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Should I Get A Lawyer For Drug Possession If I Am Guilty?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

A lot of times people want to cut their losses by going to court and trying to handle a case by themselves.What they do not realize is that if it is a misdemeanor case, they run the risk of courthouse surprise if the judge accepts a plea of no contest or guilty. Courthouse surprise is any sentence that is harsher than what the individual expects. People don’t realize that the maximum penalty is up to an year in jail for possession of marijuana under 20 grams and it is also an year in jail for possession of any type of drug paraphernalia. When people go to misdemeanor court on these particular charges, especially if they have no prior record they often believe they can handle it themselves only to find out in a growing percentage of cases that they are going to suffer courthouse surprise.

A common example of courthouse surprise is when an unrepresented person comes before the judge on a drug case, enters a plea of no contest or guilty expecting a drug offender probation only to find that they do get drug offender probation but they also get 30, 60 or 90 days in the county jail under a special condition of probation. Why does this happen? This happens because there may be unknown aggravators in the case that are not listed in the Florida statutes or not found in the Florida rules of criminal procedure and are not even found in the case law that determines how statutes and rules of procedure are construed. It may be something the state attorney personally finds offensive about the case or it may be something that the judge finds offensive about the case.

I never like for a client to enter a plea of no contest or guilty without knowing exactly what they will be sentenced to beforehand unless it is a contested sentencing hearing. Now if it is a felony drug charge, a judge cannot accept a plea of no contest or guilty at the person’s first major court date which is called arraignment and please be aware that some counties such as Okaloosa County and Walton County refer to arraignment as plea day although that is technically inaccurate and plea day does not exist as a court date according to procedure. In other counties such as Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, arraignment is called by its proper name. At the arraignment in a felony drug case a judge is not allowed to accept a plea of no contest or guilty unless the rule 3.992A Florida punishment code scoresheet has been prepared.

These are almost never prepared prior to or upon arraignment. So the most important thing a person can do is to contact the very best criminal lawyer that they can because no one gets the best plea bargain on their own without the help of someone who is extremely skilled in Florida criminal law.

What Happens When I Go To Court For My First Offense?

About 200 people or so will be in the courtroom and this first court appearance is called arraignment or plea date depending upon which county the person happens to be in at the time they are arrested. If it is a felony court date then the only thing that is going to happen is that the judge is going to ask people how they plead and they have 3 choices. Choice number one is to plead not guilty. Choices two and three are no contest and guilty. However, no judge is going to accept a plea of no contest or guilty at that first court date in the case of a felony case due to the law and requirements surrounding the Florida punishment code. If the case is a misdemeanor the judge may accept a plea of no contest or guilty. However, a person is not going to get the best deal they can possibly get.

Instead, unrepresented people meet with the prosecutor for the first time and are often pushed into taking unfavorable plea bargains simply because they don’t know how to negotiate in a criminal case setting. What we do in situations like that is we file a written plea of not guilty and excuse our clients appearance at that particular court date. We have a lot of cases where first offenders are able to get much better outcomes with negotiated dismissals. The latest fad in the criminal justice system for first offenders has been diversion programs. Unfortunately, these are one sided deals that give the illusion of a great benefit without the reality in a large number of cases. What people don’t know is that a negotiated dismissal done by competent legal counsel experienced in Florida criminal defense law can often have many reductions in terms of the conditions that you’ll find in a typical diversion program.

In formal diversion, quite often people are loaded up with expensive and difficult to complete counseling requirements, community service hours and other things that a lawyer can often make go away with proper negotiation.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Retaining An Attorney When Guilty, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 466-1522 today.