Orlando Felony Lawyer
Facing felony charges in Orlando can mean time in a state penitentiary, from five years to life, depending on the severity of the crime. These convictions remain on your permanent record. Our Orlando felony lawyers at the O’Mara Law Group will fight for you and protect your rights.
Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara
Content last updated on: June 7, 2023
Being arrested for a felony in Orlando can result in a lengthy prison stay and a lifelong criminal record that deprives you of housing and employment opportunities and certain civil rights, including the right to own firearms, vote, and serve on a jury.
The United States Constitution guarantees that you cannot be convicted of a felony without due process of law. The Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group will stand beside you to protect your constitutional rights from the moment of arrest until your case is resolved.
What is a felony?
According to Florida law, a felony is a crime that is punishable by time in a state penitentiary or death. The law categorizes felonies into five classes according to the seriousness of the crime, which is reflected in the sentencing guidelines.
Third-degree felonies are considered the least serious felony class. However, all felonies are serious, and third-degree felonies carry penalties of up to five years in prison. The following offenses may be categorized as third-degree felonies:
- A third or subsequent DUI within 10 years of a previous DUI
- Aggravated assault
- Drug possession with intent to distribute
- Possession of some controlled substances
- Unlicensed carrying of concealed weapons
- Burglary of an unoccupied building
- Embezzlement of $300 to $20,000
- Identity theft
The penalty for a second-degree felony may be as high as 15 years in prison. The following offenses may be classified as second-degree felonies:
- Aggravated domestic battery with a weapon
- DUI manslaughter
- Drug distribution involving large quantities of controlled substances
- Delivery of paraphernalia
- Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Openly carrying a weapon
- Burglary of an occupied building
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Aggravated battery against a senior citizen
- Embezzlement of $20,000 to $100,000
First-degree felonies may result in a prison term of up to 30 years. The following allegations may result in first-degree felony charges:
- Drug distribution involving 10 grams of a controlled substance or more
- Drug trafficking
- Possession of a firearm by a violent career criminal
- Improper exhibition of a firearm
- Burglary with assault or battery
- Second-degree murder
- Embezzlement of $100,000 or more
A life felony is a crime that carries a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The following offenses may be charged as life felonies:
- Drug trafficking with exceptionally high quantities of controlled substances
- Some cases of second-degree murder
A capital felony is an offense for which a death sentence may be imposed. Such offenses are not eligible for parole. Capital felonies include the following:
- Drug trafficking with the highest quantities of controlled substances
- First-degree murder
Felony vs. Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor charge is less serious than a felony charge and is punishable by incarceration of one year or less. Misdemeanors can result in serious lifelong consequences, including the requirement to disclose these convictions on housing and employment applications when asked. Examples of misdemeanors include the following:
- Possession of some controlled substances in low quantities
- A first or second DUI
- Reckless driving
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Driving with a suspended license
- Simple assault
- Employee theft
Misdemeanors may be upgraded to felonies if you have had prior convictions or if circumstances are aggravated. A competent Orlando defense attorney can also get felony charges reduced to misdemeanors in some cases.
How long does a felony stay on your record in Florida?
Felony convictions remain on your record for life. In light of this, a felony arrest is a serious matter that requires the immediate assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Every decision you make and every word you speak without involving your attorney can negatively impact the rest of your life.
While the state of Florida allows previously convicted felons to apply for the restoration of some of their civil rights, this will not remove the felony from your record. Your felony record will continue to impact you for the rest of your life when seeking employment or housing, even if your civil rights are restored.
What happens after felony charges are filed?
The district attorney will petition a judge to issue a warrant for your arrest upon the filing of charges. The judge will grant the warrant if the court determines probable cause justifies it. The warrant will be directed to the county sheriff, and law enforcement will arrest you.
You can be arrested without charges being filed if law enforcement reasonably believes you committed a felony. When you are arrested, law enforcement is required to advise you of your Miranda rights before questioning you. These include the following:
- The right to remain silent
- The right to consult an attorney
- The right to have an attorney present during questioning
- The right to have an attorney appointed for you if you cannot afford one
These are your constitutional rights. No matter what law enforcement tells you, invoking your rights does not point to guilt, and answering questions without an attorney does not help you. The most prudent course of action after a felony arrest is to remain silent until your attorney arrives.
First Appearance in Court
Your first court appearance is held within 24 hours of the arrest. During this hearing, the court sets bail, informs you of the rules for pretrial release from custody, and ensures an attorney represents you. You are not required to speak during this hearing. If you do, anything you say can be used against you.
What happens at a preliminary hearing for a felony?
During a preliminary hearing, a judge reviews the evidence against you, determines what evidence, if any, is admissible, and decides whether sufficient admissible evidence exists to justify proceeding to trial. If the judge does not consider the evidence sufficient, your case may be dismissed.
