a favorable plea agreement or persuade the prosecuting attorney to reduce the charges or even dismiss the case. Or, your attorney may advise fighting the charges in court. That may mean filing a motion to suppress key evidence or witness testimony, which may result in the charges being dismissed. Or, it may mean going to trial, where the burden of proof will be on the prosecution. Even if you plan to plead guilty, it’s still a good idea to consult with an attorney—you may have options you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

Of course, you should never assume it’s too late. Consulting an attorney late in the process is better than not consulting one at all. But, to give your criminal lawyer the best opportunity to protect you every step of the way, it’s ideal to act quickly. That means contacting an attorney as soon as you know you’ve been charged with a crime. Under some circumstances, it may even be wise to consult a lawyer before you’re charged. For example, it’s generally best not to talk to police on your own. So, if police want to question you regarding a crime, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney. Your lawyer can advise you as to whether you should speak with the police, and be with you during questioning if you decide to go ahead. 

Remember that any time you are being detained by the police, you have the right to request an attorney and you are not required to answer questions. Don’t be afraid to assert your rights and request an attorney.

How to Hire a Criminal Lawyer in Florida

Deciding to hire a criminal defense attorney is just the first step. But while deciding to hire an attorney is crucial, it’s equally important to ensure that you find the right attorney. Here are a few key things to look for when you’re choosing a criminal lawyer: 

  • Choose a lawyer who has extensive experience with the criminal justice system: If you don’t have a lot of experience with the legal system, you may not realize how different various areas of law are. Many people who are looking for representation default to an attorney whose name they have heard on TV. But, not every attorney has extensive knowledge and experience of criminal defense law and procedure. Make sure the attorney you choose has a strong background in cases like yours. 
  • Make sure your attorney is prepared to go to trial: While most criminal cases are resolved by some form of negotiated agreement, it’s important to know that your attorney knows how to fight for you in the courtroom if necessary. Unfortunately, some attorneys prefer to avoid trial, and the inability of such attorneys to be able to advocate for their client in the courtroom could result in a poor outcome. So don’t be afraid to ask the attorney you’re considering how often they’ve taken criminal cases to jury trials.
  • Know who you’ll be working with: In some firms, especially larger law firms, you’ll hear all about the experience of a partner who does a lot of criminal work. You may even meet with that partner for your initial consultation. But then, your case may be handed off to an associate, or bounced from one person to another. Make sure you know exactly who will be handling your case, and that you are comfortable with and have faith in that attorney. It’s your future on the line and it’s important that you can ask questions and raise concerns, and that your attorney will take the time to explain in plain English.
  • Understand how fees and other costs work: Some attorneys bill by the hour, and others on a flat-fee per case. Some bill you separately for expenses like service of process fees, while others roll those costs into their fixed fee. Before you sign your contract, make sure you know exactly what to expect.

Get the Help You Need Right Now

The bottom line is that it’s risky and stressful to take on the criminal justice system on your own. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide the guidance you need to make smart decisions for your future, while managing the technical and procedural aspects of the case that are daunting and unfamiliar to most outside the legal system. 

You can seek representation at any point in the process, but the earlier you get help the better. Your attorney can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your defense, and can put that additional time to good use investigating and building your case. 

You’ll want to choose your lawyer carefully, so start with a consultation. Ask questions based on the points listed above and any others you have. Make sure you’re comfortable talking with the attorney and that they take the time to explain things in a way you understand. 

Attorney Matthew Lufrano has practiced criminal law exclusively for more than a decade. He’s taken well over 75 criminal cases to jury trial, and the Florida Bar has recognized him as a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law. To schedule a consultation, call 904-513-3905 or fill out our contact form

    How to File a Restraining Order in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide

    How to File a Restraining Order in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide

    How to File a Restraining Order in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide

    If you’ve been the victim of physical violence or have been threatened with violence, you may be able to get a restraining order to protect yourself. In some cases, a temporary restraining order may be issued as soon as you file your petition. That means you may be protected almost immediately. But, Florida law provides for several different restraining orders, depending on the circumstances. The exact protection offered by the restraining order may vary depending on the type of restraining order and other factors.

