06/30/2012 (press release: sheiladanzig) // Fort Lauderdale, FL, US // Gary Zeidwig
Gary Zeidwig of www.Zeidwiglaw.com in Fort Lauderdale provides honest answers to tough questions about what you should do if you ever find yourself being arrested for a crime. For more information or a free consultation, contact Criminal Attorney Gary Zeidwig at 954.523.3993.
Q: Let’s say I was arrested and charged with a crime. How can I be sure I’m choosing the right attorney?
A: Look for an experienced trial lawyer. Experience does not mean how many years a lawyer been in practice but how many jury trials he or she has tried and how many were won. Ask any lawyer you are thinking of hiring exactly how many jury trials he or she has had. A successful lawyer will be eager to share those numbers with you.
Q: How much will this cost?
A: It depends on the attorney. I meet with my clients at no cost, for example, to assess their cases, and I provide them with a cost estimate at that time. Some attorneys charge their clients for that initial consultation, even if the client does not hire them or if they choose not to take the case.
Q: Will I go to jail?
A: Every case is different, but in most cases, jail time is not a factor.
Q: Will I be convicted of a felony?
A: No lawyer can guarantee that you won’t be convicted. And conviction rates vary from one lawyer to the next, and one case to the next.
Q: Suppose I’ve been charged with drunk driving. Will I lose my driver’s license?
A: Not necessarily. It depends on the facts of the case but the majority of first offenders do not lose their licenses.
Q: How long will the case take?
A: Again, that varies, but, statistically, most cases are resolved within six months.
Q: Does it matter whether I am guilty?
A: No, it shouldn’t. It is every defense lawyer’s job to provide the best defense possible and to present the evidence in a light most favorable to the client. Discuss this with your attorney and judge for yourself whether you feel they are in your corner.
Q: Are lawyers available on weekends?
A: Yes, some are. For a situation such as an arrest, it is important to find one who is. For example, all incoming callers to my office speak with a live person twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Q: What if I don’t have enough money?
A: If you cannot afford an attorney, you are still entitled to qualified representation. The court will appoint one for you. The Public Defenders office, in my opinion, does an excellent job representing indigent clients. If you would prefer to retain a private attorney, many law firms offers payment plans and/or accept credit cards or family member guarantees, options which many have found to work well.
Q: Suppose a police officer, without cause, pulled my car over and searched it without my consent. Are the police allowed to do that?
A: Absolutely not. If this happened to you, then an experienced lawyer should be able to have any evidence deemed inadmissible that was discovered during such an illegal search. If there is no other evidence against you, your case will most likely be dismissed.
Q: I’ve seen on TV where evidence is thrown out if it is not seized properly. How does that work?
A: Yes, again, evidence can be dismissed when it is obtained subsequent to a search without probable cause. And it’s not limited to the example of the car that we just discussed. For instance, evidence can be dismissed if a police officer enters your home without consent and without a search warrant. There are many other examples of evidence that a good lawyer can get thrown out of court, including written and oral statements and breath test results. And because the specific circumstances surrounding the way in which the police or prosecutor obtained the evidence will often make all the difference, it is critical that you never discuss these matters with anyone but your own lawyer.
Q: What if a police officer forces me to take a field sobriety test or roadside exercises?
A: If there was no probable cause to warrant doing so, then those results can be dismissed.
Q: After an arrest, can an officer force me to answer questions or talk about the charges?
A: Absolutely not. You always have the right to remain silent. Your right not to answer police questions is protected by the Constitution. If a police officer compels you to answer his or her questions, your responses may be inadmissible.
Q: What if a police officer offers me a chance to share my side of the story? Should I?
A: Absolutely not! Get a lawyer and let your lawyer do the talking for you.
Q: After I’m accused of a crime, do I have to disprove the charges?
A: One of the greatest things about the American legal system is that the burden of proof is entirely on the prosecution. You don’t have to prove your innocence. The state has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a very high standard, and, as a result, many guilty people are not convicted of crimes. That’s the price the government is willing to pay to ensure innocent people are not easily convicted.
