Your Guide to Criminal Court

Watch Burkhardt Legal’s attorney, Dominique Burkhardt, provide insights into the criminal court process and what you can generally expect if you are facing criminal charges, and click the link below each video to learn more. These questions and answers are for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. To speak with an attorney about a legal matter, call Burkhardt Legal at (561) 445-1555 or (954) 861-0018.

Should I talk to the police?

The short answer to this question is: no, you should not talk to the police. When police officers are investigating a case, either before or after they make an arrest, they will usually try to take a statement from the person they are investigating or have just arrested. The request may come in the form of asking you to “come down to the station to answer a few questions,” or asking “to hear your side of the story.” If the police are investigating you or they have just arrested you, and they want to take a statement from you, it is not to help you. It is to gather evidence against you to build a case against you for the prosecution. In fact, police officers are actually allowed to lie to you about what evidence they have against you in order to get you to make a confession. In a nutshell, police want a statement from you to see if you will provide a confession or make other incriminating statements that can be used against you in court.

 

It can be an intimidating situation to have a detective or police officer call you on your personal phone or show up at your house or workplace, asking you to come in and speak with them. It is understandable to believe you have no choice but to comply and speak with them. The truth is, you have the right to refuse to speak to police. In this situation, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can speak directly to the police on your behalf and assert all of your rights and protect your interests.

 

Similarly, immediately following an arrest, you may feel you must speak to the police and explain to them your side of the story. However, once you are under arrest, there is nothing you can say that will cause the police to un-arrest you, and you run the risk of creating evidence in the form of your own statement that can be used against you in court. Again, you have the right to refuse to speak to police.

 

If you are under investigation by police or have questions about your rights in this situation, call Burkhardt Legal today to schedule a consultation.

I was arrested, what happens next?

Within 24 hours of your arrest, you will appear before a judge for First Appearance who will determine if you were lawfully arrested, known as a finding of “probable cause.” Typically, the judge will find probable cause and then set a bond in your case.

 

In the days (sometimes weeks) after your arrest, the State Attorney’s Office will decide whether to file charges or not. If charges are filed, you will receive a notice in the mail of your first court date, which is called Arraignment. At Arraignment, the judge will inform you of your charges, and you can either plea “not guilty” and have your case set for a future court date, or you can enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest” to resolve your case and accept a plea deal. Most people enter a plea of “Not Guilty” so they can have their lawyer investigate their case and advise them.

 

It is never too early after an arrest to retain a lawyer – the sooner the better! At the latest, you should be prepared to hire a competent, experienced lawyer to represent you soon after your Arraignment.

 

Your lawyer will review the State’s evidence against you, investigate and develop your defenses, and can question the State’s witnesses by taking their deposition. Your lawyer will look for any defensive motions that could result in your case being dismissed before trial. Ultimately, the decision to take a plea or go to trial is yours alone; however, your lawyer is trained in the rules of evidence and criminal procedure, and she will have a good picture of how your trial might turn out. Therefore, it is in your best interest to thoroughly consult with your lawyer and listen to their advice before making a final decision on how to resolve your case.

 

If you or a loved one were arrested or charged with a crime, contact Burkhardt Legal today at to schedule a consultation. At Burkhardt Legal, we have years of experience defending clients in criminal cases, and our record of successes at trial show that we will aggressively fight your case and work to obtain the best possible outcome in your legal matter.

What if I can't afford to post bond?

If you are reading this, chances are, you have a loved one who is being held in jail who cannot afford to post bond. If that is the case, there are options for your loved one’s release from jail, including an ROR (release on your own recognizance), pre-trial release, and/or a bond reduction.

 

If you are ROR’ed, you are released from jail while your case is pending, and you are promising the court that you will appear for all of your scheduled court dates.

 

If you are released on pre-trial release, you are released from jail while your case is pending, and you will be supervised by a pre-trial officer. The judge can place conditions on your pre-trial release, such as an ankle monitor, drug testing, or no victim contact.

 

If your bond is reduced, you will go through the normal steps to post your bond at the lowered, more affordable amount.

 

There are appropriate motions that must be filed and the right evidence and arguments must be presented to ensure the best chances of release. If your loved one is being held in jail after an arrest and cannot afford to post bond, contact Burkhardt Legal today and let us take immediate action to fight for your loved one’s release!

What is a Notice to Appear (NTA) or Traffic Citation?

