Criminal Defense in Polk County

If you were arrested for a misdemeanor, DUI, or felony criminal offense in Polk County, FL, contact an experienced attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.

During the free initial consultation, we can discuss the charges pending against you, the typical penalties imposed for those charges, and the best ways to fight the case for an outright dismissal.

Contact us to find out what happens at the first appearance hearing, the arraignment, dispositions hearings, pretrial conferences, or trial. We fight charges prosecuted at the courthouse in both Bartow and Winter Haven, FL.

Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal defense. We fight cases after an arrest in any of the following cities in Polk County, including Auburndale, Bartow, Davenport, Haines City, Lake Alfred, Lake Hamilton, Lake Wales, Lakeland, or Winter Haven, FL.

During the consultation, find out the best way to fight the accusations. Contact us today to speak with an attorney about your criminal case.

Call 813-250-0500.

Types of Crimes Prosecuted in Polk County, FL

Our website provides general information on various criminal offenses in Florida, including the special procedures and considerations that may apply to your criminal case in Polk County, FL.

At Sammis Law Firm, P.A., we represent clients charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes, including the following:

  • DUI – including “refusal” to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine the alcohol concentration or presence of controlled substances after a DUI arrest or the drunk driving case involving a breathalyzer result over .08 on Florida’s Intoxilyzer 8000;
  • Driving on a Suspended or Revoked Driver’s License – including with or without knowledge and habitual traffic offender cases;
  • Reckless driving – which is a serious criminal traffic charge punishable by up to 90 days in jail for a first offense;
  • Habitual traffic offender (HTO) – including fighting to remove the five-year revocation through a post-conviction motion to undo one of the underlying offenses that caused the HTO revocation;
  • Violation of Probation (VOP) -including motions for early termination of probation;
  • Theft offenses –
    • Dealing or Trafficking in Stolen Property (Selling) under Section 812.019 (level 5) (second degree felony)

    • False Verification of Ownership to Pawnbroker under Section 539.001 (level 1)(third degree felony)

    • shoplifting (petit theft)
    • grand theft
    • dealing in stolen property
    • employee
    • theft
    • fraud
  • Domestic Violence including domestic violence battery – an allegation of a push, shove or other offense touching between a husband and wife, blood relatives, or former intimate partners;
  • Drug crimes from the simple possession of marijuana to drug trafficking;
  • Vehicle forfeiture or asset forfeiture;
  • Juvenile Court criminal cases;
  • Criminal appeals;
  • Extradition to Bartow, Polk County, FL, on a Fugitive Warrant;
  • Resolving an outstanding warrant including a bench warrant, an arrest warrant, or a capias for your arrest after a failure to appear or failure to comply with a court order;
  • Seal or Expunge – erase a criminal record from Bartow, Polk County, FL.

Law Enforcement Agencies in Polk County, FL

The local police departments in Polk County, FL, are all members of Polk County Mutual Aid agreement. In addition to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, other local law enforcement agencies include:

  • Auburndale Police Department;
  • Bartow Police Department;
  • Davenport Police Department;
  • Haines City Police Department;
  • Lake Alfred Police Department;
  • Lake Hamilton Police Department;
  • Lake Wales Police Department;
  • Lakeland Police Department; and
  • Winter Haven Police Department.

Criminal Justice Programs in Polk County

The prosecutor’s office in Polk County has certain “diversion” programs that may be available to individuals with no prior criminal record.

In some misdemeanor cases, your criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow you to participate in a pretrial deferred prosecution “PDPP” program.

Different types of “diversion” programs may be available if you are charged with a third-degree felony or if the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charge to a third-degree felony for purposes of allowing you to enter a diversion program.

If the prosecutor agrees to a misdemeanor diversion program, then you will typically be required to fill out a PDPP recommendation sheet.

Within two (2) weeks the director of the program will contact you to schedule an interview. During the interview, certain requirements will be assigned such as:

  1. Payment for investigative costs to the appropriate law enforcement agency (if any)
  2. Payment of a cost of the prosecution to the State Attorney’s Office in Bartow;
  3. Completing community service hours (the number of hours can often be negotiated with the prosecutor prior to being referred to the program);
  4. Payment of restitution to the alleged victim in the case;
  5. Attending a behavior modification or counseling program such as an anger management class called A.I.M., which stands for “Anger is Management”);
  6. Having no contact or at least “no violent” contact with the alleged victim unless approved by the court (this can often be negotiated with the Polk County prosecutor prior to the PDPP referral); and
  7. Agreeing not to use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs.

The Negotiated Plea in Polk County, FL

Not all criminal cases go to trial. In some cases, the person accused might consider entering a plea for a negotiated disposition. In almost every case, whether you ask for one or not, the Assistant State Attorney will fill out a form called “Offer by State for a Negotiated Plea.”