    If you are in need of a restraining order, it’s important to understand the process and how to determine which type of restraining order is right for you. While the best source of 

    information is an experienced Jacksonville injunction attorney, this guide provides basic information about how to get a restraining order in Florida. You’ll learn how to petition for an injunction for protection, what to expect in court, how your restraining order protects you, and how to enforce it. 

    Would you like to learn more about injunctions in Florida? Read our free post “What is an Injunction? Meaning, Types, & Implications of Florida Injunctions.”

    What is a Florida Restraining Order? 

    You may hear the terms “restraining order,” “protective order,” and “order of protection” used interchangeably. They’re all terms used by different states or under different circumstances to achieve the same thing. In Florida, these orders are called “injunctions for protection.” 

    When you file for a restraining order, you are the petitioner. The person you want to be restrained is the respondent. The restraining order, if granted, tells the respondent not to do certain things. Some common examples include contacting the petitioner, going to the petitioner’s home, and going to the petitioner’s workplace. Some types of restraining orders, such as an injunction for protection against domestic violence, prohibit the restrained person from possessing firearms. Violation of a restraining order may result in additional restrictions, punishment for contempt of court, or, in some cases, criminal charges.

    How to Get a Restraining Order in Florida

    Step One: Determine Which Type of Restraining Order is Appropriate

    There are several types of injunctions, each with its own specific requirements. Before filing for a restraining order, make sure you understand the differences and who qualifies for each.

    Domestic Violence Injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Domestic Violence): To qualify for a domestic violence restraining order, you must either: 

      • Live with or have lived with the respondent in a family relationship, which may include spouses, former spouses, intimate partners who live or have lived together but are not married, parents, children, and others related by blood or marriage, or
      • Have a child in common with the respondent

    Repeat Violence injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Domestic Violence): To qualify for a repeat violence restraining order, you must either: 

      • Be a victim of repeat violence (meaning at least two incidents of violence or stalking, with at least one having occurred in the previous six months), or
      • Be the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of repeat violence and be seeking the restraining order on behalf of the child

    You must also have reasonable cause to believe you are in imminent danger of another act of dating violence.

    Dating Violence injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Dating Violence): To qualify for a dating violence injunction, you must: 

      • Be in a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the respondent, or
      • Have been in such a relationship with the respondent within the past six months

    Sexual Violence injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Sexual Violence): The qualifications for a sexual violence injunction are a bit more stringent. To qualify, you must either: 

      • Be a victim of sexual violence, or
      • Be the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of sexual violence, and be seeking the restraining order on behalf of the child

    Additionally:

      • The victim has reported the sexual violence to law enforcement, and is cooperating in any criminal prosecution, or
      • The respondent was sentenced to prison for sexual violence against the petitioner or minor child and the prison term has expired or will be expiring within 90 days

    Stalking Injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Stalking): To petition successfully for a stalking injunction, you must either: 

      • Be a victim of stalking, or
      • Be the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of stalking and be seeking the restraining order on behalf of the child

    Step Two: Determine Where to File

    If you’re filing for an injunction in Jacksonville or elsewhere in Duval County, there are three ways to file: 

    • Using the statewide electronic filing system,
    • By mailing your petition and supporting documents to the Duval County Clerk of Courts, or
    • By depositing your completed petition and supporting documents in the drop box at the courthouse

    The address for mailing and dropbox delivery is: 

    Duval County Clerk of Courts

    501 West Adams Street, Room 2409

    Jacksonville, FL 32202

    In other parts of Florida, you can find the location of and contact information for the courthouse on the Florida Courts website

    Step Three: Obtain, Complete, and File Your Forms

    You can find the general forms required to petition for an injunction in the Florida State Courts System’s Self-Help Center. You may also obtain these forms from the courthouse. However, during the pandemic, not all court locations are open and an appointment may be required. It is best to call ahead for specific information in your area. 

    It’s also important to know that local court rules may require additional forms. In Duval County, you can find those forms on the court’s website or by contacting a court services specialist for help. 

