Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Criminal Cases Do We Take?
To ensure that you as a client and we as the law firm are the best fit for each other, please be aware that we only take Criminal cases in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Sarasota. We handle almost every type of criminal charge in the criminal justice system.
County Misdemeanor Cases
Does that mean you have to be arrested for it to be a criminal case?
Often times, Tampa cops or Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies will issue what’s called a “Notice of Appear.” This does still count as a formal arrest and it is in fact a criminal charge. A Notice to Appear under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.125 is a written order to appear in court and just like a formal arrest with handcuffs and booking, but only for simple First and Second Degree Misdemeanors.
An officer can issue the Notice to Appear in lieu of a formal arrest if the defendant has a good record, it’s a relatively minor offense, and the defendant has reasonable ties to the community to assure they’ll show up to court. If you don’t show up to court, a warrant will be issued for failing to appear and you’ll be hauled off to jail from home or your work. Many people are told that these are insignificant events and they’re sometimes misinformed by the cops that the judge may just throw out the case when they show up to court.
Please don’t take legal advice about your case from the cop who is arresting you. You may be looking at up to 1 year in county jail on a misdemeanor.
We will handle every kind of criminal misdemeanor case in Hillsborough County. We do not take Animal Cruelty cases or Domestic Violence charges where we feel, based on our objective investigation, that the victim in the case may be in on-going danger or in fear of his/her life.
Circuit Felony Cases
The best thing you can do for yourself when faced with a felony arrest is to do your research. The Prosecutors in Circuit Court Hillsborough County are the most experienced and articulate attorneys in town so your defense should be on point.
A felony is a serious offense with long ranging collateral consequences like:
- Losing your ability to get student loans or government assistance
- Losing your right to own a firearm
- Losing your professional license
- Being unable to rent housing
- Losing your right to vote
How serious are felonies?
The lowest level felony in Florida, a third degree felony, is punishable by up to 5 years in prison., 5 years probation, and a $5,000 fine. For more information about felonies, please call us or click through our site to learn more.
We handle almost every felony in Florida. We do not handle felony-level animal cruelty cases. We are happy to refer you to the best attorney in town on those types of offenses.
Will I Go to Jail and What Are My Options?
Truthfully, most of our clients never see the inside of the jail cell. Once bonded out, our goal is to get you out of trouble and to keep you out of trouble. While every case is different, the truth is that most of clients’ cases are resolved eventually in the best way possible- without a conviction and without any jail time.
Depending on the facts of your case, the level of crime you’re facing, and depending on which judge you’re assigned, we may even be able to keep you from seeing the inside of a court room.
Your case may start out with an arrest but it can end in the following ways:
- Dismissal: either willingly by the Assistant State Attorney assigned to your case in the form of a “Nolle Prosequii” which means Dismissed. Or the case can be dismissed by the judge based on some technicality or nuance of the law. An outright dismissal is always our goal.
- Prefile Intervention
- Pretrial Intervention
- Withholding the finding of guilt. If the evidence against you is sufficient to survive our motions to dismiss, and a plea is necessary, then we can also negotiate an advantageous outcome where the court agrees to Withhold Adjudication, meaning that there is no formal finding of guilt in your case. Therefore, if any college or job application asks if you have been convicted of a crime, you can truthfully answer that you have no criminal convictions on your record.
- Probation. Often times, even if a case is objectively bad for the Defendant, we can negotiate a very generous probation sentence in lieu of jail or prison. Probation means that you will be assigned a probation officer and will be required to complete certain terms and conditions for a set amount of time. If you successfully complete the requirements (examples would be Drug Counseling, Drug tests, Anger management classes, DUI classes, community service hours, etc), your probation will be terminated and your case will be over. However, probation is not easy. Any willful or substantial violation of probation can result in the sentencing judge revoking probation and sentencing you up to the maximum amount of years in jail available under the statute for that crime.
- Jail or Prison. These are the least likely outcomes for most of our clients. Certain crimes, such as trafficking in controlled substances, burglary of a dwelling, aggravated battery with a firearm, felon in possession of a firearm have minimum mandatory prison sentences that are set in stone by Florida law, no matter how short your record. In certain cases, we can negotiate a reduction of minimum mandatory statutory sanctions by having the state amend the charge to a lesser offense so that the minimums no longer apply.
Are There Any Defenses to My Type of Case?
There are factual defenses, legal defenses, and mitigating factors that arise in each and every criminal charge in Hillsborough County. What kind of defenses available to us as a legal team depends on the type of charge and the facts of your case.