Taking the first offer made by the prosecutor might not be in your best interest. Instead, your criminal defense attorney might be able to negotiate a better deal by showing the prosecutor all of the problems with their case.

Your attorney might negotiate the offer down significantly, particularly if there is a viable motion to suppress or good defenses for trial.

In the event the client does not want to accept the offer, the criminal defense attorney can take the case to trial after fully litigating all viable motions including a motion to suppress or a motion to dismiss.

In most cases, the more the case is prepared for trial, the more motivated the prosecutor becomes to make a better pre-trial offer to resolve the case.

The range of possible sentencing options contained on the State Attorney’s offer form include:

    • A term of days in the county jail to be served as straight time, suspended or WWR;
    • Concurrent or consecutive to another case;
    • A term of probation;
    • Special conditions of probation including:
      • ADAPT Class
      • AIM Class
      • Domestic violence evaluation / treatment emphasis on
        • alcohol
        • drug abuse
        • mental health issues
      • Alcohol evaluation and recommended follow up treatment
      • 8 week anger management
      • 26 week Batterers Intervention Program (BIP)
      • No contact with victim
      • Stay away from ________
      • Use best efforts to obtain GED
      • No weapon / firearms
      • No alcohol / bars
      • Random urinalysis
      • Warrantless search / seizure
      • ACS Hours
      • ACF Milepost Live Class Only
      • NCTI School
      • Ignition Interlock
      • DUI counter attack school
      • DUI multiple-offender school
      • Victim Impact Panel
      • Day Vehicle Impound
      • Driver’s License Suspension
      • HIV / STD testing
      • Forfeit Seized property, to wit: _______
      • 4 hour defense driving school
      • 8 hour defense driving school
    • Other Terms
      • $150 misdemeanor / traffic or ____ payable to SAO FS 938.27(8) (SAO Cost)
      • Investigative Costs
      • Fine and court costs
      • Restitution
      • Public Defender Fee

By taking an aggressive approach to fighting the charges, your criminal defense attorney can often negotiate a better resolution.

The best resolutions are typically negotiated after your attorney files and litigate a motion to exclude evidence, suppress evidence, or dismiss one or more of the charges pending against you for insufficient evidence.

Only after getting the case ready for a jury trial and a not guilty verdict does the prosecutor become willing to make the best possible offer to resolve the case short of trial.

Pre-Trial Release Conditions in Polk County, FL

Administrative Order No. 2-12.2 explains the pre-trial release program for cases prosecuted in Polk County, FL. The procedures were implemented to prevent serious prisoner overcrowding in the Polk County Jail. 

The Pre-Trial Release staff completes the daily interview with selected jail inmates and makes release recommendations to the judge assigned to preside over First Appearance Hearings.

The recommendations are also provided to the State Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Offices, and private criminal defense attorneys. 

If the defendant is required to be supervised by the Pre-Trial Release Program, the Pre-trial Release staff will report alleged violations of the court-ordered conditions of release, including concerns about the defendant’s ability to comply, to the assigned judge.

Juvenile Detention Hearings are conducted in courtroom 8E at the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow. The assigned judge is requested to commence these hearings at 8:15 a.m. on holidays and weekends.

On the weekends, the first appearance hearings start at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 8E in Bartow, FL, for all three (3) counties in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Regular weekend duty hours are from 5:00 p.m. Friday until 8:00 a.m. Monday. Holiday weekend duty shall begin at 5:00 p.m. on the last regular working day and conclude at 8:00 a.m. on the next regular working day. Isolated single day holiday duty shall begin at 5:00 p.m. on the proceeding day and conclude at 8:00 a.m. on the day following the holiday.

Arraignment Dates for Felony Cases in Polk County 

What happens at the arraignment in Polk County, FL. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these procedures have recently changed and are continuing to change.

Additional information may be found on the Tenth Judicial Circuit Website at If you have questions or need additional support, please email Court Technology at, or call (863) 534-7788.

According to Administrative Order No. 2-19.2, the courts have developed procedures for scheduling the arraignment date for felony cases in the Circuit Court in Polk County.

The arraignment date for felony cases in which there is an arrest and for which no information or indictment has been filed at the time of arrest shall be the first Tuesday that occurs thirty (30) days after the arrest. If the thirtieth day falls on a Tuesday, the arraignment date shall be the next Tuesday. The day of arrest shall not be counted in computing the arraignment date. Holidays shall be counted.

If the arraignment date falls on a Tuesday that is a holiday, the arraignment date shall be the first day on which arraignments are scheduled following the Tuesday holiday.

