When Should You Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?

The best time to hire a criminal defense lawyer is as soon as you know that you are suspected of doing a crime. Clearly if there’s been an arrest or if there is a pending arrest warrant, then a defense lawyer like Robert Hambrick in Clearwater, Florida will need to be on the case quickly so that he can begin an effective defense for you.

What would Clarence Darrow think of Florida police investigations and arrests?

An effective defense in criminal law will have the following attributes:

  1. An intense focused investigation into all of the facts of the alleged offense.
  2. An immediate investigation into every possible witness. Finding witnesses, then using information to exploit any inconsistencies among their versions of the relevant facts of the incident.
  3. An appraisal of any victim statement with a review of the victim’s motives, aims and prejudices.
  4. Finding other evidence consistent with a lack of probable cause for the arrest.
  5.  Framing of the incident in such a way that minimizes criminal conduct.

When officers make an arrest they do so believing that they have what is known as probable cause. Probable cause means that they have more than a mere suspicion that a crime occurred and that the arrested person committed the crime. Typically probable cause exists when there is physical evidence of a crime combined with other compelling evidence, such as fingerprints, video or witnesses that places the defendant at the scene of the crime. Whenever there has been an arrest for a crime time should not be wasted in securing the services of a criminal defense lawyer who will mount an exhaustive thorough defense as soon as possible.

But what if there is no arrest yet? In any criminal investigation even where there is not yet an arrest, hiring a defense lawyer is necessary to make sure that the chances of criminal charges being filed are minimized. The goal is to make sure that there is never probable cause to secure an arrest in the case.

In federal court in the Middle District of Florida an investigation itself can result in criminal charges in unexpected ways even when there is insufficient probable cause to make an arrest. For example, government agents from the FBI often ask a potential target of a federal charge questions. If the target agrees to speak with the agents without the presence of defense counsel FBI agents may arrest the target for the federal crime of obstruction by not telling them the truth. A criminal lawyer would prevent the questioning or at least warn the target of the potential criminal charge that can come even when cooperating with federal agents.

These charges may seem unAmerican, but they are in fact unlawful acts for which someone may face an indictment by a federal grand jury. Because of the complexities of the law it’s very important to hire a Clearwater defense lawyer as soon as you have knowledge that you are being investigated by federal or state authorities.

Five Things To Do If An Arrest Warrant Has Been Issued For You In Florida

It’s surprising to see how many calls I receive from all over the country from good people who visit Florida only to find after they’ve left that they now face criminal charges from their stay in Florida. What actions should someone immediately take to safeguard his reputation, his job and his family once he knows that Florida has issued a warrant for his arrest?

Florida Cop Chokes

Florida Cop Choking Arrested Man

Because an arrest warrant, even one that is many years old, gives any and every officer the right to make an arrest, it’s important to take immediate action to have the warrant discharged. For example, someone who is charged with a crime in Clearwater, Florida could find himself arrested while stopped for speeding in another state. If the underlying charge from the arrest warrant is a felony then you may have to wait weeks in jail in the state where you were apprehended while Florida decides whether or not to spend the money to extradite you. Therefore, it’s much smarter and more convenient to choose the soonest opportunity to address the underlying warrant on your own time and at your own choosing.

Here are five ways to make certain that a Florida warrant won’t ruin your life.

1. Check the county clerk’s office web page and the Sheriff’s web page in the county where you believe a warrant may exist. In Pinellas County each of these web pages will describe the underlying crime for which the warrant was issued as well as personal information of the wanted person.

2. Check the FDLE web page for warrant information. FDLE is Florida’s statewide crime fighters with jurisdiction covering all of Florida. Though county warrant information tends to be fresher eventually every warrant issued in Florida will make it to the FDLE web page.

3. Find the following facts: which police agency issued the warrant, the age of the warrant, how your name is listed in the warrant and the warrant number.

4. Obtain the actual warrant. This may be difficult as older warrants in Pinellas County and all over Florida will be on microfilm with the original paper copy destroyed. To obtain the warrant contact the clerk’s office, pay the appropriate fee and have it mailed or faxed to you.

5. Use the facts to ascertain whether you have any valid defenses. For example, if an arrest warrant from Florida suggests that you wrote a worthless check to a store two months after you left the state of Florida, then you may have a valid defense that someone else wrote the check in your name. Another example of likely possible defense gleaned from an arrest warrant would be finding that the personal information, such as age, date of birth or race in the warrant does not match your personal information.

Clearly, you’re going to need to hire a Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to help you with the most challenging aspect of resolving a pending Florida warrant, which is finding a way to turn yourself in  on the warrant without spending weeks in jail waiting for your case to be called by a judge. It’s possible to walk thru the jail system with the bond amount ready or to turn yourself into the judge at a prearranged bond hearing or in very rare cases even persuade the prosecutors to withdraw the arrest warrant.


It’s not unusual for someone who has lived, worked or merely vacationed in Florida to find years later that there exists a pending active arrest warrant. No wonder the official Florida motto is – the rules are different here. Often the pending arrest warrant is for some alleged nonviolent crime such as theft, worthless check or failure to pay for lodging, gas or food. 
In Florida arrest warrants are often issued after people leave without them knowing that they allegedly committed a crime, so it's important to do whatever is necessary to have the warrant withdrawn.
Sometimes the arrest warrant is for a violent event that did not result in immediate arrest such as assault, battery, disorderly intoxication or an altercation at a bar. The typical result is that a defendant only learns of the arrest warrant by accident possibly years after the alleged event. And it’s worth knowing that an arrest warrant in the computer system will give every officer the right to arrest you until the warrant is withdrawn.

What should someone do when confronting an allegation of criminal conduct from years earlier when recollection of the events with possible defenses have vanished? Before you turn yourself in on an arrest warrant it’s important to get some advice from a defense lawyer. In essence the question leads directly to the answer. If a defendant finds it difficult to defend a case, how will Florida prosecutors be able to successfully pursue a conviction? Witnesses may have disappeared, victims may have moved, business may have gone bankrupt. Older arrest warrants may be available to the Clearwater Clerk of Court in Pinellas only on microfilm. 

It’s important for your defense lawyer to examine the facts and circumstances of the underlying facts. After an investigation of the factual allegations documented within the arrest warrant, then it’s necessary for your lawyer to examine the arrest warrant itself and the charging document known as the information for clues as to whether police and prosecutors made a good faith effort to timely pursue the arrest warrant when it was freshly issued.

The more stale a case has become the more difficult the case will be to successfully prosecute. After a thorough examination of every weakness of the arrest warrant, your defense counsel will contact prosecutors at the Pinellas County Attorney’s Office to persuade them that the case is unlikely to be won at trial. If prosecutors agree that too much time has passed to pursue the case, then they will issue a document known as an administrative nolle prosequito to the Pinellas County Clerk’s Office which withdraws the outstanding arrest warrant. This document is typically filed if it can be proven that there has been no procedural activity on the case for at least a period of three years.


What should you do if you find that there’s a pending arrest warrant for you from the State of Florida? First, it’s important to find out the crime, the date of the crime and significant facts about the crime as attested in the arrest warrant. Second, it’s necessary to establish whether the crime did in fact take place. Finally it’s imperative to determine if the State of Florida is capable of pursuing the charge.

To find out why the arrest warrant was issued you’ll need to get hold of the original charging document. If the case was filed over ten years ago, then the Pinellas County Clerks office will have the original charging document known as the information as well as the actual arrest warrant on microfilm. It may be that you were given a summons to appear many years ago while on vacation in Florida and never got around to taking care of the matter. Or it may be that a grocery store claims that twenty years ago you wrote a worthless check for thirty dollars worth of food, but that in the intervening years you’ve moved to another state. 

Once specific information within the arrest warrant is found, then the accused can formulate whatever defenses may be available to the accusation. Was the defendant even in Florida when the crime occurred? Or in a worthless check case, was the check in fact actually written by the accused? If the check was forged then evidence would need to be gathered in defense. 

In many older cases witnesses may no longer be available or evidence may have grown stale by the time the arrest warrant is actually served. If the State of Florida is unable to meet its burden of proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt then this weakness should be exploited by the defense to have the case reduced or dismissed.

If you find that there is an active arrest warrant in your name remember that there are ways to turn yourself in on the arrest warrant without having to spend more than a few hours in jail. To avoid spending time in prison it’s imperative to find a lawyer who is well versed in criminal law to help you navigate toward the best possible resolution of the search warrant.


Recently your Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney was asked the following:

A girl who fails to appear for a grand theft hearing is still in trouble six years later despite the statute of limitations in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Van Gogh, Girl in White, 1890

My sister was arraigned on a Grand Theft charge in Florida six years ago. My family has reason to believe she may be innocent of the charge. After she attended the arraignment hearing things went from bad to worse in her life, she turned to a life on the streets and she failed to appear for any further court hearings on the Grand Theft. 

