Pre-Filing of Criminal Charges in St. Petersburg

Defense Attorney Fighting for the Rights of St. Petersburg Residents

The violent crime rate in St. Petersburg is considered one of the highest in the country. From 2015-2016, citizens responding to a police department survey stated that theft, drug dealing, motor vehicle theft, and traffic violations were also major problems in the city. However, many people are suspected of having committed a crime based on allegations or assumptions that are proven to be inaccurate. You should retain an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer as soon as you realize that you are being investigated. In many cases, law enforcement officers contact people whom they are investigating before a formal arrest occurs. The police are not the people who decide whether to charge you, however. A prosecutor makes this decision, and sometimes the decision about whether to charge you for a crime is made prior to the arrest. An early intervention by an attorney can result in a better outcome.

Pre-Filing of Criminal Charges

You can be arrested if a police officer has probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. Probable cause consists of facts and circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to think that a crime had already been committed or was being committed, and that the person being arrested was the perpetrator of the crime. In most cases, you have contact with the police before the police have probable cause to arrest you. The police may ask you questions for the purpose of obtaining probable cause. For example, if they walk in after someone calls 911 about domestic violence, they may ask both parties questions to determine whether or not they should arrest one of the people.

You may assume that you can handle a police officer's questions on your own and that if you have not been arrested, you do not need an attorney. This is rarely true. An experienced criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg can have a positive influence over the police investigation, and they may be able to persuade a prosecutor not to pursue charges against you. In some cases, an experienced attorney with a good reputation can point out holes in the prosecutor's case or angles that they had not considered that can result in an investigation going in a different direction. For example, if there is evidence that you were set up to commit a drug crime by law enforcement, we might be able to persuade the prosecutor that the entrapment defense will be successful at trial.

You should not trust law enforcement officers who are questioning you. They may make casual remarks to relax you, but they will provide the information that they gather to the prosecutor for the purpose of deciding whether to file charges. Police do not need to advise you of your right to remain silent unless they are interrogating you while you are in custody. Interrogations occur whenever the cops know what they ask is reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. You are in custody if a reasonable person in your situation would not feel free to leave.

The law on silence and invoking the right to remain silent is complex. If you believe that you are being interrogated, you should ask to speak to a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney and invoke your Fifth Amendment rights, rather than simply sit silently.

The prosecutor will make a decision about whether to charge you and how to charge you, based on the information provided by the police. However, if we represent you at this early pre-filing stage, we can provide additional information that might change the prosecutor's decision. In some cases, the prosecutor may decide to file lesser charges after realizing that there is insufficient evidence to prove a more serious charge. For example, a prosecutor might decide to file a drug possession charge rather than a drug trafficking charge if you can show that it is not clear that you possessed the threshold minimum for trafficking charges. The prosecutor usually files formal charges or an "Information" only when they believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Discuss Your Situation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in the St. Petersburg Area

If you are concerned that you may be charged with a crime, or you know that you are under investigation, you should consult us prior to the filing of criminal charges. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing criminal defense representation since 1994. We are dedicated to guarding the rights of the accused. Call Hanlon Law at 727-897-5413 or complete our online form for an appointment.