Cases that could be quickly disposed of by persuading prosecutors to no file the charges may become much more difficult to defend if a Clearwater criminal defense attorney is not consulted soon enough. In criminal cases it’s always vitally important to have an advocate on your side as soon as possible. Your lawyer will demand discovery, conduct an intense investigation and secure any evidence that undermines the investigation or arrest.
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- A defense lawyer will make certain that no evidence is destroyed, misplaced or forgotten by prosecutors. Prosecutors in Tampa Bay, Florida conduct their own investigation of the facts and circumstances of criminal cases before making felony or misdemeanor filing decisions even if police have made an arrest. In fact, under Florida law, for prosecutors to file felony charges against a defendant they must conduct an investigation which typically includes placing police officers or other witnesses under oath.
- This short window of time before charges are filed by prosecutors is an opportunity for the defense to present prosecutors with the best reasons why the case should be no filed. Because no filing decision has yet been made, prosecutors are open to at least listening to other interpretations of the facts and circumstances of the case. A number of years ago while I was a prosecutor in Clearwater, Florida, I appreciated knowing that the case was weak before rather than after committing the resources, time and commitment to prosecuting a case. Sometimes evidence that may seem reliable to a prosector proves to be unreliable when facts establish that the witness is mistaken. For example, unreliable eye witness testimony has often been shown to weigh too heavily with prosecutors and judges making a mockery of justice and fairness in many criminal cases in the United States.
- Once the prosecution files a criminal charge against a defendant the apparatus of the Florida criminal justice system becomes committed to a successful outcome of either a guilty plea or guilty verdict at trial in the case. This momentum toward a result of guilt is difficult for the office to resist because prosecutors will not want to admit that they botched their initial investigation. Therefore, waiting to present evidence at a later time than the initial investigation will often result in the prosecution ‘doubling down’ by adding addition criminal charges. Further, prosecutors will do their best to win the case by demanding that law enforcement officers conduct further investigations with a view of supporting the failing case.
- Defense counsel should also be consulted before any statements are given to law enforcement to determine if a statement from a Defendant is apt to be useful in a future prosecution. Often law enforcement officers gather as many statements as possible from a defendant in hopes of finding inconsistencies or admissions of misconduct. In Tampa Bay, Florida law enforcement officers rarely record their conversations with Defendants making the law enforcement officers the only reliable witnesses as to what was actually said. Therefore confessions are often very damaging even thought they have often been found to be an unreliable indication of actual guilt.