She finally contacted the family after all these years. That’s when we checked the computer and found that there were warrants for her arrest for Grand Theft as well as a Failure to Appear charge. We talked her into turning herself in, but now as she’s sitting in jail we’re wondering what will happen to her. Could the Grand Theft charge be dismissed because it violates the statute of limitations, after all it’s been over six years since the charge was filed against her? 

In criminal law the statute of limitations in Florida if five years for a Grand Theft filed as a third degree felony. That means that the state of Florida has five years to file a criminal action against someone who allegedly has committed a crime. The idea is that failure by the State to give timely notice of a crime diminishes one’s ability to effectively mount a fair defense. But here the State of Florida timely filed the charge, then your sister absconded making things worse by failing to appear for the Grand Theft. So a warrant was issued for the underlying Grand Theft, then for the second felony, the Failure to Appear.

Typically, the State of Florida must show that it made a good faith effort to find a Defendant once an arrest warrant is issued. Failing to show an effort was made to find her could result in dismissal. However, if your sister was living on the streets without a permanent address or living at an address that was different from the one given as her dwelling during the course of the Grand Theft charge a Judge would likely find that law enforcement didn’t find her because she didn’t want to be found. 
Still it’d be interesting to see if she had any police contact while living on the streets. If officers made contact with her for an infraction such as jaywalking and failed to arrest her on the outstanding arrest warrant, a Judge could find that law enforcement failed to meet its good faith burden of attempting to find her
Ultimately even if your sister didn’t commit the underlying Grand Theft she made a terrible mistake in not appearing for court hearings thus giving the State of Florida the sword of a new felony, the Failure to Appear.
It’s especially heartening for a Clearwater Criminal Lawyer to hear that your family has reached out to help your sister during this holiday season. Yet as important as the resolution of her case is, letting her know that the family will be there to support her while she gets back on her feet will give her the strength to get thru this.


Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys are often asked interesting questions such as the following one:

Should Van Gogh confess to being Guilty of a  Self-Portrait to Tampa Bay Police or wait for an arrest warrant in Florida?
Van Gogh Guilty of Self Portrait, 1886

I made a stupid mistake in breaking the law in Pinellas County. Without going into the circumstance there’s a high likelihood that I’m going to soon be caught.

Since this happened it’s all I think about night and day. I haven’t been able to sleep for days. 

I’m afraid that the police will arrest me while I’m at home or worse while I’m at work and I’ll be fired. Will the police let me know if there is an arrest warrant for me before they arrest me? If they’re eventually going to arrest me anyway, should I turn myself in and confess to the crime? Would that give me a better sentence?

You have a choice of either confessing the criminal act to the police or gutting it out by waiting for the likelihood of an arrest warrant to be issued and eventually served. 
If you confess before a search warrant is issued, your lawyer can ask the Judge for a lower sentence because you showed remorse and acceptance of responsibility for your criminal conduct. But the Judge in determining your sentence will still take the Florida Sentencing Guidelines and Florida Scoresheets into account balancing the need for punishment with your remorse. 
Also, the Judge would take the type of criminal conduct into account, not reducing your sentence if it was a crime of violence, a sexual crime or a crime with a minimum mandatory sentence. 
Finally, there’s no guarantee that the Judge will reduce your sentence even if the Tampa Bay police and prosecutors tell the judge that a reduction is appropriate, though the benefits of confessing may include a reduction in the number of charges filed and getting this off your chest might be the first step in getting your life back.
Press reports have noted that how Pinellas County arrest warrants are served needs to be reviewed because Pinellas is one of the few large Florida counties where there is no longer a special unit to serve outstanding arrest warrants. 
Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers use FDLE’s Florida wanted persons warrant check to find out if an arrest warrant has been issued for a client; you don’t need to hire an attorney to check it yourself daily. If there is a warrant out for you, then you can turn yourself in before police serve the arrest warrant by calling the local Tampa Bay Police Department that issued the warrant.


What should you do if you find you have an active arrest warrant issued from another state? Here’s a question your Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer was recently asked:

I’m very scared of being arrested for something I didn’t do. What happens when another state issues an arrest warrant? I moved to Florida several years ago. I’ve just found out that there is a felony arrest warrant for Fraud or Scheme to Defraud in Atlanta, Georgia. From what I can figure out the warrant was issued from the company I used to work for and is a misunderstanding that I thought was already cleared up and I have the paperwork to prove it.  Will Florida police arrest me for this? If I’m innocent can I resist the arrest? What should I do?

even great oarsmen can't escape an out of state warrant  as the warrant  will be honored in Tampa BayFlorida
Renoir,  The Oarsmen, 1879

