In general, if you are accused of a crime you will either be arrested (either at the scene of the alleged crime or by the issuance of a warrant that is later served by law enforcement, often at home or at work) or, in the case of certain misdemeanors, you may be released by law enforcement.
If you are not arrested, law enforcement may file a sworn complaint with the Office of the State Attorney. The Office of the State Attorney determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. If they find that a crime was committed, then a charging document (known as an Information) will be filed with the Court laying out the nature of the accusation against you.
If a felony is alleged, which is defined as a crime punishable by a minimum of 1 year and 1 day in prison, then the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. If the Information alleges a misdemeanor, which is defined as a crime that has a maximum possible penalty of up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine, then you may receive a notice to appear in court at an arraignment court date to answer to the charge.
Arraignment is a court date that exists primarily to advise you what you are accused of and to ask you how you plead.
If you were arrested, either at the scene of an alleged crime or upon the serving of a warrant, you will be taken to first appearance court by jail personnel within 24 hours of being arrested. This is a right you have in Florida. You must be brought to the first appearance within 24 hours of being arrested, regardless of whether your arrest was based on a warrant or on probable cause.
At first appearance, you have the right to confer with counsel, either privately retained or an appointed attorney from the office of the Public Defender.
The duty judge at first appearance will very likely not be the judge who ultimately handles your case. The first appearance judge has two jobs at first appearance. The first is to read the sworn complaint and determine whether or not probable cause is established by the sworn complaint. The second job (assuming that the Judge found probable cause) of the judge at first appearance is to set a reasonable bond.
A bond can be non-monetary in nature, such as a release on recognizance (ROR) which is essentially your promise to appear at a date and time set by the court. Another non-monetary bond can be a release to court services, which may impose pre-trial conditions on you, such as abstaining from the use of alcohol and drugs, not returning to a certain place, not having contact with certain persons and other conditions that the court may place on you depending on the nature of the charges against you.
The court may also feel the need to set a monetary bond on you in order to ensure that you will appear in court. This amount can range dramatically, depending on the nature of the charges against you, any previous failures to appear, whether you are considered to be a flight risk and other variables that the court will have to take into consideration.
If the nature of your criminal allegation is sexual or violent, additional laws may be triggered which may require that a dangerousness hearing be held prior to any release from incarceration.
If you are unable to secure your release from incarceration, either by a release on your own recognizance or a release on monetary or non-monetary conditions, you will sit in custody until your court date. In this event, Florida law states (in part) that “in no event shall any defendants remain in custody beyond 40 days unless they have been formally charged with a crime.”
Unfortunately, the practical effect of this law is that the prosecutor will often wait until the 40th day to file formal charges against you.
As you can see, a lot can happen in a short amount of time. Responding decisively and aggressively can make the difference between sitting in jail awaiting your court date or being out of custody while I work on your case.
Call today for your free consultation.