Thursday, May 27, 2010

Understanding the Bail Process

Bail turns out to provide a fair amount of entertainment value if you look at the movies, TV shows and mystery novels around the subject of setting bail and catching those who skip town. There was even a 2004 TV series, Family Bonds, devoted to a New York family running a bail bond service. The greatest fictional criminal defense lawyer of all time, Perry Mason, was brilliant getting his clients released without bail or with a much reduced bail, to the DA’s perpetual consternation!

In real life, bail is not about drama. As the American Bar Association explains, it serves as a tool for allowing defendants to be released from custody until the time of trial. This allows a defendant to continue to work or otherwise lead a normal life. Bail does involve money, but it is not a fine. The idea is to ensure that the defendants will appear for all the pretrial and trial hearings. A defendant “raises bail” and offers it to the court, which returns it to them when the trial is over (minus a processing fee in some cases).
What determines the bail amount?
The amount of bail (also a point in some dramas) is decided by the judge or magistrate, who takes into account the following factors:
· How likely is it that the defendant might flee instead of facing trial?
· What is the severity of the crime?
· What danger might the defendant pose to the community?
The judge may also set conditions on bail. For example, it may be stipulated that the defendant must refrain from having contact with the alleged victim.
Can a person be released without bail?
There are many occasions when a judge may release a defendant on his or her own recognizance. In other words, instead of offering a sum of money as a guarantee of appearing in court, the defendant promises to appear. This is more likely for those defendants who have steady employment, verifiable roots in the community, and/or other circumstances which suggest that the risk of fleeing is very low. An experiencedcriminal attorney can be especially useful to clients at the bail setting step in the trial process.
What is a bail bond?
When a defendant cannot personally come up with the amount of money needed for the bail set by the judge, she or he can arrange for release through a bail bondsperson. The defendant pays the bondsperson something on the order of 10 percent of the sum, and the bondsperson guarantees the rest to the court in the event that the defendant should fail to appear. In many jurisdictions, the courts have made this kind of private service obsolete by releasing defendants upon payment of just 10 percent of the bail to the court.
What does this mean to me?
If you are charged in Florida, you should seek the counsel of a qualified Fort Lauderdale or Miami criminal defense attorney to help you understand and strengthen your options when it comes to bail or release strategies. You owe it to yourself.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Have You Been Charged with a White Collar Crime in Florida?

White-collar crimes are those “committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” That original definition by sociologist Edwin Sutherland still holds. Given that occupation affects opportunity, white collar crimes overlap corporate crime. Among them are fraud, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, computer crime, identity theft, forgery, and more.

If you are charged with a white-collar crime, your reputation is suddenly at risk as your professional and business integrity is questioned. Given the significance for your future, it is important to get the best defense you can from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What to do if you are charged—or think you might be
What you don’t know can be hurting you. When someone is under investigation for these kinds of crimes, it may be sometime before any direct communication from legal authorities is offered. If you suspect that you are being investigated for one of these or related crimes, you should immediately consult a criminal defense lawyer.
What you say or do before being charged can hurt you too. It is all too common for white collar criminal defendants to inadvertently damage their own cases by something they say or do in the early stages of an investigation.
This is why a criminal defense attorney should be consulted before any meeting with law enforcement investigators, even if it seems harmless at first glance. If you are in South Florida, you will want a Miami or Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach criminal attorney.

What an experienced attorney can do for you
What can an attorney do for you either before or after being charged with a white-collar crime? Here is what one respected Miami criminal attorney notes:
  • Deal with law enforcement on your behalf
  • Create an effective defense strategy
  • Assist you BEFORE white collar crime charges are filed
  • Make every effort to resolve your case without a trial
  • Find alternatives to serving prison time, where legally possible
An experienced attorney knows how to negotiate with the local prosecutors and can aim for the following outcomes:
  • Getting the charge(s) against you dropped
  • Arranging a plea agreement in which you plead guilty to a lesser charge and/or agree to cooperate with an ongoing investigation
  • A less harsh punishment
  • A strong, effective defense in court
What Are the Consequences?
Depending on the seriousness of the crime, if you are convicted of a crime, punishments can include probation, fines, performing public service, paying restitution, a prison sentence, and a combination of these. For example, after being charged by the Florida State Attorney General in 2006, a former Lake County car dealer was sentenced to three years in prison and forced to pay $720,000 in restitution for the theft of sales tax, followed by 12 years of probation.
It is clear that it is your best interest to hire the best representation you can get. Rely on a proven successful criminal lawyer.