The most common defenses we use in every case are pretrial defenses. Pretrial defenses are things like:
- Unlawful stop of a vehicle by law enforcement
- Motion to suppress an illegal search of a vehicle or home
- Self-defense and Stand Your Ground issues
- Procedural Speedy Trial Issues
- Statute of limitations problems
Other obvious defenses may be available in specific cases. For example, the most common defense is a simple insufficiency of evidence. Take for example a simple Battery case like a bar fight where there is no video evidence. If the only evidence is the victim’s statements and observations by two sets of witnesses, both biased in favor of their friend in the fight, then the state may not be able to prove what exactly happened beyond a reasonable doubt. They may be able to prove that the battery might have happened as alleged, or even that it probably happened. But that isn’t enough. They have to prove that it absolutely happened, beyond any doubt. That, in our experience, is often times a heavy burden to meet. An experienced trial team in your corner can help you fight and beat that kind of case.
Mitigating Factors: If we have exhausted our legal and factual defenses, then we can fall back to “plan B.” We often meet our clients at the lowest point in their lives. However, an individual’s life is a book full of pages and it’s unreasonable to judge an entire book by the worst chapter in it. If there are issues in your life that have caused some of the behavior that led to the arrest, we can figure out what those issues are and help you overcome those issues. Showing this resolution and upward trajectory to the State will many times help humanize your individual case and obtain a better outcome.
Other factors can and often do come in to play when mitigating a client’s case. If you are a college student with straight A’s and no prior record, you should be judged differently than a defendant with a long rap sheet of prior offenses- that’s just common sense. We can provide evidence in support of your character and reputation in the community to convince the State that you are not the criminal they’re accusing you of being. While you may have used bad judgment in an alcohol fueled frenzy or jealous rage or severe depression, those are mere anomalies in your life that you have otherwise lived as an exemplary citizen. We can put together a persuasive mitigation package to help your case and get you a better outcome.
How Much Does a DUI Cost?
Driving Under the Influence is an expensive charge. Especially considering that it is a misdemeanor, the costs and fees can become outrageous. In Hillsborough and Sarasota County, the costs can often exceed $2500 or more, not even including Attorney Fees.
One reason why it’s so expensive is that DUI’s are one of the few lower level crimes that have statutorily mandated minimum penalties throughout the state. As an example, for a first time DUI, without any legal enhancements, these costs and penalties include:
- 12 Months Probation (fees per month while on probation)
- Fine: Between $500-1000
- Court costs: Between $500-1000
- DUI School: $250
- Drivers License Hardship: $250
- 10 Day Vehicle Impound: $200
- Legal Fees: In our firm’s case, between $2500-$5000 depending on facts
How Much Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Cost?
We use a basic flat fee structure – meaning the retainer fee that we put in the contract is an all-inclusive fee. If the case takes 10 hours or 100 hours to handle, to the point that you are satisfied with the outcome, the fee remains the same. The fee includes every pretrial defense available in your case until a dismissal, a trial, or a plea. Most cases do not go to trial. However, if we decide to go to trial, there is a per-day trial fee multiplied by the amount of days we expect the trial to last.
Ancillary Costs There are no nickel and diming charges such as copies, postage, etc. The only costs outside of the retainer fee is for professional services to outside vendors such as process servers, court reporters, private investigators, and expert witnesses for trial (like doctors, lab experts, etc). These costs are invoiced directly to you by the providers. Additionally, if any court costs or fines are ordered, the client would pay those directly to the court.
We are happy to provide the option of a payment plan to our clients. There is no additional fee to enter into a payment plan. Half the retainer must be paid as an initial deposit and a monthly or weekly payment arrangement can be made depending on our client’s case and personal situation.
We accept all credit cards, checks, and cash. We can be retained with a credit card over the phone or via email.
Tourists or Out of County Residents
If you are not a resident of Hillsborough County, we can be retained conveniently via an electronic signature through our Docusign software. Payment can also be made via email by credit card. We regularly handle cases for clients who were here for business or tourism and have already left town. We can usually resolve these cases without you ever having to return to Hillsborough County.
How Much Will It Cost?
Every case is different and every law firm is different. The fee will be based on an approximation of the amount of time that will be spent in the case- which means the numerous moving parts of every case (the judge, division, prosecutor, amount of witnesses, amount of discovery, etc) become relevant. For example, we could have two clients charged with almost exactly similar DUI cases in front of two different judges- but since Judge A’s typical court room day lasts 4 hours and judge B’s typical court room day lasts 1 hour, the fees will be different.
