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How Long Does a Florida Criminal Case last?

Although each case is different, Florida Criminal Cases usually last about 90 days for misdemeanor and 180 days for felonies. The charges can be very different, but the general procedure for Florida criminal cases, whether felony or misdemeanor, are similar. The reason for double the time for felony over misdemeanor is based on the complexity and seriousness of most felonies. For those reasons, the State Attorney gets more time to bring your case to trial. 

The typical life cycle of a criminal case in Florida is as follows:

First Appearance

First Appearance is a short 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.  A defendant, whether arrested with or without a warrant, sees the judge within 24 hours. Sometimes, this hearing will be at the detention facility conducted through a video with the court.

Jail Calls & Video Visits

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, the police and prosecutors directly monitor jail phones and video visit recordings!

Warning: The State Records All Jail Calls!

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

Arraignment usually occurs 20 days after First Appearance. The purpose of the Arraignment is twofold:

  1. for the court to formally inform you of the charge or charges against you, and
  2. For the Court to Accept your plea to the charges.

At this point, the State Attorney must make the determination to proceed with charges. In Florida, the police do not make the decision to charge you with a crime.

Sure, the police can, and do, arrest folks for committing crimes, but it is the State Attorney’s responsibility to make the determination whether to file charges.

If the State Attorney decides to proceed with the case, then the case can proceed in one of two ways: The State Attorney can either file a formal charge, called and Information, or choose to proceed on the citation you were issued.

Personal Appearance at Arraignment is Not Mandatory

In Florida criminal cases, 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.

Once the Not Guilty Plea is filed, the clerk of court will simply announce on the record for the judge that a written not guilty plea has been entered and the case is scheduled for case management if the Florida crime charged is a felony or a pretrial conference if it is a misdemeanor.

By the time Arraignment happens, I have already met with my team of investigators to gather evidence. And I have already talked or met with the State Attorney.

Scheduling

The next step of the court process is a pretrial conference. Although the names are different case management and pretrial conference are basically the same hearing.

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.

Felony Criminal Cases

Circuit Court’s hear Felony criminal cases in Florida. And in felony cases, the prosecution should have provided all the discovery and an offer prior to case management.

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. Some circuit court judges only continue felony cases a week or two.

Misdemeanor Criminal Cases

County Courts hear Misdemeanor criminal cases in Florida. The process is generally the same, in that the State should have provided all the discovery and an offer to the defense before the pretrial conference. Usually the continuances for county court are longer than the that of circuit court.

Discovery in Florida Criminal Cases

In Florida criminal cases, whether felony or misdemeanor, the State Attorney must give you all the names of witnesses they intend to call at trial, and all the evidence they will use. That evidence is “Discovery.”

Because each Assistant State Attorney has so many cases, it is not uncommon for them to provide incomplete discovery at this stage.

Unlike other states, in Florida Criminal Cases, the Defense can depose every single witness listed in the case–Including Law Enforcement!

Pretrial Motions

Whether your case is set for trial or postponed for another case management or pretrial conference, you may have valid motions to file.

A motion is just another word for petition or request to the court. Lawyer’s use motions to get issues before the court. 

That “something” is usually the prosecution or defense asking the court to do or not to do something.

Some Common Motions are:

  • Compel Discovery,
  • Suppress Evidence, and
  • Motions to Dismiss

I typically file my motions well before trial to limit the charges and issues for trial. These hearings are “evidentiary”, and both the State and Defense can present evidence. Usually the arresting officer gives a testimony. And in some cases, expert witness may testify. 

I have successfully moved to dismiss serious felony cases prior to trial, including Sex Crimes!

Trial

A great majority of cases resolve before reaching the date of trial. But all defendants charged with Florida criminal cases have the constitutional right to a trial by jury. Believe it or not, but some states like Hawaii do not provide a jury trial right to anyone charged with less than a full misdemeanor! Meaning, you can go to jail without the benefit of a jury trial!

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. But if the jury finds you guilty, you will most likely be sentenced. The sentence may include costs, fines, community service, and possibly even incarceration.

How Long Does the Average Case Take?

It is impossible to guarantee the length of each case. But on average, most Florida misdemeanor criminal cases resolve within three months. Most felony criminal cases last about 180 days.

Why Should You Hire an Experienced Trial Lawyer?

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. Make sure whichever lawyer you hire has actual experience handling a case or charge like yours. You might find that the advertising lawyer is not the attorney handling your case!

You Don’t Want to Take Chances on an Inexperienced Lawyer. Compare Actual Case Results before you make a hiring decision.

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 prosecuted and defended nearly every type of Florida criminal case. I have successfully handled thousands of criminal cases. Contact Me for a free consultation to discuss your case.