120 S. Olive Ave., Suite 402
West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Post Arrest Process in Florida

Few people understand the criminal justice process in Florida. The following provides an overview of what you can expect if you or a loved one are arrested.

Florida Criminal Process Information Center

Overview of Arrest

Each and every county in Florida; Palm Beach, Broward, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Dade, has a chief prosecutor titled State Attorney. Each State Attorney has many Assistants working under him. The State Attorney Offices are in charge of prosecuting all criminal offenses that occur within their prospective counties. The State Attorney is within the Executive Branch of Government.

The State Attorney may charge a criminal defendant with an accusation of a crime in one of two ways: (i) filing and information or (ii) impaneling a grand jury to return a true bill. It is important to remember that Law Enforcement Officials cannot charge someone with a crime; they only have the ability to arrest. Only the State Attorney or his Assistants may charge someone with a criminal case.

In Florida, however, a Law Enforcement Officer such as: a Deputy Sheriff, Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement officers-Boca Raton Police Department, Lantana Police Department, North Palm Beach Police Department, Stuart Police Department, Hollywood Police Department and so on, may arrest and individual. In Florida, an arrest may actually occur in two distinct ways: (i) the defendant is placed in handcuffs and booked or (ii) the defendant is given a Notice to Appear.

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Posting Bond or Bail

In most cases, you are entitled to a reasonable bond set by the court. Generally, this requires that you post a bond with the court. A bond is a binding agreement to pay money to the court in the event that you do not appear for your scheduled court dates. A bond is intended to ensure your appearance in the case. Your bond may either be a cash bond in smaller cases, or a surety bond in larger cases.

To post a surety bond, you will need the assistance of a bondsman who will file a bond with the court on your behalf, guaranteeing your appearance at all scheduled court dates. The bond is a conditional release, therefore, if you are arrested for subsequent offenses while you are out on bond, your original bond may be revoked by the court without notice. If you cannot afford to post the bond that is set by the court, it may be necessary to request a bond reduction hearing with the court. Depending upon the severity of the allegations made against you, the court may also impose other conditions of your pre-trial release, which could include many other restrictive conditions, such as electronic monitoring.

After the accused has his or her First Appearance, Mr. Stine will help provide the family members with a bail bonds company. Mr. Stine will help make sure that your loved one is granted a reasonable bond and assure that the bond will be posted by a reasonable bonds person. If the accused is placed on house arrest, electronic monitoring wherein the accused must stay within the confines of his or her home, Mr. Stine will help and make sure the home is ready for the device. Meaning, that a hard telephone line or service is in place, assuring the house arrest supervisor receives the court order, and most importantly makes sure the county jail releases the accused in a timely manner.

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Magistrate Court

Once you are arrested and have been in custody for twenty-four hours or more, you are entitled to a magistrate hearing for determination of whether probable cause exists for your arrest. Probable cause for an arrest is facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that a crime has been committed. If no probable cause is found for your arrest, you will be released on your own recognizance. In the majority of cases, probable cause is found by the magistrate judge and the bond amount is generally set by the Clerk of Courts, as a standard bond amount. If your arrest stems from an arrest warrant (a court order by a judge commanding your arrest), the judge signing the arrest warrant will set the bond amount, which is typically higher than a standard amount bond for the same offense.

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Tracking Your Case

Within one to two days, the probable cause affidavit, or initial arrest report, on your case will find its way to the Clerk’s Office from the booking desk at the jail, and you will be randomly assigned a case number and judge. This information is computerized and viewable online at the Broward County Clerk of Courts Online Search. You can track certain information about your case, including court dates and case status from this web site.

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Case Filing Decision

The State Attorney’s Office will generally begin to review the case filing package on your case within two weeks of your arrest and, if you are in custody, make a filing decision within 21 days of your arrest. If you are not in custody, the filing decision generally takes about 30 days, or longer. Once the State files what is known as an “Information” in your case, the Clerk’s Office will post your charges into the Clerk’s computer and you will be noticed with an arraignment date. You may also have changes to your bond on the same date, assuming there are added charges, or charges changed from those that you were originally arrested for by the police. This is common, because police do not always arrest you for the identical offenses that you are ultimately charged with by the State Attorney’s Office.

As previously mentioned, the Office of the State Attorney will determine which, if any, criminal charges should be filed against the arrestee. Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine will proactively put together a pre-filing package to help determine if the accused should have charges file against him or her.

Remember, the Law Office of Andrew D. Stine prides itself on helping individuals who have been formally arrested by Law Enforcement, but not yet had criminal charges filed against the individual by the Office of the State Attorney. As a criminal defense lawyer, serving all of Florida, I try to educate the Office of the State Attorney handling the criminal accusation on facts about the case and the defendant that the Law Enforcement Officer will not mention. In other words, Andrew D. Stine will provide the prosecuting attorney with exculpatory evidence, like a sworn statement from the alleged victim in a Felony Battery or Domestic Battery case that the victim was not touched against their will by the defendant, or that the victim wishes not to prosecute, or that the victim was the actual aggressor.

In drug cases such as, Trafficking in Oxycodone, or Possession of Marijuana with Intent to sell, or Possession of Xanax with intent to sell, or any other crime, the law office immediately picks through the evidence with a fine tooth comb to ascertain whether or not the evidence was gathered legally. More times than not the Arresting Officers violate the individual’s 4th Amendment Right when they obtain the contraband through an illegal search and seizure. If this is the issue in your criminal case, then Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine will provide these facts to the filing prosecutor of the State Attorney’s Office which can result in the charges being reduced or dismissed all together.

