Answered by a West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer

Have you or someone you love recently been arrested in Palm Beach County? At Herman Law, P.A., we are dedicated to the field of criminal defense and upholding the rights of Floridians under the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. Florida has some of the toughest criminal sentencing and penalties in the nation; therefore, if you are the target of a pre-indictment investigation or if you have already been arrested, it is imperative that you hire the best West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney you can find.

As a former prosecutor with over 150 jury trials to his credit and with some of the most sought after accolades in the legal field such as the AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®and inclusion in Florida's Super Lawyers® Rising Stars℠, you can trust in Attorney Herman's ability to defend you!

To help you become more familiar with criminal defense, we encourage you to click the frequently asked questions and see the answers provided below.

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* Video to better explain your questions

Dos and Don'ts of Selecting an Attorney*

When you or a loved one is accused of a crime, you want to find the BEST criminal defense attorney you can afford. Here are the Do's and Don'ts when looking for a criminal defense lawyer:

1. DO look for EXPERIENCE
I graduated in 2000 and have been practicing criminal law for over 15 years.

2. DO look for USEFUL experience
Ask how long the attorney has been a private defense lawyer. I started my career as a prosecutor, working for the state for 6 years. However, I also have almost ten years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer.

3. DON'T assume the oldest or most EXPENSIVE lawyer is the best for you
Do not necessarily assume that the oldest or most expensive attorney is the best choice for you. Very senior and exclusive lawyers are also more likely to delegate your case to younger lawyers or paralegals and staff.

4. DON'T hire the cheapest lawyer either
A bargain priced attorney probably doesn't have many clients, or has little experience handling your type of case, or makes a profit by turning over large caseloads. Although price should not be the deciding factor, we certainly understand that it is an important consideration and offer flexible payment arrangements.

Martindale-Hubbell® is the premier lawyer rating service, which awarded me the AV Preeminent® Rating, the highest possible ranking. Avvo is another reputable lawyer directory, which gave me a 10.0 Superb Rating.

6. DO visit the OFFICE
Ask to see the lawyer's office and note if there is a professional receptionist to welcome you, and a secretary or paralegal. I look forward to meeting you!

What is the first appearance?

After an arrest, the defendant will be taken before a judicial officer, either in person or by electronic audiovisual device within 24 hours. At the first appearance, the judge shall inform the defendant of the charge and provide the defendant with a copy of the complaint.

When the defendant desires to be represented by counsel at their first appearance, the judge shall postpone the first appearance to allow the defendant reasonable time to secure counsel.

Will I be released before trial?

At your first appearance, the judge will consider all relevant factors to determine what form of release is necessary to assure that you will attend all court appearances. The court will consider the nature and circumstances of your offense and the penalties provided by law.

Other factors will include: the evidence against you, your family ties, how long you have lived in the community, your financial resources, your past and present conduct, your criminal history, whether you are a flight risk and any other facts relevant to the case.

What are the penalties for a misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

What are the penalties for a felony?

State felonies are charged as life felonies, or as felonies of the first, second, or third degree. They are punishable by fines ranging between $5,000 and $15,000 and up to life imprisonment. In cases such as murder of the first degree, a defendant can be sentenced to death if convicted.

What can I expect during the booking process?

Once a person is arrested, he or she will have to go through "booking," which refers to the recording of the arrested person's name, age, date of birth, address, and the reason for the arrest which brought that person to jail and put them behind bars.

The complete process typically includes:

  • Recording the inmate's personal information
  • Recording the inmate's physical description
  • Taking photographs, known as the mug shot
  • Fingerprinting
  • Conduct a full body search
  • Checking the Department of Justice records
  • Taking any money or personal property from the inmate, including: wallets, pocket knives, jewelry, sunglasses, purses, accessories, hats, and cigarettes etc.
  • Check for any warrants

The inmate may be asked a series of medical questions in order to evaluate their physical or mental health. In an effort to protect the health and safety of other inmates and jailhouse officials, the booking process may include X-rays to detect tuberculosis and blood tests to detect any STDs such as gonorrhea or AIDS.

