The Florida Criminal Process
Being charged with a criminal offense in Florida can be very overwhelming – especially if you aren’t familiar with the Florida criminal process or the
rights available to you at each step. These are critical things to understand, because every step in the process is important to your case and whether it will
go to trial, be reduced, or be dismissed altogether. Hiring an experienced Pensacola criminal defense attorney at the very beginning of the process can
help reduce your fears and may be beneficial to your case as a whole.
Criminal Process in Florida
With over two decades of experience litigating in Florida Chris Rabby defends his clients with the knowledge of what it takes for the prosecution to prove
important factors such as reasonable cause and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If you or a loved one has been arrested in Pensacola, Escambia County, or Milton, Santa Rosa County, Florida and face the intimidating Florida criminal process for your criminal charges, you don’t have to face it alone.
Arrest or Notice to Appear
After a crime is allegedly observed or a criminal complaint is made, the alleged offender will be arrested and/or served with a notice to appear in
Florida court. For the alleged offender who is arrested and booked, the criminal process will begin almost immediately. In some cases, a law enforcement officer may issue a notice to appear in lieu of physical arrest.
The notice to appear is a written order issued by a law enforcement officer requiring an alleged offender to appear in a specific court at a designated date
and time. The alleged offender must sign the notice to appear to be released from the officer’s control.
You have a right to an attorney, use it. Chris Rabby can begin protecting your rights and fighting for your future immediately after you have been arrested or served.
First Appearance in Florida
Within 24 hours of physical arrest and booking into jail, the alleged offender will be taken before a judge for his or her first appearance, also called an initial appearance. In Florida, the purpose of the first appearance is to ensure the defendant has counsel, notify the defendant of their criminal charges, and determine bail as well as other conditions of pretrial release. As a defendant in your first appearance, you do not have to say anything.
If you do choose to speak at first appearance, it can and will be used against you in future court proceedings. An experienced criminal defense lawyer
in Escambia County will be able to guide you through this initial process regarding your Pensacola criminal charges, as well as fight for favorable terms
for your pretrial release.
The arraignment hearing is the step where the defendant is formally read the nature of the charges against him or her, and then is formally asked to enter a plea. Chris Rabby can generally appear for his clients at arraignment. For felonies, only “not guilty” pleas are accepted.
Generally all defendant’s enter a plea of not guilty and the matter is set for a status conference called a Docket Day or Plea day.
Chris Rabby will file a request for discovery that requires the government to present all evidence and witnesses against you. This evidence will be reviewed for preparation for trial. Sometimes the witnesses are scheduled for a deposition, which is an interview under oath.
Docket Day/Plea Day
This is a case management day, where a person appears before the judge and announces if they are prepared for trial, asks for the case to be continued or enters a plea of nolo contendere. If there is an agreement as to sentencing, sentence is imposed at that time.
Many cases are resolved by the entry of a nolo contendere plea. This is an optional phase, as plea bargaining is an unofficial step in the process entered
into by the prosecution and the defendant, and is not a right. This can occur at any point before the trial. The process must conform with the Florida Criminal Punishment Code and Guidelines Scoresheet in felony cases. Some cases have mandatory punishments and sentences. Plea bargaining may allow the defendant to plead to a lesser charge in lieu of the initial charge, or the option of pleading guilty to the original charge for a more lenient sentence. Since this is a voluntary process, either the defense or the prosecution can withdraw and choose trial at any point.
If you decide to move ahead with a trial, the next step will either be trial by judge or trial by jury. Trial by judge is where you simply appear
before a judge to have both sides of the case argued on your court date. Trial by jury is more involved, as the jury selection process is an active process
requiring the attention of the prosecution and the defense. Once the trial begins, the process generally goes in the following order:
Preliminary instructions to the jury
The government’s case is presented
Defense cross-examines the government’s case and witnesses
The defense’s case (if any, as the Defendant has a right to remain silent) is presented
The government cross-examines defense’s case
Instructions to the Jury
Jury deliberation, and
Upon a verdict of not guilty or other dismissal, you are free to go and don’t face sentencing. However, on a guilty verdict or guilty plea, sentencing can be
imposed immediately on some offenses and other offenses require sentence reports and preparation. The judge will hear arguments from the prosecutor and your defense attorney, as well as a statement from you if you choose, and then decide your sentencing based on these and the case at trial. At this point, depending on the severity of your offense, you could be facing fines, jail time, probation, community service, or any other measure the judge deems
Contact Christopher L. Rabby, P.A. at our Pensacola, Florida law firm to speak with us today.
Freedom is your priority — and ours.
Call us at 850-437-9410 or contact us online now!