How Long Does a Criminal Case last in Florida?
Whether you are charged with a Felony or a Misdemeanor, the procedures are similar. But due to the complexity of felony cases, the State Attorney is afforded more time to bring your case to trial. The typical life cycle of a criminal case in Florida is as follows:
First Appearance is a quick hearing primarily used to determine probable cause, set a bond, and discuss counsel. The court will usually appoint the public defender for indigent defendants. Some charges allow a defendant bond out before First Appearance. But usually a defendant, whether arrested with or without a warrant, is brought before the judge within 24 hours. Sometimes, this hearing will be at the detention facility conducted through a video with the court.
Warning: All JAIL CALLS ARE RECORDED
Sometimes the urge to discuss your case is overwhelming. Fight that urge! Do not discuss any details about your case with anyone but your lawyer. The use of jail-house informants occurs regularly. Additionally, jail phones are monitored directly by the police and prosecutors!
It is important to contact an attorney as quickly as you can. For instance, in DUI cases, you have just ten days to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license!
Arraignment is scheduled roughly 20 days after First Appearance. Arraignment is the formal hearing for the court to inform you of the charges against you and to accept your plea to the charge.
The State Attorney must make the determination to proceed with charges. The police do not charge you with a crime. The police simply make an arrest. The State Attorney makes the filing decision related to any charges filed against you. The State Attorney can either file a formal charge, called and Information, or choose to proceed on the citation you were issued. Arraignment is a formal hearing wherein you are charged with a crime and are to make your plea of not guilty or guilty.
In Florida, I file a written paper with the court titled: Not Guilty Plea and Demand for Trial by Jury. This paper allows me to waive your appearance at the Arraignment.
I never wait until arraignment to contact the State Attorney. Generally, I have already contacted or met with the Assistant State Attorney assigned to your case. Based on my reputation as a skilled trial lawyer, I can sometimes get the charges reduced, dismissed, or resolved prior to this hearing.
The next step of the court process is a pretrial conference. In felony cases, this hearing is called Case Management. A pretrial conference or case management is a hearing scheduled several weeks after the arraignment. This conference informs the court on the status of the case and allows for the prosecution and defense to schedule a trial date.
In felony cases, the prosecution should have provided all the discovery and an offer prior to case management. But if the state fails to provide that information by case management, the court will generally continue the conference to get the information to the defense.
Discovery in Florida. In Florida, the State Attorney is required to give you all the names of witnesses they intend to call at trial and all the evidence they will use. All this information is called “Discovery.” Because the State has so many cases, the discovery frequently is incomplete at this stage. And I am entitled to set every witness in the case for a deposition! Many states, like Colorado, do not allow for expansive discovery in criminal cases.
Whether your case is set for trial or postponed for another pretrial conference, I may elect to file motions on your behalf. A motion is just another word for petition or request. And it allows me to ask the court to do or not do something. I typically file my motions well before trial to limit the charges and issues for trial. Sometimes my motions can get the entire case dismissed prior to trial!
At an evidentiary hearing on these motions, the arresting officer usually gives a testimony. In some cases, an expert witness may also be asked to testify.
The vast majority of cases are resolved before reaching the date of trial. All defendants, however, have a constitutional right to a trial by jury. At a jury trial, the prosecutor tries to prove their case against you. If the jury finds you not guilty, you will be able to walk out of the courtroom as a free individual. If you are found guilty, however, you will be given a sentence. The sentence may include costs, fines, community service, and possibly even incarceration.
You have the right to know about your lawyer’s education and qualifications. Many attorneys advertise. But few attorneys have experience of a jury trial. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to do your heart surgery. Don’t hire an attorney that doesn’t have jury trial experience.
How Long Does the Average Case Take?
It is impossible to determine the length of each case, but on average, most misdemeanors are resolved within three months. Most felony cases last about twice as long. Here is a timeframe that may help you.
Why Should You Hire an Experienced Trial Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer that has actual experience in handling criminal jury trials is your best bet in securing the best result in your case.
I have personally handled nearly every type of criminal case in Florida. Both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, I have handled thousands of criminal cases. Contact Me for a free consultation to discuss your case.
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