Criminal Defense

Our criminal defense practice areas include:

DUI
● Drug Offenses
● Theft Offenses
● Assault/Battery
● Burglary
● Seal Records
Robbery
● Resisting Arrest or Fleeing/Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement
● Driving on Suspended or Revoked License
● Possession of Alcohol by Minor
● Additional misdemeanor and felony offenses
● Expunge Records

 

Protecting Your Rights

Your rights deserve to be protected and your side of the story deserves to be heard.

As a former prosecutor, Stephen Bernhardt understands that the arrest report typically tells a very small percentage of the story and is often exaggerated by emotional witnesses.

More often, the police report leaves out important details that were not disclosed, or the information reported was deemed unimportant by the officers on-scene. This can lead to arrests even if someone did not commit the crime for which they were charged.

Your case will be thoroughly defended as we take pride in evaluating the details.  This includes visiting the scene of the alleged crime ourselves, taking the deposition of all potential witnesses, and by doing anything else reasonably necessary to ensure your rights are protected.

Crime Scene Consultation

Every case is filled with unique details that cannot always be fully explained through office visits or phone calls.

That’s why Bernhardt Law will meet you at the location of the arrest.

Visiting the crime scene is extremely important. Surprisingly, this is not common practice among all criminal defense attorneys. While a prosecutor, Stephen Bernhardt assisted in the preparation of warrants and even accompanied a local law enforcement agency in the execution of an arrest warrant. That’s why prosecutorial experience is incomparable!

Now, Bernhardt Law will go to the same lengths for you.

DUI Defense

A DUI conviction in Florida comes with serious penalties compared to other states. However, a DUI is not always an easy offense for the prosecution to prove. In fact, there are many potential defenses inherent in any DUI case.

Having prosecuted countless DUIs for the State Attorney’s Office, Stephen Bernhardt has the knowledge and expertise to prepare the best defense for your case.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Pinellas, Hillsborough or Pasco Counties, your best defense is with Bernhardt Law.

Your Driver License

You must demand a Formal Administrative Review Hearing within 10 days of your arrest to challenge your driver’s license suspension following a DUI.

If this is your first DUI arrest, you may be able to immediately apply for a hardship license. 

Bernhardt Law will act quickly to help get your license reinstated.

What State Must Prove

To prove the crime of Driving Under the Influence [DUI], the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant drove (or was in actual physical control of) a vehicle.
  2. While driving the vehicle, The Defendant either:
  3. Was under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a chemical/controlled substance to the extent that his/her normal faculties were impaired
  4. Had a blood/breath-alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood/210 liters of breath.

Bernhardt Law will meet for a FREE consultation at the scene of the DUI arrest,or at one of our convenient locations around Tampa Bay.

Drug Possession

Possession charges can be defended in many ways. Some common defenses include knowledge of the presence of the narcotics, dominion and control over the narcotics and the State’s ability to prove the substance is a prohibited substance.  Additionally, law enforcement often discovers the narcotics from an unlawful vantage point or fails to properly obtain and/or execute a search warrant.  The best criminal defense attorneys review all these scenarios and more in a swift and thorough manner.

Don’t accept a plea agreement with the State until your case is thoroughly reviewed by an experienced attorney!

Possession of a Controlled Substance Florida Statute 893.13(6)(a)

Unless the controlled substance was lawfully obtained, a person may not be in actual or constructive possession of a “controlled substance.”

Common controlled substances include cocaine, heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, opium, methamphetamine, codeine, fentanyl and many others.

Controlled substances found within the following sections constitute a second degree felony and is punishable up to fifteen (15) years in prison: F.S. 893.03(1)(a), (1)(b), (1)(d), (2)(a), (2)(b), or (2)(c)5.

Controlled substances found within the following sections constitute a third degree felony and is punishable up to five (5) years in prison: F.S. 893.03(1)(c), (2)(c)1., (2)(c)2., (2)(c)3., (2)(c)6., (2)(c)7., (2)(c)8., (2)(c)9., (2)(c)10., (3), or (4).

For a full list of the controlled substances and the sections in which they are named, please click here.

Possession of Marijuana – Florida Statute 893.13(6)(b)

The legal landscape is constantly shifting in its enforcement of marijuana laws.  If you or a loved one has been arrested for a marijuana-related crime and you want more information, contact Bernhardt Law.

Sale of Controlled Substance – Florida Statute 893.13(1)(A)

Generally, a person may not sell, manufacture, deliver (or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver), a controlled substance.

A person who violates this provision could receive a wide range of possible sentences, depending on the controlled substance. These sentences are enhanced if contraband is sold too close to certain locations, such as schools and parks; or illegal transactions occur at certain times of day.

Trafficking Drugs – Florida Statute 893.135

In Florida, you may be charged with Trafficking a Controlled Substance even if you had no intent to sell or deliver the substance. The State only has to prove that you possessed a certain weight of the substance. If sentenced under the Trafficking statute, the sentence must include a prison sentence ranging from three (3) to twenty-five (25) years. The judge will have no authority to depart from the mandatory prison sentence.

