A step by step guide to life of a criminal case in Florida.
Typically within 24 hours of your arrest, you will appear before a Judge. The judge will review your case to determine if Probable Cause exists. A prosecutor will be present and if Probable Cause does not exist on your case, they will often ask for an extension of time. Prosecutors will often make two arguments at this stage: 1) Ask for extension of time, which can be up to 72 hours or 2) Argue that Probable Cause is a very low burden of proof.
NOTICE TO APPEAR
If you are accused of committing a misdemeanor or municipal or county ordinance, then law enforcement may have given you a notice to appear. Before appearing before a Judge is the time to be proactive! Notices to Appear act a lot like Arraignments. The Judge will discuss what you are accused of doing with you. Remember you are being recorded! The judge will likely skip to arraignment and ask you how you plead - guilty or not guilty - and set a future date for you. An offer may be conveyed. It's important to talk with an attorney before agreeing to anything. These are still criminal charges and may have future consequences.
This is when the prosecutor reviews the case and determines what crimes to charge. Charging is basically the prosecutor stating that they have a good faith belief that you did this crime based on sworn testimony. If you are in jail, the State will want file charges within 33 days, or you will be released. The State can ask for an extension of time, though, up to 40 days. At 21 days, you may ask for an Adversarial Preliminary hearing, which may be a tactical decision that can be discussed with an attorney. However, if the State files any information, it eliminates the Adversarial Preliminary hearing.
You will usually be brought before the Judge that will see the case all the way to its end. This is when your options are discussed with the Court. Remember you are being recorded. You will be able to either enter into a plea of Guilty or Not guilty. An offer may be conveyed, but you need to remember these are criminal charges and can affect your future.
One of the possible hearings that may occur on your case is a pretrial hearing. This is a status type date to make sure the case keeps moving forward. A trial date is often set and the Judge wants to know how the case is progressing forward.
Your case may have certain motions that need to be filed such as:
1) Motion to Suppress -
You have rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Typically, in a criminal case, the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments may apply to your case. If the government has violated your constitutional rights, it's important to get the advice you need to on your case.
2) Motion to Dismiss -
Sometimes a Motion to Dismiss can be filed. Typically, cases can be dismissed because they are too old and the statute of limitations has expired, the right to speedy trial has been violated, or the facts that both the State and defense agree on do not constitute a crime.
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