    The judge will be making a preliminary decision based on the information in your petition before he or she has a chance to talk to you and hear additional details. So, it is very important that you complete these forms carefully. Provide complete, accurate, and factual information. And, make sure you follow the instructions precisely. Though you can file for an injunction on your own, working with an attorney experienced in securing Florida restraining orders can help you put together the strongest, best-documented packet for the court. 

    Step Four: Get a Ruling from the Court

    After reviewing your petition, the court will issue one of three orders: 

    • A temporary injunction and order setting a final hearing: The respondent is restrained pending the hearing and served with the order and notice of hearing. 
    • A denial of the temporary injunction and an order setting final hearing: The respondent is not restrained immediately, but a hearing is set to determine whether an injunction should be granted. 
    • Denial of the petition: If the petition is denied, the court will set forth grounds in the order. The petitioner may refile. 

    If a final hearing is set it will be scheduled within 15 days of the filing of the injunction.

    Step Five: Prepare for and Appear in Court

    If the temporary injunction was granted and a final hearing date set OR the temporary injunction was denied but a final hearing was set, the next step is to appear in court and present your case. It is essential to attend the court hearing and to be prepared with whatever witnesses and other evidence may be available. If you have been granted a temporary injunction, it will expire on the court date. If you are not there to argue for an extension of the protective order, you will lose that protection.

    You and the respondent will each have the opportunity to speak and present evidence. Some relevant evidence may include witnesses to threats or violence, messages you have received from the respondent, medical records relating to incidents of violence, or police reports.If necessary, you can subpoena witnesses and/or documents. 

    After the hearing, the judge will either dismiss the petition without issuing an injunction (meaning that the respondent is no longer restrained, even if you had a temporary restraining order) or may enter a final judgment of injunction.

    Step Six: Understand and Enforce Your Injunction

    When you receive the injunction order, read it carefully and make sure you understand the protection it offers and what would be considered a violation. Then, be sure to keep a copy of the injunction with you. That way, if the respondent violates the order, you can show the injunction to law enforcement officers. 

    If the respondent violates the restraining order, there are several possible outcomes. The respondent could be sanctioned for contempt of court. The court could impose additional restrictions or even affirmative obligations. Or, the respondent might face criminal charges. 

    Need Help with a Jacksonville Restraining Order? 

    The state of Florida and Florida courts have made a significant effort to make injunctions accessible, providing forms and instructions online, making court services specialists available, and ensuring that filing fees are not an obstacle to seeking protection. Still, the process can be overwhelming, especially facing the person who has harmed or threatened you in court. And, speed is often essential. 

    If you need help, an attorney experienced in petitioning for injunctions in Florida can simplify the process, take some of the preparation off your plate, help ensure that your petition is effective, and manage the court proceedings on your behalf. To schedule a free consultation with Lufrano Legal, P.A., a local Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys and injunction lawyers; call 904-513-3905 right now.

      In Florida, What Does a Withhold of Adjudication or Adjudication Withheld Mean?

      In Florida, What Does a Withhold of Adjudication or Adjudication Withheld Mean?

      In Florida, What Does a Withhold of Adjudication or Adjudication Withheld Mean?

      On television, criminal cases almost always end in either a conviction or a dramatic finding of not guilty. Occasionally, charges are dismissed. But, in the Florida criminal justice system, the process is far more nuanced. That complexity can actually be good news for people who have been charged with crimes in Jacksonville or anywhere within the state of Florida. In fact, due to the existence of a legal concept known as either a withhold of adjudication or adjudication withheld, in Florida, it is possible to enter a plea or in some cases even lose at trial without being formally convicted of a charge. This, especially when the crimes are relatively minor and the accused has little or no criminal history.

      However, an accused is not always eligible to receive a withhold of adjudication or an adjudication withheld in all cases. Some prohibiting factors may include the offense for which the individual is charged with and whether the accused has received prior withholds of adjudication. 

      Thus we at the Lufrano Legal, P.A. hope that the following information will be informative and assist in clearing up some of the confusion that often accompanies the terms adjudication withheld or withhold of adjudication. For starters, it’s worth noting that here in Florida the terms withhold of adjudication and adjudication withheld mean the exact same thing and are completely interchangeable.

      What is a Withhold of Adjudication or Adjudication Withheld? 