In some cases, jail officials may ask arrestees about any gang affiliations in order to reduce the risk of violence and injuries that may occur with other inmates. If the inmate is determined to be at-risk, he or she may be placed in protective custody or strategically housed in one section of the jail over another.

A suspect may be required to submit DNA samples that are then entered into a national DNA database such as CODIS, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Department of Corrections operates a large jail system. If you need to find a person in custody, you can call Inmate Records at (561) 688-4340. The three correctional facilities in Palm Beach County are: the Main Detention Center, the Central Detention Center, and the West Detention Center.

If you or a loved one were recently arrested, we urge you to contact West Palm Beach Criminal Attorney, Ron D. Herman. As a former prosecutor who has handled over 150 jury trials, Attorney Herman knows how to defend you. Our goal is to protect your rights and use our vast knowledge of the law to your greatest advantage in court.

Call today to schedule a free case evaluation – we are on your side!

How Can a Bondsperson Assist When You Are Arrested?

According to Florida's Rules of Criminal Procedure, unless a suspect is charged with a capital offense or an offense that is punishable by life imprisonment, such person shall be entitled to pretrial release, providing he or she is not perceived as a flight risk, and providing that they do not pose a threat to the community.

Bail allows people who have been arrested to remain outside of jail while they are awaiting trial. Bail can be paid by the arrestee, by friends, or relatives. Since bail can be in the thousands, some people may not have enough money to make the required lump sum payment.

When people cannot afford to post bail on their own, or when they do not have any friends or family members who can come up with the money, they will often seek the services of a bail bondsperson, who posts the bail for a fee, usually around 10% of the bail amount.

Many families have to weigh the option of hiring a bondsman or leaving their loved one in jail. On one hand, having a loved one in jail creates a sense of urgency, and most people want to get their loved one out of jail as fast as possible. On the other, some people question whether the expense is worth it.

Bailing someone out gives them the gift of time, which in a criminal case is priceless. When the accused is released on bail, they not only have more time to prepare their case, but they have better access to a private attorney if they choose to hire one.

Sometimes a private attorney is able to get an individual's charges reduced or dismissed. In Florida, if the defense attorney is successful in getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, it will make a huge difference in the individual's future.

Getting arrested is one of the most stressful, unpleasant things a person will ever have to go through. Not only does the arrestee have to go through booking, but they need to figure out how to fight their case in court. Defense attorneys tend to agree that building a strong defense is much easier to accomplish from outside of a jail cell than from within.

If you are weighing the pros and cons of bailing someone out of jail, call a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from Herman Law, P.A. for legal advice.

How Involved is a Judge in My Case?

You may be wondering what a judge does and how involved the judge will be in your case. It is important to remember that while he or she works for the state, they are not a law enforcement officer, and they are not a prosecutor. Judges do not arrest people, nor do they try and prove that they are guilty.

Judges can be compared to umpires in baseball or referees in football or basketball. The judge's role is to ensure that the rules and court procedures are followed correctly by the prosecution and the defense.

Judges call facts as they see them, without regard to which side is popular, or in a high-profile case, without regard to which side is favored, and without regard to what the spectators want, and lastly, without regard to whether that judge agrees with the law. That being said, you will probably come to know the prosecutor better than you will come to know the judge.

The First Appearance: One can expect to see the judge at their first appearance which will be within 24 hours of your arrest, this is called the "First Appearance Hearing." During this hearing, the judge will decide whether a bond amount should be set and if so, how much.

Arraignment: Following the First Appearance Hearing, the individual is required to appear in court and state whether they are guilty or not guilty. They will usually appear before the judge with his or her defense attorney by their side.

Before trial, the accused may agree to plead guilty or nolo contendere during plea negotiations. A large percentage of criminal cases result in a plea bargain, especially in cases involving nonviolent crimes or theft. In cases of a particularly heinous nature such as those involving murder, or when an individual is asserting their innocence, or when the state's offer is unreasonable based on the facts and circumstances of the particular case, the case will often go to trial.

