Fort Lauderdale is a prime destination for tourists from across the country and around the world. It’s estimated more than 120 million people flock to Florida each year – many making their way to the Southeast coast. Unfortunately, if you’re arrested on vacation in Fort Lauderdale (most often for DUI, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly, solicitation, and drug possession), your good time can quickly morph into a legal nightmare. Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can help.
How you proceed will depend to some extent on the severity of the crime and the specifics of the case. Chances are, if you’re arrested for a misdemeanor, you will not be held for any extended period of time in jail, but you may be expected to return. It is possible that a lawyer can resolve your case for you without you having to return, but again, it will depend on the exact circumstances. It’s also possible that the consequences of any conviction will follow you in your own district, particularly if there are any supervised release requirements.
If you’re arrested for a felony (which are more serious charges), you may expect your time in jail to be a bit longer, and your legal fees, court costs, and penalties to be more substantial.
It is important to keep in mind that simply going home will not make the charge go away. It is critical to consult with an experienced, local Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer who will offer sound legal advise, ensure your rights are protected, and fight for the best possible outcome.
Some factors to consider following a Fort Lauderdale arrest on vacation:
- Jurisdiction. All law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies operate within certain jurisdiction. A jurisdiction is a geographical area where police and prosecutors are allowed to operate. There are local police departments, county sheriff’s offices, state police, and federal agencies. Most criminal cases in Florida are going to be handled at the local and state level. There are 20 state attorneys offices (prosecutors) in the state of Florida, one for each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits. Fort Lauderdale and Broward County are in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit. If a crime is committed in Florida, it is Florida that retains jurisdiction – no matter where you live. However, sometimes crimes may fall under federal jurisdiction – usually if it involved some interstate connection.
- Warrants. If you commit a crime in Florida and then leave the state, Florida can initiate extradition to forcibly compel you to be brought to the state to answer for charges. Warrants are commonly issued if you fail to appear in court to answer for initial charges. You may be able to avoid this trouble altogether by working with a South Florida attorney.
- Out-of-State DUIs. If you are arrested for DUI in fort Lauderdale, this will be handled by the local jurisdiction. However, if you work with an attorney, you may be able to have oversight of certain penalties (such as probation, drug tests, in-car breathalyzers, drunk driving education courses, etc.) handed over to your home state jurisdiction so that you aren’t compelled to travel back and forth. Understand that if you are convicted of DUI in Florida, that conviction will be entered into a national database – and likely recognized by your home state in the event of any subsequent DUI convictions there. (Only a few states don’t recognize out-of-state DUIs, but it’s better in any case to have those charges pleaded down or dismissed if at all possible.)
- Violations or infractions. If you’re cited with something like a violation of a local noise ordinance, littering, or speeding, you’re free to leave Florida. These are generally minor offenses that can be paid by mail (though traffic tickets will remain on your driving record no matter where you live). If you think the citation was unfair, it may be wise to consult with a local defense lawyer to discuss your legal options.
- Misdemeanor cases. If you’re facing misdemeanor charges, the court is not required to appoint an attorney to your defense – but it’s a very good idea to do so. Hiring a local Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer will most likely mean you will not have to return to Florida for court appearances; your attorney can handle it all from there. If there is jail time associated with your penalties, you would need to return to the state for that.
- Felony cases. If you’re arrested on a felony charge, you will probably have an opportunity to post bail. This is an amount of money you must pay in order to leave jail while awaiting trial. It can be expensive, but this is generally returned to you if you comply. If you fail to appear in court, however, you forfeit this cash. If you cannot afford an attorney in a Florida felony case, a public defender will be appointed to you. However, if you are at all able to do so, investing in private legal counsel is wise. There are very good public defenders in the 17th Judicial Circuit, but many are overloaded with cases and may not be able to devote as much time and attention to your case as you would wish. Given that even lower felony penalties can result in years in prison, it’s wise to invest in your future by hiring a private local defense lawyer.
If you have any questions or have been arrested in Fort Lauderdale while on vacation and need immediate assistance, we can help.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.