Attorney Mark P. Rankin sitting on courthouse steps

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Attorney Mark P. Rankin sitting on courthouse steps

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense

If you face a criminal charge either in federal court or in Florida court, you will face a great deal of uncertainly and stress – and have a lot of questions. The key is finding answers that you can trust.

At The Law Office of Mark P. Rankin, P.A., attorney Mark Rankin has the experience and skill to provide you with fast, meaningful answers about criminal law in Florida and federal courts. He works hard for clients across the Greater Tampa Bay area and West Central Florida to find answers to their specific questions. To get started, here are a few answers to the questions he gets the most:

What do I do if I am charged with a federal crime?

If you are charged with a federal crime, you must do two things immediately. The first is to request a lawyer to safeguard your rights. Your lawyer will be able to advise you and advocate for you at every step. Once you state that you do not want to speak without counsel present, law enforcement MUST stop speaking to you immediately.

The second thing, and arguably the most important thing you can do for yourself, is to stop talking. Utilizing your right to remain silent – a right protected by the Fifth Amendment – will keep the prosecution from using your own attempts to explain your situation against you.

How do I know if I am about to be charged with a federal crime?

While some crimes are initially investigated locally and become federal matters, rarely does a federal investigation lead to state charges. There are many “hints” about whether your charges will be federal or not, such as the venue and the title of the individual charging you. If you receive what’s called a Target Letter from a federal prosecutor, you are being put on notice that federal charges are imminent and you need a lawyer immediately. You may also be visited at home or work by federal agents. Make sure to get their contact info and inform them that you will only speak with counsel present. Overall, the most effective way to know what you’re facing is to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

How do I get out of jail if I’m charged with a crime?

Getting out of jail after the prosecution files a charge is relatively straightforward. You will have to post a bail bond or get a judge to set conditions of release without a bail bond. In some cases, you may be released by a judge on your own recognizance or with a “signature bond” where you do not have to post actual bail or collateral. Attorney Mark Rankin prioritizes getting your bond matter into court quickly so you can get released as soon as possible.

What do I do if law enforcement comes to my house at night?

If the law enforcement comes to your home or business, demanding entrance with a warrant, you have no choice but to permit the search and collect a receipt (“warrant return”) to account for anything taken from the property. Anything less than compliance can see you face either physical or legal danger. The question of whether their warrant or reason for entering your home was legal can be settled later. As always, protect yourself by speaking to law enforcement ONLY with an attorney present. Once you tell law enforcement that you want counsel, they must stop asking you questions.

However, if law enforcement visits you at home without a warrant you are under no obligation to allow them into your home. Law enforcement may lead you to believe that you have no choice or convince you to give them permission to search. Be strong in your convictions and do not consent to anything without the advice of counsel. When law enforcement is at your door, call or text Mark Rankin while they are still present so that he may speak to them directly.

What do I do if the police want to search my vehicle?

If a law enforcement officer asks to search your car, you have the right to say no. You can even ask them if they have a reason to search your vehicle. It’s possible refusing an initial request will delay a search only momentarily because a police officer may invoke probable cause at that time; that delay is vital. If an officer’s probable cause is in any way faulty, anything they find is unusable, whereas anything an officer finds in an invited search is usable.

Who decides if I will be charged with a crime?

While law enforcement may decide whether there is probable cause for an arrest, only the prosecuting attorney decides whether to charge you with a crime. There is a serious calculation that all prosecutors do when given a criminal file by investigators. If the evidence does not look strong enough to secure a conviction, they may choose to forgo a charge. Hiring a lawyer BEFORE you are charged can result in avoiding charges altogether. It is imperative that you hire counsel quickly before the prosecutor has made a charging decision based only upon the information provided by law enforcement. When he intervenes early, your lawyer may be able to prevent charges being filed at all or get lesser charges filed.

I have a criminal record. Can I get my record “cleared?”

In Florida, there is an opportunity for sealing or expungement of some criminal convictions. However, it is almost impossible to secure a federal expungement. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss whether your prior arrest or court record can be sealed or expunged.

Your Case Is Unique. Get The Full Answers.

Whether your case is in federal or Florida court, Mark Rankin will be there to give you the information you deserve to have. He works hard for clients to get answers to their most complex questions. Reach out today to get started by calling 877-620-0898 or sending an email.