What Should You Do if Charged with a Misdemeanor?
If you were charged with a misdemeanor, take the matter seriously and act quickly to retain legal help. Although this level of offense is considered less severe than a felony, the punishments are still substantial and can have a lasting effect on your life.
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to 60 days in jail
- Up to $500 in fines
In addition to being subject to jail time and fines, the misdemeanor conviction leaves you with a criminal record. Having a criminal history could make it difficult for you to get a job or find housing. That is why it is crucial to have a seasoned lawyer on your side to fight the allegations. An effective attorney will work hard toward getting charges reduced, dropped, or seeking an acquittal, which could minimize the impacts of a conviction on your life.
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, on top of securing legal counsel, it’s important to:
- Be on time: For a misdemeanor charge, you may be scheduled for several different court proceedings. You’ll receive a notice with the date and time you must appear, and you should arrive on time or early. If you fail to appear at all, you could be subject to another misdemeanor charge as defined in Florida Statutes § 843.15.
- Be prepared: During the initial process for a misdemeanor charge, you’ll be scheduled for an arraignment where the prosecutor reads your formal charges. During this step, you may also be asked to enter a plea. By preparing for the initial proceedings with your lawyer, you can make more informed decisions about how to move forward with your case.
- Be ready to negotiate: If you enter a plea of not guilty, you will be scheduled for a subsequent pretrial hearing. Your lawyer will then review the evidence, investigate your case, and develop a theory of the defense. The prosecutor may extend a plea offer, which is when the prosecutor agrees to file lesser charges, reduce the possible sentence, or drop related charges in exchange for your pleading guilty. This process will involve negotiation to seek a favorable deal. Having reviewed the merits of your case, your lawyer can help you understand whether or not the offer is fair. Additionally, because attorneys have experience with this process, they know how to fight for their clients' best interests.
- Be ready for trial: Every person accused of a criminal has a constitutional right to a trial. Your attorney must thoroughly and zealously prepare for trial. Although the burden rests on the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, building a strong defense requires examining every detail of your case and understanding the evidence the other side has against you. Again, discussing your case with a lawyer can help as you challenge the prosecutor’s accusations.
- Be prepared to file an appeal: Unfortunately, not all cases end with “not guilty” verdicts, but even in these unfortunate situations, the fight is not over. You still have the opportunity to appeal the judgment. During an appeal, you can challenge legal errors that occurred during trial. There are various grounds to file an appeal, and a skilled attorney can help you understand whether or not you can move forward with this type of action.
Recently, our attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, took on a case in which a man was held in contempt of court because of a strongly worded letter he sent to a judge who dismissed his civil lawsuit. The judge said that the letter “lessen[ed] the authority and dignity of the Court.” Attorney Rosenfeld filed an appeal on the grounds that the conviction decision violated the man’s right to free speech under the First Amendment.
Read the full South Florida Sun Sentinel article about the case here.
Being charged with a misdemeanor is not something that should be taken lightly. If you need effective counsel to fight charges in West Palm Beach, call the Law Offices of Greg Rosenfeld at (561) 902-1122 or contact us online.