Orlando Criminal Process
The purpose of this guide is to give a brief overview of what the Orlando criminal process looks like from beginning to end. When people get arrested the first complaint they usually have is lack of information and a lack of understanding what the Orlando Criminal Process Looks like. This guide merely attempts to give a rough timeline of the Orlando criminal process. Clearly there is more to the Orlando Criminal Process than this, but this helps to give those people who are uniformed some understanding of what the Orlando Criminal Process looks like. At least in a rough generalized way.
- 1. Arrest or Notice to Appear: The first and most obvious step in the Orlando criminal process is arrest. Sometimes you will be given a notice to appear in less serious criminal cases. However, by far the most common first step is simpy being arrested. The arrest triggers multiple running time clocks in the process. For example, the state has 21 days to file formal charges otherwise you are entitled to file an adversarial preliminary hearing. The State has 33 days to file formal charges or you are entitled to non-monetary release (ROR). The State has 180 days to file formal charges or speedy expires. The arrest triggers those timelines. The arrest also serves a very basic first step in the process. It signals that there is allegedly evidence against you and that that evidence is allegedly at least enough to satisfy a probable-cause determination. An arrest however IS NOT any indication that the state has filed formal charges against you or that those particular charges will even stick. Keep in mind that probable cause is an incredibly low burden.
- 2. Initial Appearance: Within 24 hours of arrest you will appear before a judge. This is generally the second step in the Orlando criminal process. At your first appearance the judge will look at the 4 corners of the police’s arrest affidavit and determine whether there is probable cause for an arrest. As a general rule, outside evidence is not allowed for purposes of determining probable cause. For example, let’s assume you have a prescription for medication and you were arrested for possession of a controlled substance. That prescription could not be introduced to show the police didn’t have probable cause. HOWEVER, that prescription could be used to show the judge the strength of the state’s case and used to reduce the bond significantly, possible a non-monetary bond. This appearance does not always indicate the strength of the state’s case. It’s merely another check in the system. The judge’s are “checking” the Police’s power to arrest you. In other words it’s just an attempt to make sure the cops arrested you for actual probable cause.
- 3. Formal Charges: The next step in the Orlando criminal process. The next 33 days are often the worst if you are unfortunate enough to be stuck in jail. That is because you will have no court dates, no discovery, and you will be completly left in the dark. This is often when Arrestees complan the most. People want answers, where’s the evidence, when is my next court date, when do I get out of here. For the first 33 days you are in limbo. You will likely rely mostly on a police arrest affidavit and this timeline for what to expect moving forward. If the state doesn’t file formal charges within 21 days you may ask your criminal defense attorney for an adversarial preliminary hearing. This gives you a first chance to really see the evidence against you with actual testimony and evidence presented. If the state hasn’t filed within 33 days you will be released ROR without having to pay a monetary bond. However, if within this 33-day period the state does file formal charges you will be given a court date for an arraignment. If you are out of jail the arraignment is usually set several weeks to a month out. However, if you are in jail the arraignment is set within one to two weeks usually.
- 4. Arraignment: The next step in the Orlando Criminal Process. Arraignment’s usually occur between one month and two months of arrest. This is by no means a set standard, as some cases have arraignments up to 4 or 5 months after arrest. An Arraignment is a simple court date that a majority of attorneys waive for their client because it rarely serves any legitimate purpose. An arraignment simply involves standing up before the judge and saying “NOT GUILTY.” In some instances however the State will make it clear that they will make their best plea offer at arraignment. The State will then sometimes say that if you don’t accept this offer then the plea offer will go up. This is a case by case analysis and should be discussed with your attorney to make a determination of whether the offer truly is good and what the goals of your particular case are.
- 5. Case Management: The next step in the Orlando Criminal Process. Case Management occurs several weeks after arraignment. Not all criminal divisions and not all cases have case management. Case Management is a tool of alleged judicial efficiency where all the unresolved cases are placed on a docket and again the judge and the state will attempt to clean the docket up by having cases get resolved. Some judges make offers from the bench. Some State Attorneys will actually attempt to make their legit best offers at this stage. While others don’t plan much for it and simply treat it as a seond arraignment. A lot of this is case and courtroom specific. A good criminal defense attorney with knowledge of the process can help walk you through.
- 6. Pretrial: The next step in the Orlando Criminal Process. The last step before Trial is usually the Pretrial (unless some other superseding event is scheduled by your attorney, judge, or state). In Felony cases this event is about 90+ days into the criminal process. Shorter for Misdemeanor cases. At PTC usually one of three things happen: (1) the case is placed on trial docket for a trial; (2) the case is set for a plea; or (3) the case is continued. If the case is set for trial you should expect a turnaround of about two weeks before you make it before the jury. Unexpected delays can occur such an overcrowded docket and case with higher priority which push your case back to a subsequent pretrial. However, if you announce ready for trial you should be prepared to stand before a jury and make your cases two weeks out. If you set the case for a plea you can usually choose a date within the upcoming 3-week trial period. Some judges may also allow you to enter your plea right there at pretrial, although that practice is often frowned upon and discouraged by many judges (simply because of the volume of cases, entering pleas at PTC could drag PTC out to an all-day event). If you choose to continue the case the case will be pushed back to a subsequent pretrial. This is often done as a way to get more time to negotiate, more time to prepare, or simply more time to explain the case to the client.
- 7. Trial: The last step in the Orlando Criminal Process is the trial. This can happen quickly, if demands for speedy are filed, and this can be dragged out years if the case is difficult and of grave importance.
- 8. Appeal: If you lose you can appeal the decision, but this is generally considered a part of the appellate process and can take an incredibly long period of time to get answers and results from an appeal.
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