If you receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) or a traffic citation with a notice to appear in court, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to begin legal representation. Although you were not arrested, a NTA or traffic citation means you are facing criminal charges and must still appear in criminal court before a judge. Your NTA or traffic citation should contain a court location and court telephone number to call. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of your court date, and you must appear in court on the date specified.

 

If you received a NTA or traffic citation, contact Burkhardt Legal today, and let us get to work immediately in your defense. At Burkhardt Legal, we have years of experience defending clients in criminal cases, and our record of successes at trial show that we will aggressively fight your case and work to obtain the best possible outcome in your legal matter.

Why do I need a lawyer if I know I am guilty?

Even if you believe you are guilty or just want to resolve your case quickly without going to trial, you still need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you for a variety of different reasons.

 

First, an experienced lawyer is needed to review the charges the State has filed against you to make sure you were not overcharged for crimes you did not commit, or that you were not incorrectly charged based on the facts of your case. Also, in many cases, the State has a specific amount of time before it can no longer bring charges against you, and your lawyer will be able to determine if this time period has expired, which could result in a dismissal of your charges.

 

Second, an experienced lawyer is needed to review the State’s evidence against you to determine if the State has enough evidence to prove the exact crime(s) you have been charged with. It is the State’s job to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and you do not have to do anything to help the State prove their case against you. That means that even if you do not want to fight your case, if your lawyer determines that the State cannot prove its case against you, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a dismissal of your charges, a reduction in your charges (i.e. from a felony to a misdemeanor), or a favorable plea deal (i.e. probation instead of jail time).

 

Third, an experienced lawyer is needed to guide you through the plea process and sentencing. When you plea to a crime, there are a number of consequences that can affect your life beyond the sentence that you receive. For example, your driver’s license might be suspended, you might have to pay fines or court costs, or you might face deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen. Your lawyer will also make sure that your sentence is actually legal based on the crime you were charged with.

 

As you can see, the criminal justice system is complex, and these are just a few reasons why you need an experienced lawyer on your side protecting your rights and interests at every step of the way. If you or a loved one were charged with a crime, contact Burkhardt Legal today and let us put our experience to work for you in getting the best possible legal outcome in your case!

What is the difference between a withhold and an adjudication?

A withhold of adjudication and an adjudication, or conviction, are legal terms or designations to describe how your case has closed out, and each one carries different consequences. A withhold of adjudication means your case has ended following a plea or a trial, and you have received some kind of sentence for a crime, but you were not adjudicated guilty, or convicted, of that crime. It is considered a less severe penalty to being convicted of a crime, and it is therefore preferable to receiving a conviction.

 

A criminal conviction means your case has ended following a plea or trial, and you received an adjudication of guilt. A conviction usually carries additional civil penalties that a withhold does not; for example, if you are convicted of a drug offense, you automatically lose your driver’s license for one year, whereas if you receive a withhold on a drug offense, your driving privileges are not affected. Furthermore, you are eligible to have a criminal case sealed from your record if you received a withhold, but you cannot have your record sealed if you were convicted.

 

A felony conviction can also seriously impact your life going forward. For example, with a felony conviction, you lose your right to vote in Florida and to possess a firearm. You may not be able to receive certain federally funded benefits, and you may not be able to pursue certain jobs that require a professional licensing. Employers will almost always ask for your arrest and conviction history, and this could affect your ability to obtain employment. These are just a few of the ways a felony conviction can seriously impact your life going forward, which is why if you are facing a felony charge, it is very important that you have a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney who will fight hard to minimize the long-term negative affects of a criminal case.

Will I be deported if I am not a U.S. citizen?

If you are not a United States citizen, if you plea to a crime or are found guilty of a crime after trial, you could face immigration consequences depending on the type of crime you were convicted of. These consequences could be deportation or inadmissibility to apply for certain types of immigration petitions or relief from removal.

 

Your criminal defense lawyer has a legal and ethical duty to advise you of the immigration consequences of pleading to or being found guilty of a particular crime. The analysis generally centers on whether the crime is a “crime involving moral turpitude” (CIMT) or an aggravated felony, but immigration consequences can also be triggered for crimes involving a controlled substance, domestic violence, violation of an injunction, and many other crimes. Whether or not you will face immigration consequences to a criminal conviction depends on the elements of the crime you were charged with, your current immigration status, and your criminal history.

