Law is not black or white, it's grey

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First time offender guide

Guide to Florida criminal trial process for 1st time offenders

What happens after an arrest?  What is the process like?

Arrest

The arrest is what triggers the beginning of the criminal trial process.  An arrest can be a formal arrest with handcuffs and getting booked into jail.  However, a notice to appear is an arrest for purposes of speedy trial, among other things.

What is first appearance?

First appearance is a hearing when you see the judge right after you've been arrested.  Generally, it is within 24 hours of your arrest.  The judge may or may not set a bond in your case.  In a serious felony case, you may not get a bond pre-trial.  If you want to bond out of jail, it is best to have a criminal lawyer, preferably a board certified criminal trial lawyer, to help you get a reasonable bond.

How do I bond out?

A loved one can pay cash for the bond and get all their money back at the end of the case - provided you show up to all court hearings.  A criminal lawyer can waive your presence for most court hearings if the proper waiver of appearance is filed.  If you or a loved one do not have the cash, you can use a bondsman.  They charge 10% of the bond amount.  They may require collateral as well - a house with equity, car, boat or other property.  After the bond is posted, it still may take several hours before you are released.  For a more detailed discussion with video on how to bond someone out of jail in West Palm Beach, Florida, click here.

What is an arraignment?

An arraignment is when you or your lawyer enter a plea of not guilty to the charges.  If you retain counsel, generally, you will not have to show up for the arraignment.  Another court date will be set in about 30 days.

Do I have to show up to every court date?

Yes, unless a written waiver of your appearance is in the court file.  Typically, I do this for my clients so they don't miss work or school.  With a written waiver of the client's appearance in the file, I can show up for most hearings for them.  However, motion hearings, plea coferences and jury trials typcially require the client's presence.  Some exceptions apply.

How long does a criminal case take in Florida?

It depends on whether it is misdemeanor or a felony.   

 

How long does a typical Florida misdemeanor case take?

Day 1 - Notice to appear via a citation or arrest 

Day 2 - First appearance, judge sets a bond (or no bond)

Day 7 - If judge sets no bond or client can't make bond because it is too high, file a motion to set or reduce bond

Day 30 - Arraignment (plea not guilty to charges)

Day 60 - Case Disposition (get discovery from State)

Day 90 - Calendar Call (set for trial, motion or a plea conference)

Day 100 - Trial, plea or motion to suppress hearing

Generally, misdemeanor cases are resolved within a few months.

 

How long does a typical Florida felony case take?

Day 1 - Arrest 

Day 2 - First appearance, judge sets a bond (or no bond)

Day 7 - If judge sets no bond or client can't make bond because it is too high, file a motion to set (maybe an Arthur hearing for serious cases) or reduce bond 

Day 30 - Arraignment (plea not guilty to charges)

Day 60 - Case Disposition (get discovery from State)

Day 120 - Calendar Call (set for trial, motion or a plea conference)

Day 175 - Trial, plea or motion to suppress hearing

Felony cases are usually resolved within 6 months.  However, complex felony cases, like murder, may take one to two years.  

 

What is the speedy trial time period in Florida?

Speedy trial time period for a misdemeanor in Florida is 90 days from arrest.  Felony cases, 175 days.  Sometimes criminal lawyers will waive speedy trial.  However, you can demand speedy trial at any time and generally get your trial within 60 days of filing the demand.

 

What kind of things to criminal lawyers do to protect their client's rights?

In every criminal case, a good criminal lawyer will first listen to the client's story and get to know the client.  This is key.  I once represented a client who told me how the stop and arrest went down.  I got the video a couple of weeks later and it was just as the client said. The cop lied in his probable cause affidavit, at deposition and at the motion to suppress hearing. We proved it via the video.  He did not know the video recorded 30 seconds before his lights went off.  The judge made a factual finding at the motion to suppress that the cop's probable cause affidavit was directly contradictory to the irrefutable video evidence we produced.  Motion to suppress the stop was granted.  All charges were dismissed.  

After listening to the client's story, there may be a visit to the scene of the alleged crime.  Photos.  Video.  Talking to witnesses.  In felony cases, depositions.  Depositions are where a criminal lawyer gets to ask questions of witnesses to prepare a proper defense.

A great criminal lawyer spots issues in criminal cases. A criminal lawyer cannot argue for an issue he does not spot.

Did the police arrest the client based on probable cause?

Was Miranda read?  If not, did the client answer questions designed to ellicit an incriminating response?  Can those statements be suppressed or thrown out?

Was the patdown good?  Sometimes called a "Terry" search.

Do any privileges apply via statute or the evidence code that would exclude certain evidence?  How does that exclusion affect the case?

What are the witnesses like?  Are they trustworthy?  Convicted felons?  Cops with abuse records or internal affairs complaints that were sustained?

What is the client like?  Does he have an extensive prior criminal record?  No prior criminal history?  Will he make a good witness?  

Who is the judge presiding over the case?  Their reputation?

Who is the prosecutor for the State of Florida?  Their reputation?

Who is the criminal defense lawyer on the case?  Their reputation? 

I hope you find this first time offender's guide to the Florida criminal trial process helpful.  It is not meant to replace a board certified criminal trial lawyer's actual advice to you.  

-Grey

561-686-6886

"Law is not black or white, it's Grey"

Board certified criminal trial lawyer Grey Tesh handles first time offender criminal cases all across Florida.  A criminal trial lawyer, board certified by the Florida Bar, based out of West Palm Beach, Florida, Grey can handle cases all throughout Florida in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida.