Can't Go Back
I am an attorney, not a magician. I don’t have a DeLorean that goes 88 mph, so I can go back to the future. I don’t have a TARDIS or some other Bill and Ted’s time traveling telephone booth. I don’t have any pixie dust, magic beans, or a wand that I can wave to magically undo what you may have done. And had you asked me before you did it, I would have told you that it was not a good idea and to not do it. Unfortunately, if you are talking to me about criminal representation, then we are long past what did or did not happen. And I am sorry about that, but…
On the other hand, what I bring to the table is this: a familiarity with a vast number of criminal scenarios because I have a ton of experience under my belt at both the trial and appellate criminal court levels. Experience that I earned the old fashioned way with a proven formula: hard word and preparation. In this business, there is no substitute for slugging it out in the trenches. To that end, I have nearly twenty years of representing persons accused of various major criminal offenses (homicides, sex offenses, trafficking in narcotics) both in state and federal court. I have earned my battle scars and stripes. In that sense, I don’t just talk the talk, I can (and do) walk the walk. You can take that sentiment to the bank.
Throughout my career, I have tried a plethora of jury trials, filed and argued a boatload of motions, and have dozens of criminal appeals under my belt. I even have published opinions about me as the trial or appellate attorney. It is because of my experience that I have gained a proficient awareness of how to successfully navigate someone through the criminal justice system at both the trial and appellate levels. Lastly, I attended a top-notch law school in the Northeast. One thing is for sure: putting aside the education, there is no substitute in my opinion for hard fought criminal defense experience at both the trial and appellate levels. Experience matters and I would bet on my experience when the chips are down.
All of my experience has given me a backbone and allowed me to build and foster the confidence to properly represent those charged with the most heinous crimes. Make no mistake, representing persons charged with major crimes isn't always a walk a park. The attorney has to have requisite chutzpah to represent anyone charged with a major crime. It takes heart, attitude, and desire to accomplish the representation. It's not for the faint of heart, undisciplined person, or feeble skilled. It takes a serious player and the task is not to be taken lightly because, right or wrong, someone's soul hangs in the balance.
The cold, hard, and ugly truth about representing persons charged with criminal offenses, especially major crimes, is that some people may end up doing some prison time. It is the nature of the business. Not everyone can be saved. If you don’t believe me, then ask any ER doctor if they wish they could save them all. But you can't. And it's not for a lack of trying, but it's the same deal in the criminal justice system. In tough-luck situations unlike the life and death drama of the ER, the real question in the criminal sense ends up being: how much time will I get? And on what charge? And will I have to do the entire sentence? Who knows, but these are the questions that have to get answered in nearly all representations.
Don’t have any misunderstandings – any criminal charge should be treated as if it is as serious as a heart attack. Being charged with a criminal offense no matter how minor the charge is always a “big deal.” There are no insignificant criminal offenses when incarceration (jail or prison) might be the result. A few days in jail never sounds pleasurable to a reasonable person (I mean who wants to go to jail for even a day?). Each criminal offense in Florida has the potential for the accused to spend some amount of time incarcerated in either a county jail or a state prison. Period. Even on a first offense.
In fact, the focus in Florida is an extreme preference for incarceration rather than rehabilitation. Florida’s sentencing code is actually titled the Criminal Punishment Code (“CPC”). And depending on the severity of the offense, incarceration can be long, hard, and have far-reaching collateral consequences. And make no mistake, once charged, the state usually puts its “back into it” as it prosecutes the matter attempting to obtain a conviction. You could be singled out and may feel like you are being persecuted, but don’t be grandiose, the State usually rolls out the red carpet for all offenses charged.
I am not joking when I say that everyone charged with a criminal offense in Florida can be incarcerated. This is not the same things as saying that everyone charged with a criminal offense will be incarcerated, but it is always a realistic possibility floating around. Throughout my career, I have seen people (not my clients) go to prison for offenses that I did not think that they committed. On the other hand, I have also seen people I thought were guilty as sin walk out the front door, free persons, go home. In fact, they’re on the streets now as we speak. Nonetheless, I have seen quite a few people go on to serve an incarcerative sentence. In some cases, the accused caught a bad break with the judge or the jury. Or maybe they got bad advice from their attorney, what is sometimes referred to as “ineffective assistance” from their counsel. Or maybe they committed the offense – actually did the crime. In any event, it is for these reasons that you need the best defense attorney you can afford. Period.
