If you get arrested in Ft. Myers, arrested in Cape Coral or arrested in Lee County and you go before a Judge, you may be told that your case qualifies for ERC. Most people do not know what that means. The public defender may tell you that you do not need to hire a lawyer and that ERC is an easy and quick way to end your case. They may tell you that it is the best way to resolve your case.
Here are the facts!
ERC means Early Resolution Court. That may or may not be a good thing. On a positive note, that is an indication that your felony charge is not one of the more serious ones. It might be something like possession of cocaine, grand theft shoplifting, or the illegal use of a credit card or some type of felony battery. Some “plea bargains” are not really bargains. The State may be offering you probation on a charge that they were never going to file anyway. They may be offering you “Diversion” on a case they were going to have to drop. For example, if you were in a car that was illegally stopped, and if the police found some weed or pills in the car, they may have arrested everyone in the car. The prosecutor may realize that he has no case because of an illegal search and seizure or, he may realize that if there was more than one person in the car he has no proof the drugs were yours. It is easy for him to get you locked into some type of probation by offering you probation at ERC.
The number one reason people get arrested in Ft. Myers is for a probation violation. Probation for some people is a trap. For some people, there is no way they are going to make it. If you have an addiction, you are not going to make it. You will get violated. The Early Resolution Court makes the criminal justice system less crowded, and in some instances, if your case is hopeless, it may sound like a good way to go…but…you really should talk to a real lawyer.
Initial consultations are free with most law offices. Call before you make a decision. If you jump on the first deal they offer, you may regret it down the road. There is an old saying that a person should “look before they leap”. If you have not had a private one on one conversation with the public defender about the individual facts of your particular case, how can you make an intelligent decision? Our firm represents people on probation violations all the time. Sometimes, by the time they get to us they have already entered a plea and given up great defenses. You need to talk to a good lawyer before you take a deal….not when it is too late.
If a loved one is in jail you may have just been told by the Sheriff’s office that the bond is set at some ridiculous amount that you cannot possible post. What can you do?
Bail bond is supposed to be set simply to guarantee that the person that was arrested will show up for Court. Sadly, some of the judges and prosecutors use excessive bonds to punish people before they are convicted. For example, in Sarasota County and also in Lee County, some judges set clearly excessive bonds in simple misdemeanor cases. I have seen bonds as high as fifty thousand dollars on simple first degree misdemeanors. Some judges set these bonds in domestic violence battery cases to keep the men in jail. They do this after reading a one sided probable cause affidavit hearing only the wife’s side of things. This causes the men to sit in jail or post the high bond and spend a small fortune just to get out of jail. The judges know that you have to appeal the bond setting and know that in the meantime the poor defendant sits in jail.
This gives the wife a tremendous advantage. She has possession of the house, the cars, the bank accounts, the furniture and many of the defendant’s assets. This is not even remotely fair or just but it happens in Sarasota frequently. Bonds should not be used by judges to punish people prior to trial. Unless you have a good aggressive criminal defense lawyer in Sarasota, a man can sit for weeks waiting for some action in his case. These judges need to be appealed and the situation exposed. Setting ridiculous bonds in misdemeanor cases is an abuse of judicial discretion that needs to be corrected.
If a loved one is in jail on a high bond, you are entitled to a bond reduction hearing. We handle these types of hearings routinely and most of the time get the bail bonds reduced. For example if a judge sets a fifty thousand dollar bond, and you use a bondsman, you have to pay a nonrefundable bond premium (fee) of ten percent or five thousand dollars. That money could be better spent hiring a good experienced criminal defense lawyer. Some people spend all their money on bond, just to get out, and then have no money for a good lawyer. My partner Sean O’Halloran in Lee County is an ex prosecutor and knows the ropes when it comes to bond reduction hearings. There are alternatives to high monetary bonds. Pre- trial release Services may be a good option. An electronic monitor is a good option in real high bond situations. Reporting weekly to Pre-Trial services may be a good alternative.
If you have a loved one sitting in jail on a high bond contact us immediately for a free consultation. We may be able to help get him or her out and save you a bundle. We have offices in Ft. Myers, Punta Gorda and Sarasota and can be reached 24/7 at 239 334 8890. Don’t let a loved one sit in jail. We may be able to help.
When people are arrested for a serious felony like trafficking in heroin, lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor or sexual battery, judges at initial appearance often set super high bail bonds. The relatives have to make a decision as to whether or not to bond their loved one out of jail. On the one hand, they are getting frantic calls saying “get me out of here” but on the other hand have a limited budget. All too often, as a Ft. Myers criminal defense lawyer I see families spend every last dime on bail bond and then be stuck with the public defender for trial. Hiring a top notch criminal defense lawyer should be the number one priority. Bail Bondsmen, by law, have to charge a 10% fee for writing and posting the bail bond. That fee can be huge if the bond is high. People are better off hiring a defense attorney who can then go to Court and get the bond reduced in a bail reduction hearing. The money saved can go a long way in providing a top quality defense. The challenge, in this the day of lawyer advertising, is finding the best criminal defense lawyer in Lee County. There is a world of difference between criminal defense lawyers in terms of their experience and success rate. If a lawyer claims he is the “best”, look out. If a lawyer says “I know the judge”, walk away. If a lawyer is referred by bondsman, take that with a grain of salt and do your own homework on that lawyer’s reputation. In the real world, in Ft. Myers, some of the bondmen have a relationship with certain lawyers and you have to be careful that there is not an ulterior motive behind the referral.
Another common problem is that lawyers have similar names or names that sound alike. If you are calling an attorney, be sure you are getting the one you are actually trying to reach. I am Sean O’Halloran and am exclusively a criminal lawyer. I am partners with Peter Aiken, a thirty year veteran criminal defense lawyer. There are other lawyers with my same last name, so it is easy to get confused. Be sure you are getting “the” Sean O’Halloran.
No lawyer can ethically claim to be the “best”, although in this town, some do. What you really need is the lawyer that is “best” for your particular type of case. You need a lawyer that has extensive experience with your particular types of case and set of facts. For example, if you are arrested in an Internet Sex Sting, you might want to consider Peter Aiken who has handled over thirty such cases in the last four years. If you have drug arrest in Ft. Myers or an aggravated battery or domestic violence case, you may wish to consider someone like myself, Sean C. O’Halloran, that actually prosecuted those types of cases in Punta Gorda and Ft. Myers. Many lawyers are former prosecutors. Some have just recently come out into private practice. You want a lawyer that has actually been defending criminal cases for a long time, not someone new to the defense field. Hiring a lawyer is a decision that should not be based on Billboards or slick advertising. Do your homework. Go meet with the lawyer. Ask detailed questions about experience and then decide “Is this the lawyer I want standing beside me in Court”?
A good lawyer will tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear. Everyone wants to hear “It will all be OK”. Do not fall for false promises. If you or a loved one have been arrested in Lee, Charlotte of Sarasota County and want good honest answers, you can call anyone of our three offices or call now to speak with me, Sean O’Halloran at 239 334 8890