The Criminal Process

The police need probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed in order to get an arrest warrant, or to arrest you because they witnessed you commit a crime, or they gathered sufficient evidence to believe that you have committed a crime. Once you are arrested, you are taken to jail and booked.

In Florida, within forty-eight (48) hours of being arrested, a defendant is taken in front of a judge for an initial appearance. During this procedure, the judge determines whether:

  1. The police had probable cause to arrest the defendant,
  2. An attorney needs to be appointed for the defendant, if they don’t already have one,
  3. The defendant will receive bail, and the amount of that bail.

The case is then set for an Arraignment, which normally occurs within thirty (30) days after the Initial Appearance. During this proceeding, the defendant is informed of their charges and is asked to enter a plea of either:

  1. Guilty: admission to having committed the crime for which the defendant is being charged by the State, thus receiving a sentence,
  2. Nolo contender: no admission or denial to having committed the crime the defendant is being charged with by the State, or
  3. Not guilty: denial of having committed the crime the defendant is being charged with by the State.

It is strongly advised that you seek an experienced attorney to represent you at the arraignment because they can appear in court on your behalf, waive your appearance, and file the appropriate documents, such as a written plea of not guilty. After the charges are read and a plea has been entered, the court will provide pre-trial conference and trial dates, which are the court proceedings that follow an arraignment. Additionally, at this point, your attorney can ask the judge to consider setting bail or reducing your bail amount.

An experienced attorney will review your case after arraignment to determine if there are any Pre-Trial Motions which need to be filed with the court and to set a hearing in front of the judge. This pre-trial motion hearing might occur before or after a Pre-Trial Conference, which is a proceeding to update the judge on what is going on with the case and to schedule the next court date. These are the three different scenarios that can happen in a pre-trial conference:

  1. The case is ready to be scheduled for trial on the court docket,
  2. The case is set for a plea because the defendant and the State have agreed on a plea that is agreeable to both sides. It is important to note that a judge is not obligated to accept a plea agreement, but they typically will,
  3. The case is continued because either the defendant’s attorney or the State is not ready for trial. For example, a pretrial motion hearing is not scheduled until after pre-trail conference and the decision of that hearing is imperative to the trial preparation.

Finally, the case goes to trial if there are no reasonable offers from the State to justify entering into a plea agreement, or if the case is not dismissed or Nolle Prosequi by the State.

If you have been arrested contact Longwell Lawyers at 407-426-5757 and schedule a free consultation. We are a group of experienced lawyers that will render the best of our professional abilities.

Categories: Criminal Law, Articles