A good criminal defense attorney won’t blow smoke up your ass. He/she will shoot straight with you as he/she helps you navigate this confusing legal landscape. In my nearly 20 years, I steadfastly refuse to blow smoke up my client’s asses. I simply don’t have time for it. I don’t believe it is fair to my clients either. I am as honest and upfront about my client’s case as I can be. If I don’t know something, then I say that – “I don’t know” and I’ll go a try to find out the answer. But I can tell you this- in some instances, my candid honesty about the case has cost me business because some clients don’t want to face the harsh truth that it might not be okay in the end.
Honesty and integrity with the client form the backbone of a proper criminal defense relationship between the client and attorney in my opinion. It is the same in anything else in life. For instance, you go to the doctor’s office with your sick child and the doctor diagnoses that the child is severely ill with a rare incurable disease. The doctor decides to conceal the truth because he does not want to hurt your feelings or deal with any emotional outburst. Instead, he makes the conscious decision to placate you by telling you everything is okay even though it isn’t. Is that acceptable? The question scarcely escapes its own statement and the answer is “no.”
I also believe that my clients need to be as honest as they can be with me. There is nothing worse that when a client lies about key facts for too long into the representation. Strategic decisions must be made throughout the representations. And bad decisions are usually made based upon assumptions based on faulty information. Worse, there are many instances were these bad decisions cannot be corrected and could have been avoided if the client had gotten over any embarrassment and told the truth. There isn’t usually a “do over” in the justice system. As such, it is important that the client be upfront and honest as best as they can be about everything, especially if it is uncomfortable or embarrassing. A few minutes of embarrassment behind closed doors might possibly help avoid a stupid and tragic decision down the road based on bad facts that results in several years in prison for the client. Always remember, the a good defense attorney is not there to judge you, but represent you and help you make better decisions along the way.
As a professional, I understand the solemn responsibility bestowed upon the criminal defense attorney. It is a heavy one. Sometimes it is a difficult one. The true role of the criminal defense attorney is not to “get the client off.” It just isn’t. Sometimes that is simply not in the cards. There are many instances where the facts are so awful for the defense that it does not matter. The same could be true for an operating room after a patient has come in through the ER. The ER doctor operating on the patient takes the patient as the patient is and doesn’t get to wish that the patient’s wounds aren’t as severe as they actually are. It would be silly to think otherwise in reality. It is the same in criminal law. The defense attorney does not get to wish a defense into being. That kind of thinking is not realistic.
The role of the defense attorney is to ensure that the client gets the best representation as they navigate through the system. In this regard, it is the defense attorney’s responsibility to make the prosecutors, judges, law enforcement, jurors …etc. abide by the law and constitution. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not have any qualms about a client being sentenced to prison if law enforcement, the prosecutors, the judge, and the jury all followed the law and constitution. If the prosecutor proved the case to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt and the judge pronounced a reasonable, lawful sentence, then I am at peace with the conviction because justice was served as the founders intended. That is not to say that I might not like the outcome, but I am peace with my role in the system. Keep in mind, whatever lawful verdict a jury renders, justice is served because the system worked. It is when there is a breakdown in the system and one or more of the players operated outside the law and/or constitution, then I have a major problem with their conduct and the result.
If you or a loved one is in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney for case or an appeal, then do not hesitate to contact www.candelalawfirm.com or Anthony Candela at (813) 417-3645 for a review of the situation. He has the skill and expertise to properly represent you or a loved one in court or on appeal.
The purpose of this blog is purely education/information and should not viewed as creating any attorney-client privilege between the reader and author.
Anthony Candela is a Board-Certified attorney. He opened the Candela Law Firm, P.A. in 2014 and handles primarily criminal trials and appeals. He received his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 2000 and his B.A. in Political Science from King’s College in 1996. He was board certified by the Florida Bar in Criminal Trial in August 2008, recertified August 2013 and is pending recertification in 2018. He is also admitted to the Middle District of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal. #candelalawfirm #agoodtampadefenselawyer