Your Fort Myers Criminal Case: The Basics

You've just read a frantic email from Aunt Lulu. The Fort Myers Police arrested your nephew again. This time it was more serious than simply having an open beer can in a car. This time, he stole the whole car! Apparently, he was casing out potential vehicles on Winkler Road near the Baptist Church. He found a brand new Toyota Camry and decided to take it for a "test drive." Well, he test-drove it and himself right into the Lee County Jail.

You desperately want to help Aunt Lulu, but find your nephew's antics tiresome. While you won't pay to get him out of jail, you are more than willing to learn about the law. Fortunately, FindLaw has compiled some general information about Fort Myers criminal cases.

Who Are the Cops in Fort Myers?

If you've been arrested in Lee County, it was probably by the Fort Myers Police, the Florida Highway Patrol, or the Lee County Sheriff. Usually, the officer involved will write up a police report detailing what you did to submit it to the Office of the State Attorney to review and decide what charges, if any, to file.

What Will Happen at My Arraignment?

Within 24 hours of getting arrested, you'll be brought to court for the first time. This is known as your arraignment. A number of things usually happen at this hearing including:

  • Learning what formal charge(s) are being brought against you;
  • Deciding if you will hire a private attorney to represent you or determine whether you qualify for the services of an attorney with the Public Defender's Office;
  • Deciding the amount of bail in your case.

How to Post a Bond

After getting arrested, you'll either be released on your own recognizance or have to post bond. A bond is an amount of money you, or a person bailing you out of jail, promises to pay the court in case you fail to appear on any date set by the court. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in a case in order to get out.

You can go to the Lee County Clerk of the Court at 1700 Monroe Street to post bond in cash or through a bondsman.

Remember, when posting a bond, you are guaranteeing that the defendant will appear for all court appearances and abide by all non-financial conditions. Any cash or property posted is subject to forfeiture if the defendant fails to comply with all orders of the court.

Statute of Limitations in Florida

Most states have a statute of limitations or time limit to file charges. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is either one or two years from the date of the offense.

For cases involving murder or life in prison, there isn't any time limit. For most other felonies, the statute of limitations is either three or four years. If you are accused of a theft-related offense, the time limit can be as long as five years from the date you allegedly committed the crime. Any crime involving abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly or disabled is also five years.

Possible Misdemeanor Sentences

A Florida misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career and your freedom. If you are a non-citizen, a misdemeanor can impact your immigration status.

Florida misdemeanors are classified into two categories: first and second degree.

Common Fort Myers misdemeanors include DUIs, shoplifting, assault, drunk in public, or some drug possession charges. The following are typical penalties, by category:

First Degree Misdemeanor

  • Up to One Year in Jail
  • One Year Probation
  • $1,000 Fine

Second Degree Misdemeanor

  • Up to Sixty Days in Jail
  • Six Months Probation
  • $500 Fine

Some Florida misdemeanor crimes carry additional penalties such mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes.

Potential Felony Sentences

A felony is a very serious crime. Getting convicted can carry huge penalties, including possible years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of the offender's life.

Felonies in Fort Myers include murder, robbery, sexual assault, fraud, drugs sales, and some domestic violence.

Felonies are classified as third degree, second degree, first degree, life, or in the most serious situations, the death penalty. Basically, the more serious the felony, the higher the penalty. Here are some examples of penalty ranges:

First Degree Felony

  • Up to Thirty Years Prison
  • Thirty Years Probation
  • $10,000 Fine

Second Degree Felony

  • Up to Fifteen Years Prison
  • Fifteen Years Probation
  • $10,000 Fine

Third Degree Felony

  • Up to Five Years Prison
  • Five Years Probation
  • $5,000 Fine

Felons may also face mandatory drug and alcohol treatment, and community service, among other things.

The Bottom Line About Fort Myers Criminal Cases

The information contained above should be considered general in nature. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal case in Fort Myers, you have options and rights. For information and advice specific to your case you may wish to consider consulting a Fort Myers criminal defense attorney.

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