      In Florida, if an individual enters a plea to a criminal offense or is found guilty after a trial the Judge has to impose some form of sentence. As part of that sentence the Court must decide whether or not this individual should be convicted (also known as being adjudicated guilty) of this particular offense. However, in some cases, the Court can impose a sentence that does not convict the accused of this offense by imposing a withhold of adjudication and adjudication withheld. Said more simply a withhold of adjudication and adjudication withheld is not a conviction.   

      How Does a Withhold of Adjudication or Adjudication Withheld Work in Florida? 

      The standard sequence in a Florida criminal proceeding involves a trial or plea agreement. If the defendant is found guilty, the court proceeds to sentencing, which may include probation. 

      However, Florida law allows for a different type of agreement. The defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest to the charges, and then the court skips straight to placing him or her on probation without entering a judgment of conviction. The accused is ordered to abide by the terms of probation for a specified period. Depending on the charges, the defendant’s history, and other factors, there are a variety of special conditions that could be imposed if an individual receives a probationary sentence. Some potential probationary terms could include: 

      • Reporting to a probation officer as required
      • Maintaining suitable employment
      • Keeping the probation office updated with current address and employment information
      • Agreeing to allow probation officers to enter the probationer’s residence
      • Support legal dependents
      • Refrain from any further criminal activity
      • Avoid contact with people engaged in criminal activity
      • Paying restitution to victims
      • Performing community service
      • Attending substance abuse counseling, anger management, or other treatment programs
      • Submitting to random drug and alcohol testing

      Now if a judge is imposing a probationary sentence after a trial or following a sentencing hearing, then the court has broad authority to enter probationary sanctions or limitations as it deems appropriate to the situation. However if an accused reaches a plea deal or negotiated agreement with the prosecution and this agreement includes a withhold of adjudication and a term of probation, then the court will only impose the probationary conditions agreed upon by the parties.

      Successful Completion of Probation

      Under Florida law, a criminal defendant who is placed on probation with a withhold of adjudication or adjudication withheld and successfully completes that probation cannot be further sentenced for the crime. In other words, successful completion of probation puts an end to the case. 

      It’s important to note, though, that withheld adjudication is not a diversion. Successful completion of a diversion program can result in charges being dismissed, but that’s not the case with a withheld adjudication. No judgment of conviction is entered, but the case is not dismissed and the withheld adjudication remains part of the defendant’s criminal record. 

      Probation Violations 

      Maintaining a withheld adjudication or withhold of adjudication depends on the successful completion of probation. And, a defendant who violates the terms of the imposed probation may not only lose the withhold of adjudication, but they may also be at risk of even greater penalties than were imposed under the initial probationary sentence. 

      It is also worth noting that while there are significant positive aspects to receiving a withhold of adjudication or to having adjudication withheld, should a person be accused of violating the probation that accompanies the withhold, defending against the violation may be even more difficult than prevailing at a trial for the initial underlying charge. The reason being that the standard of proof required to prove a violation of probation is a preponderance of the evidence, which is a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.   

      Further, while the court may explain these terms when the plea is entered, many people charged with Florida crimes don’t fully understand the risks associated with entering a plea in exchange for a withhold of adjudication. While this is often a good resolution, it’s very important to understand the full ramifications before entering any plea, and to have an experienced criminal defense attorney assess your case for weaknesses before weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a withheld judgment.

      Who Qualifies for Withheld Adjudication? 

      The system of withholding adjudication was intended to offer a second chance to people without criminal histories if the court determined that they were unlikely to continue engaging in criminal activity. Since a criminal conviction can create limitations that make it more difficult for someone to participate in society, courts sometimes find it useful to be able to help a criminal defendant avoid getting caught in that trap. 

      However, having a previously clean criminal record isn’t a statutory requirement. While it’s much less likely that someone who already has a criminal conviction will be offered to withhold of adjudication, it is sometimes an option. 

