If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, you might be wondering the details about the process moving forward. Will the case go to trial? How long will it take? Do I need a criminal defense attorney?

The criminal legal process is not a fast one. Whether you have been charged with a violent crime, a traffic offense, or a misdemeanor, taking your case to trial means that you will be dealing with this case for at least 3 months, possibly more. We will discuss rough timelines and what to expect below. 

How Long Will it Take for My Case to Go to Trial?

Generally in Florida Criminal Court a misdemeanor lasts 90 days and a felony lasts 180 days. Each case is different and this can vary based on the complexity of your case criminal charge.

A reckless driving misdemeanor is different from a sex crime or drug crime in timelines, but generally you can gauge how long until you are first charged to when the process might be over.

In general, the timeline is as follows:

First Appearance

The first appearance is a short hearing after you have been charged with either a felony or misdemeanor. This hearing is in front of a judge and happens within the first 24 hours. At this hearing, probable cause, bond, any probation violations, and, representation is discussed.

In criminal cases, you have the right to legal representation. If you cannot afford one, the court will assign a public defender to you to take on your case. 


The arraignment takes place 20 days after the first appearance. You will once again appear in the courtroom, this time to figure out two things. The first is for the court to formally accept the charges that have been brought against you. The second is for the court to accept your plea to the charges. You can plead either guilty or not guilty. 

The prosecutor is the attorney for the state or county you are in, and they will decide whether or not to charge you with the crime. If they decide to move forward with your case, they will either file a formal charge or move forward with the citation that you were issued.

Pretrial Conference/Case Management

The next step in the process is the pretrial conference, or case management. This is a hearing that occurs a few weeks after the arraignment occurs.

The purpose of the conference is to let the court know what the status of the case is. It also is the time in which the prosecutor and defense attorney will schedule a trial date.

This point is when the case can get delayed. All of the information needed in discovery is support to be ready for the court by the time that the pretrial conference comes around. If anything is missing, scheduling can be delayed to allow more time.


In between the pretrial conference and trial, motions are filed, a jury is chosen, and discovery is happening. Many cases are settled before they reach trial. For the small percentage that does make it to trial, this process is when the State makes their case against you, while your criminal defense lawyer aims to convince the jury otherwise. Trials usually last a few days, and the jury can deliberate anywhere from a few hours to a few days before they render their verdict. If you are found guilty, the judge will have a separate hearing in which they sentence you.


If you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you have the constitutional right to an attorney.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help do a few things, such as lessen the charges against you or get you a better plea deal. Hiring an experienced attorney can get you the best result for your case.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and needs the services of an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney, contact Michael Fayard, Attorney at Law at 434 S Washington Blvd Ste. 200, Sarasota, FL 34236, or schedule an appointment via phone at (941) 306-1310.

Frequently asked questions including: What percentages of criminal cases go to trial in Sarasota, FL and Sarasota County.

What percentage of cases actually go to trial?

Believe it or not, only about five percent of criminal offense cases, both felonies and misdemeanors, go to trial. The United States Courts estimates that 90% of federal court cases end with plea bargains, while other surveys conducted by sources such as the New York Times have given higher percentages on the state level that end in plea bargains.

What determines if a case goes to trial?

In a criminal case, you can either plead or go to trial. The prosecutor must first decide to bring charges against you. Your defense attorney will advise on whether they believe you should try and do a plea bargain or move forward. The decision is ultimately up to you as the client on what you want to do.

Why do trials take so long to start?

A lot needs to get done before a trial. The discovery phase alone is extremely time-consuming, and legal delays by attorneys on both sides can make the process even longer. The more complicated the case, the longer it takes to prepare for. Plus, scheduling everything around the witnesses, the attorney dockets, and the courts schedules is a juggling act that makes it a drawn out process.