In Florida, misdemeanor cases are assigned to the COUNTY court. A criminal case in county court can be punished by no more than a year in jail. Most cases there end up with a probation sentence.
Felony cases are handled in the CIRCUIT court. Felonies are crimes that are punishable by more than a year in prison. First degree felonies carry up to 30 years, second degree felonies carry up to 15 years, and third degree felonies carry up to 5 years.
Once you are arrested, you are NOT yet formally charged. It is up to the State Attorney to decide whether to proceed with the case in the court system. A prosecutor will review the arrest information, speak with witnesses, and decide if to charge you, and what charges will be filed.
Once you are charged, you will receive an ARRAIGNMENT date. This is simply a hearing at which the judge advises you of your charges, and asks you how you wish to plea. Most cases begin with a plea of NOT GUILTY in order to have time to investigate and litigate the case.
Next comes the discovery process. This is the exchange of information between the State and defense. Florida is an open discovery state, and both sides have to reveal evidence they intend to use at trial. This process includes the taking of depositions, production of documents and other items (recordings, videos), and a general investigation of the case. This is a critical part of every criminal case.
Throughout the discovery process - which could take many months - there will be monthly court dates. This is to ensure that the case is moving along. At some point, the case will be ready to resolve.
Criminal cases resolve in one of three ways. First, charges can be dropped. This can be because the state does not have enough evidence, or because the defendant enters a diversion program, or because a motion has been granted and evidence excluded from use at trial. Second, the defendant may enter a plea and accept his or her punishment. Third, the case may go to trial.
While the experience in Federal court is extremely similar, the discovery process is extremely limited. You need an attorney who can uncover facts that the government is not required to reveal until trial.
Tallahassee criminal attorney Joe Bodiford has handled thousands of criminal cases, from both sides of the courtroom. In three and a half years as a prosecutor, and in eleven years as a defense attorney, he has seen it all. In addition to having the experience of having worked through the discovery and motion process of countless cases, he has been to actual jury trials in well over 100 cases. His jury trial experience includes cases of murder, white-collar cases, drug cases, and everything in between. In fact, because of his experience, he was called on to be an Adjunct Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law, teaching trial advocacy and Florida Criminal Procedure to law students.
You need an experienced attorney who knows the criminal system. Call Joe Bodiford today to discuss how your case will progress through the criminal system, and how he can help you through his difficult time.