      The other factor in determining eligibility for withheld adjudication is the nature of the charge. Certain types of crimes are never eligible under Florida law. Most of these are serious felonies. Capital, life, felonies never qualify. Further, an individual charged with a first-degree felony punishable by life or ordinary first-degree felony offenses can only receive a withhold of adjudication if they are sentenced as a youthful offender. Finally, Defendant’s facing second-degree felonies or third-degree felonies may qualify, but only if either: 

      • The prosecutor requests in writing that adjudication be withheld, or
      • The court enters written findings of mitigating circumstances justifying the withheld adjudication pursuant to Florida Statute 921.0026.

      Certain other specific crimes may be excluded, or the impact of a withheld adjudication may be limited based on a defendant’s prior criminal history. That said, an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can tell you whether or not a withhold of adjudication is possible based on the charges, and can explain the factors that will determine how likely a court is to withhold adjudication in your circumstances. 

      How Long Does Adjudication Withheld Stay on Your Record? 

      Withheld adjudications have different impacts in different circumstances, so it’s important to understand how they appear on your criminal record, how long they’ll appear there, and what effect they will have in different circumstances. 

      Just like a conviction, here in Florida, a withhold of adjudication will remain on an individual’s criminal record forever unless the withhold is sealed by court order. That means that unless, after the conclusion of your case, you get the record sealed, this withholding of adjudication will appear on your criminal history for the rest of your life. But, that’s just the first step in determining the impact adjudication withheld may have. Here are answers to some other commonly asked questions about what it means to have adjudication withheld on your record. 

      Does Adjudication Withheld Count as a Conviction? 

      The simple answer is no, if someone received a withhold of adjudication they have not been convicted of the offense. As such, someone who receives a withhold of adjudication for a felony does not lose their right to vote or to possess a firearm. However, there are questions that may be posed later on in life, like on job applications or contracts, to someone who ultimately receives a withhold of adjudication which can be confusing or tricky. Likewise making sure you answer these questions correctly can be tough. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney in your corner. Additionally, even though a withhold isn’t a conviction having one might still carry some negative repercussions for federal employment or military service. 

      Will Adjudication Withheld Show Up on a Background Check? 

      Yes, unless the record has been sealed adjudication withheld is part of your criminal history and will show up in a background check. If you’re applying for a job or filling out a rental application that requires a background check, be prepared for questions about your charge, or pre-empt them by explaining in advance. 

      Do I Have to List Adjudication Withheld on a Job Application? 

      The answer to this question depends on the wording of the application. For example, some job applications–and other applications, such as for apartment rentals or volunteer opportunities–will ask whether you’ve been convicted of a crime or convicted of a felony. Adjudication withheld isn’t a conviction, so you can honestly answer “no” to that question. But, be aware that a background check will turn up the charge anyway. And, read the question carefully. Some other applications use different phrasing, such as “Have you ever entered a guilty plea or pled no contest to a criminal charge?” The answer to that will be “yes,” since you must enter a plea as part of the withheld adjudication process. 

      How Does Adjudication Withheld Affect Gun Rights? 

      Adjudication withheld does not by itself disqualify a person from owning a firearm in Florida. However, in certain types of cases, the judge may prohibit ownership or possession of firearms during the term of probation. Failure to comply with this restriction could lead to a probation violation that might trigger entry of a judgment of conviction and sentencing for the crime. 

      Do you have more questions about gun crime defense in Florida?

      Is Adjudication Withheld a Good Deal? 

      Like most answers to tough legal questions, the answer is it depends. A withhold of adjudication can be a way for someone charged with a crime in Florida to avoid a criminal conviction and many of the restrictions that come with it. In fact, if after receiving a withhold an individual may in some instances be eligible to seal their record. And, of course, a defendant who is placed on probation is often placed on this type of supervision in lieu of a jail or prison term which is also beneficial. That said there can still be downsides to a disposition that results in a withhold of adjudication.

      Thus it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits. Violating probation can have serious consequences. And, most people don’t have the knowledge and experience to accurately assess the strength of the case against them, or whether there may be effective defenses available. 

      A conversation with an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney is the best way to protect yourself from serious mistakes in a criminal proceeding. Attorney Matthew Lufrano has the experience you need and offers free consultations to help people who have been charged with crimes gather reliable information. You can schedule yours right now by calling 904-513-3905. Or, if you prefer, fill out the contact form on this site and we’ll reach out to you.