Lakeland Criminal Defense Attorney

Despite the constitutional right to be deemed innocent until proven guilty, the deck is stacked against individuals who are suspected of committing a crime. The O’Mara Law Group protects the rights of the accused in Lakeland, Florida, and throughout Polk County.

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara

Content last updated on: April 3, 2024

Being charged with a crime is a frightening circumstance. Innocence is an overrated commodity in a system where law enforcement and prosecutors build their careers by winning convictions. Without competent counsel, you are at the mercy of this system. Learn more about what the criminal defense lawyers at O’Mara Law Group can do for you.

What does a Lakeland criminal defense lawyer do?

A criminal defense lawyer’s primary responsibilities are to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights, including their right to a presumption of innocence, and to ensure each defendant receives a fair trial.

Our team of criminal defense attorneys in Lakeland accomplish this by representing each client’s interests as follows:

What are my constitutional rights when accused of a crime in Lakeland?

The fifth through eighth amendments of the Constitution provide defendants with the following rights:

Types of Crime in Florida

Florida law classifies criminal charges as misdemeanors or felonies.


Florida §775.081 defines a misdemeanor as a criminal offense that is punishable by less than a year of imprisonment in county jail. Misdemeanors are further categorized into first-degree and second-degree misdemeanors. Second-degree misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to 60 days in jail, while first-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to a full year in jail.


Florida §775.081 defines a felony as a crime that is punishable by time in the state penitentiary or death. Felonies are further broken down into five categories as follows:

What is at stake in a criminal case?

While incarceration is a significant concern, there is much more to be concerned about in a criminal prosecution. In addition to incarceration, a felony conviction can follow you for the rest of your life and severely hinder your quality of life:

You may be able to have your civil rights restored, but you will generally continue to face stigma when applying for housing, employment and other opportunities.

How the Deck is Stacked Against the Accused

From the moment you become a person of interest in a crime, you are vulnerable to a system that rewards convictions while offering no repercussions for wrongful convictions.. This is why it is so important to have an experienced Lakeland defense attorney with a track record of success on your side.

Resources of the Prosecution

The prosecution consists of law enforcement, the district attorney, the assistant district attorney and anyone else acting on their behalf. Together, they have a strong network of resources that help them achieve convictions. Unrepresented or underrepresented individuals may lack the financial capacity or the knowledge to access the evidence and resources needed to place them on a level playing field.

Law Enforcement

When you are questioned by the police, you may be questioned on their turf and on their terms. Even without an arrest, law enforcement enjoys a power dynamic that is difficult for an unrepresented individual to overcome. They have multiple officers with an arsenal of tactics with which to intimidate, threaten, manipulate, deceive and coerce you into making incriminating statements.

The District Attorney’s Office

The district attorney has access to state resources that provide forensic experts, consultants and expert witnesses. The DA also enjoys access to state labs and police evidence and has the advantage of courtroom experience and knowledge of the law and legal system. Members of the DA’s office are typically comfortable in court and have much less at stake than the defendant.

Systemic Racism in Lakeland

The racial profiling and bias against people of color, young black males in particular, continues to plague the criminal justice system, and it is occurring in Lakeland just as it continues in the rest of the country, according to an IKLDNOW news report.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, when compared to innocent white people, innocent black people are:

Black people charged with drug possession are also five times more likely to go to prison.

Presumption of Guilt

Police and prosecutors often treat suspects as though they are guilty without the benefit of a trial. This leads law enforcement officials to plant evidence, apply strong pressure to extract a confession or deny suspects their rights.

Prosecutors who presume guilt may push for excessive bail. Law enforcement and prosecutors may also speak to the press in such a way as to convince the public the suspect is guilty before a trial has taken place

Overzealous Prosecution

Prosecutors may pull out all the stops to ensure a guilty conviction, padding their conviction rates in hopes of gaining promotions.

Police Tunnel Vision

Police tunnel vision occurs when police officers zero in on a suspect to the exclusion of all others. This is often the result of bias. Tunnel vision is exceptionally difficult for the suspect to overcome because even exonerating evidence can be misconstrued or dismissed.

Causes of Wrongful Conviction

Whether here in Lakeland or somewhere else in the country, many causes of wrongful conviction are the same. According to the Chicago Tribune, an estimated two to 10 percent of inmates in the United States are wrongfully convicted. That is a range of 46,000 to 230,000 people. Wrongful convictions occur because of bias, prejudice and tunnel vision. Prosecutors and police believe they have won when they achieve a conviction, regardless of whether the correct person is convicted.

The primary mechanisms by which wrongful convictions occur include the following, according to Western Michigan University:

Anyone who lacks representation by an experienced defense attorney can be wrongfully convicted by a determined prosecution.

What types of cases does the O’Mara Law Group accept in Lakeland?

The O’Mara Law Group accepts all types of criminal cases and does not shy away from the most challenging cases.

What to Do If You Are Questioned by the Police or Arrested in Lakeland

One of the most common mistakes accused individuals make is waiting too long to hire an attorney. Law enforcement is not required to read you your Miranda rights until they are ready to detain you, but you do have the same rights prior to this point. When the police start questioning you, it is important to ascertain whether you are being questioned as a witness or a suspect.

When police questioning seems to go beyond what you saw and heard, you may be a person of interest. At this point, anything you say can be used against you, even if you have not yet been read your rights, and even if you have not committed a crime. The following dos and don’ts will help you avoid incriminating yourself:

How much does a Lakeland defense lawyer cost?

The cost of a defense attorney varies based on the amount of work that will be required to provide an effective defense. At the O’Mara Law Group, legal fees are decided on a case-by-case basis.

The cost of not hiring a defense attorney can be much higher, costing you the following:

The real question is, how much is your life worth to you? How much are you willing to spend in order to defend everything you have worked so hard for up until now?

Why should I choose the O’Mara Law Group to represent me?

The O’Mara Law Group boasts more than three decades of experience representing the accused during some of the most stressful times in their lives. During our over 30-year history, we are proud to have successfully helped scores of individuals avoid long prison sentences.

Our founder, Mark O’Mara, gained national acclaim for his fair, even-handed representation in the high-profile case of George Zimmerman while facing intense scrutiny and pressure. His ethics and success in that case won him a position as a CNN analyst in 2013. Mr. O’Mara uses this national stage to advocate for change in the overzealous prosecution of Americans and for juvenile justice system reform, causes he is passionate about.

Mr. O’Mara is board certified in criminal trial law and has taught seminars for the Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and he has taught at the University of Central Florida, Florida State University School of Law, Duquesne School of Law and Harvard Law School.

If you are being questioned by the police or charged with a crime in or around Lakeland or Polk County, you need an attorney as soon as possible. Contact us today to chat with criminal defense attorney Mark O’Mara or one of the other qualified defense attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group.

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Our Lakeland Office

(863) 603-3206

500 Florida Ave S
Suite 407
Lakeland, FL 33801

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