Formal Charges and Arraignment

in orange county courtGetting arrested may seem like the end all be all, but it is just the beginning of a possibly lengthy process. You must also be cognizant of the fact that an arrest doesn’t necessarily warrant criminal charges. The judicial system is incremental and, like every other case that enters the legal system, your case will have to progress from one stage to the next.

The source of immense anxiety for recently arrested individuals is the unknown. Not knowing what could happen next, the effect it may have, and what to do in preparation is enough to make an individual fear the worse. This is especially true for individuals with no prior criminal record. Those who have been recently arrested can expect the next couple of weeks or months to include the following.

Filing Formal Charges

A criminal case starts with an arrest report which details the specifics of what led up to the arrest including witness names, time, date, and location of the incident. They also come with suggested charges presented by the arresting officer. This information makes up the charging affidavit.

The prosecutor at the State Attorney’s office reviews the documentation and — even with recommended charges by the arresting officer — has the final say in what charges to file. He or she will then likely pursue one of the following options:

  • Conclude to charge the individual and file a complaint
  • Have the case sent to a grand jury for them to decide what charges to file if any
  • Choose not to pursue the case

The weeks or even months between your first appearance and arraignment is a crucial period not only for the prosecution but also your defense. One of the most damaging things you could do during this period is to forego the opportunity to acquire legal representation and allow the State Attorney’s Office to file the most damaging charges. This ultimately puts your legal defense at a disadvantage for future negotiations. Acquire a legal defense attorney who can initiate negotiations on your behalf for a more favorable outcome. Hiring a lawyer NOW can result in charges being reduced or dropped BEFORE the prosecutor decides to file charges. Speed is of the essence!

Arraignment Proceedings in Criminal Court

The arraignment hearing occurs after the prosecution has settled on what charges to file. This is often the first time the defendant is made aware of the charges unless he or she has acquired an attorney who has been in constant communication with the prosecution. An arraignment typically involves the defendant going in front of a judge who proceeds to do the following:

  • Read the criminal charges
  • Ask if the defendant has legal counsel or if he or she needs a court-appointed attorney
  • Ask if the defendant pleads guilty, not guilty, or no contest
  • Decide on altering the bail amount or to release the defendant on personal recognizance
  • Announce the dates of upcoming proceedings

Plea Options During a Florida Arraignment Hearing

No matter what the charges or circumstances, having the right to hear what charges are pending against you and entering a plea will take place during this hearing. Once the judge tells you what offenses you allegedly committed, you have three options to use as a formal response.

Not Guilty 

This plea tells the judge that you completely deny any charges of criminal behavior made by the prosecution against you. You will usually let the judge know if you want a jury or bench trial at this point. 

Guilty 

Defendants who plead guilty are giving a formal admission to the court that they committed the alleged crimes. It also means you accept full responsibility for those actions and the punishments that come with such a plea.

Nolo Contendere or No Contest

Although this is typically used in plea-bargain scenarios, a no-contest plea doesn’t admit guilt but accepts the consequences of the charges to settle the case quickly. 

Bail Issues and Recognizance

Defendants who are in police custody and plead not guilty may have the opportunity to explain to the court why they should not have to post bail and instead should be trusted to return on their own recognizance. 

Whether a court and its prosecutors are receptive to this situation is hard to determine. The circumstances surrounding your case, as well as prior criminal record issues, could make this difficult if not impossible. If one does have the opportunity to post bail, an experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure the amount needed is reasonable. 

 

Trust the Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm

Individuals facing their first or subsequent criminal charges should not treat their predicament lightly since Florida has some of the harshest sentencing guidelines in the nation. If you or a loved one find yourself facing allegations in a court for committing a crime, retaining a proven successful criminal defense lawyer is vital to your rights and future. 

The defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm are ready 24/7 to represent you and fight tirelessly to protect you against illegal investigation practices. Our team has more than 100 years of combined criminal defense experience and a vast pool of criminal court knowledge as former state prosecutors in Florida. As recognized members of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite, you can trust your defense is in the hands of knowledgeable attorneys who will fight these types of charges vigorously. Contact us today at 407-228-3838 for a free case evaluation.