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The Process of a Criminal Case in Florida

An arrest can be a confusing process especially if it’s your first time on the wrong side of the law. It would help to understand your legal rights as well as the process of a criminal case in Florida. Every step in the criminal case process matters because it could affect the outcome of your case. When the prosecutor accuses you of committing a criminal offense in Florida, your case will follow these steps:

1.  An Arrest or a Notice to Appear in Court

In Florida, the criminal case process may begin with an arrest after committing a crime. You may also receive a notice to appear in court from a law enforcement officer in Florida. For the police to arrest you, they must have a probable cause and a warrant for arrest. The criminal process begins immediately after an arrest, usually within 48 hours. If you receive a notice to appear in court, you have to show up in court at the set date and time.

2.  First Court Appearance

After an arrest, you’ll make the first court appearance within 24 to 48 hours. During the first appearance, the prosecutor will serve you with your charges. At this time, the judge may set the bail amount for your release. During the first court appearance, you don’t have to speak or try to defend yourself. However, it’s important to know that everything you utter could be used against you. This is why you should have an experienced attorney by your side that can ensure that all your rights are preserved. An experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate better pre-trial terms on your behalf.

3.  Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is a crucial stage in Florida’s criminal case process. Before the preliminary hearing, you should interact with your criminal defense attorney to begin building a strong defense strategy. At the preliminary hearing, the judge will consider the evidence presented against you. In some cases, the judge may dismiss some of the evidence or the entire case at this stage.

At this stage, the prosecutor will provide evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the said crime. It is at this point that you will have the chance to challenge the prosecutor’s evidence and prove your innocence.

4.  Plea Bargain

If your case proceeds beyond the preliminary hearing, the next stage is to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. At this stage, the prosecution and your defense comes together and tries to reach a plea agreement. This stage may occur any time after a preliminary hearing, but it is not mandatory. However, plea bargaining must take place before the final adjudication.

At this stage, the defendant makes a guilty plea in exchange for lenient sentencing. The prosecutor may be willing to offer a plea bargain if the judge dismissed most of his or her evidence at the preliminary hearing. Either the defendant or prosecutor may dismiss the plea bargaining process.

5.  Arraignment

At the arraignment stage, the defendant gets a reading of his or her formal charges. After the reading, the defendant will have a chance to enter a plea and this will have a substantial impact on the outcome of the case.  The next step will be sentencing if the defendant pleads guilty. However, if the defendant pleads not guilty, the next stage will be trial and sentencing.

6.  Trial and Sentencing

The criminal case moves to trial after the defendant enters a not guilty plea. The defendant and his or her attorney have to take some time to prepare for trial by the judge or jury. At the trial, both sides will make their presentations and the judge will make a decision.  For the defendant to be guilty, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the said crime.

A trial in front of the jury may be a bit different. The prosecutor and the defense have to go through a jury selection process and then argue the case in front of jurors and a judge. After deliberation, the juror returns the verdict.

The sentencing for a criminal case will depend on the type of crime you committed. The common sentences for criminal offenses include jail sentences, probation, and fines.  Our Shrader Law, PLLC criminal defense attorneys will build a strong criminal defense and ensure your rights are protected. Call Us today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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