Criminal Justice Lawyers in Florida

The six attorneys at Sammis Law Firm focus on criminal defense. We represent clients throughout the following areas in the greater Tampa Bay area including:

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are members of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL), the largest and most respected legal organization for criminal defense attorneys in Florida. We also belong to various legal organizations focused on criminal justice, including the criminal law section of the Florida Bar and the Hillsborough County Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (HCACLD).

What do criminal defense attorneys do?

A criminal defense attorney should zealously represent their client at every stage of the case, from the initial investigation through the final resolution. Some criminal defense attorneys are employed by the state or federal government to represent people who cannot afford to retain an attorney (often called a “public defender”).

Criminal defense attorneys also practice in the private sector, representing clients who pay money to retain them for their services. Most attorneys in the private sector also devote a portion of their practice to taking pro bono cases.

The job description of a criminal defense attorney includes filing and litigating any viable motions, including the following:

  • motions to suppress evidence illegally obtained;
  • motions to exclude evidence that is unduly prejudicial; or
  • motions to dismiss charges not supported by sufficient evidence.

Attorneys also prepare the case for a bench trial in front of the judge or a jury trial.

Before the trial, the prosecutor and defense attorney will discuss a possible plea bargain. The more prepared the defense attorney is for trial, the more willing the prosecutor might be to make a better plea bargain offer to resolve the case short of trial.

Ultimately, the client will decide between accepting the best possible plea bargain agreement that can be negotiated or going to trial. If the client is found guilty at trial, a criminal defense attorney might be hired or appointed to file a direct appeal or post-conviction motion.

The term criminal justice attorney applies more broadly to all types of attorneys working within the criminal justice system, including judges, prosecutors, and attorneys for law enforcement agencies. Others working in the criminal justice system might include investigators and mitigation specialists.

Professional Conduct and Courtroom Decorum in Hillsborough County, FL

As required by ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER S-2024-015, criminal defense attorneys appearing in courtrooms in Hillsborough County, FL, must adhere to the following rules for professional conduct and courtroom decorum:

Judges may announce and enforce additional requirements. Alternatively, judges may excuse compliance with any provision(s) of the Guidelines, Expectations, or Standards as that judge deems appropriate.

The Florida Bar’s Guidelines for Professional Conduct provides:

  1. A lawyer always should interact with parties, counsel, witnesses, jurors or prospective jurors, court personnel, and judges with courtesy and civility, and should avoid undignified or discourteous conduct that is degrading to the court or the proceedings.
  2. Counsel shall admonish all persons at counsel table that gestures, facial expressions, audible comments, or the like, as manifestations of approval or disapproval during the testimony of witnesses or at any other time, absolutely are prohibited.
  3. During trials and evidentiary hearings, the lawyers mutually should agree to disclose the identities of witnesses, duration of witnesses anticipated to be called that day and the following day, and the order in which they will be called to testify, including depositions to be read, and should cooperate in sharing with opposing counsel all visual aid equipment.
  4. A lawyer should abstain from conduct calculated to detract or divert the fact finder’s attention from the relevant facts or otherwise cause the fact finder to reach a decision on an impermissible basis.
  5. A lawyer should not knowingly misstate, distort, or improperly exaggerate any fact or opinion nor permit the lawyer’s silence or inaction to mislead anyone.
  6. In appearing in his or her professional capacity before a tribunal, a lawyer should not
    1. state or allude to any matter that he or she has no reasonable basis to believe is relevant to the case, or that will not be supported by admissible evidence,
    2. ask any question that he or she has no reasonable basis to believe is relevant to the case and that is intended to degrade a witness or other person;
    3. assert a personal knowledge or opinions concerning the facts in issue, except when testifying as a witness,
    4. assert a personal opinion concerning the justness of a cause, the credibility of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant, or the guilt or innocence of an accused, but may argue, on the lawyer’s analysis of the evidence, for any position or conclusion with respect to the matters at issue.
  7. A question should not be interrupted by an objection unless the question is patently objectionable or there is a reasonable ground to believe that information is being included that should not be disclosed to the jury, and an attorney should not object during opening or closing statements, or during the questioning of witnesses, for the sole purpose of disrupting opposing party’s trial presentation.
  8. When a judge already has made a ruling about the inadmissibility of certain evidence, a lawyer should not seek to circumvent the effect of that ruling and get the evidence before the jury by repeated questions relating to the evidence in question, although the lawyer may make a record for later proceedings of the ground for urging the admissibility of the evidence in question. This does not preclude efforts by the lawyer to have the evidence admitted through other, proper means.
  9. A lawyer scrupulously should abstain from all acts, comments, and attitudes calculated to curry favor with any juror, by fawning, flattery, actual or pretended solicitude for the juror’s comfort or convenience, or the like.
  10. A lawyer never should attempt to place before a tribunal or jury evidence known to be clearly inadmissible, nor make any remarks or statements intended improperly to influence the outcome of any case.
  11. A lawyer should accede to reasonable requests for waivers of procedural formalities when the client’s legitimate interests are not affected adversely.
  12. In regard to trial exhibits, a lawyer should make a reasonably good-faith effort to identify those exhibits that the lawyer believes will be proffered into evidence.
  13. A lawyer should not mark on or alter exhibits, charts, graphs, and diagrams without opposing counsel’s permission or leave of court.
  14. A lawyer should stipulate all facts and principles of law which are not in dispute.

Additional Resources

Hillsborough County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (HCACLD) – Find information on HACDL, an organization that supports the criminal defense bar in Hillsborough County in both state and federal court.

Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Founded as a non-profit association in 1988, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Inc., (FACDL) supports and educates criminal defense attorneys throughout the state through networking opportunities, quality continuing legal education seminars, and its publication “Florida Defender.” Since its creation, FACDL has continued to promote excellence in the practice of criminal law and protect the rights of the accused. Leslie Sammis and Jason Sammis are both Life Members of this organization.

This article was last updated on Friday, March 15, 2024.