The criminal justice system is confusing and often frustrating for many who are accused of a crime. Here at Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we have handled a wide variety of criminal cases on the behalf of clients who are faced with criminal charges for the first, second or third time. We understand the devastating impact that a criminal conviction can have on you and your future, and we are here to help. Our Miami criminal lawyers have provided the following answers to commonly asked questions so that you can begin to understand your rights and legal options under the law. For additional information and answers to other questions, do not hesitate to contact our firm.

1What Exactly is a Crime?
A criminal offense is essentially any conduct that violates state or federal law. Depending on the nature of the charge involved, these offenses may range from misdemeanors to serious felonies that pose long-term imprisonment and multiple penalties. When charged with a crime, a prosecutor from the state or federal government will create a narrative regarding your involvement in a crime, with the intent to have you convicted. When facing criminal allegations of any type, you should always be intent on seeking representation.
2Do I Need an Attorney if I Haven’t Been Arrested or Charged?
If you are aware that you are under investigation or may be under investigation for a crime, seeking legal representation is important. An attorney can provide you with the information and support you need during this time, and can also pursue pre-file intervention actions that may prevent charges from ever being filed. Just because you have not been formally arrested or charged does not mean you are not on law enforcement radar. Protect yourself with an attorney.
3Am I Allowed to Represent Myself?
There are no laws preventing you from representing yourself. However, when you consider what is at stake, including your personal, professional, and financial well-being, it becomes clear that if you do represent yourself, you need to know a lot - not only about the charges you face and how to defend them, but the court and legal procedures involved along the way. To put it simply, representing yourself is not a wise decision; you simply don’t know what you don’t know and you risk an outcome that can considerably alter your life.
4Do I Need a Lawyer After an Arrest?
Arrests put your freedom and future on the line, which is why it is critically important to have the guidance, support, and representation of a seasoned defense attorney by your side. While you may have the right to representation from a public defender, you should know that public defender offices are notoriously overburdened and underfunded, which means they have very little time to devote to your case. When you work with a private criminal defense lawyer such as those at Hager & Schwartz, P.A., you can benefit from proven defense attorneys who have the time and resources your case demands, as well as the experience and insight as former prosecutors many public defenders simply do not have. Our firm is committed to helping our clients secure the best resolution possible, not ushering them through the system as fast as possible to move on to the next.
5What Are My Rights When Questioned by Law Enforcement?
Your right to remain silent is one of the most important rights you have, and you should exercise it when questioned by police. Remember, you cannot talk yourself out of an arrest or convince law enforcement to let you go; they will arrest you if they have probable cause. By talking, you risk potentially incriminating yourself, even if you were not involved in a crime of an officer misinterpreted your statements. It is widely advised that you politely invoke your Fifth Amendment right to silence whenever talking to police and that you contact an experienced criminal lawyer as soon as you can. They can handle communication on your behalf or prepare you for questioning if necessary.
6What Rights Do I Have After an Arrest?
You have a number of rights following your arrest, including all the rights you had before, such as the right to remain silent. You also have the right to be made aware of the reason for your arrest and to communicate by phone with family, friends, bail companies, or your lawyer. At all stages of the arrest and criminal process, you have the right to legal representation, which can ensure you navigate the process smoothly and that you have the resources to fight the charges against you.
7What Should the Arrest Process Be Like?
The arrest process begins with you being transported to a local jail or police station. There, law enforcement officers may advise you of the charges against you, obtain your fingerprints, photograph you, and generally hold you until bail is posted or you attend an arraignment in court. In some situations, law enforcement may have you participate in a lineup.
8What Happens if Law Enforcement Doesn’t Have a Warrant?
One of America’s founding principles when it comes to criminal justice is that the government must have justification to search you and your property, and make an arrest. Typically, this means having a warrant. However, there are some exceptions in certain situations when police can make arrests without a warrant. This includes warrants for other charges or from other jurisdictions, when there is probable cause to suspect that you have committed a felony offense, or when a law enforcement officer witnesses a misdemeanor offense being committed. If law enforcement makes an arrest without a warrant, or conducts searches without a warrant, it may be possible that they violated your rights, particularly if there is no justifiable cause for doing so. When this happens, a skilled defense lawyer can highlight how your rights were violated by an unlawful search and seizure, which can lead to critical evidence being thrown out and the potential for dropped charges.
9Can I Be Detained without Being Arrested?
Depending on the circumstances involved in your unique situation, law enforcement officers can lawfully detain you while determining whether you may be connected to a crime. However, they must have reasonable suspicion whenever they stop and detain you, and they cannot move you from the location where you are detained unless they make an arrest or you voluntarily comply.
10What Should I Know if I’ve Been Arrested?
Being arrested is not an easy experience, but it can be made tolerable when you understand your rights and how our criminal justice system works. Remember that you have the right to a presumption of innocence, meaning that you are considered innocent until proven guilty. You also have the right to challenge the allegations made against you by the government, and you can do this with the assistance of legal representation. An arrest does not mean automatic conviction or penalties; you have the time and ability to fight your charges. To make the most of this opportunity, you should work with experienced defense lawyers who know how to effectively challenge prosecutors and secure the best possible resolution on your behalf.