What should I expect if I am arrested or charged with a criminal offense in Florida?
This is to serve as a basic breakdown of what someone should expect if they are arrested for a criminal offense in Florida. While there are some nuances to everything, this should give an overview of the process.
Crime Occurs Without An Immediate ArrestShould a crime occur and the alleged perpetrator is not arrested, then the case will be in an investigative phase. Law enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney will review the facts, review the case law and statutes, take witness statements, etc.
If the State Attorney reviews everything and finds that there is enough grounds to justify the charges (or any other applicable charges), the State can do one of two things: either have a notice to appear or summons issued in lieu of a physical arrest , directing the defendant to appear in Court on a given date or time; or, the State can seek to have a an arrest warrant issued for the defendant, commanding law enforcement to take the defendant into custody.
Crime Occurs & Defendant is Immediately Arrested or Defendant is Arrested by WarrantShould the crime occur and the defendant is immediately arrested, or should the defendant later be arrested by warrant, the process is typically the same. The defendant is taken into custody and transported to the local county jail. At the county jail, the defendant is processed by being searched, fingerprinted, having photographs (mugshots) taken, and is assigned an inmate number and is placed into a housing unit. The housing unit is typically left up to the discretion of jail administration and can be determined by a number of factors including gender, criminal history, health, etc.
What Happens Next? Immediate Bond vs. First Appearance?After the defendant is arrested and processed at the jail, if there is a bond set, the defendant may post the bond and be released. If there are any special conditions of the bond, the defendant must abide by those conditions or would be subject to rearrest for violation of his pretrial release. However, keep in mind that in Florida, you are not entitled to a bond for every crime or every arrest.
If there is no bond set, the defendant will have a first appearance. Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.130(a) states that "except when previously released in a lawful manner, every arrested person shall be taken before a judicial officer, either in person or by electronic audiovisual device in the discretion of the court, within 24 hours of arrest. In the case of a child in the custody of juvenile authorities, against whom an information or indictment has been filed, the child shall be taken for a first appearance hearing within 24 hours of the filing of the information or indictment."
The first appearance serves three purposes. The first is to inform the defendant of his charges; the second is to determine if the defendant qualifies and desires to have court appointed counsel to represent him on the case; and the third is to set a bond amount on each charge and to address any special conditions of bond that the Court may choose to set.