One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, "Will I be sentenced to the maximum penalty?"
Chances are, no. But as is the case in criminal law, everything depends on the circumstances.
For first-time offenders, the chances of being sentenced to the maximum are rare, unless you are charged with a serious violent felony. In that case, a judge may sentence you the maximum if you go to trial and are found guilty.
However, more than 95% of all criminal cases are resolved through plea negotiations. It takes a skilled criminal defense attorney to successfully negotiate a good plea.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it is very likely that you will not serve any jail time provided you have a clean record.
If charged with a felony, you can still avoid jail provided the felony offense is non-violent in nature.
If the offense is violent, such as aggravated assault, felony battery, or battery on a law enforcement officer, you may be offered a plea that includes jail or even prison time. In Miami-Dade County, you are more likely to receive Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) or even probation. In Broward, you will not get PTI for any of these offenses.
If there are mandatory minimum sentences in place for your offense, unless that mandatory minimum is waived by the State Attorney, you may be looking at prison time even if it is your first offense.
While you may not be "maxed out" for your offense, you may be looking at serious penalties even if you have never been arrested before.
Many charges in Florida carry mandatory sentences. If you have been enhanced under any of Florida's Career Criminal statutes, you will undoubtedly be looking at prison time.
So while you might not get the harshest penalty permitted by law, you may still be subjected to life-changing consequences of a criminal charge, such as a criminal conviction or a prison sentence.
It is wise to contact a criminal lawyer as soon as you can after getting arrested. A good lawyer who has been around the system and is familiar with the courts may be able to help you avoid harsh sentences.
I represent clients in Miami-Dade and Broward. I am a former Miami-Dade prosecutor. Call today to discuss your case.