During the arraignment, the court will officially read the charges against you, and you will be required to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you plead guilty, you will proceed to sentencing. If you plead not guilty, your case will go to trial.
The trial is your opportunity to present your side of the story to a judge or jury. You do not have to prove your innocence in a trial. Instead, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged crime. A defense attorney’s job is to create reasonable doubt to achieve an acquittal.
Leading up to the trial, the prosecutor is required to provide your attorney with the evidence against you so your attorney can prepare a defense. This is known as discovery.
During the trial, the prosecution will question witnesses and present evidence against you. Your criminal defense attorney can then cross-examine these witnesses. After the prosecution rests, your attorney will present witnesses in your defense. Then the prosecution can cross-examine the defense witnesses.
After the defense rests, each side will provide closing arguments, and the judge or jury will weigh the evidence and enter a verdict of guilty or not guilty. A not-guilty verdict is known as an acquittal. After an acquittal, your case is resolved, and you cannot be charged with the same crime again.
If you are found guilty, you will move into the penalty phase, where you will be sentenced under Florida sentencing guidelines. The judge may impose any combination of the following:
- Prison time
- A suspended sentence
- Community service
Some crimes carry mandatory minimums and do not allow for suspended sentences.
Orlando Felony Cases We Accept
At the O’Mara Law Group, we are not afraid to take on the most challenging cases. We strongly support the constitutional right of every accused individual to receive fair treatment from the moment of arrest until the case is resolved. Our law firm defends most felony case types, including:
- DUI manslaughter
- Drug possession
- Manufacture of methamphetamines
- Drug trafficking
- Federal drug charges
- Domestic violence
- Weapons charges
- Internet sex crimes
- White-collar crimes
- Federal felonies
- Juvenile offenses
How much does an Orlando felony attorney cost?
The cost of a defense attorney is not always determinable at the beginning of a case. It depends on the amount of work required, the seriousness of your charges, and whether your case goes to trial.
Our attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group will assess your case during the initial consultation and request an upfront retainer based on our estimate of your case costs. If your case exceeds our initial estimate, we will request additional retainers as necessary while your case progresses.
The attorney you choose is an important predictor of your case outcome. You need a lawyer with extensive felony experience, who can handle the pressure of a felony case, has strong courtroom skills, and is willing to fight for you.
A felony conviction may put your life on the line, and cost should not be the most important consideration when selecting an attorney.
Why should I pay for an Orlando felony defense attorney?
Without an experienced defense attorney, you may not receive fair treatment, and you will have no advocacy from within the justice system.
On a national level, Black men are more likely to be stopped and searched than white men. They receive longer prison sentences and are more likely to suffer the death penalty when compared to white men accused of similar crimes.
Racial bias also remains a sad reality in Orlando, where Black suspects are more than three times as likely to be killed by police in Orlando compared to white suspects.
Racial bias does not end with the police. Young Black men living in Florida face higher odds of being sentenced to prison than any other racial group. Though the Black population represents just 17 percent of the population of Florida, Black people account for nearly half of the Florida inmate population.
The O’Mara Law Group is committed to fighting the systemic racism that continues to plague the Black community.
Prosecutors have Florida state resources at their disposal to investigate and prosecute felony cases. They can hire medical consultants, forensic analysts, and virtually any other expert to conduct testing and provide expert testimony against you.
Our resourceful felony lawyers have access to rebuttal witnesses to ensure you receive a fair chance to refute the prosecution’s witnesses and provide compelling evidence on your behalf.
The Strained Resources of Public Defenders
Public defenders are typically great lawyers who are faced with heavy caseloads and limited resources. They may not be able to provide your case with the attention it needs and deserves. A public defender is only available if the court finds that you are indigent.
The Danger of Self-Incrimination
Law enforcement may persuade you to make seemingly harmless statements that can bolster their case against you. An officer may appear friendly in hopes you will lower your guard and open up to them. But their testimony can be used as part of the prosecution, which might further incriminate you.
What should I do if I am arrested for a felony?
Though being arrested for a felony is upsetting, obeying law enforcement without resistance is critical. Any defensive behavior could be viewed as uncooperative or combative and lead to police violence or additional charges against you.
Do not assume that being innocent of the crime for which you are accused will help your case. Innocent people have gone to prison before.
Even if you believe you are guilty of a crime, pleading guilty or confessing without an attorney can cause you to face maximum penalties without the benefit of an advocate who could get the charges reduced.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible
Contact an attorney before you make any statements to the police at the scene, in the car on the way to jail, or in an interrogation room. Waiting too long to contact a criminal defense attorney is one of the most common and damaging mistakes accused individuals make.
The longer you wait to contact an Orlando felony lawyer, the more likely you are to be found guilty and serve excess time. Contact the O’Mara Law Group today to protect your rights.
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