Q: Okay, but what if the prosecution seems like it has an airtight case? I mean, suppose I really am guilty of drunk driving? Suppose I took a breathalyzer test and I am beyond the legal limit. I can’t win the case then, can I?
A: It’s not a given that you will lose even in that situation. DUIs are difficult for the state to prove if you have an experienced trial lawyer.
Q: What if I’m not an American citizen? Could this arrest negatively affect my immigration status?
A: If you are not a citizen and you are charged with certain misdemeanors or a felony, then there is a very real chance you could be deported. It is imperative that you immediately call a lawyer who understands your situation.
Q: What if my co-defendant has a lawyer? Should I use that lawyer, too?
A: When I was in the Public Defenders office, there was a strict policy to never represent more than one defendant in a case. Personally, I agree with this policy. You want an attorney who is going to look out for your interests and only your interests, not one who might cut a deal for your co-defendant that involves selling you out.
Q: What other tips can you give for choosing a lawyer?
A: Always ask to see references. Most experienced lawyers will be happy to provide you solid references.
The Truth About Series: The 10 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Placed Under Arrest
1. Not taking the matter seriously. A conviction on a criminal charge will follow you forever. If you are convicted, there is no way to expunge this criminal record and anyone in the general public can readily discover it via a basic background check.
2. Not hiring an experienced criminal attorney. Criminal law has become very complex and specialized in this day and age. An attorney highly experienced in criminal defense will be able to recognize and detect weaknesses in the State’s case and know how to argue them successfully in your defense. Issues regarding admissibility of technical evidence such as breath or blood test results and standardized field sobriety exercises can be successfully recognized and litigated in court by a skilled attorney.
3. Hiring an attorney based on the lowest (or highest) fees. Don’t judge a lawyer solely on the basis of the fee. Judge instead their experience and results. The State of Florida has tremendous resources to draw upon and their only goal is to convict you of this charge. If you pay a low fee to a defense attorney, he or she may not be able to put in sufficient time and experience to protect and successfully defend your case. But there is no need to overpay either. Find an experienced lawyer and beware of the discount attorney. Again, check those references and ask for their ratio of wins versus trials argued.
4. Driving after your license has been suspended. Being arrested for driving with a suspended driver’s license after you have already been arrested for a DUI offense can be extremely serious. You could be required to serve jail time if convicted of this offense. You will have to post a higher bond and appear in the same court as your DUI offense.
5. Failing to contest a license suspension on the grounds of a breath test refusal or failure. Many people think that the hearing to contest one’s license revocation is a waste of time. Sometimes this hearing can be successfully defended and the license saved from being suspended. I have personally found this hearing to be an excellent opportunity to question the arresting officer under oath. This testimony may prove useful to you in your later trial.
6. Not taking full advantage of your constitutional rights. You have the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and you have the right to remain silent and not give evidence against yourself. You have the right to have an attorney represent you. You have a right to a fair trial, including being judged by a jury of your peers.
7. Plea bargaining without a good lawyer. Generally, the first plea bargain offer from the prosecutor is not in your best interest but merely an attempt to remove you from the court’s docket. A lawyer with a proven track record of fighting and winning cases wields far more leverage to get you a better deal than a lawyer who is known to be weak.
8. Failing to appear in court. If you fail to appear in court on your assigned court date while out on bond, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest and forfeit your bond. You will then be arrested and face an even higher bond or risk the possibility of being denied bond and released.
9. Talking to people other than your own attorney about your case. The law dictates that anything you say to anyone who is not your attorney is not protected by the attorney-client privilege and can be used against you in court. Don’t talk to anyone about your case.
10. Choosing to skip the expense of an attorney and represent yourself in criminal court. Often, people mistakenly think they don’t need a defense attorney if they are innocent. Others think that if they speak to several defense attorneys beforehand, they’ll be sufficiently prepared to handle their defense by themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. You need to have an experienced attorney accompany you to criminal court.
Thank you, Gary, for your tips. Let’s hope none of our readers get arrested but, if they do, you have given them invaluable information.
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