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Criminal Defense Attorney in Pensacola, Florida

According to statistics from the Annual Uniform Crime Reports, there were 507,498 total arrests by law enforcement in Florida in 2020. In the state of Florida, a person could be arrested and charged for committing a crime or violating a law. Depending on the nature and severity of the crime and other surrounding circumstances, a convicted defendant in Florida may face substantial fines, lengthy imprisonment, a permanent criminal record, and other devastating, life-changing consequences. 

If you’re under criminal investigation or if you have been arrested and charged with a crime, hiring a highly-skilled Florida criminal defense attorney is imperative for detailed guidance. Panhandle Defense Firm is committed to offering effective legal guidance and aggressive representation to clients facing criminal charges. Attorney Tom McGuire can investigate every detail of your case, explain the state’s criminal process, and determine the best defenses to fight your charges in pursuit of the most favorable outcome. 

Panhandle Defense Firm is proud to serve clients across Pensacola, Florida, and surrounding areas throughout Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties, including Milton, Crestview, and Fort Walton Beach.

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Criminal Charges in Florida  

A criminal charge is a formal accusation made by a peace officer, public prosecutor, or governmental authority stating that a person has committed a crime or violated the law. In the state of Florida, criminal charges may be categorized into misdemeanors and felonies. 


A misdemeanor is a crime that is less severe than a felony. It is the least serious category of crime that a person can be charged with in The Sunshine State. Misdemeanors are classified into two degrees: 

First-Degree Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Examples include: 

  • Simple battery 

  • Driving while Under the Influence (DUI) (unless there are “aggravating factors”) 

  • Violating a protection or restraining order 

  • Violation of probation 

  • Marijuana possession 

  • Cyberstalking 

  • Shoplifting 

  • Indecent exposure 

Second-Degree Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. Examples include: 

  • Prostitution 

  • Simple assault 

  • Disorderly intoxication 

  • Driving on a Suspended License 

  • Disorderly conduct 


A felony is a serious crime that attracts more severe punishments. Felonies are classified into the following: 

Capital Felony: Punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Examples include: 

  • First-degree murder 

  • Armed kidnapping 

  • Capital drug trafficking 

Life Felony: Punishable by life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $15,000. Examples include: 

  • Human trafficking involving minors 

  • Kidnapping a minor under 13 years of age and committing s sexual offense 

  • Sexual battery where the victim is a minor under 12 years of age and causes serious injuries 

  • Crimes involving a weapon of mass destruction 

  • Robbery with a deadly weapon  

  • Unpremeditated murder 

First-Degree Felony: Punishable by up to 30 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000. Examples include: 

  • Carjacking 

  • Aggravated battery on a peace officer 

  • Burglary with battery or assault 

  • DUI manslaughter 

  • Trafficking a substantial amount of illegal drugs 

  • Human trafficking 

  • Sexual battery 

Second-Degree Felony: Punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Examples include: 

  • Extortion 

  • Child Abuse 

  • Some domestic violence offenses 

  • Vehicular homicide 

  • Felon in possession of firearms 

  • Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell 

  • Sale of marijuana to a minor 

  • Some drug charges 

Third-Degree Felony: Punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000. Examples include: 

  • Aggravated stalking 

  • Driving as a habitual traffic offender 

  • Some domestic violence offenses 

  • Theft of a car or firearm 

  • Trespass while armed 

  • Burglary 

  • Illegal drug possession 

  • Resisting arrest with violence 

If you or someone you know has recently been arrested or indicted for a crime, you need to act quickly and retain a highly-skilled Florida criminal defense attorney. Your legal representative can help uphold your rights, explain what to expect from the criminal process, and help build your defense. 

Florida Criminal Court Process  

The criminal court process in Florida involves the following phases: 

Arrest or Notice to Appear: Law enforcement officers in Florida can make an arrest for allegedly committing a crime or violating the law. Alternatively, the alleged defendant can receive a notice to appear in court in lieu of arrest. 

First Appearance: Within 24 to 48 hours after the arrest, the defendant will have their first court appearance. The judge will decide whether to release without charges, charge the person, and determine the bail amount. The defendant isn’t required to speak at the first appearance. 

Arraignment: Following the arrest, the defendant will be arraigned in front of a judge. During the arraignment, the judge will read the charges and advise the defendant of their rights to an attorney. The defendant may plead “not guilty,” “guilty,” or “no contest.” 

Preliminary Hearing: During the preliminary hearing, the offender will hear the prosecutor’s case against them. This is the opportunity to review and dispute the prosecutor’s evidence and establish that the defendant is innocent. If successful, the charges may be reduced or ultimately dropped. 

Plea Negotiation: If the case isn’t dismissed, the prosecution attorney and the defense counsel will work to possibly reach a plea bargain. If a plea agreement isn’t reached, the case will proceed to trial. 

Trial: In Florida, trials may either be trial by judge or trial by jury. 

  • Judge Trial: In a trial by a judge, both sides will have the opportunity to present their case. The judge will review the available evidence and make a final decision. 

  • Jury Trial: A jury consisting of 12 members (for capital cases) or 6 members (for other criminal cases) will hear the evidence against the defendant and the defendant’s defense. The jury will deliberate on the case and decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. For a guilty verdict, the judge will determine the appropriate punishment. 

Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty of the charges, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date to determine the right punishment for the crime or charges. 

Appeal: A defendant who believes that they were wrongly convicted or sentenced unjustly may be eligible to file an appeal to a higher court within 30 days from the date the trial court issued its final judgment. 

A skilled Florida criminal defense lawyer can represent you vigorously in every phase of the criminal court process, dispute the accusations against you with factual evidence, and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. 

Work With a Knowledgeable
Criminal Defense Attorney 

Defending your criminal allegations without experienced guidance and representation can increase your possibility of getting convicted and suffering the maximum penalties. Unfortunately, a criminal conviction could jeopardize your personal reputation, freedom, quality of life, eligibility for public benefits, career, as well as professional opportunities. Therefore, when under criminal investigation, you need to retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to help strategize your defense and protect your legal rights. 

With over 35 years of extensive experience, Attorney Tom McGuire has the diligence, expertise, and resources to guide and represent clients in their criminal cases. As your legal counsel, he will evaluate and investigate all of the facts of your unique situation and outline a strong defense to help fight your charges. In addition, Attorney Tom McGuire will help you navigate the Florida criminal justice system and make sure you’re given fair and just treatment in every phase of the legal process.

Criminal Defense Attorney Serving Pensacola, Florida 

If you’re facing criminal charges, don’t face them alone. Contact Panhandle Defense Firm today to schedule a simple case assessment. Attorney Tom McGuire can offer you the reliable representation, skilled legal guidance, and advocacy you need to fight your criminal accusations. The firm is proud to serve clients across Pensacola, Florida, and surrounding areas throughout Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties, including Milton, Crestview, and Fort Walton Beach.