In a recent study published by the Wall Street Journal, the sheer number of misdemeanor offenses clogging Florida’s court system has revealed several startling statistics in the Sunshine State. First, over 500,000 adult Floridians are charged with misdemeanor crimes each year – or roughly three percent of the adult population. What’s more, the study found that within a select group of 1,600 random cases, one-third of the criminal defendants appeared pro se (i.e., without an attorney), which can significantly reduce a defendant’s chance of success within an overworked docket.
Perhaps most concerning, as revealed by the study, is the fact that hearings took less than three minutes on average, and over 80 percent of defendants pleaded guilty or no contest – most of whom did not have the benefit of sound legal advice prior to entering the plea on the record. As just about any Sarasota criminal defense attorney knows, no misdemeanor is insignificant enough to warrant an automatic guilty plea, and our team of legal professionals can help you avoid an unnecessary stain on your criminal background.
Avoiding a Misdemeanor Conviction
By definition, a misdemeanor crime is one that carries a maximum jail sentence of less than one year. There are a number of drug possession offenses that are considered misdemeanors. Other common charges include public intoxication, petit theft or driving under the influence. While the term “misdemeanor” (as opposed to felony) may conjure up notions of “no big deal,” the collateral damage of a misdemeanor may be felt for years to come. Many colleges and universities will decline to enroll an applicant with a criminal background, and it may be similarly difficult to secure employment with a misdemeanor charge lingering in the background.
For these reasons, retaining an experienced defense attorney, even for a seemingly “minor” offense, is vital to your success moving forward. Using legal experience and prowess, your attorney may be able to help negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor – who likely has several hundred other misdemeanor cases to manage. Additionally, if the facts leading up to your arrest and charge are shaky or open to interpretation, your attorney may be able to argue against some of the elements of your crime, thereby creating reasonable doubt and supporting a finding of not guilty by a judge or jury.
It is also worth noting that conviction of four or more misdemeanors within a one year period could result in classification as a habitual offender under Section 775.0837 of the Florida Statutes. This classification carries its own additional penalties, including incarceration up to six months or mandatory placement in a treatment facility.
Contact the Fowler Law Group Today!
If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, we implore you to take the situation seriously and contact our office right away. A criminal defense lawyer can help you find ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure to criminal culpability, as well as help preserve your greatest asset: your reputation. For assistance, give us a call at our Sarasota law office: (941) 900-3100