The Criminal System in Florida can be a daunting beast to deal with. However, with a little information from an experienced Cannabis Defense Attorney, all is not lost. Below you will learn how a criminal case begins, and what you should do if faced with a Possession of Cannabis charge in Florida.
1. You received a Notice to Appear (Ticket)
If you are being detained on suspicion of misdemeanor possession of cannabis or drug paraphernalia, the officer can decide to write you a Notice To Appear (NTA for short). The NTA is a piece of paper which you are required to sign. (Refusal to sign an NTA is a misdemeanor in itself Florida Statute 318.14). The NTA is to put you on notice that your appearance in court is required at some future date. When you receive the NTA, make sure the address the officer wrote on the ticket is accurate. The mail is the only way the Court will send you notices and other important information. If your address is not accurate, you will not receive notices from the Court. This could result in you failing to receive notice of important court hearings. Failure to appear at court hearings could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. That would be a bad thing.
1.5 – You got Arrested
If the officer is either in a bad mood or has nothing else to do, he or she may decide to place you into custodial arrest. This would include handcuffs and a ride downtown to the local precinct and then to the county jail where you would have the opportunity to post bond. Depending on what county you are arrested in and your degree of criminal history, the bond can range from ROR (release on own recognizance requiring no money) up to several hundred, or even several thousand dollars bond. Contact your local bondsman to arrange for bond money to be posted.
2. What happens next?
Now the case begins. You wil be given a court date to appear within 30 days. You should be contacting an attorney immediately upon your release, or as soon as you were served with the Notice to Appear. Once the court date comes, the Prosecution will make you an offer to resolve your case. For first time offenders, there is usually an option to participate in a Pre-Trial Diversion Program to have your charges dismissed. These programs are given either by the State Attorney’s Office or by the Court. These programs can run anywhere from 3-9 months for first time offenders. You will be asked to perform community service hours, and receive 3 negative drug tests in a row before the case can be dismissed.
3. What if I do not want to do a program?
You certainly do not have to participate in a court program. Programs take a lot of time, and sometimes cost several hundred dollars to participate. As a first time offender, you may be offered a “Withhold of Adjudication” as a plea offer to close your case without a trial. A Withhold of Adjudication will show up on a criminal histody check but does not count as a conviction. A conviction on a cannabis charge will result in a suspension of your driving privileges for 2 years.
4. But I have a defense, I do not want to plea to the charge.
This is why speaking to an attorney before going to court is so important. A Criminal Defense Attorney will be able to review your police report and identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case. The Attorney will be able to advise you about the likelihood of a dismissal based on a Pre-Trial motion, or at trial. Many Attorney’s give free consultations, and would be happy to speak to you about your case.
5. SPEAK TO AN ATTORNEY
If you are facing any criminal charge, or if you have any questions related to criminal law please call 1-800-403-3887 to speak to Grant Schwarz, Criminal Defense Attorney. Phones are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week for a free case evaluation.
Never talk to police or go to court without first speaking with a criminal defense attorney. Remember, even fish would not get caught if they kept their mouth shut.