Criminal Process Overview

The criminal process in Florida has many layers that the average person likely doesn’t know about, and rightfully so. Judges, lawyers, and other legal professionals are some of the few who fully understand the complexities of the justice system; however, if you or someone you know was recently arrested, it is vital for you to learn the basics.

Arrests and Extraditions

The criminal process often starts with an arrest. An officer who has reasonable suspicion that a person is involved in criminal activity has the right to place him under arrest. Police officers may also arrest material witnesses. Although the person may be under arrest, he maintains rights that law enforcement officials must uphold. If these rights are violated, a criminal defense lawyer can bring forth a legal claim.

A defendant considered a fugitive from the law is a person who is wanted for committing a crime in one particular state and has fled to another state. When arrested in the other state, the original state has the right to have the person transported back to the jurisdiction to stand trial. This process is known as extradition.

First Appearance

Any suspect arrested and held in custody in Florida must appear in court within 24 hours. The first appearance consists of a brief meeting with the judge. It is an opportunity for the defendant to:

  • Learn about the charges he may face
  • Receive a copy of the complaint
  • Learn about his right to counsel, among other rights

The judge may also set conditions for release if any apply and appoint the defendant an attorney to represent him if he cannot afford a private attorney. A defendant inching toward his first appearance is strongly advised to acquire legal representation beforehand so that the attorney may be present.

Formal Charges and Arraignment

The arraignment is the second time the defendant appears before the judge. By the time of the arraignment, the prosecution has filed charges (if he or she has chosen to do so). During the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the charges against him and asks him to enter a plea. The defendant may enter a plea of guilt, innocence, or no contest. The judge may also set bail and the conditions of release at this hearing.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Those who have yet to do so by this point really must acquire legal representation. The court provides the accused with a public defender for the sake of the arraignment hearing, but the opportunity to seek the legal services of a private criminal defense lawyer remains. A defendant who seeks to hire private counsel should consider attorneys who have significant experience in the particular area of law that applies to his case.

Pleas and Pretrial Diversion Programs

Defendants are entitled to a reasonable amount of time to consider how to plead. There are three possible pleas a defendant can enter: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The benefits and drawbacks of each plea vary depending on the circumstances of the case. A criminal defense attorney can help a defendant make the best decision for his unique case. At The Umansky Law Firm, we strongly urge individuals facing criminal charges to speak with their lawyer before entering a plea.

Pretrial diversion programs may be available to first-time, nonviolent offenders who have been charged with misdemeanor or third-degree felony offenses. These programs aim to rehabilitate offenders so they may become productive members of society once more. It may be possible to avoid punishment by completing a pretrial diversion program, but one must diligently follow the terms of the program. In this way, entering a pretrial diversion program is similar to probation. These programs are voluntary; however, it is up to the State Attorney to determine whether you may enroll in them. Completing a pretrial diversion program will lead to dropped charges.

Florida Trial Procedure

Depending on the plea entered, a trial may be necessary. The Florida trial procedure allows the prosecution to present their case as to why they believe the individual in question is guilty of the charges against him. This is an opportunity for the defendant’s attorney to look out for his best interests. The defense attorney may present counterevidence and look out for his client’s best interests. The trial concludes with a verdict from a jury or a judge. The judge then hands down a criminal sentence if the individual is found guilty. If the Defendant is found Not Guilty, the Defendant is free from all responsibilities related to the arrest and charge.

Criminal Sentencing

The judge considers both mitigating and aggravating factors when sentencing a defendant. Depending on the offense, the defendant may be sentenced to incarceration, probation, pay restitution and/or court fines, community service, and other penalties.

Criminal Penalties

When sentencing an individual, the judge must abide by the minimum and maximum penalties allowed in Florida for that specific charge. The individual’s criminal history, conduct during trial, and other factors influence the severity of the penalties the judge issues.


After the judge sentences the accused, he or she can still attempt to have the court ruling overturned or reassessed. Both are made possible through the criminal appeals process. Appeals are not guaranteed approval, but the right criminal defense attorney can position you for a favorable ruling.

The Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm will be with you from the moment you’re arrested through every hearing, and the appeals process if necessary. Our talented staff of criminal defense attorneys can provide your case with the personalized attention it deserves. Everyone deserves a second chance. Get yours when you contact us for a free case evaluation.

Recent Criminal
Case Results

Burglary of Dwelling; Petit Theft

Withhold with 6 months probation and impulse control; adjudication withheld

Grand Theft ($300-$5000)

Nolle Prosequi-Case Dropped

CT-Driving Under the Influence Car (M1)

Nolle Prosequi - Case Dropped

CT- Driving under the influence car

Nolle Prosequi - Case Dropped

Grand Theft Third Degree

Adjudicated Guilty; One day jail/one day time serve; Restitution fees; Court Cost

Petit Theft < 300

We negotiated an agreement that entailed the State dropping the charge after our client completed a Pre-Trial Diversion Program. The Charge was dropped via a Nolle Prosequi.

Unlawful Speeding

Withhold of Adjudication; No points on license; Paid fine and clerk cost; 8 hour aggressive driver class; 90 days to satisfy fine and class

Shoot/Throw Missile Into Dwell/Struct/Veh; Child Abuse; Criminal Mischief; Battery (Domestic Violence)

No Information Notice - Charges Dropped

Attach Tag/Lic Plate To Unassigned Vehicle (M2)

Nolle Prosequi - Case Dropped

DUI with Minor In Car or BAL of .20 or Higher

Pled No Contest, 1 Year Probation, 10 day Car Impound, Community Service

Motion to Modify Probation

Motion Granted in 48 hours

Petit Theft

Adjudication Withheld, 4 Months probation, Costs/Fines, Impulse Control Class

Petit Theft of $100 or MORE (M1)

Nolle Prosequi

Refuse To Submit To DUI Test (M1)

Case Dropped

Battery on Law Enforcement Officer (F3); Disorderly Conduct (M2)

Nolle Prosequi - Case Dropped


Charges Dropped

Scheme to Defraud(F3); Grand Theft(F3)

Motion to Terminate Probation Granted

Unlawful Speed


Failed to Yield at Intersection

Not Guilty

Leave Scene Of A Crash W/Property Damage (M2)

Case Dropped

Motion to Modify and Impose a Withhold of Adjudication


Attempted Burglary of a Conveyance

Charges dropped

Possession of Cannabis (less than 20 grams)

Charges dropped


Reduced to reckless driving

Possession of Alcohol Under the Age of 21

Charges dropped

Driving Under the Influence

Reduced to Reckless Driving

Violation of Probation

Case Dismissed

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