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Our Attorneys Can Answer All Your Criminal Law Questions

Go to: Criminal DefenseDUI DefenseDrug ChargesSex CrimesStand Your Ground

An arrest is frightening. You may not know your rights or what to do. You may be getting conflicting advice from different people. For solid answers, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Escobar, Michaels & Associates answers some frequently asked questions about the criminal justice system. We are here to listen when you decide to obtain legal counsel. Our established firm provides a robust defense to individuals facing any criminal charges in the Tampa Bay area.


Why do I need a defense lawyer?

The stakes are too high to engage the criminal justice system without legal counsel. A criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and prevent you from being coerced or tricked by law enforcement. An attorney can explain the potential penalties and your options. An attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to lessen the penalties or defend you at trial to make the government prove its case. Your lawyer is the one person in the criminal legal process who is looking out for your interests.

What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

  • Misdemeanor crimes are lesser offenses that carry a maximum of one year in jail. Many misdemeanors carry little or no jail time but still result in a criminal record.
  • Felony crimes are serious offenses punishable by one or more years in jail or prison. A felony conviction also strips the person of voting rights, gun rights and other civil liberties.

What is bail, and how does it work?

When you are formally charged with a crime, the court has the discretion to release you or keep you in jail. The judge may set a financial bond (bail) as a condition of release to make sure you don’t skip town. When bail is too high, defendants are forced to sit in jail until their trial or next court date. We have been successful in bail reduction hearings in getting bail bonds reduced to a reasonable amount so that clients can go home to their families.

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What are the penalties for DUI in Florida?

A first offense of driving under the influence (DUI) is punishable by license suspension of 180 days to one year, fines of $500 to $1,000, possible jail time,  probation, community service and DUI school. The drunk driving penalties increase if you have a prior DUI conviction, if your blood alcohol content was .15 or higher, or if you had a child in the car. Refusing the breath or blood test automatically results in a one-year license revocation.

Can I fight a DUI?

Yes. No matter what number the breathalyzer shows, there are legitimate defenses to DUI charges. Our DUI defense lawyers know how to assert your rights and challenge the traffic stop, field sobriety tests, the breath testing results and other facets of your arrest.

I need to drive to work. Can I get my license back?

There are two ways to regain your driving privileges:

  • You have 10 days from your arrest to request an administrative hearing to challenge your license suspension. This hearing is separate from the DUI criminal proceedings.
  • If your license suspension is upheld, you may be eligible for a restricted license (driving to work or school) if you get an ignition interlock installed on your vehicle.

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What is the penalty for drug possession in Florida?

The criminal penalties for drug offenses depend on the type of drug, the amount,  and any prior drug convictions. It also depends on whether you are facing state or federal drug charges. Charges of drug possession or possession with intent to distribute may carry mandatory jail or prison terms. A conviction may also affect immigration status, child visitation and future employment. Do not plead guilty to a drug offense without talking to a lawyer.

Can I go to jail for prescription drugs?

Yes. Unauthorized possession of prescription medications, obtaining drugs by prescription fraud, or selling or distributing prescription drugs for recreational use are felony charges. Mandatory prison sentences may apply for prescription drug offenses, so it is important to contact a lawyer right away.

Is marijuana possession a crime in Florida?

Yes. Florida permits limited use of medical marijuana, but recreational marijuana is still against the law and routinely prosecuted. Criminal charges are based mostly on the amount.

  • Possessing up to 20 grams (about three-quarters of an ounce) is a misdemeanor, punishable by jail time of up to one year, plus driver’s license suspension and other penalties.
  • Possessing more than 20 grams of pot can be charged as a felony, punishable by prison time, probation and license revocation for two years.

There is no safe amount of marijuana. You need a drug crime defense lawyer if you are accused of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia or growing cannabis plants.

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What is “sexual battery”?

The charge of sexual battery is the term for rape under Florida statute. It is defined as vaginal, oral or anal penetration against a person’s will or against a person who is unable to consent to sex. Sexual battery on a child under the age of 12 is a capital felony (life in prison or death). If the victim is a minor age 12 to 17, it is a life felony (up to life in prison). If the victim is 18 or older, it’s a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Other unwanted sexual contact (aka sexual assault) can still be charged as a felony.

Are internet crimes charged as sex offenses?

Yes. Possession or distribution of child pornography is a felony sex crime, even though the defendant never had any in-person contact with the underage victims. Soliciting a minor for sex over the internet can be charged as a felony sex offense, even if no actual sexual contact occurred and even if the “minor” turned out to be an undercover officer. Internet sex offenses are serious felonies, and a conviction results in sex offender status, but those accused have rights and defenses.

Will I have to register as a sex offender?

Sex offender registration is mandatory for most sex crime convictions. The highest level sex offenders (sexual predators) are subject to extreme restrictions on employment and where they can live. The only way to avoid registering as a sex offender is to avoid a conviction. Our lawyers have successfully intervened to have unwarranted charges dismissed or reduced, and we have won cases at trial to avoid both prison and the sex offender label.

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Is “Stand Your Ground” a viable defense against homicide?

It can be. Florida was the first state to pass a Stand Your Ground law, in 2005. It has been successfully invoked in Florida as a defense against murder charges, most notably by George Zimmerman in 2012. There are similar laws in 27 states.

Under what circumstances can I stand my ground?

The traditional “castle doctrine” allows a person to use deadly force when they are threatened in their own home. Stand Your Ground extends that right outside one’s home. Florida’s statute says a person can use deadly force or threaten deadly force:

  • To prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to their self or another
  • To prevent a forcible felony (such as a robbery, rape or carjacking)

The key component of Stand Your Ground is that you are not required to retreat from a dangerous confrontation, even if that option is available.

What are the drawbacks of a Stand Your Ground defense?

Number one, you are admitting to using lethal force. The statute says the Stand Your Ground defense cannot justify deadly force against a police officer (even if you feared for your life). It is not a defense if you were trespassing or committing a crime at the time of the altercation. Stand Your Ground is just one possible defense if you are accused of causing death or grave injury.

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What Other Questions Can We Answer For You?

Our legal team has stood up for the rights of the accused since 1986. If you or a loved one needs legal counsel, we can address your specific concerns in a free, confidential consultation. Call Escobar, Michaels & Associates at 813-513-0274 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.