The Status Conference: A status conference is the hearing that is held before trial. At this hearing, the individual informs the judge whether or not they are ready for trial, and they may also tell the judge if they wish to enter a plea. If the individual is not ready for trial, they can request a continuance.

The criminal process is an orderly series of events that have several key players involved, namely the Sheriff's Office, the State Attorney's Office, the defense attorney, the judge, and in the cases of a trial, the jury.

Arrested for a criminal offense in Palm Beach County? Contact Herman Law, P.A. today to discuss your case with a former prosecutor. We gladly offer free case evaluations to all prospective clients.

What are the Maximum Penalties in My Case?

Criminal offenses are classified as misdemeanors and felonies, with misdemeanors being less serious than felonies. In short, a misdemeanor conviction can involve up to one year in jail, whereas a felony conviction can result in up to 5, 15, 30, years, or life imprisonment. A capital felony case can result in life imprisonment, or death.

The penalties for a criminal conviction in Florida are as follows:

  • Capital Felony (first-degree murder, felony murder, capital drug trafficking, capital sexual battery): punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment.
  • Life Felony: punishable by life imprisonment, or a fine up to $15,000, or both.
  • Felony of the First Degree: punishable by up to 30 years in prison, or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.
  • Felony of the Second Degree: punishable by up to 15 years in prison, or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.
  • Felony of the Third Degree: punishable by up to 5 years in prison, or a fine not to exceed $5,000, or both.
  • Misdemeanor of the First Degree: punishable by up to 1 year in jail, or a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
  • Misdemeanor of the Second Degree: punishable by up to 60 days in jail, or a maximum fine of $500.00, or both.

To learn more about Florida's laws and criminal procedure, and to discover why it is so important to secure the best defense representation you can find, contact a West Palm Beach criminal attorney at Herman Law, P.A.

In the face of criminal charges, you have a lot at stake and you cannot leave anything to chance.Call our firm today to discuss your case with Attorney Herman, a former prosecutor with some of the most sought after achievements in the field of criminal law.

What is Probation?

Probation is a court-ordered term of community supervision. The probation involves specified conditions for a specific period of time and it cannot exceed the maximum sentence for the offense. The probationer is required to comply with all conditions set by the court.

A violation of any of these conditions may result in revocation by the court and the imposition of any sentence. Probationers are generally required to pay the costs of supervision directly to the state of Florida, and they may have additional conditions that require them to pay restitution, court costs, fines, public services, and they may be ordered to pay for various types of treatment.

Under 948.03 F.S., the court determines the terms and conditions of probation. While the following is a list of the standard conditions for probation, the court may order other terms as well.

  • Report to the probation officer as directed
  • Allow supervisors to visit at probationer's home or anywhere else
  • Remain faithfully employed
  • Stay in a specific place
  • Refrain from breaking the law
  • Support children to the best of probationer's ability
  • Stay away from people engaged in criminal activities
  • Submit to random drug testing
  • Refrain from possessing, carrying, or owning a firearm

The role of the probation officer is to monitor and enforce the conditions of supervision imposed by the court, to address noncompliance, and to refer local community resources in order to assist the offender.

The Florida Department of Corrections supervises over 145,000 offenders. There are 131 probation & parole field offices in Florida that supervise offenders released from prison on parole, conditional release, probation, drug offender probation, sex offender probation and more.

The West Palm Beach Circuit Office covers all of Palm Beach County. The probation officers assist offenders by providing them with resources and services to help them transition from prison or jail to the community.

The probation officers refer the offenders to a variety of community resources in order to help them find employment, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling and other positive programs that are meant to help the offender become a productive member of society.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense, you are urged to contact Herman Law, P.A. to discuss your case with Attorney Herman. In the face of a criminal conviction, imprisonment, or probation, you need and deserve to have your case aggressively defended by a skilled West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney!

How Can My Bond Be Lowered?

