Tracing the Steps of a Florida Criminal Case
Written by Moses & Rooth on April 15, 2015
Being arrested, especially a first arrest, can be a terrifying process. The worry of what will happen next can be overwhelming. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can not only provide needed legal representation, but also ease your mind when you know your case is in capable hands. If you have been arrested on drug charges, assault and battery, or any other crime the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Moses & Rooth can help guide you through this difficult time.
Steps in a Criminal Case
- Arrest/Notice to Appear: An arrest can be made or a notice to appear can be issued to start the criminal process. If arrested, you will likely be taken to a police station where you will be booked. At this time, you may be fingerprinted, have a mug shot taken, take part in a line up or other things that may be used to gather evidence against you for use at trial later. It is important to know that you have a right to an attorney and you have the right to remain silent during this process. Under Florida statute, a notice to appear may be issued for misdemeanors or ordinance violations with a specific date and time to appear in court to face the criminal charges that have been alleged against you. If you receive a notice to appear, you should contact an attorney immediately so you are properly represented when appearing in court.
- First Appearance/Bond: You will appear within 24 hours of arrest and booking in front of a judge who will set the amount of bond required to make bail. Bond is an assurance that the defendant will appear in court. A licensed bail bondsman can be used to post the bond. Usually a bail bondsman will require 10% of the total bond. Under Florida statute, a judge may consider the nature and circumstances of the offense, weight of evidence, defendant’s family ties, length of residency, employment history, financial resources, and mental condition in determining the amount of required bail.
- Arraignment: At arraignment, the formal charges will be read and you will enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. If you plead guilty or no contest, then the next step will be sentencing. If you plead not guilty, then your case will proceed to trial if a plea bargain is not reached before trial.
- Pretrial Hearing: the pretrial hearing is basically a status hearing so the judge can determine if the parties need more time or are ready for trial. Judge may also address discovery issues or set case for more formal evidentiary hearings. The judge may decide to allow or disallow some evidence or may dismiss the case altogether.
- Plea Bargaining: After the pretrial, a plea bargain for a lesser charge or a plea of guilty can be entered into in consideration of a more lenient sentence. A plea can be entered any time between the pretrial hearing and before judgment is passed at a trial.
- Trial: Trial can happen by judge or jury. If it is by judge, then both sides will present their case to the judge and the judge will assign guilt or innocence. If by jury, then a jury will be selected, opening statements will be given, each side will present their case, closing statements will be made, and a verdict given. If a guilty verdict is entered then sentencing will occur at a later date.
- Sentencing Hearing: If you are found guilty, there may be a separate sentencing hearing, where fines, incarceration time, or other punitive measures are issued against you.
Being charged with a crime is a scary experience. If you have been charged with a crime contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Moses & Rooth for representation and guidance throughout the process.