As a practical matter and reference point, in many cases, our fees are significantly higher compared to a typical market rate in Tampa, commensurate with the expertise and service level of our firm.
What Kind of Guarantees Do You Make?
We make two guarantees and two guarantees only:
We are your lawyer and will be available for you for any reason or question or concern, no matter how big or small. If you call, text, or email us, we will return your contact within 24 hours at the latest.
We guarantee that we will always tell you the truth, no matter how good or bad. There are no certainties in the legal world, but as an experienced litigator with a personal, detailed familiarity with the judges and prosecutors and cops in Tampa and Hillsborough County, you can have the confidence that our assessments, expectations, and predictions will be reliable. Our advice and counsel will not be designed to give you false hope or to scare you into paying more fees.
We also ask our clients to give Mr. Vasigh three guarantees in return:
- One- Tell your attorney the truth
- Two- Follow his advice, and
- Three- Honor the payment arrangement (if applicable).
If Mr. Vasigh breaks his promise to you, you can fire him. But, if you break your promise to him, he can fire you.
Why Did You Decline to Take My Case?
Just the same way that every potential new client who we speak to is interviewing us to do a job, we are interviewing them back. We are sometimes asked why we decline to represent people even when they have the money to pay for our services.
It’s a fair question that we asked Mr. Vasigh to answer himself.
“Why do I say no to potential clients sometimes? Many times I’m just literally too busy and don’t have the time needed to give 100% of my effort. Every client that’s ever hired me knows I go all out all the time. If I don’t have the bandwidth for a case, I’ll refer it to a colleague I trust.”
“Then sometimes there’s a conflict of interest, or I just don’t take that type of case because I don’t like the subject matter. For instance, I’m a huge animal lover. Whether or not someone is unjustly charged with animal cruelty, I personally just don’t like looking at evidence of hurt or killed animals so I won’t take the case.”
“Lying to me is another common reason I won’t take a case. I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell a potential new client is lying to me within the first two minutes of a consultation. That’s an immediate red flag. If you don’t tell your attorney the truth, you hurt your own case. Period. And because I like to win, by starting off our relationship with a lie, you’re asking me to win a race with a giant weight tied around my foot. That isn’t good for my client, or my reputation.”
“Additionally, as a trial attorney, my job is to read people. Sometimes, during a first or second consultation I may pick up a sense early on that the chemistry just isn’t there. If my client and I don’t have the right chemistry, it absolutely comes off poorly to a jury. Like a boxer and his coach, if we’re not in tune, we won’t be successful. In order to win, especially in challenging cases, we have to be able to work well together. We need to have 100% faith in each other.”
“Finally, I may not take your case because I like to win and money isn’t everything. A reputation takes years to build and only minutes to destroy. A successful attorney-client relationship is like a successful marriage. There has to be 100% faith, trust, and confidence between client and counsel. If it’s only one sided, it never works. But if the faith is reciprocal, I am capable of doing some incredible things for a client I trust like family.”
If you have been charged with a crime in Tampa, the best thing you can do for yourself is get as many professional opinions and interview as many attorneys as possible. We hope you’ll find that we’re the right fit. Call us now to schedule a consultation at our Tampa office and let us get to work for you.
Criminal & Traffic Helpful Links
- The Florida Bar
- Florida Constitution
- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Florida Driver License Check
- Florida Department of Corrections
- Florida Warrant Search
- Florida Attorney General
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Florida Highway Patrol
- Florida State Courts (Locate Circuit and County Court’s Websites)
- Florida Statutes
- Florida Supreme Court
- Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
- Polk County Sheriff’s Office
- Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
- Pasco County Sheriff’s Office
- Manatee County Sheriff’s Office
- Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office
- Pinellas County Clerk of Court
- Polk County Clerk of Court
- Hillsborough County Clerk of Court
- Pasco County Clerk of Court
- Manatee County Clerk of Court
- Sarasota County Clerk of Court
- Office of the State Attorney – Thirteenth Judicial Circuit
- Office of the State Attorney – Sixth Judicial Circuit
- Twelfth Judicial Circuit (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota County)
- Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)
- Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas County)
- Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Victim Assistance Program – Thirteenth Judicial Circuit
- Victim Assistance Program – Twelfth Judicial Circuit
- Victim Assistance Program – Sixth Judicial Circuit
- How to Avoid Identity Theft
- Legal Dictionary
- American Bar Association
- Famous Trials
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Dui License Suspension Laws
- Paying a Traffic Ticket
- DUI Suspension FAQ’s