 

Immigration law is complex, and analyzing how a particular crime will affect your immigration status requires an experienced and knowledgable attorney who can accurately advise you based on your particular situation. If you are charged with a crime and you are not a U.S. citizen, contact Burkhardt Legal today to schedule a consultation. Let us put our knowledge and experience to work for you by effectively advising you and fighting hard to potentially avoid adverse immigration consequences in your case.

Can the victim in a case drop the charges?

There is a common misconception in criminal cases that the alleged victim can decide to drop charges against the defendant, and the case will be dismissed. This is not true. Once someone calls the police and reports a crime, prosecutors from the State Attorney’s Office (the State) are the only ones who can decide whether or not to file charges, and they are the only ones who can dismiss a case pre-trial.* Once charges are filed, the alleged victim then becomes a witness in the criminal case against the defendant, and the State can compel the victim to testify in court; indeed, the State can have the victim held in contempt or arrested if they refuse to appear in court to testify against the defendant. Although the State can take into account a victim’s desires for the outcome of a case, there are many other factors that play a role in the outcome of a criminal case, and ultimately, it is up to the State to decide whether or not to pursue charges.

 

If you or a loved one were arrested or charged with a crime, contact Burkhardt Legal today to schedule a consultation. At Burkhardt Legal, we have years of experience defending clients in criminal cases, and our record of successes at trial show that we will aggressively fight your case and work to obtain the best possible outcome in your legal matter.

 

*An exception to this is when a judge dismisses a case after a defense Motion to Dismiss that presents a legal reason why the court is required to dismiss the case.

What happens after my plea is vacated?

There are many reasons why someone may need to have their plea or judgment and sentence after trial vacated, which is also known as being granted post-conviction relief. While it is not easy to win a motion for post-conviction relief, under the right legal and factual circumstances, it is possible. What many people do not realize, however, is that if your plea or judgment/sentence after trial is vacated, this is not the same as your entire case being thrown out or dismissed. While it is understandable to believe your case has been closed out after being granted post-conviction relief, in reality, your case has been reopened and will be pending in court just as it was after the State initially brought charges against you.

 

This is where an experienced criminal defense attorney comes in. Motions for post-conviction relief take anywhere from a few months to a few years to litigate, especially if your case went through the appeals process first. After your case is reopened, an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to investigate your case to determine the strength or potential weakness of the State’s case against you after this passage of time. An experienced criminal defense attorney will then know how to negotiate for a dismissal, if possible, or attempt to work out a plea deal that resolves the issues that made you seek post-conviction relief in the first place; for example, if you previously pled to a charge that made you deportable.

 

Being granted post-conviction relief is essentially getting a second chance to defend your case. It can be a complex and lengthy process, but it is well worth it if you are able to get the outcome you are seeking and that justice requires. You should not take any chances when it comes to your chance at reopening your case. Contact Burkhardt Legal today to speak with an attorney who is experienced with the post-conviction process and who will fight hard to achieve the best possible legal outcome in your case.

Can I modify my probation?

There are numerous possible reasons why you may want to change or modify the conditions of your probation: you may have an excellent track record while on probation, and you would like additional freedoms; you may need to modify your payment plan for restitution; you may need to temporarily travel out of town; or you may want to permanently move away.

 

Modification of your probation is possible, but you first need permission from the judge who placed you on probation. If you need to modify the conditions of your probation, contact Burkhardt Legal today for a consultation. Let us file the appropriate motions and take the steps necessary to seek these modifications, while ensuring that you are fully compliant with your probation.

What is early termination of probation?

The court that placed you on probation has the authority to end your probation early, known as an “early termination of probation,” if you have demonstrated good behavior for a significant amount of time while on probation.

 

The court will look at whether you have completed all the conditions of your probation, i.e., payment of restitution or completion of community service hours, and whether you have had any previous violations of probation or new arrests while on probation.

 

​If you have had a good track record while you have been on probation, contact Burkhardt Legal today for a consultation. Let us file the appropriate motions and present the necessary arguments to seek an early termination of your probation.

Can I get back my property if the police took it during an arrest?

If your personal items were seized during your or another person’s arrest, a Motion for Return of Property can be filed to request that your property be returned to you. Factors that the judge will look at in deciding whether to grant the motion for return of property include whether the property is being stored as evidence in an open case and proof of rightful ownership. These motions also require contact with the police department holding the property. If you are the defendant in the case seeking a return of your own property, these motions are typically filed once your case has resolved and closed.

 

If your personal property was seized during your or someone else’s arrest, contact Burkhardt Legal today for a consultation. Let us file the appropriate motions and present the necessary arguments to seek a return of your property.