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Been Arrested? What’s next?

Obviously a police officer has determined there is probable cause that you have violated the law. A bond will be set at the jail from an approved schedule that has been established by the Court System.

Bond

The purpose of a bond is to insure that you will appear for all court hearings. If you fail to appear at a scheduled hearing, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If that happens, securing a future bond will be most difficult because you have demonstrated to the court that you can not be trusted!

Advisory Hearing

If you have not posted bond, you will be taken before a judge within 24-hours of arrest. You will be “advised” of the charges filed against you and the amount of the bond. Judges have the power to raise as well as lower the bond already set. Also a Public Defender may be appointed at this time to represent you.

State Attorney Investigation

All criminal cases are turned over to the States Attorneys Office for investigation. A team of lawyers and law enforcement personnel review your case and based on the evidence, decide whether or not to proceed. If a decision is made to prosecute, formal charges will be filed against you, which may be the same or different from those for which you were originally arrested.

Information and Indictment

You will learn of the exact charges against you in two ways, by an information document or an indictment. The information document informs you of the nature of the charges against you. An indictment is a document that is returned by a grand jury recommending that you be prosecuted for violations of the law.

Solvency Hearing

This hearing is to determine whether you can afford your own attorney or should be assigned a Public Defender.

Arraignment

After the filing of the Information or Indictment documents, a formal hearing before a judge will be set expressly for you to enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If your plea is one of guilty or no contest, the judge will sentence you then and there for the crimes you have committed. If a plea of not guilty is entered, a pretrial hearing will be set.

Pretrial Conference

This conference allows the prosecutor and the defense attorney to meet with the judge to discuss your case, its status, and possible disposition. If disposition of the case is not possible, another pretrial hearing will be scheduled. If the case can be disposed of but you are not willing to accept an offer made by the prosecution or the sentence recommended by the judge, the case will be set for trial.

Discovery

Discovery is exactly that! You can discover pertinent details relating to information and witnesses gathered by the prosecution about your case. You will be informed about any accusations made against you, if experts will be used in the case and if there has been analysis of any evidence. There is usually a period of 4-6 weeks between the arraignment and pretrial conference. This time is usually reserved for you attorney to investigate the case, speak to witnesses, and prepare a defense. If additional time is needed by your attorney or you are unavailable for some legal reason, you may be required to waive your right to a speedy trial.

Speedy Trial

In Florida, you have the right to a speedy trial. The state must bring you to trial within 90-days plus a grace period on misdemeanor or within 175-days plus a grace period for a felony charge. It is usually in your best interest to waive the speedy trial option if more time is needed to prepare a proper defense. Sometimes staying within this time frame can be helpful to you, but whether to waive or not waive your right should be decided by you and your legal counsel.

Trial

If your case is set for trial, it may be a jury or non-jury trial. A jury trial carefully solicits select members of the community who do no know each other in any way. Their task collectively is to listen to and weigh all evidence applicable to your case, making a determination as to whether the State has proven your guilt beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.  Since each set of circumstances differs from case to case, the decision to choose between a jury or non-jury trial should only be made after consulting with your attorney.

Appearance in Court

Each time you are required to appear in court, it would be to your advantage to dress appropriately. This will show the proper respect due the court and let the judge know that you take this matter seriously.

 

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Jail Editorial

Click here for editorial in March 12th issue of St Pete Times:  Answers overdue in jail death case series.