Questions and Answers About South Florida DUI, Criminal, Domestic Violence Cases and Home Insurance Claims

Many of those charged with a crime in Florida have little experience with the law, and they naturally have many questions. From information about how the local legal system works to the possible consequences of your charge, find answers to many common questions here.

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  • I was stopped by security and accused of shoplifting. What should I do?

    When security stops you at a store, typically they will ask to take your photograph and have you sign a written confession. You are not required to consent to either of these things, and you probably shouldn’t. If you refuse the store will call the police and you’ll either be arrested or issued a promise to appear. Depending on the value of the good you allegedly stole, you’ll be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. Be polite with the officers, but do not say anything regarding the accusation against you. As soon as you are able, call lawyer. There are many defenses to a shoplifting case, but you’ll need a good lawyer on your side.


  • What is the theft diversion program?

    First time offenders may be able to have all the charges DISMISSED by negotiating a Diversion Program.  What you’ll have to do will be completely different depending on the County where the case is. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach might only be a few miles away, but they have 3 totally different diversion programs.  

    Typically, these programs can range from 3 to 18 months and the prosecutor will want you to pay Restitution if there is any, complete an Anti-Shoplifting Course, community service and stay out of trouble.   


    The length largely depends on if it is a misdemeanor or a felony, and also the amount of restitution involved.  If there is a lot of money that needs to be repaid, then you’ll need more time to pay that unless you can come up with a full payment right away.  


    There are informal diversion programs and formal diversion programs.  

    If it’s an Informal Diversion Program, you’re not actually monitored by anyone.  That means you just complete the community service, Anti-Shoplifting class, and anything else is recommend and the case will be dismissed when we go back to court.

    For a Formal Diversion Program, you’re actually monitored by probation and have to check in with them every month in addition to the Anti-Shoplifting Class, community service and other stipulations.


  • What are the punishments for theft, or shoplifting?

    Petit Theft Shoplifting in Florida

    If you’re arrested for Petit Theft in Florida, the max punishment will be either 60 days in County jail or 364 days in County jail depending again on the value of the items.  

    • $99 or Less – Max Jail time 60 days

    • $100 to $299 – Max Jail time 364 days


    Grand Theft Shoplifting in Florida

    If you’re arrested for Grand Theft in Florida, the max punishment will up to 30 years Florida State Prison depending again on the value of the items.  

    • $300 to 20 Grand the max will be 5 years in Prison.  

    • 20 Grand to 100 Grand – 15 years in Prison

    • 100 Grand or more – 30 years in Prison


    Additional Penalties for Shoplifting in Florida

    Any shoplifting charge can result in a driver’s license suspension of 6 or 12 months.  I have no idea what shoplifting has to do with a person’s ability to drive, but I don’t make the laws folks.  

    Some other penalties for Shoplifting include

    • Becoming a convicted felon  (losing your right to vote, own a gun, and has a bad stigma)

    • Probation – Up to the same amount of max prison time –Up to 5, 15, or 30 years of probation.

    • Fines, and Court Costs .


    There are many ways to avoid jail time in theft case, but having the right lawyer is essential.


  • How do you prove the value of the items in a theft case?

    The state has to prove the fair market value of the items in a theft case, NOT the replacement cost of the items. To understand what this means, take the example below.


    Let’s say you’re on trial for stealing a used Iphone from a person.  The State will try to say that to replace a stolen IPhone costs up to $1,000 depending on the model.  

    But it’s very important to remember they can’t just say the amount it costs to replace the IPhone.

    They need to prove the CURRENT FAIR MARKET VALUE of the IPhone that was actually taken.  That depends on a variety of factors such as:

    1. Which model IPhone is it?

    2. What memory capacity is it?

    3. What condition is the phone in?

    4. How much has the IPhone depreciated since it was purchased?

    Certain items, such as cars depreciate in value significantly once they’ve been driven. So in determining the current fair market value of the car that would have to be factored in as well.


  • What is the difference between petit theft and grand theft?

    The difference is determined by the value of the goods that were stolen. If the value of the goods stolen is less than $300 then you will be charged with petit theft. If the value of the goods is over $300 then you’ll be charged with grand theft.


    Petit theft is a misdemeanor charge, whereas grand theft is a felony charge and carries much harsher punishments.


  • What is drug trafficking?

    Florida law defines drug trafficking as the intentional sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, possession or transporting a specific amount of a controlled substance. The amount of the substance varies by illegal drug.


  • What is drug possession?

    Drug possession is an offense by someone holding controlled substances for personal use and can be charged as a felony.

    In order to prove possession, the prosecution must prove the following:

    You were in possession of a controlled (illegal) drug
    You knew, or should have known you had it and that it was illegal
    You had control over the location and presence of the drug


    Depending on the degree of the charges, the penalties for being caught in possession of illegal drugs can be very severe.


  • It’s my first drug possession charge in South Florida. Will I go to jail?

    While no attorney can guarantee the result of any case, it is unlikely you will go to jail for your first possession charge, especially if you’ve never been in trouble with the law before. However it will still depend on the type of drug you possessed (controlled substances are typically treated more harshly than marijuana), the amount, and the individual circumstances surrounding the case.


  • What is a drug diversion program?

    In South Florida, many jurisdictions have a drug court or a pre-trial diversion program that is drug-specific, meaning for drug offenses. As long as they don’t believe that you are dealing drugs, you may qualify to go through a pre-trial diversion program that would provide the opportunity to get treatment for your drug and alcohol issue, and earn a dismissal of the charges by reporting to the program, providing random urine samples to show that you’re staying clean, doing various community service hours, and getting counseling/treatment. If you stick with the program and the charges are then dismissed, you may have the opportunity to get your record expunged.


  • What are the punishments for drug charges?

    Punishments can range from court-mandated treatment all the way up to lengthy prison sentences depending on the severity of the crime, and whether there is a mandatory minimum in place.


  • What is drug court?

    Treatment-based drug court is an alternative to incarceration for defendants who enter the judicial system because of addiction.  Through a non-adversarial team approach combined with an intensive, judicially monitored treatment program, drug court offers defendants the opportunity to restore themselves as productive, non-criminal members of society.

    A Drug Court has been defined by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs as having 10 key components:

    1. Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.

    2. Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants' due process rights.

    3. Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program.

    4. Drug Courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.

    5. Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.

    6. A coordinated strategy governs drug court response to participants compliance.

    7. Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential.

    8. Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.

    9. Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations.

    10. Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court effectiveness.

  • What if the drugs were illegally found?

    Violation of your 4th amendment rights is a defense against drug charges.


    The search-and-seizure provisions of the Fourth Amendment are all about privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects against "unreasonable" searches and seizures by state or federal law enforcement authorities.

    The flip side is that the Fourth Amendment does permit searches and seizures that are reasonable. In practice, this means that the police may override your privacy concerns and conduct a search of you, your home, barn, car, boat, office, personal or business documents, bank account records, trash barrel, or whatever, if:

    • the police have probable cause to believe they can find evidence that you committed a crime, and a judge issues a warrant, or

    • the particular circumstances justify the search without a warrant first being issued.

    When the Fourth Amendment Doesn't Protect You:

    The Fourth Amendment applies to a search only if a person has a "legitimate expectation of privacy" in the place or thing searched. If not, the amendment offers no protection because there are, by definition, no privacy issues.

    Courts generally use a two-part test to determine whether, at the time of the search, a defendant had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place or things searched:

    • Did the person actually expect some degree of privacy?

    • Is the person's expectation objectively reasonable—that is, one that society is willing to recognize?