As a criminal defense attorney, my goal in every case is to come up with a strategy that best fits my client’s situation. For young people who are first time offenders, that goal is to protect their records and keep them out of jail. For those who have had prior issues, the goal is to put my client in the best position to get leniency. There is always a time to fight and gaining leverage in the case is something that I am always trying to get. Once I am able to get leverage, the prosecutor is more willing to listen to my requests.
What Are the Trends With Pinellas County Criminal Cases?
Pinellas County has approximately one million people. Of course, there are countless tourists and visitors who come here on top of that figure. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were 36,352 people arrested in 2019 in Pinellas County. That number dropped to 25,595 in 2020 because of the pandemic. But while the data is not public yet, I personally saw an explosion of arrests in 2021. For example, I have never seen so many DUI arrests as I did throughout the holiday season of 2021. My observations are that people were going out more, but that the police were really cracking down in force. This trend has continued in 2022.
I Only Handle Criminal Cases in Pinellas County
My criminal defense practice is limited to Pinellas County, Florida. That means that my cases are all at the Pinellas County Justice Center on 49th St. N. There is also still one traffic court left, called North County Traffic Court on US Hwy 19. That court is dedicated to traffic offenses like DUIs, DWLSRs, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, etc. that occur north of Park Blvd. The remaining traffic cases, misdemeanors, and felonies are all handled at 49th St.
Because I only practice criminal defense in Pinellas County, I know the system very well. I know each judge and what they like. The prosecutors are called Assistant State Attorneys and there are about 150 of them in Pinellas County. There are many different divisions, but by handling cases only in this one county, you get to know all of the prosecutors as they come through the system.
Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Who Is Not From Pinellas County?
Over the years, I have observed many criminal defense attorneys come here from out of the county to handle cases. I sit in the jury box in court and watch how they are treated. Unknowingly, they are at a disadvantage. Pinellas County is still an “old school” area and when someone who is unfamiliar with the system comes in, they get treated that way. That means that it is much more difficult for them to get a good result for their client. And, the worst part is that the out-of -county criminal defense attorneys have no idea if the result that they obtained for their client is even fair because they have nothing to compare it to! In the end, simply because a lawyer did a good job on a case in another county in Florida, it does not mean that they will be able to do it again here. Because of the risk of being “home towned” somewhere else, I stay in Pinellas County and refer my out of the area cases to local attorneys. I wish that criminal defendants were aware of this very real issue.
What Are the First Steps That a Criminal Defense Attorney Takes?
In every criminal case, I ask myself, what can I, as a criminal defense attorney, do to make this person stand out? In other words, how can I make this person get treated better than the thousands of other people that are arrested every year in Pinellas County? In order to put my clients in a better position, I like to be proactive. If there is a victim in the case, I will reach out to find out if there is any restitution. I also try to get every victim to sign a request not to prosecute. If the case involves drugs or alcohol, I have my clients do counseling to show that they are clean and sober. If the case is a DUI, I have them voluntarily do DUI school and the victim impact panel. When my clients go to court, they stand out because they have taken the bull by the horns and shown that they are serious. Without fail, they are treated better.
How Can a Client Help Their Criminal Defense Attorney?
I wish that all of my clients asked me this question because while I come up with the plan, it is my client who has to also do work. While I do the talking and negotiating, there are important tasks that need to be completed that only my clients can perform. As a criminal defense attorney, I ask every client to give me ammunition to use in their favor. This can mean gathering evidence such as text messages, photos, or witness information. It can mean doing community service hours at a church or charity. It also means that my clients have to do the work to stay out of trouble and carry out the plan. In many cases, the prosecutor and/or the judge like to see some effort on behalf of a defendant. This can mean counseling like anger management or drug or alcohol treatment. There is a reason why my strategies work-it is because I expect my clients to follow through on the plan and help themselves.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Pinellas County, Florida
I view every case as a team effort. The criminal defense attorney and the client must work together. The lawyer can not magically snap his or her fingers and make the charges disappear. But, when a client and a lawyer agree on a plan of action and both carry out their role, it drastically improves the chances of success.
I have been practicing law as a criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County for over twenty years. Over that time, I have been in front of every judge and handled every type of case imaginable. If you have questions about a criminal charge in Pinellas County, I will have the answers and a plan to help. My consultations are free of charge, so I encourage you to contact me immediately. Remember, being proactive really does help!