Florida Criminal Process
Whether you are a first-time offender or have been charged with a subsequent offense, any arrest for a Florida criminal offense can be a stressful, overwhelming process. It can be even more stressful when you consider the critical importance toward achieving and maintaining a comprehensive defense of your rights and your freedom each step in the process represents. Working with a knowledgeable Jacksonville criminal defense attorney from the very beginning, that is, as soon as possible after your arrest, may be the best option for achieving the favorable outcome you desire with as little stress as possible.CRIMINAL PROCESS IN FLORIDA
As an American citizen, you are regarded as innocent until proven guilty after any Florida arrest. Bill Roelke of Roelke Law, P.A. is a strong believer in this principal, and has dedicated more than 20 years of practice to defending the rights of alleged criminal offenders while working to protect their futures and their freedom. With prior experience as a research science, Bill Roelke methodically examines each case for factors that weaken the prosecution’s evidence or the validity of the manner in which it was maintained.
If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in the Jacksonville area, including Duval County, St. Johns County, Nassau County, Clay County, contact Roelke Law, P.A.. Your first consultation regarding your Florida criminal case is free, so call (904) 354-0333 today to schedule yours.
Florida Criminal Process Information Center
- Florida Misdemeanors and Felonies Common to Duval County
- Arrest or Notice to Appear in Court
- Florida First Appearance
- Preliminary Hearing in Duval County
- Plea Bargaining
- Trial by Judge or Jury in Duval County and Sentencing
Florida Misdemeanors and Felonies Common to Duval County
The Florida Statutes list over 300 offenses, misdemeanor and felony, that can be committed against the state. Though many of these offenses occur throughout Duval County and the surrounding areas, the presence of cities like Jacksonville means there are trends of offenses that are litigated more than others. An experienced Duval County criminal defense lawyer can help protect your rights and fight for a favorable outcome in any of these or other offenses common to the Jacksonville area:
- Traffic Crime
- Aggravated Assault
- Marijuana Charges
- Drug Charges
- Drunk Driving / DUI
Arrest or Notice to Appear in Court
The Florida criminal process begins with either an arrest or a notice to appear in court by a Florida law enforcement officer. After an arrest and booking, the criminal process proceeds almost immediately with a first appearance before a judge within 24-48 hours. If the officer chooses to issue a notice to appear, which orders an alleged offender to appear in court at a designated date and time, it will occur following the arrest but before the defendant would normally be booked. A failure to appear after being issued such a notice will result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. Having an experienced Duval County criminal defense attorney at your side from the very beginning may help you achieve a more favorable outcome as well as ensure your rights are protected.
Florida First Appearance
The purpose of the first appearance before the judge in Florida is to serve the defendant with the criminal charges against him or her, make sure he or she has legal counsel, and determine pretrial release conditions such as bail. This appearance must occur within 24-48 hours by law, and you do not have to say anything – though if you do choose to say something it can be used against you in future proceedings. Having your experienced Jacksonville criminal lawyer by your side during the first appearance can ensure your rights are protected and increase your chances at favorable pretrial release terms.
Preliminary Hearing in Duval County
After the first appearance comes one of the most critical steps in the process for your Florida criminal case prior to your Duval County trial: the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is where you and your Jacksonville area criminal defense lawyer can employ strategies such as motions to dismiss to weaken the prosecution’s case against you. A good defense strategy at this stage is key, because evidence won’t be held to the standard of reasonable doubt as at trial; rather, the lesser standard of probable cause is applied.
For probable cause, it only needs to be shown that a prudent and cautious person would reasonably believe both that a crime was probably committed, and that the defendant probably committed it. If you and your defense lawyer can show that probable cause does not exist, or that evidence showing probable cause was obtained against your rights or otherwise illegally, the preliminary hearing is your opportunity to get your case reduced or dismissed prior to trial.
The process of plea bargaining occurs after the preliminary hearing when probable cause and prima facie are made either for your original criminal charge or for a reduced charge. Either the district attorney or your Duval County defense lawyer may initiate the plea bargaining stage if one party or both finds that pleading out could be favorable.
Note that plea bargaining is an optional step in the process, not a right, and can occur at any point between your preliminary hearing and your trial verdict. Usually the bargain involves a guilty plea by the defendant to a more lenient charge and/or more lenient sentencing. Either the defense or the prosecution can terminate this process at any point before a plea if officially entered and opt instead for trial by judge or jury.
The Florida hearing where the defendant is formally presented with the charges against him or her and is subsequently asked to enter a formal plea is known as the arraignment. Upon a plea or nolo contendre (no contest) or guilty, the arraignment hearing will be followed by sentencing. If the defendant chooses to enter a plea of not guilty, the case will be moved for trial and the defendant and his or her attorney allotted reasonable time to prepare. If the defendant pleads out before the arraignment hearing, this step in the process can be waived.
Trial by Judge or Jury in Duval County and Sentencing
If your case moves forward in the Florida criminal process to trial, you and your Jacksonville criminal attorney will need to prepare for a trial by judge or trial by jury. A trial by judge is the process where the trial takes place before a judge, who will make the final adjudication. A trial by jury involves a selection process and then the argument of both sides of the case before the selected jury and a judge. The trial usually begins with opening statements, and then proceeds to the district attorney’s case which the defense may cross-examine. The defense then presents their case, which the district attorney may cross-examine, followed by closing arguments for each side and the verdict.
If the verdict comes back not guilty or with some other form of case dismissal, you are immediately given leave of the court. Sentencing for a guilty verdict is usually scheduled two weeks to 90 days from your trial date, and involves a hearing of both the prosecution’s and defense’s arguments for sentencing by a judge. The judge will then decide what penalties are necessary by statute and otherwise appropriate for your offense, such as probation, jail time community service, mandatory education, or other sanctions. It is critical even at the sentencing stage of the Florida criminal process to have your experienced defense attorney by your side to argue mitigating circumstances for favorable sentencing of your criminal offense in Duval County or the surrounding areas.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Jacksonville or the surrounding areas of Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fernandina Beach, Callahan, Hilliard, Orange Park, Green Cove Spring, and Middleburg, contact experienced Duval County defense lawyer Bill Roelke of Roelke Law, P.A.. He will provide you with personalized service while fighting ruthlessly to defend your rights against a Jacksonville area criminal conviction. For your free initial consultation on what Roelke Law, P.A. can do for your Duval County criminal case, call (904) 354-0333 today.