Criminal Defense FAQ

Answers from a Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyer


  1. What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
  2. What is the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor in Florida?
  3. What are the penalties for a felony in Florida?
  4. Is DUI a traffic offense or a crime?
  5. What is sex offender registration?
  6. Why should I hire a former prosecutor?
  7. Is the criminal justice system fair?
  8. What is a plea bargain?

1. What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
All of the criminal offenses on the books in Florida are assigned to either one of two major categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies include the most serious crimes, whereas misdemeanors are lesser offenses. Do not make the mistake, however, of thinking that a misdemeanor charge is not a serious matter: Misdemeanors are crimes, and a conviction will leave you facing a future of living with a criminal record.

2. What is the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor in Florida?
State law provides for two different degrees of misdemeanor, each one of which carries its own sentence. The maximum punishment for a misdemeanor of the first degree is up to 1 year in jail, while a second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

3. What are the penalties for a felony in Florida?
The highest possible sentence you could receive for a felony under Florida law is life in prison, which is reserved for the category of offenses known as a Life Felony. The maximum penalties for the other degrees of felonies are as follows:

  • 1st Degree Felony – 30 years in prison
  • 2nd Degree Felony – 15 years in prison
  • 3rd Degree Felony – 5 years in prison

4. Is DUI a traffic offense or a crime?
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not merely a traffic offense: It is a crime. A first-time DUI is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to 6 months in jail, as much as 50 hours of court-ordered community service, a year on probation, vehicle impoundment for 10 days and other penalties. Furthermore, you can expect to see your insurance rates go up dramatically in the wake of a conviction for drunk driving. Don't take chances with the outcome of a DUI case.

5. What is sex offender registration?
In the event that you are convicted of a sex crime in Sarasota, you will most likely be ordered to register as a sex offender upon your release from prison. Sex offender registration means that your photograph will be featured in an online database which includes information such as your personal description, details about your conviction, your home address and more. Depending on the nature of your conviction, the local sheriff or chief of police may take steps to actively notify the community of your presence. A conviction for a sex crime carries a considerable social stigma that could follow you for the rest of your life.

6. Why should I hire a former prosecutor?
The fact that Wyndel Darville has a background as a former civilian prosecutor means that he has a unique insight into the strategies that the other side will be using in your case. He has experience working with law enforcement, analyzing evidence and pursuing the case from the viewpoint of the state in securing a conviction. This insight often makes it possible to anticipate and defeat the strategies that the prosecutor is using in the case against Mr. Darville's client.

7. Is the criminal justice system fair?
On paper, the criminal justice system in the United States is fair. It is intended to give fair treatment to all and to ensure that everyone who comes to court can receive justice. In practice, this is not the case. When you are charged with a crime, the odds are stacked against you. The prosecutor representing the state has enormous resources to use in preparing the case against you, whereas a large percentage of those who are accused of crimes are of limited means. Furthermore, whereas there is a legal presumption that you are innocent until proven guilty, there is a strong tendency to treat criminal defendants as guilty simply based on the fact that they have been arrested. The job of a criminal defense attorney is to level the playing field and fight to protect his client's rights, with the goal of securing a dismissal or acquittal of the charges.

8. What is a plea bargain?
Prosecutors often offer plea bargains to defendants as a way to reduce their case load and to achieve convictions with a minimum of expense and effort. In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for a lighter sentence, such as being allowed to serve probation rather than being sent to jail. Many people accept plea bargains after being intimidated by the threat of harsh penalties in situations where they really ought to have fought the case. A prosecutor will sometimes offer a plea bargain in the knowledge that the evidence in the case will not support a conviction a trial, hoping to "win" the case by offering an easy out. Realize that a plea bargain will still leave you with a conviction on your record. In some cases it is the best possible outcome, but you should never plead guilty before consulting with an attorney to discuss the facts of your case. Contact The Law Office of Wyndel G. Darville, PLLC now for a free case evaluation.

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