Arrested? Don’t Forget Your Rights
If you or a loved one has been arrested, you need to be aware of your legal rights and that being arrested does not mean you lose those rights. The most important considering the circumstances is the right to remain silent and to have an attorney. Requesting an attorney is not a sign of guilt and cannot be used against you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your legal rights and keep the police from twisting your words against you.
You should never waive your legal rights. There is nothing that can be said that will alter the fact that you have been arrested. Let your defense attorney determine to what degree you need to talk with the police. You should however, be honest with the police when you do communicate with them. Tell them you’re real name. Inconsistencies in what an accused says will be used against you.
Once you are formally arrested you may have bond set at the jail. If a bond is set you can either post bond by paying the full amount to the jail or you can use a bondsman. Bondsman typically requires that you pay 10% of the bond as a fee, which is non-refundable. If you post bond on your own, as long as you show up for court, you will get your money back minus some court costs and fees.
If you were referred to pretrial release you will be placed on supervision with numerous restrictions on your release while your case is ongoing. This could include AA, random drug testing, anger control classes or other conditions. The failure to abide by those conditions could result in the revocation of your bond and a return to jail during the pendency of your case.
You are supposed to be seen by a judge within 24 hours of your arrest. The courts typically have a time set aside each day for First Appearances that a judge is assigned to. That judge will see all First Appearances for the county. At this hearing, the judge will review the charging affidavit of the police and determine whether probable cause exists and if so, set bond if it has not already been set. An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue in favor of a lesser bond and ensuring that a bond is set.
If you have not hired a private attorney to represent you there will be a public defender there to handle the hearing. That attorney generally handles all the cases for that hearing and is assigned just for that hearing. All defendants are given the opportunity to apply for a public defender if they desire one. If you qualify then a public defender will be assigned to represent you. You can always hire a private criminal defense attorney at any stage of the process if you elect to do so.
Usually within a few days after the First Appearance hearing you will have another hearing called an Arraignment. The purpose of the Arraignment is to formally present you with the charges against you and you are asked to enter a plea. Another benefit of having a criminal defense attorney is that they can waive your appearance at this hearing and future hearings. For out of state defendants this is especially important so as to avoid the cost and inconvenience of having to travel. If you choose to enter a plea of not guilty, the case will be moved towards trial. The State must bring you to trial within 180 days so the court typically schedules status hearings every 30-60 days to make sure the case is moving forward.
Moving Towards Trial
Once you and your defense attorney have decided to enter a plea of not guilty the case moves into the discovery phase. Depositions are taken of key witnesses. Arrest reports and other key documents are exchanged. Along the way strategies for putting forth defenses to the allegations are formed. Your defense attorney will also be in contact with the state attorney’s office to keep a dialogue going regarding possible plea bargains. Depending on the type of case pre-trial motions are filed. These might include a motion to suppress evidence in a drug case or motion to limit. At a certain point the decision to go to trial or take a plea offer is made.
If you are arrested you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. The State of Florida is represented by experienced attorneys whose job it is to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. It is imperative that you have skilled representation to protect your rights. A good criminal defense lawyer can help minimize or avoid severe penalties and consequences that you face.
If you would like to set up a consultation with one of our defense attorneys call or contact us anytime. Criminal consultations are always free.