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The Process of a Criminal Case in Florida

An arrest can be a confusing process. This is especially true if it is your first time on the wrong side of the law. It helps 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. For the police to arrest you, they must have a probable cause or a warrant. For some minor crimes, you may receive a notice to appear in court.

2. First Court Appearance

If you are arrested and do not pay a bond, you will have a first court appearance within 24 to 48 hours. During the first appearance, the prosecutor will disclose your charges. At this time, the judge may set the bail amount for your release. During the first court appearance, you do not have to speak or try to defend yourself. However, it is important to know that everything you say 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, such as a lower bond.

3. Preliminary Hearing

In some cases, a preliminary hearing may be held. Before the preliminary hearing, you should interact with your criminal defense attorney to begin building a strong defense strategy. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor will present, and the judge will consider the evidence against you. This is not a trial, but in some cases, the judge may dismiss some of the evidence or the entire case.

4. Arraignment

At the arraignment stage, the defendant hears 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. Most criminal defense attorneys hired prior to an arraignment will waive the need for this hearing by filing appropriate paperwork with the court.

5. Plea Bargain

Sometimes people accused of a crime face considerable evidence against them. In those instances, some people choose to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a reduced sentence. For some people, the peace of mind that comes with a known outcome is reassuring.

6. Pretrial Conferences and Disposition Hearings

During the pendency of your case, the court may set periodic hearings to check on the status of your case. Some counties call these Disposition hearings and some counties call them Pretrial conferences. These are not hearings that require witnesses or victims to attend. Instead, the prosecutor and your attorney will discuss your case briefly to determine if the case will resolve by agreement, or if the case needs to be set for trial. Usually the only outcome of a status conference is the setting of a new court date.

7. Trial and Sentencing

If a defendant maintains a not guilty plea and the prosecutor does not dismiss the charges, then the case will proceed to trial. At the trial, both sides will make their presentations and the judge or jury will make a decision regarding the outcome of the case. For the defendant to be guilty, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

A trial in front of the jury can be a complex process. The prosecutor and the defense first have to go through a jury selection process. Then both sides proceed to presentation of testimony and evidence. After deliberation, the jury returns a verdict. If a defendant is found to be not guilty at trial, the case is over, and the defendant is free to go. If a defendant is found to be guilty at trial, the sentencing for a criminal case will depend on the type of crime committed. The common sentences for criminal offenses include incarceration sentences, probation, and fines. Our Shrader Law, PLLC criminal defense attorneys will build a strong criminal defense and ensure your rights are protected.

Posted in Criminal Defense