The prospect of a criminal conviction is terrifying. After being arrested or formally accused of a crime, an individual is likely going to have a lot of questions. While your future may seem uncertain, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight to regain control over your life: present and future.

To help people going through this difficult experience, Fort Walton Beach criminal lawyer Tim Flaherty and the rest of the team at Flaherty & Merrifield have collected a number of frequently asked questions we hear from our clients to better inform those facing criminal charges in the Fort Walton Beach area. 

How can a criminal defense attorney help me?

If you have been accused of committing a criminal offense in the Fort Walton Beach area, a criminal defense attorney will protect your rights throughout the legal process. Additionally, a criminal defense attorney will work with you to build an effective legal strategy to defend you against the charges. By actively challenging each and every aspect of your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to reduce the charges that you are facing, or eliminate them altogether. From case analysis, potential motion issues and mitigation, Flaherty & Merrifield will exhaust every effort to win your case.
Return to Top

At what point should I retain the assistance of a criminal defense attorney?

Under almost any circumstances, it will be very beneficial to you to retain legal representation as soon as possible. If you have learned that you are being investigated for a crime, it is just as advisable that you consult with a criminal defense attorney as it would be following your arrest. An experienced criminal defense attorney will protect your rights and help protect you from doing anything that you might later regret. In this time of uncertainty, a criminal defense attorney can help you understand your legal situation and then help you build a strong defense. Hiring an attorney immediately could be the difference in whether charges get formally filed or a reduction in the charge is filed.
Return to Top

What results can I expect from hiring a criminal defense attorney?

Since each case is different—presenting its own unique challenges—a criminal defense attorney cannot guarantee the outcome of any criminal case. However, at Flaherty & Merrifield, we will do everything we can to protect your future. We will utilize our 16 years of experience defending criminal cases in the Fort Walton Beach area to help you build a comprehensive legal strategy that will hopefully result in your charges being reduced or dismissed. Our team has successfully challenged and won in trial on cases ranging from the lowest degree misdemeanor to serious felonies.
Return to Top

Should I accept a plea bargain?

Before accepting the terms of any plea bargain, it is highly advisable that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. While you may feel pressured to accept the terms of a plea bargain in order to avoid the harsher punishment that you may be handed should you be found guilty, it may be more beneficial to you to take your case to trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate your legal options and then advise you of the best possible course of action. Accepting a plea bargain may seem attractive because it could keep you out of court. The state knows you are scared, and they will capitalize on your fear. Do not let fear make a life-altering choice. When the decision you are about to make is likely to affect the rest of your life, your choice needs to be informed.
Return to Top

What is your reputation with the local prosecutors and judges?

With over 16 years of experience practicing criminal law before juvenile, misdemeanor, and felony prosecutors and judges, Tim Flaherty has earned a reputation as an attorney with the knowledge and experience that is required to get results. His reputation with prosecutors is such that he will hold the State accountable for each and every aspect of the case that they have leveled against his clients. Over the years, the team at Flaherty & Merrifield has garnered a reputation of not backing down. We will aggressively defend you from the pre-trial stage all the way through the trial itself. Tim has shown his legal expertise and advocacy for his clients in every court in Okaloosa County. As such, he has earned a positive reputation with the local judiciary.
Return to Top

What is probable cause?

Before police officers may legally conduct a search of your person or property, they must have a legally permissible reason for doing so. In legal terminology, this is known as probable cause. So, for instance, if a police officer were to see or smell a controlled substance like marijuana on a person, that police officer would have probable cause to search that person. However, when police officers conduct searches or make arrests without probable cause, any evidence they find or whatever information they gather will be considered inadmissible since it was not obtained by legal means.
Return to Top

Do I have to allow police officers into my home?

Should a police officer ever come to your home and ask to search the premises, you are under no obligation to let them do so if you are not presented with a valid search warrant. Since your home and your property are protected under the Fourth Amendment from unlawful search and seizure, any police officer who intends to enter your premises must legally obtain a search warrant from a judge. With that in mind, if a police officer enters your home and performs a search of your premises without a search warrant, any evidence obtained will be considered inadmissible in court.
Return to Top

How can an attorney help me if I plan on pleading guilty?

Even if you plan on pleading guilty to the offense you have been charged with, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be highly useful. For instance, a criminal defense attorney can help you mitigate the penalties of a conviction or, alternatively, reduce the charges brought against you. In any case, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of the best possible course of action under your given circumstances and, perhaps more importantly, help prevent you from partaking in any particular course of action you might later regret.
Return to Top

Why should I choose you over a public defender?

While public defenders do play a critical role in the criminal justice system—especially for those who cannot afford to hire their own private attorney—it is not uncommon that they will be carrying a caseload of several hundred cases at any given time. As such, even public defenders with the very best of intentions are not likely to have the time to handle any single case with the same care and thoughtfulness that a private attorney will be able to. It is this close attention to detail that, in many cases, can make the difference in cases that seem impossibly complex.
Return to Top

Will the military know about my arrest and subsequent charges?

In all likelihood, the military will learn of your arrest soon after it occurs, as military personnel review local arrest records and jail booking logs on a routine basis. However, the military will typically defer to the rulings of civilian courts when alleged offenses occur off-base, though there may be some form of disciplinary action taken against you. Even so, it is highly advisable that you retain legal representation as early on in the legal process as you possibly can.
Return to Top

What rights do I have once I’ve been placed under arrest?

Once a police officer has placed you under arrest, your rights are clearly defined in the Miranda Rights. Chief among those rights is that right to remain silent. Under most circumstances, it is advisable that you exercise this right until you have had an opportunity to speak with legal counsel. If you cannot afford to retain private legal counsel, the court will appoint you a public defender who will defend you. In any case, you should only speak to law enforcement personnel after you have secured legal representation.
Return to Top

When is a person considered to be under arrest?

Essentially, once a person is no longer free to leave the presence of a police officer, that person is considered to be under arrest. While arrests are often made with an arrest warrant, police officers may exercise their own discretion in the matter and arrest anyone they witness or suspect of committing a crime. In most circumstances, a person will be restrained in some manner—for instance, with handcuffs, in the back of a squad car, with physical force—but this may not always be the case. In any event, it is critical that any person who is being placed under arrest not resist and to immediately ask to speak with a lawyer before exercising their right to remain silent.
Return to Top

What should I do if I learn that I am under investigation for a crime?

If you learn that you are under investigation for a crime, you should strongly consider retaining a criminal defense attorney immediately. Critically, you are under no obligation to speak with investigators, regardless of what they might say. With that in mind, it is advisable that you exercise your right to remain silent; however, if you feel compelled to speak with investigators, a criminal defense attorney may act as a mediator between yourself and the investigators. By doing so, your lawyer can help you ensure that your rights are being upheld and that you do not unintentionally say anything incriminating.
Return to Top

Will my spring break arrest affect me in my home state?

If you are arrested in Fort Walton Beach during spring break, both the arrest and the eventual outcome of your charges will almost certainly affect you in your home state. So, for instance, if you are arrested in Fort Walton Beach, post bail, and return home without ever showing up for your court date, an arrest warrant will be issued for you. Similarly, if you are convicted of a DUI while in Florida, you will likely lose your license in your home state. Essentially, the charges you are facing in Fort Walton Beach will not just go away and will need to be addressed with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Return to Top

Contact an Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.

Brandy Merrifield
Connect with me
Florida Criminal Defense Attorney