You’re Under Arrest…
If the authorities decide that they have probable cause in your case and decide to proceed with charges against you, they are going to have to get you into the courthouse in some fashion. There are three ways that this can be accomplished:
1) The police officer can give you a Notice to Appear for certain first or second degree misdemeanors or municipal ordinance violations. This means that you will not be handcuffed and taken to jail and your booking photograph will not be displayed on your local Sheriff’s web site for the rest of your life. Instead, the officer will hand you a notice with the date, time and location of your first court date, called an Arraignment. You should hire an attorney if you have not already done so at this point. At any rate, do not miss your court date or an arrest warrant, called a capias, will be issued for you by the judge.
2) The prosecutor will get an arrest warrant for you, based upon a sworn affidavit and signed by a judge. Any sheriff’s deputy or police officer in Florida will be able to arrest you once an arrest warrant is issued. Typically the police in your town or county will be notified of the warrant and they will come to your residence or work place to take you into custody. If the police have an arrest warrant, or a search warrant, they can come into your home without permission in order to grab you, as long as they have probable cause to believe you are in there. They can even break the door down, if they have a warrant. As long as they have the correct address, they won’t have to pay to fix the door either. If this ever happens to you, you should be cooperative with the police and remain silent, other than giving them your correct name and date of birth. If you have an attorney, he or she will probably be able to arrange a time and place for you to turn yourself in so that you can arrange your affairs and not have to be dragged from the house in front of your family or from your workplace. Sometimes an attorney will be able to arrange for you to turn yourself in at court and ask the judge for a reduced bond or release on recognizance (ROR) immediately.
3) The police may feel that they have sufficient probable cause to arrest you without a warrant. This is possible under Florida law if the crime involved is a felony, or a misdemeanor which allows for probable cause arrest under the Florida statutes. In this case, the police officer will either come to your home, workplace, or other location where you can be found and place you in custody. The officer may relay the probable cause to another police officer, who is allowed by law to then arrest you if you are found. The police cannot enter your home in order to search for or arrest you without permission, a search or arrest warrant, or without some emergency condition leading to exigent circumstances requiring entry to a private residence. However, you are best advised to cooperate with the police and above all, to get an attorney. Hiding from an arrest warrant places you on fugitive status and has many negative implications, ranging from a life on the run, susceptibility to immediate arrest and detention anytime you are stopped for a minor traffic infraction, to an inability to receive Social Security benefits.
Turn Around and Put Your Hands Behind Your Back…
If you are ever placed under arrest you will likely hear those words and you will be handcuffed. Most, if not all, police agencies have policies in place that require all persons placed into custody to be handcuffed, so try not to take it personally! The law also allows the officers to search you and the area within your immediate presence and if illegal items or evidence is found, to keep it. If you are being arrested by the officer or detective who is investigating your case, you may be read your Miranda rights and then asked questions about your case. As before, your response should be to politely decline to answer those questions and ask for an attorney.
Eventually an arrested person will be taken to a jail and booked in. Florida law requires that an arrested individual be taken to the jail in the same county where they were arrested. If this is different than the county that issued the warrant, you will eventually be transported to the jail where your charges are from, unless you are able to bond out. At the jail, you will go through the booking process where your fingerprints and photograph are taken and all the paperwork is completed. Depending upon the time of day and the number of other people being booked in, the booking process can take up to several hours. During this process the jail officers will usually be able to set a bond amount for your case. If a criminal case involves extremely serious charges, or if there is some reason that the police are afraid that a person may not show up for court or is dangerous, a bond may not be set. For the most minor offenses, some counties permit the jail personnel to give Release On Recognizance (ROR) to local residents. While you are going through the booking process, you will be given opportunity to make telephone calls to relatives or friends, bail bondsmen and attorney’s offices.
Under the law of Florida, you must be taken before a judge within 24 hours of your arrest for your first appearance, also called an Advisory Hearing. The purpose of this hearing is for the judge to examine a sworn statement by the police or prosecutor which gives the facts and laws supporting the arrest. If the statement has sufficient facts to show that more likely than not a crime has been committed, then the judge will find that there is probable cause to keep you in jail. The judge will also read you the charge and ask if you have an attorney. If you do not and you meet the financial criteria to be declared indigent, then the judge will appoint a Public Defender to represent you.
If you don’t get ROR, you will have to sit in the jail for the rest of your case until you post your bond. The bond is to insure that you will return for your court dates while your case is pending. You may either post the full amount of the bond yourself (keep in mind that any future court fines, costs and restitution will be deducted from your cash bond before the rest is released to you at the end of your case), or you can call one of the many bail bondsmen in the Tampa Bay area to arrange for them to post the bond for you. The bail bondsmen generally charge 10 to 15% of the bond amount for this service, and sometimes may require that you sign an automobile or home over to them as collateral. Call several bondsmen and get quotes from them before deciding which to hire if the first one sounds too expensive.
After you have been released from jail, you need to find and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can find my advice on how to go about locating, interviewing and hiring the best attorney for you in my Florida Law Blog articles, HOW DO YOU FIND AN ATTORNEY FOR YOUR CASE?; HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH ATTORNEY? and DEMYSTIFYING LEGAL FEES.
Garry L. Potts is a former 15 year prosecutor and former insurance defense trial lawyer. Garry L. Potts handles legal matters in the following practice areas: Criminal Law, Civil Practice, Driving While Intoxicated, Breath test Refusals, Drivers License Revocations or Suspensions, Assault and Battery, Felonies, Misdemeanors, Sealing & Expungement, Traffic Violations, Theft, Personal Injury, Automobile Accidents, Wrongful Death, Family Law, Child Custody & Support, Divorces, Wills, Trusts and Probate. With over 22 years of experience and more than 100 jury trials, Garry Potts is one of the most experienced attorneys in the Tampa Bay area.