You may think it was just a ‘misunderstanding’ in Georgia, I hope for your sake you’re right, but a Georgia Judge signed an arrest warrant based on probable cause that you committed Felony Fraud in Georgia. You’ll need to hire an attorney in Georgia to persuade the prosecutor that the criminal case against you should be dismissed. Prosecutors in Georgia will not likely look into your case until after you turn yourself in, make a court appearance and only then will you be allowed to seek a bond. 
If you choose not to turn yourself in to Georgia authorities, then you need to understand that at anytime you may be stopped by Tampa Bay Police and arrested in Florida as an arrest warrant from another state will be honored by Florida law enforcement. 
Although it’s true that you can resist an unlawful arrest in Florida without using violence, a Florida arrest based on a warrant from Georgia will be deemed lawful and any attempt to resist the arrest will result in Florida criminal charges of resisting arrest without violence.  
If you are arrested under the Georgia warrant in Florida, you will be kept in detention without a bond as you’ll be deemed a flight risk. Instead Florida will contact Georgia to determine if Georgia wants you to be extradited back to Georgia to face the Felony Fraud charge. In Florida you will be given an extradition hearing to determine if Georgia has the right bring you back and that you are the person whom Georgia seeks with matching fingerprints or DNA. At an extradition hearing a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney could argue any false identity issues, but will not be permitted to argue the underlying merits of the Felony Fraud or Scheme to Defraud case against you nor your innocence as those issues are for a Georgia Court to determine. 
The smartest thing for you to do is not to wait for the arrest warrant to come to you, rather you must go to it by cleaning up the matter in Georgia immediately.


Ever wonder if those pyromaniac friends of yours fondly known in your neighborhood for their incredible 4th of July fireworks displays, have been arrested when the explosions threaten to burn down your house, at least one Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney does wonder and I’ve decided to help you in your quest for arrest information.

Neighborhood Fireworks Display may lead to arrest  which Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Robert Hambrick will Defend
My Neighborhood Fireworks Display

First, this blog has already described in detail how to find out if there is an active arrest warrant for someone in Florida. I’ll show you how to find out if the warrant resulted in an arrest and if someone has ever been arrested in Florida for anything else. Remember that this is only for Florida arrests.
You can find out if someone has been arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail by checking the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Inquiry Form which gives accurate information including the charged offense for every booking arrest into the Jail since November of 2005 and includes the cities of Largo, Clearwater & St. Petersburg, Florida. If you’re not noisy but more of the nosey type and are checking up on someone in Tampa you’d look to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Inquiry Form. For information for an arrest anywhere within the entire state of Florida, you can check the FDLE criminal history information web page, here’s hoping your own name doesn’t show up. 
Of course if the person was arrested but was smart enough to hire your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer for his defense attorney it’s possible that he was never convicted or that he plead to a reduced charge something I’d do for your noisiest neighbor and even for you if you ever need help fighting a charge.


Florida’s statewide investigative agency has a “Wanted Persons Search” function which allows you to check the names of anyone you suspect may be a fugitive from justice. Is your babysitter wanted for Murder, Aggravated Battery, or even worse in Florida’s warped Criminal Justice System, the crime of Driving While License Suspended or Revoked? 

This link looks to be a winning party game at your next get together with friends, neighbors and especially politicians; all in abject fear that maybe that long forgotten speeding ticket was never paid. 

Below you’ll see that FDLE (Florida’s FBI) “cannot represent that this information is current, active or complete,” but no matter just for the hell of it, your government puts it out there anyway, riddled with errors or not….

Here’s the link to the Wanted Persons Search: FDLE Public Access System | Wanted Persons Search

And more about the database from your friends at FDLE:

The database contains Florida warrant information as reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement by law enforcement agencies throughout the state and authorized for release to the public. FDLE and the reporting agencies strongly recommend that no citizen take any individual action based on this information. This information is not to be used as a confirmation that any warrant is active, or as probable cause for an arrest. Information contained herein should not be relied upon for any type of legal action. FDLE cannot represent that this information is current, active, or complete. You should verify that a warrant is active with your local law enforcement agency or with the reporting agency. [Wanted persons may use false identification, which could cause the warrant to contain a name, date of birth, or other information not belonging to the subject of the warrant. Such false information may or may not be designated as an alias on the warrant.]

Here are some other FDLE LINKS of interest for your next neighborhood party:
And this, which from its name – STOLEN ARTICLES SEARCH – must be for finding a purloined article or two from this Blog or from say, The New Yorker…….no, I see, articles to FDLE means personal belongings, never mind then, just take what you want:
And for all the strange folks you meet at Publix or the public parks:
A history of prisons and punsishment:

Vintage books edition cover