The Criminal Procedure Process

If you have been arrested then you may be faced with a daunting experience as you try to comprehend and navigate through the criminal justice process.  Our office can assist in preparing you for your first appearance in court and throughout the process of defending your case.

Below is a summary and explanation of the criminal procedure process which is intended for informational purposes only to serve as a brief outline.  A more comprehensive explanation may be provided during a consultation.

Arrest

A law enforcement officer may make an arrest for either a felony, misdemeanor, violation of probation, arrest warrant, fresh pursuit, or issue a notice of appearance.  All arrests made by a law enforcement officer must be lawful and based upon probable cause that the person committed the crime.

Notice to Appear

If you have been issued a Notice to Appear for a misdemeanor or violation of a municipal or county ordinance this effectively is an arrest.  The difference is that you are given a Notice to Appear in court versus being physically arrested and placed in jail.

Bail and Bond  

After arrested and booked into jail a bond will be set on the charge.  There are instances when due to the nature of the charge there may not be a bond set.  If no bond has been set then a special bond hearing will need to be scheduled.

The purpose of a bond determination is to ensure the appearance of the defendant in further proceedings in court and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the defendant.

Bond Determination  

The Court shall consider the following factors to determine what the bond amount will be and if certain conditions will apply;

  1. The nature of the charge and the circumstances surrounding the offense.
  2. The weight of the evidence.
  3. The defendant’s family ties, how long the defendant has lived in the community, employment, financial status, and mental condition.
  4. The defendant’s prior criminal history, flight risks, record of convictions and the nature of the charges, history of failure to appear.
  5. Will the defendant pose a danger to the community if released.
  6. The source of funds to post bond.
  7. Is the defendant already on pretrial release for another pending case.
  8. If charged with a drug crime the street value of the drug or controlled substance in connection with the criminal charge.
  9. The probability of danger to the victims.
  10. Is there probable cause to believe the defendant committed a new crime while on pretrial release.
  11. Any other facts that the court may consider relevant.
  12. Is the crime subject to enhanced punishment.
  13. Is the defendant a registered sexual offender or predator as they are not eligible for release on bond until first appearance. This does not apply for misdemeanor traffic offenses.

PreTrial Release

Once released on bond or on one’s own recognizance there certain conditions which the defendant must follow:

  1. Not engage in any criminal activity.
  2. A no contact order may be issued that the defendant is to have no contact with the victim.  This no contact order will be in effect until further order by the court.
  3. If alcohol was involved then a continuous alcohol monitor can be required.

Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment every person shall be entitled to pretrial release upon reasonable conditions.

First Appearance

Every adult person charged with a crime shall be taken before a Judge either in person or in camera within 24 hours of arrest.   The Judge will advise the person of the nature of the charge. If you are not represented by an attorney at first appearance the Judge may appoint the counsel if the person requests counsel and cannot afford to hire a private attorney.  During first appearance the Judge will determine the conditions of release.

Filing of Formal Charges

The State Attorney’s Office shall file formal charges by information which consists of a plain statement of the facts of the crime charged.  

Arraignment  

This is the formal reading of the charge at which time the defendant can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.  

Plea Agreement

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure encourage the discussion of pleas however the Judge has ultimate determination as to the sentence.   Before accepting any plea the Judge will make a determination that the plea has been voluntarily entered into and that there is a factual basis for the plea.

Speedy Trial

In cases of a misdemeanor, every person shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest or if a felony within 175 days of arrest.   Many times there may be a need for the defendant to waive speedy trial in order to work out plea negotiations, more time is needed for investigation, or other factors exist that it is in the best interest of the defendant.  

Discovery  

Once the formal charges have been filed the defendant has a right to participate in the discovery process and request any and all evidence the State has in its possession for the prosecution of the charge.  This may include but not limited to; the taking to depositions, video evidence, phone calls, photographs, digital evidence, DNA evidence, expert witness statements, chemical reports, lab reports, witness statements, and police reports.

Trial

The accused shall have a right to a trial by an impartial jury in the county where the alleged crime was committed.

Sentence

The Judge has the responsibility to impose the sentence which may be agreed upon before the plea or the sentence may be dictated by the Florida Criminal Sentencing Guidelines.   A sentence may consist of jail, probation, prison, or a combination with certain terms and conditions imposed by the Judge.

If you would like to discuss your case or the process in more detail please contact my office or email a request for a consultation.