Florida Criminal Court Process
The criminal arrest and court process is a mystery to most people. It often takes firsthand experience to understand what happens, step by step, after an arrest. But even when you are part of the process, you may not be confident about your rights or what comes next. You rightfully may have questions like: What should I expect? Do I need to say anything? When do I need a lawyer? The criminal court system is the same for everyone, which means it can be analyzed and prepared for. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges and have questions about Florida’s process, call experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney Erka Valcarcel of Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900 for a case consultation.
You can be arrested if the police have probable cause that you committed or are currently participating in a crime. Many arrests occur after a police officer witnessed someone committing a city, state, or federal offense. But keep in mind the police don’t have to see you commit a crime to arrest you. They can gather probable cause of your involvement in an offense through other means, such as description by a witness.
You can also be arrested if there is a warrant out for your arrest. A warrant is a legal document, signed by a judge or court clerk that states there is evidence to allow the police to take you into custody.
Your Miranda Rights
Whenever you are arrested, the police are legally required to tell you certain Constitutional rights you automatically have. They are called Miranda rights after the U.S. Supreme Court Case, Miranda v. Arizona. The case did not create these rights; however, they extended them in a way by ensuring that people are informed when taken into custody.
Your Miranda rights include:
- The right to remain silent
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
- You have the right to speak to an attorney
- You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you
Not only do you have these rights, but you should invoke them.
7 Steps to the Criminal Court Process
Initial Court Appearance
You will usually see a judge within 24-48 hours of your arrest. The judge will decide if there is actually probable cause to hold you longer or whether you should be released without charges or on bail. He or she will determine if bail is necessary and set the amount.
If you cannot afford an attorney, the judge will appoint a public defender to you.
Your arraignment is distinct from your initial appearance with the judge. At the arraignment, you will hear the charges against you, the prosecutor’s evidence, and the potential statutory punishments.
You will have the chance to enter a plea. At this point, you should plead not guilty to ensure you have time with your lawyer and can properly analyze your case to determine your best legal option.
Release on a Bail Bond
Once you are arrested, your mind will be on how you can be released from jail. While it is possible to be released on your word that you will return to court, most people are required to post a bail bond. Florida statute 903.046 states the purpose of bail and how the type and amount should be determined.
A bail bond is a cash deposit that ensures you will return to court for your trial. If you do not come back, the money is forfeited to the state. If you do return, the amount can be given back to you at the end of the process, which may be when charges are dropped, you accept a plea, or are found innocent or guilty at trial.
The amount required for bail can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Many people don’t have the cash they need on hand. In this case, you can use a private bail bondsman, which is a business that posts your bail for you.
Seek Legal Advice
You have the right to an attorney from the very beginning on your arrest. When you are taken to the police station, you can state that you will not answer questions until you are able to contact an attorney and have him or her present. You cannot be punished for invoking these rights.
But if you don’t have an attorney at the beginning, that’s OK. You can have a lawyer begin to represent you at any time during the criminal court process.
Preliminary Court Dates
You will attend at least one preliminary hearing within a few weeks of your arrest. During the preliminary hearing, you and your attorney will hear more about the prosecutor’s case against you.
You may have to attend other court hearings if either side of the case files pre-trial motions.
You have the right to a trial in front of a jury of your peers. During a trial, both the prosecutor and your attorney will present evidence. The prosecutor will use physical evidence and witness testimony to prove that you committed the crime you were arrested for. Your attorney will seek to prove the opposite and show the holes in the prosecutor’s case.
If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, the judge may sentence you immediately after the guilty verdict. However, if you are found guilty of a felony, a sentencing hearing will be set for a later date.
Call a Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyer For Help
If you are facing a criminal charge in Florida, contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney with Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. for a free consultation. An attorney can help you at every stage of the Florida criminal court process.
Erika Valcarcel has years of experienced as a criminal defense lawyer and understands you need someone who will compassionately and vigorously protect your Constitutional rights during this experience.