In Florida, unless an offender has been charged with a capital offense or an offense that is punishable by life imprisonment, every person charged with a crime is entitled to pretrial release, which is synonymous with bond or bail. Fortunately, the law requires that bond hearings be scheduled rather quickly and that judges impose reasonable conditions for release.

Technically, bail or bond refers to the monetary amount that must be posted before a person can be released from jail prior to their trial. Even if the accused posts bond, they may be required to agree to other conditions before the jail releases him or her.

At the offender's first appearance, the judge will consider all relevant factors when deciding what type of release is necessary to assure the individual appears in court. Such factors include the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, family ties, their employment history, financial resources, their threat to the community and whether or not they are a flight risk.

If the judge sets a bail amount that a person cannot afford, their defense attorney can file a motion to reduce bail. Since a person charged with a crime does not generally have the right to multiple bond hearings, it is very important for defense counsel to show that they have strong ties to the community and that they are willing to appear at all scheduled court appearances.

To file a bond hearing, a motion to set bond must be scheduled before the correct judge, and this will depend upon the nature of the charges. Then, a hearing will be scheduled before the Judge. At the bond hearing, the judge will consider:

  • Family ties
  • Community ties
  • Employment history
  • Financial resources
  • Criminal record
  • Past failures to appear
  • Flight risk
  • Source of funds for bail
  • Whether the person poses a threat to the community

If you are interested in requesting a bond reduction, contact Herman Law, P.A. for assistance. In afree case evaluation, our West Palm Beach criminal lawyer can answer all of your questions and explain what strategies we would use to help you!

Can My Case Be Dismissed Because the Police Did Not Read Me My Rights?*

Because of movies and television, most people can identify the reciting of Miranda Rights or warnings as a required part of criminal arrest for law enforcement. However, it is often misunderstood what the reading of these rights is actually for. Miranda Rights do not have a bearing on your actual charge. They are there to inform a citizen of their rights while in custody and being interrogated by police. Because some may feel pressured or coerced by officers while in custody to answer questions, these rights inform the accused that they are not required to talk and can request a lawyer or remain silent at any time.

Therefore, if your Miranda Rights were not read to you during your arrest, it means that any statements you made while in custody and being questioned may not be admissible in court. However, it does not invalidate or dismiss the original charges against you.

Can the police conduct a search without a warrant?*

There are three circumstances in which police officers are legally allowed to conduct a search of your property or person:

  • When they have obtained a search warrant.
  • When they have established probable cause.
  • When they have received consent from a citizen.

When officers are responding to an incident, one of their top priorities is the collection of evidence of wrong doing, even if is not readily apparent. When it is apparent, either by something they observe or smell or hear, this is called establishing probable cause and can be supported in court.

When evidence is not apparent, police may still suspect that wrongdoing has occurred and want to investigate. Officers will often ask property owners if they can "come in," or "look around."

For most people, submitting to police requests feels like the right thing to do, but you can say no without incurring penalty. Keep in mind that when an officer does have the legal standing to demand something of you, they will, and you should comply. However, if they are requesting an action, like entering your home or opening your trunk, you can legally decline under the Fourth Amendment right protecting citizens against unreasonable searches.

What should I do when the police are investigating me?*

If you are approached by law enforcement for questioning concerning criminal activity, then you must be extremely cautious about how you conduct yourself. It is likely in these situations that you are a suspect and, no matter how cordial or accommodating the police may seem, they are trying to extract statements from you that can be used to support a charge.

In the event police come to you for questioning, there are a few key things to remember;

  • Determine which agency the officers are from.
  • Request the name and ID number of the officer.
  • Above all, contact an attorney.

Exercising your right to speak with an attorney is paramount here. Whether you are in custody or not, it is always highly recommended that you do not give a statement until speaking with legal representation.

Have more questions? Contact us to learn more.

At Herman Law, P.A., we are 100% dedicated to criminal defense and defending the rights of Florida's citizens, one case at a time. For years we have been waging individual battles in courtrooms across Palm Beach County, and we welcome the opportunity to defend you. When we take on a case, we fight to win and your case will not be any different.

Contact our criminal defense firm to get your legal questions answered in a free consultation.