Phases of the Florida Criminal System

  1. Arraignment
    Arraignment is the first time that the Judge will officially notify the Defendant what charges the State has brought. Arraignment is the opportunity to plea Not Guilty and have your experienced criminal defense attorney investigate your case for ways to have the charges Dismissed, Reduced or have evidence suppressed.
  2. Motion to Dismiss
    Depending on what issues an attorney is able to spot during the investigation of a criminal case, a Motion to Dismiss may be filed. A case can be dismissed for a number of reasons. Either the State failed to bring you to trial within the speedy trial period, the State failed to bring charges within the Statute of Limitations. Also in limited circumstances, even if everything the state is accusing you of is true, there was no crime committed. This is known as a C-4 Motion to Dismiss.
  3. Motion to Suppress
    If the Court denies a Motion to Dismiss, or if there are no issues which give rise to a Motion to Dismiss, there is always a Motion to Suppress. Police are required to develop sufficient reasonable suspicion to detain you, and probable cause to search and arrest you. In the heat of the moment, police officers may act too aggressively and violate your constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If this has happened to you, an attorney may be able to argue the police violated the Defendant’s rights. If the Court agrees, any evidence the Police found or the State plans to use against you will be inadmissible in court. Most times, the Suppression of evidence leads to a dismissal of your case. Motions to Suppress are a very powerful tool to use in a criminal case.
  4. Trial – Jury
    If the Court denies all motions, or if none are available in your case and the State Attorney or Court will not make a reasonable plea offer, the last resort to take the case to trial. At trial, the State and the Criminal Defense Attorney will pick 6 members of the community. These 6 jurors will listen to all the evidence and decide whether the State has proven your guilty beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. The State will be forced to prove every element of the crime they are charging you with beyond a reasonable doubt. They will need to call their witnesses and present evidence proving there was a crime committed, and that you are the person who committed the crime. Your attorney will be able to cross examine each of the states witnesses to discredit their memory and knowledge of the facts. You will have the right to call witnesses in your behalf, as well as testify on your own behalf if after speaking to your attorney, you decide it is in your best interest.
  5. Trial – Non Jury
    If you decide, and the State agrees, a trial by jury can be waived and instead have the Judge hear all the evidence and render a verdict. The State will still have to prove everything but there will be no jury, only a Judge. In some cases this can be a good option because a Judge can sort through a lot of less relevant evidence the State seeks to introduce and be able to see issues clearly. The decision to waive a jury trial is one that should be made after a discussion with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
  6. Negotiated Plea
    When there are no motions to file, and a trial is not in your best interest, the only option to resolve any criminal case is through a plea of No Contest or Guilty through negotiations or to the Court. A negotiated plea is usually preferred because the Defendant and the Criminal Defense Attorney know what they are getting. If the State is unwilling to make a reasonable plea offer, then an Open Plea may become necessary.
  7. Open Plea – “A good lawyer knows the law. A GREAT Lawyer knows the Judge”
    This is not because the Judge will supposedly give a more favorable sentence due to some relationship he/she has with the Criminal Defense Attorney. Rather, an attorney who knows the Judge’s temperment and has experience dealing with that particular Judge has a better understanding and can make a more educated prediction about what the Judge will do if asked to partipate in plea negotiations. An Open Plea is when the Defendant and Attorney ask the Judge to participate in plea negotiations. A plea of Guilty or No Contest is entered, and the Defendant and Defense Attorney make an argument to the Judge as to why a particular sentence is appropriate. The Judge is then free to accept the argument and impose the proposed sentence, or the Judge can deny the argument and impose a stricter sentence than the State was asking for. An Open Plea is not something to be entered into lightly and should be discussed with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney before being entered into.

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