The arraignment date for felony cases in which there is an arrest and an information or indictment has been filed at the time of arrest, shall be the first Tuesday that occurs fourteen (14) days after the arrest. If the fourteenth day falls on a Tuesday, the arraignment date shall be the next Tuesday. The day of arrest shall not be counted in computing the arraignment date. Holidays shall be counted.

If the arraignment date falls on a Tuesday that is a holiday, the arraignment date shall be the first day on which arraignments are scheduled following the Tuesday holiday.

If an information or indictment has not been filed at the time of arraignment, the State shall appear in Court and explain the reason for the delay and be prepared to specify the amount of additional time needed to file the information or indictment. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court shall set a date certain for the arraignment.

Polk County Virtual Court Complex

The Courts in Polk County have generally resumed in-person court appearances, although some remote proceedings are still being used. For example, the court might order you and your attorney to appear in person at the Polk County Virtual Court Complex, 455 North Broadway, Bartow, Florida.

Entry to the Polk County Virtual Court Complex is from Boulevard St. at the Northwest side of the building.

Only the Defendant, the Defendant’s attorney, and a Juvenile Defendant’s parents or guardians will be permitted inside the Polk County Virtual Court Complex. Family, friends, and other observers will not be granted access but may attend by video or audio.

During the Covid-19 health crisis, Administrative Order 1-53.3 provided a list of procedures used at the Polk County Courthouse to prioritize the safety of persons accessing the courthouse or court facilities including temperature checks, health screenings, masks, and social distancing.

Don’t face the judge alone, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for any felony, misdemeanor, DUI, or juvenile case in Polk County, FL.

Additional Resources

Clerk of Court for Polk County, FL – Includes a criminal search database to track your criminal case prosecuted in Polk County, Florida, by name or case number.

Clerk of the Circuit Court for Polk County
255 N Broadway Ave
Bartow, FL 33830
Phone Number: (863) 534-4540

State Attorney’s Office in Polk County – For the Tenth (10th) Judicial Circuit of Florida.

State Attorney’s Office
255 N. Broadway Ave.
Bartow, FL 33830
Telephone Number: (863) 534-4800

Polk County Sheriff’s Office – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is a full-service law enforcement agency serving Polk County Florida. Polk County is the fourth largest county in the state by size at over 2,000 total square miles. The Sheriff of Polk County is an independent constitutional officer who is statutorily charged with the responsibility of providing all primary law enforcement services within Polk County.

Sheriff Grady Judd

Polk County Sheriff’s Office
455 North Broadway Avenue
Bartow, FL 33830
Phone Number: 863-533-0344 / 863-534-6200

Bartow Police Department –

Bartow Police Department
450 N. Broadway
Bartow, FL 33830
Phone Number for Non Emergencies: (863) 534-5034

Winter Haven Police Department – The Winter Haven Police Department consists of 83 sworn police officers and 23 civilian employees serving the second-largest municipality in Polk County, Florida, with a population of more than 26,000.

Winter Haven Police Department
125 N. Lake Silver Drive NW
Winter Haven FL  33881
(863) 291-5858

Haines City Police Department – More than 50 sworn officers with the police department in Haines City, FL, patrol the 20 square miles of total land area in the city. The Chief of Police for the Haines City Police Department is Chief James Elensky.

Haines City Police Department
35400 Highway 27
Haines City, FL 33844
Phone Number: (863) 421-3636
Fax: (863) 421-3640

DUI School in Polk County, FL

Polk County DUI School
Tri-County Human Services, Inc.
1811 Crystal Lake Drive
Lakeland, FL 33801
Telephone Number: (863) 701-1919
Fax Number: (863) 293-1214

Lakeland Police Department – visit the website to find out more information about DUI arrests in Lakeland, FL.

Lakeland Police Department
219 North Massachusetts Avenue
Lakeland, Florida 33801
Non-emergency Phone Number: (863) 834-6900

Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit – Find out more information about the criminal justice system in for the judicial circuit that comprises the following counties: Polk County, Hardee County, and Highlands County.

Finding an Attorney for Polk County, FL

The criminal defense and DUI Attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent men and women in Polk County, Florida.

Contact us after an arrest in Bartow, Frostpoof, Winter Haven, Lakeland, Haines City, Auburndale, Polk City, Davenport, Mulberry, Fedhaven, Lake Hamilton, Dundee, Heights, Eagle Lake, Fort Meade, Highland Park, Hillcrest, Indian Lake Estates, Lake Alfred, Lake Wales, Nalcrest, and Providence, FL.

Our attorneys are experienced fighting drug crimes in Polk County, FL, at the courthouse in Bartow.

From a first-time misdemeanor offense to the most serious felony charges, we can help. We can help you decide the best defenses that might be available given the charges pending against you and the particular facts of your case.

Call (813) 250-0500.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, September 21, 2022.