Pre-Filing of Criminal Charges

Tampa Attorney Ready to Guard Your Rights Against the Prosecution

If you have taken the time to find this website, you probably understand that you need a criminal attorney right away. This cannot be stressed enough. Often, police officers in Florida contact people before they make a formal arrest and before charges are brought. Sometimes the police are not sure what to do with the information that they have initially gathered during an investigation, so they decide to provide the information to the State Attorney's Office, and a prosecutor will review the information and determine whether formal charges should be filed. People who have been contacted by the police should be concerned about the pre-filing of criminal charges and contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney immediately. Will Hanlon represents people who need a drug crime lawyer or representation in fighting charges related to theft, sex offenses, domestic violence, assault, fraud, and other crimes.

Pre-Filing of Criminal Charges in Florida

Most people assume, "I will not be charged unless the police office arrests me." This is a widespread misunderstanding of the process. A police officer can arrest you if they believe that they have probable cause. Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed and that a potential arrestee committed the crime. The police may contact you and question you in order to obtain the probable cause necessary to arrest you.

Some people do not choose to hire a lawyer even after police have contacted them and they have given a statement. You may think, “why hire an attorney if I haven't been arrested and a criminal charge hasn't been filed?” However, the earlier that you retain an attorney, the more influence that they can have over the investigative process.

The detective may tell you, "I am going to hand this information over to the state attorney and they'll decide whether to file a criminal charge, but don't worry about it. They may not file a charge at all." A statement like this may be intended to lull you into a false sense of security. The consequences of not understanding the subtext can be life-altering. It is crucial to be aware that the prosecutor can make the decision about whether to arrest you without calling you or letting you know. Furthermore, a warrant can be issued for a suspect's arrest without the suspect knowing that a warrant has been issued for their arrest. Under these circumstances, as a suspect, you can be arrested at your place of employment, or even worse, at home, in front of your family.

Just because you have been arrested does not mean that any formal charges have been filed against you. Conversely, just because you have not been arrested does not mean that you are not a serious suspect. Only the prosecutor can formally charge a suspect with a crime. This is true even if you have been arrested, and the police have put you in jail. Sometimes a prosecutor realizes, through the intervention of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, that they do not have the whole story or that the defendant has a strong defense. For example, perhaps you happened to be renting a room in a house where heroin was being sold, but you had no idea that heroin was being sold there. When a prosecutor decides not to file formal charges, no information will be filed. The case may be abandoned, which is a much better outcome. Whether you have been arrested or not, the prosecutor will receive information about the police investigation from the police and make a filing decision. It is not inevitable that you will be charged simply because the police have provided the prosecutor with information about you, but your chances of avoiding an arrest or charges are higher if you have representation from an experienced attorney who knows how to present your side of the story to the prosecutor. It is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are aware that you may be a suspect in a criminal investigation. If you do not have an attorney acting on your behalf and telling your side of the story, the prosecutor will rely only on the information provided by the police, and the decision of whether to charge or not charge you may be biased.

If a prosecutor reviews the information provided by the police and decides to charge you with one or more crimes, they will file the charge through the local clerk. Only when a prosecutor believes that there is enough evidence to win at trial will they file formal charges. These charges are sometimes known as an "Information," and in an Information, the prosecutor will list the exact charges being prosecuted. For example, you may be investigated for something to do with heroin, but the Information will list whether you are being charged for possession of heroin, manufacturing of heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia, or all of these. In some cases, what is on the original arrest report is different from what the prosecutor winds up filing in the Information.

Hire a Skillful Tampa Attorney to Protect Your Future

Whether you are being questioned about a drug crime, a sex crime, a theft, a gun crime, or another type of offense, it is critical to retain a skillful attorney who can present your version of what happened. The early stages related to the pre-filing of criminal charges can be crucial as to whether you are charged at all and what the prosecutor thinks of your case. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing vigorous representation to defendants since 1994, and he is committed to protecting the rights of the accused in Tampa and beyond. You can call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up your appointment.