HELP TO FIGHT AN ADDICTION

At times, helping someone with a criminal case is larger than trying to get the State to drop or reduce the charges. At Bernhardt Law, we emphasize helping those who desire to overcome addiction while thoroughly defending their rights.

Of course, your case would still be reviewed for any and all potential legal defenses. But in addition to legally defending your case, Bernhardt Law specifically puts an emphasis on helping people fight addiction.

Stephen Bernhardt brings extensive experience as a former State representative of the Drug Court Program.

The State Attorney’s Office lacks the time to make every person an offer that is unique to their individual situation. Thus, many people end up with a sentence that is actually harmful to their recovery attempts.

This applies to all kinds of cases, not just possession charges.  Far too often, a theft or battery is a by-product of an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Seemingly arbitrary jail sentences and one-size-fits-all probation sentences can have the effect of making recovery more difficult or set one up to fail.

Whatever your situation, Bernhardt Law works to protect your rights and improve the future of every client.

If you would like to discuss how drug/alcohol rehabilitation courses, programs and facilities can positively impact your case, please contact Bernhardt Law now.

Theft

There are multiple legal defenses that commonly arise in theft-related charges. The State’s theft cases are routinely built around circumstantial evidence only, with no hard evidence. In other instances, evidence was improperly obtained, resulting in its exclusion from court proceedings.

For a free evaluation of your case, contact Bernhardt Law.

Florida Statute 812.014 – Theft:

A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: (1)

Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property. (a)

Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property. (b)

The potential sentences can range dramatically depending on the value of the alleged stolen items. While the theft statute and sentencing statutes provide many nuances to the degree of the crime and the potential sentences, a very basic guideline is included below. For a complete review of the theft statute, click here.

  • Alleged stolen items valued at less than $100 (first offense):
    • 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable up to 60 days in jail or six months of probation.
  • Alleged stolen items valued at $100 or more, but less than $300:
    • 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable up to 364 days in jail or 364 days of probation.
  • Alleged stolen items valued at $300 or more, but less than $20,000:
    • 3rd degree felony, punishable up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation.
  • Alleged stolen items valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000:
    • 2nd degree felony, punishable up to 15 years in prison or 15 year of probation.
  • Alleged stolen items valued at more than $100,000:
    • First degree felony, punishable up to 30 years in prison or 30 years of probation.

Assault and Battery

When it comes to an assault or a battery case, there is usually a lot more to the story than what is included in the police report.

While a prosecutor, Stephen Bernhardt recalls many cases where arrests were made, yet afterwards, everyone agreed that the night simply got out of hand and/or that the circumstances were embellished.

However, these offenses – especially domestic violence-related charges – are serious and should be treated as such. The State Attorney’s Office certainly takes these cases seriously.

Bernhardt Law will look beyond the police report and assess the entire situation to best defend your case.

Applicable Florida Statutes below:

The legal difference between assault and battery in Florida is the unlawful contact made with the other person. In other words, the threat of violence could constitute an assault, but it would not rise to the level of battery unless unwanted contact occurred.

Florida Statute 784.03 – Battery; Felony Battery 

The offense of battery occurs when a person:

  • Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other [(1)(a)]
  • Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person [(1)]
  • Except as provided in subsection (2), a person who commits battery commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. (b) 082 or s. 775.083.
  • A person who has one prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery and who commits any second or subsequent battery commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. (2) 082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. For purposes of this subsection, “conviction” means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or a trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld or a plea of nolo contendere is entered.

Florida Statute 784.011 – Assault

An (1) “assault” is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.

Whoever commits an assault shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in statutes (2) 775.082 or s. 775.083.

Resisting Arrest, Fleeing and Attempting to Elude

Resisting an officer – with or without violence – is a common arrest, especially to those not originally the subject of the original investigation.

Arrests for these offenses commonly arise when a third party is simply trying to protect a friend or family member.

Law Enforcement Officers do have a dangerous job, and they obviously like to keep everything under control. Thus, arrests for “resisting” or “obstruction” are regularly made quickly in an attempt to control the situation.

With that said, many defenses often exist.

Under most circumstances, if the client wishes, Bernhardt Law will conduct a free consultation at the scene of the crime. Not only is this usually a convenient location for the client, but it is especially helpful in a “Resisting” case, because it aids in fully understanding the surroundings for an early start preparing a defense.

Fleeing and Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer has several degrees and levels of severity, many of which carry higher punishments than one might expect. This is another example of where Law Enforcement Officers commonly overcharge.

It is important to speak to an experienced attorney about this offense before entering into any plea agreement. Contact Bernhardt Law for a FREE evaluation of your case.

Driving While License Suspended/Revoked

Once your license is suspended, it can be very difficult to resolve. Combine that with the fact that driving is a relative necessity these days, it is no wonder why Driving While License Suspended or Revoked is such a common offense.

Call Bernhardt Law to help end the seemingly endless suspended license cycle and work towards getting your license reinstated.

 

Other Driving/Boating Offenses

In addition to Driving While License Suspended or Revoked, there are many other driving and boating offenses that are common in the Tampa Bay area.

Bernhardt Law has the knowledge and experience to assist you with any driving or boating offense.

Common Driving or Boating Offenses: