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Facing criminal charges in Florida is extremely serious. Even though you enjoy the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the U.S. and Florida constitutions, the police and prosecutors will work hard to win a conviction. They will strive to take away your liberty in the name of justice. 

Your freedom, your livelihood, and your reputation are at stake after an arrest. Contacting an experienced Pensacola criminal defense lawyer for representation immediately is the best way to protect your rights. There is no substitute for experience. Since 1913, Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon’s criminal lawyers in Pensacola, FL, continue our proud tradition of representing people from all walks of life with compassion, dedication, and determination.

Speak with an attorney from Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon today to learn more about how we can represent your best interests.  

Criminal Cases We Handle

Our criminal defense attorneys have a wide range of trial experience defending our clients against various criminal charges in Pensacola and across Florida.

We have successfully represented clients facing criminal accusations, such as:

This list is only an example of the types of cases our criminal lawyers in Pensacola handle.

How Can Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon Help Me?

Many Florida law firms tout their experience. Few criminal defense law firms can offer extensive criminal trial experience, coupled with tremendous resources and a desire to serve. 

A proactive criminal defense attorney in Pensacola possesses a thorough knowledge of Florida criminal law and procedure. Having a keen understanding of the Florida criminal justice system allows a criminal defense attorney to work for our clients’ advantage.

Understanding Your Options

As an alternative to hiring a private attorney, every individual charged with a crime in Florida has the option of self-representation or even asking for a public defender. 

Attempting to defend your charges alone without a criminal attorney in Pensacola is dangerous. Courts expect self-represented defendants, also known as “pro se” defendants, to know the law and procedure relevant to their case. Pro se defendants often struggle with the law and procedure because they do not work with it every day. 

Asking for a public defender could be equally problematic. Public defenders work hard for justice. However, their resources are stretched thin, and their caseloads can be overwhelming. Accepting representation from the public defender’s office might mean that you do not get the personal attention you deserve.

What Should I Look for in a Pensacola Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Courts in Pensacola use the same laws and procedural rules as all other courts in Florida. Still, every court operates under its own rules. It is crucial to have a Pensacola criminal defense attorney who regularly appears in the local courts.

Having a criminal lawyer who knows the court’s ins-and-outs and has an excellent reputation with the prosecutors, judges, and court employees gives our clients a home-court advantage.

What Is the Criminal Defense Process in Florida?

The criminal process in Pensacola begins with an arrest or a notice to appear. An arrest and booking will bring the defendant before the court for a bond determination, usually within 24 to 48 hours. 

A police officer can arrest a suspect for a felony based on probable cause. Sometimes, officers do not apprehend the person immediately and request an arrest warrant instead. A police officer must establish the warrant request on probable cause as well. 

A notice to appear is different from an arrest. Law enforcement officers in Florida may issue a notice to appear for a non-violent misdemeanor charge. The notice to appear commands the accused to go to court at the designated time to answer the allegations. 

First Appearance

The first appearance in court is a critical event in the process. The court will inform the accused of the charges pending and address bond or bail if necessary.

The person brought before the court has the right to counsel at the first appearance. The accused has a right to remain silent and allow a seasoned Pensacola criminal defense lawyer to argue on their behalf.

Preliminary Hearing

Not all charges will proceed to trial and may be dismissed or reduced at the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is like a trial, except the judge only has to find probable cause for the case to continue. A savvy defense attorney could argue in favor of a dismissal or a reduction in charges. 

The prosecutor must present evidence at the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing gives the defense a chance to cross-examine witnesses and preview the state’s evidence before going to trial. 

Plea Negotiations

Plea negotiations can occur at any time between the preliminary hearing and the sentencing phase of the case. A criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience could negotiate a lighter sentence to a reduced charge before trial. 

A dedicated criminal lawyer from Pensacola will investigate the case thoroughly for the defendant’s benefit. A thorough investigation could yield evidence that weakens the state’s case and helps the accused avoid a conviction or receive a lighter sentence.

Arraignment Hearing

The arraignment hearing is another critical juncture in the Florida criminal defense process. The accused enters a formal plea at the arraignment hearing if the parties cannot successfully plea bargain the case. The defendant has three options when entering a plea. Those options are:

  • Not guilty,
  • Guilty, or 
  • Nolo contendere (no contest). 

The particular plea the defendant enters determines what happens next. Pleas of guilt or nolo contendere move the case toward sentencing. Entering a plea of not guilty moves the case toward trial.

Should I Accept a Plea Bargain or Go to Trial?

The decision to accept a plea bargain or go to trial is incredibly important. You must have an honest conversation about your rights, defenses, and options with your well-practiced Pensacola criminal defense attorney before deciding if you should take a plea or go to trial.

Accepting a deal from the prosecutor provides some certainty and usually results in a lesser sanction, such as probation instead of jail. Accepting responsibility for a crime relieves the state of the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

You have a right to hold the prosecution to the burden of proof and maintain your innocence. There are no guarantees when you take a case to trial. However, electing to go to trial means that the jury could acquit you of the charges.

Can I Get a Crime Expunged?

Preventing someone like a prospective employer from obtaining a copy of your criminal history could help you find a great job. Florida law allows individuals to ask a court to seal or expunge criminal charges under limited circumstances.

Expunction, or expungement, means that the court destroys the criminal record. Sealing a record prevents the public from accessing the information contained in the court’s file. 

The process to expunge or seal a record is complicated. Enlisting the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney from Pensacola is vital to making sure your criminal record does not prevent you from living the life you want.  

Talk to a Pensacola Criminal Defense Attorney

A Pensacola criminal defense lawyer at Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon vigorously defends their clients’ rights. Contact us online, or call an experienced attorney today.

With over 100 years of service to the Pensacola community, we have a reputation for excellence and the compassion you need to successfully defend your criminal charges.