Criminal Law FAQ’s

How are criminal fees paid?

At the Heyman Law Firm, criminal fees are usually quoted on a “set” or flat fee basis. Following the initial interview and review of your case, I will evaluate the complexity of your case, calculate the estimated time which will be required to properly investigate and effectively defend you against the pending charges and quote my attorney’s fee together with a refundable cost deposit.

Is the fee the same whether I elect to go to trial or not?

At the Heyman Law Firm, we charge you only for the work which we do on your behalf. As a result, we will quote you a “two – tiered” fee agreement. If, as a result of our representation, we can obtain a favorable plea agreement on your behalf which you decide to accept prior to a trial being set in your case, no additional fee is required.

If, on the other hand, pretrial negotiations are not favorable and you wish to assert your right to a trial, an additional attorney’s fee is required to perform the necessary work to prepare for, and present your case at trial. In addition, a trial cost deposit may be required depending on the anticipated trial costs.

What is the cost deposit used for?

We pride ourselves in fully investigating your case and challenging the State’s case against you. This normally requires taking the depositions of all of the witnesses whom the State discloses to us as part of the discovery process. These witnesses may be police officers, forensic experts and any lay witnesses with knowledge of the charges against you. The cost deposit is used in part to subpoena these witnesses for deposition and to retain the services of an official court reporter to properly document their testimony.

In addition, depending on the complexity of your case and the extent of the investigation performed by law enforcement, we may recommend hiring a private investigator to conduct an independent investigation to locate additional witnesses or uncover favorable evidence which may prove critical to your defense.

How are plea negotiations handled?

After the discovery in your case has been reviewed and depositions (in felony cases) have been taken, our practice is to engage (if you agree) in preliminary discussions with the State Attorney as to how your case might be resolved prior to trial. Such discussions usually focus on the strength of the case against you, any restitution which is claimed and any prior criminal record you may have.

If you have been charged with a felony, plea discussions also necessarily focus on the Sentencing Guidelines which, under Florida law, provide the sentencing options which the judge is normally required to follow should a change of plea be entered in your case. The Sentencing Guidelines were created by the Florida Legislature and rely upon a mathematical formula which assigns numeric values to the crimes charged, any victim injury, and prior record of the accused to calculate the recommended sentence. Unless the State Attorney agrees to a Guidelines departure or specifically approved mitigating factors are presented, the Judge must follow that recommendation or else the sentence will be reversed on appeal. As a result, it is critical to obtain any evidence or witnesses that may prove helpful in convincing the judge that a potentially harsh recommended sentence should not apply in your case should you decide not to proceed to trial.

What happens at Trial?

Should you decide not to negotiate a change of plea in your case, the Judge will schedule a jury trial – usually between two to four months after the last Pretrial conference. During that period of time, we will take ( in felony cases) the depositions of any remaining witnesses whom we believe will appear at trial or provide favorable testimony in your case.

At trial, the State Attorney and I will select a six person jury (except in Capital cases) which will receive the testimony and evidence in your case and determine whether the State has proven its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.

I take particular care in the jury selection process, since a biased jury may dismiss problems with the State’s case or ignore testimony which is favorable to you and not return a proper verdict.

In all criminal trials, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous. If they fail to reach a unanimous verdict, the Judge will rule that a “mistrial” has occurred, at which time a new trial date is scheduled.

What about Appeals?

While the defendant in most cases cannot appeal the jury’s decision regarding the facts of the case, should the Trial judge have made questionable rulings which either admitted harmful evidence which should have been excluded or prohibited evidence which may have been helpful to the defense case, the law permits an appeal to the Second District Court of Appeal, located in Lakeland.

On appeal, the Court does not accept additional testimony or evidence, but does review the transcript of the trial and all evidentiary rulings made by the Trial Judge. I have handled numerous appeals as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney and as a civil attorney. As a result, I can also handle this portion of your case should it become necessary.