Florida defines murder, rape, forcible sodomy (as of 2013), aggravated assault, and aggravated stalking as violent crimes. If you are convicted of any of these crimes, you will find yourself spending years in prison and possibly facing the death penalty. Whether you are guilty or not, you will need an attorney to help you defend yourself in court.
When choosing a violent crimes defense attorney, choose one who has experience defending violent crimes cases. If you are innocent, you will need someone well-versed in the Florida Penal Code to get the charges dropped. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, a lawyer well-versed in the Florida Penal Code may be able to get you a reduced sentence or may get the charges dropped, depending on the circumstances.
When Murder Is Not a Crime
In some cases, murder is not a crime, but you may have to go through the criminal justice system to prove that your actions were valid under Florida’s justifiable use of force statute. You may not use deadly force unless you believe your life or the life of your family members is in danger or to prevent the person from committing a forcible felony. If the person had a right to be in your home, such as a landlord or other family member, or someone who was living in your home with you, you cannot claim innocence under the justifiable use of force statute.
If you had to use deadly force to stop a person from harming someone in your household or to protect your household from someone who was going to commit a forcible felony, contact a violent crime lawyer immediately, as the statute provides several reasons when justifiable use of force is acceptable. It also dictates when the use of justifiable force is not an accepted defense.
Habitual Violent Felony Offender
If you were convicted of two other felonies, whether violent or not, the court will consider you a habitual felony offender or a habitual violent felony offender. Being convicted of a felony for a third time comes with additional consequences that can severely alter your sentence. Similarly, if you are convicted of a second felony while you are incarcerated or on probation for your first felony, you will be considered a habitual felony offender.
You will also be considered a habitual felony offender if you are convicted of a second felony within five years of:
- The day you were convicted of the first felony; or
- Within five years of your release from prison, community control, probation, parole, control release or a court-ordered supervision sentence.
If you are convicted for a second time and your previous conviction was for one of these felonies or a conspiracy or an attempt to commit one of these felonies, you will be considered a habitual violent felony offender:
- Aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person, disabled adult, or child;
- Sexual battery;
- Aggravated battery;
- Aggravated stalking;
- Aggravated child abuse, elder abuse, or disabled adult abuse;
- Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;
- Armed burglary;
- Kidnapping; and
- Throwing, placing or discharging a bomb or other destructive device.
Violent Career Criminal
You may be charged as a violent career criminal if you are convicted three times or more for:
- Aggravated stalking;
- Aggravated child abuse, abuse of a disabled adult, or elder abuse;
- Escape from a correctional facility;
- Lewd or lascivious molestation, battery, conduct, or exhibition; or
- Committing a felony while possessing a firearm.
How a Violent Crimes Attorney Helps You
In many cases, it’s not a question of whether you committed a violent crime. People make mistakes. In other cases, you may have affirmative defenses—excusable reasons for committing the crime. And in other cases, you may be accused of committing a crime that you did not commit.
Regardless of the situation, a violent crimes attorney who knows the law may get the charges lowered or dismissed. And regardless of your guilt, a violent crimes lawyer also ensures that the government doesn’t violate your rights as you go through the court process or punish you inappropriately.
Once you have been accused of a crime your first hearing, referred to as an arraignment, is usually scheduled for the next business day. You should never attend an arraignment by yourself unless you were first instructed by an attorney about what you should say.
During the arraignment, the attorney will enter a plea for you. The attorney may also attempt to get a high bond lowered or have the court release you on your own recognizance without bond. Even if you are accused of a felony, if you meet certain criteria, you may be released without putting up a bond. The criteria include having a good job with which you support your family and not being a flight risk.
After the arraignment, your attorney will request discovery from the state. The state has 30 days to produce any evidence it has against you. While your attorney works on your case from the time you retain them, your attorney will be able to really drill down into your defense once they receive the state’s evidence.
You can help your own case by providing your attorney with any information you have regarding the allegations against you. While the police and crime scene investigators gather anything they believe might be evidence, they sometimes miss things. For example, if you have security camera footage that the investigators did not discover, you should present that information to your attorney immediately. It could provide proof that helps your case.
Call a Violent Crimes Attorney as Soon as Possible After You Are Arrested
Even if you believe you are guilty, you should contact a violent crimes law firm. give Khonsari Law Group a call at (727) 269-5300 as soon as possible to help your defense. You may have affirmative defenses available to you or the attorney may get the charges reduced. This is especially important if you were falsely accused, or if you are facing your second or third felony conviction.