Understand that when you hire the Law Office of Andrew D. Stine you may just provide yourself with a ticket to freedom through Mr. Stine’s proactive stance in handling your criminal matter before actual charges are filed by the State of Florida

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Pre-Filing Package

Before your charges are filed, you have an opportunity to provide the case filing Assistant State Attorney with additional materials, such as witness statements, documents, recordings, and papers for his or her consideration in determining what, if any, charges should be filed against you by the state of Florida. Often, supplemental materials filed by you will greatly reduce charges that are in the process of being filed against you. Therefore, the pre-filing package represents the first line of defense.

If you do not file supplemental materials with the State Attorney’s Office, the case filing Assistant State Attorney will rely solely upon the case filing package of materials received from the police department, and may accept all allegations and statements contained in the police package as true. This could result in more serious charges being filed against you . Your defenses will rarely be set forth in the police reports used as the basis to arrest you. It is unfortunate that more defendants do not utilize the pre-filing package opportunity in an effort to have charges reduced.

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The First Appearance

In Florida, an arrestee, one who has been arrested must be taken before a judge or judicial officer within 24 hours of his or her arrest. Andrew D. Stine has been called at all hours of the day and night, by family members of the accused, to appear at the defendant’s court hearing. Mr. Stine will be at the First Appearance for you or your loved one. The First Appearance is important because that is the hearing in which Bond or Bail will or will not be set. In Florida, the law holds that each individual arrested on a criminal charge is entitled to a reasonable bond.

In rare cases, bond may not be granted to the accused at his or her First Appearance. This granting of no bond is rare and only occurs in limited situations such as: when the arrested is on probation and the new arrest violates their probation, when the accused is a risk of flight, when the accused is charged with a crime punishable by death and the evident of guilt is overwhelming, when the accused has an open warrant for failure to appear, and in other limited circumstances. Understand though, bond or bail is most usually granted to the accused.

The conditions of pre-trial release: bond, bail, SOR and the like, are determined at the First Appearance. Many times, Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine can provide you or your loved one with a pre-trial release condition(s) that is feasible, economical, and non restrictive. All First Appearance in Palm Beach County occur at the Gun Club Jail or Gun Club Courthouse. Mr. Stine has appeared at this location on weekends, holidays and even during a hurricane to provide the accused or arrestee with representation that is second to none. Also remember that at the First Appearance the presiding Judge or Judicial Officer will determine if Probable Cause exist to send the case forward. Mr. Stine will argue, if appropriate, that probable cause is lacking as to a criminal charge and has been successful in actually having criminal matters resolved and dismissed at the first appearance.

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The Defense Case

After arraignment in your case, you can file a “notice of discovery”, which is an official request for the state to file a discovery response listing witnesses, papers, and other specific evidence upon which the state will rely in attempting to prove its case against you. You are entitled to take discovery depositions, at your expense, from all material state’s witnesses in the preparation of your defense. The state will also provide you with copies of all relevant papers in your case, which may include witness statements, lab reports, photos, crime scene reports, and all other materials. You may also list defense witnesses and use defense exhibits in your case, provided that you give notice of these witnesses and materials to the state in advance. This is known as reciprocal discovery.

As your case progresses and as your attorney prepares your defense, pretrial motions may be filed on a variety of legal issues. As a general rule, the harder your attorney works on your case, the better your ultimate disposition in the case will be. Your attorney should examine the facts of your case to determine whether any or all of the charges filed against you can be dismissed and file the appropriate defensive motions for dismissal. The results achieved in every case depend upon a variety of factors, such as the nature of the charges, your prior arrests, the strength of the state’s case, the strength of the defense’s case, the judge, and the Assistant State Attorney assigned to your case. Being fully prepared for all possibilities is the key to a successful defense.

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Final Disposition of Your Case

At some point you will need to decide whether you want to resolve your case by agreement with the state, to “plead open” to the mercy of the court, or to proceed to trial. To resolve your case by agreement with the State Attorney’s Office, your attorney and the Assistant State Attorney must come to a complete agreement regarding all the terms of an agreement for all of your pending charges. The court can accept or reject the terms of the agreement, but cannot modify the terms without your advance consent.

If you decide to “plead open” to the mercy of the court after consulting with your attorney, the judge will decide what sentence will be imposed, after considering your “Criminal Punishment Code Sheet”, which lists your offenses in severity and assigns points for those offenses. If you decide to go to trial, you and your attorney should have some legal defense and be otherwise fully prepared. The fact that the state’s case against you is very weak is a defense in itself. Generally, if you do not have a defense that will present well in court, you should consider another option. There is nothing worse than going to trial unprepared.

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Sentencing Issues and the Criminal Punishment Code

The Criminal Punishment Code Score Sheet is like a report card that the judge reviews at the time of sentencing. The score sheet tabulates a specific number of points per offense as set by Florida statute and scored at time of sentencing. If your total combined score is less than or equal to 44 points, the judge can impose a non-state prison sanction, which could mean county jail time of one year or less, house arrest, probation, a fine, payment of court costs, or even no punishment at all. If total points are greater than 44 points, the court will impose mandatory state prison time, unless the court finds a legal reason to depart downward, and is willing to depart downward from the minimum prison sentence set by the criminal punishment code.

A downward sentence is a sentence below the minimum permissible sentence, based upon a legally permissible exception in sentencing laws. The judge does not have to grant a bona fide downward departure motion and it is completely within the court’s discretion to disregard it under the law. Your attorney can assist you in deciding what course of action is best, depending upon your charges and other factors unique to your case. No two cases are the same.