What are my rights after an arrest?

Certain Constitutional rights are triggered if you are arrested or detained by law enforcement. Namely, the 4th Amendment Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures (also referred to as warrantless searches and seizures) and the 5th Amendment right against Self Incrimination. 

But not all law enforcement contacts are arrests or detentions. In fact, if an officer stops and asks you if they can speak with you, in some circumstances that can be deemed as a Consensual Encounter. Consensual Encounters are dangerous for you, because your Constitutional Rights are not automatically triggered. As such law enforcement are not required to read you your rights (e.g. give Miranda Warnings). Make no mistake though, your statements can, and will, be used against you during that encounter. 

If, however, you are arrested or detained, then the officer generally must read you your rights. If the officer attempts to force or otherwise coerce you into making a statement or saying anything at all before you have retained a criminal defense lawyer, it can be police misconduct. Police misconduct may be grounds for fighting an arrest including a potential motion to suppress to get rid of any and all evidence that was obtained after the officer violated your rights. 

It’s not a violation of Miranda, however, if you began talking with law enforcement without being prompted with questions. 

Will I need to go to court?

The circumstances of your case dictate entirely whether or not you will need to go to court. Generally there are very few times that you will be required to appear for court. Additionally, your appearance can be waived for all non-mandatory court dates. 

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

There are generally two classifications of crimes based on the severity of punishment: Misdemeanors and Felonies. Misdemeanors are lesser offenses often resulting in fines and possible jail time. 

A few of the most common misdemeanors are as follows:

  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Petit Theft (shoplifting) 
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Possession of Marijuana — less than 20 grams
  • Battery (including Domestic)

In Florida, misdemeanors are subdivided into two degrees: 1st Degree Misdemeanors and 2nd Degree Misdemeanors. A 1st Degree Misdemeanor has a maximum punishment of one-year in the county jail, one-year of probation, or any combination up to one year. Fines and other penalties (such as substance abuse classes, counseling, public service) are also attached to certain crimes.

Felonies are the more severe crimes. As such, the punishments are much more severe than most misdemeanors. 

A few of the most common Felonies are as follows:

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance without a Prescription (drug possession)
  • Grand Theft (shoplifting) 
  • Possession of Marijuana — more than 20 grams
  • Driving Under the Influence with Serious Bodily Injury
  • Rape
  • Manslaughter

In Florida, Felonies are subdivided into three degrees: 3rd Degree Felonies, 2nd Degree Felonies, and 1st Degree Felonies. The maximum punishment for a 3rd degree felony is five years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) (state prison) or five years of probation, or a combination of five years. Second Degree Felonies are bumped up to 15 years. First Degree Felonies can range anywhere from 25 years to life, to Capital (death). 

Do all “sex crimes” result in registration as a sex offender?

It depends. The actual charge will determine if you have to register as either a sexual offender or a sexual predator. Additionally, the specific requirements of registration are also determined by the charge. Being accused/convicted of a Sex Crime is one of the most severe crimes. In essence being placed on the Registry becomes a life sentence as a result of the near impossible potential of removal from the list and the other limitations such as where you can live, work, and travel.

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