Experienced Miami Defense Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Law
Below are answers to some of the questions most frequently encountered at the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. as we advise and represent clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida in state and federal criminal defense matters. We hope this information is helpful to you. If you have other questions, or if you need immediate assistance with criminal charges, please contact the Tony Moss Firm for a free consultation.
If I refuse to answer questions put to me by the police, won’t that make me look guilty?
When the police want to question you, they may tell you that if you are innocent you have nothing to worry about. You may in fact feel that you have nothing to hide, so why not cooperate? The fact is that the police already suspect you are guilty of a crime, or they would not be talking to you in the first place. Their goal in questioning you is not to “clear things up” so they can rule you out as a suspect; it is to get you to say something incriminating, false or contradictory that they can use against you. Law enforcement officers, from the Florida state police to federal agents, are trained experts in this process. Don’t worry about how refusing to answer questions might make you look; it makes you look smart. When the police want to ask you questions, be polite but firm, and exercise your right to talk to your attorney before you answer any questions. Then call the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. for assistance.
Are the police allowed to search me without a warrant? Can they search my home or car without a warrant?
In general, a warrant is constitutionally required before the police can search you or your property. There are, however, many exceptions to the warrant requirement. There are more exceptions allowing a search of the car than the home, but even a home search can be conducted without a warrant in some circumstances. And in some instances, the police can conduct a quick search of your person (a pat-down or stop-and-frisk) even without probable cause to believe you have committed any crime.
Search and seizure laws can be highly technical and complex. You don’t need to become an expert on police searches; that is your attorney’s job. What you need to know is that if the police tell you they are going to conduct a search, you should not resist or interfere. If the search turns out to be improper, your lawyer can have any evidence suppressed and may even be able to have any charges against you dismissed.
Finally, it is vitally important to distinguish whether the police are telling you they are going to do a search without your consent or are asking your permission to search. Even without a warrant or probable cause, the police can always search you or your property if you give them permission to do so. In fact, the police will often ask for your consent to search during any routine stop, just to see what might turn up. You always have the right to refuse your consent to search and should always exercise this right. Even if you have nothing to hide, there is no telling what the police might find and what significance they may attach to it. Don’t help the police build their case against you.
When should I accept a plea agreement and when should I go to trial?
This is an important question that you should discuss with your attorney. The answer depends upon a number of factors, including the strength of the prosecutor’s case, the strength of your defenses, and the consequences you face if convicted. Your lawyer should discuss the risks and benefits of negotiating a plea or going to trial in your particular case. Ultimately, that decision is yours to make, although your attorney should advise you on your options. Tony Moss has over 20 years of criminal trial experience and has successfully represented clients in plea agreements and trials.
Should I take the stand at trial and testify on my own behalf?
This is another question to discuss with your lawyer, because the answer depends on your own unique situation. You have a constitutional right not to testify if you don’t want to, and neither the prosecutor nor the judge can make you. On the other hand, testifying on your own behalf can make a powerful positive impact on the jury, yet it can open you up to intense cross-examination from the prosecution that could hurt your case. Although for the most part trial strategy should be left in the hands of your lawyer, the decision whether to testify is up to you. The Tony Moss Firm believes in including the client as a valuable, contributing member of the defense team. As our client, you will be informed of your options and the pros and cons of testifying so that you can make the decision that is best for you in your own unique circumstances.