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

Why You Need a Good Palm Beach County Criminal Attorney By Your Side

jail-cell_180x120This is what happens when you get arrested. First – you are sent to Palm Beach County Jail on Gun Club Road and you stay there until a bond can be set. Depending on the severity of the crime, your bond can be set automatically or you will have the right to appear before a judge within approximately 72 hours.

Posting Bond

You are entitled to a reasonable bond set by the court depending on the charge. A (bail) bond is a binding agreement to pay money to the court in the event you do not show up for court. It may either be a cash bond in smaller cases, or a surety bond if it is a serious charge. A surety bond is an alternative to cash bail. If you cannot afford to post the bond, you may request a bond reduction hearing. Depending upon the severity of the charge, the court may also impose other conditions for your release, which could include conditions like electronic monitoring.

Magistrate Court

You will be entitled to a court hearing to determine if probable cause exists for your arrest. This can happen within 24 hours – or 72 hours if you were arrested on a weekend. If no probable cause is found, you will be released on your own recognizance. For the majority of cases, probable cause is determined by a magistrate judge (a judicial officer who presides over preliminary hearings) and the Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts sets the bond amount.

Case Filing

The State Attorney’s Office will review your case within two weeks of your arrest if you are in custody. If you are not in custody, the filing usually takes over 30 days. Once the state files “Information” regarding your case, you will be notified about an arraignment date. You may also have changes to your bond if any new charges are added. This is not unusual because police do not always arrest you for the same offenses that you are ultimately charged with by the Florida State Attorney’s Office.

Pre-Filing Package

Before your charges are filed, you have an opportunity to provide the Assistant State Attorney with additional materials like witness statements, documents, recordings, and papers to determine what, if any, charges should be filed against you. Often, additional materials filed by you will reduce charges that are in the process of being filed against you. Therefore, the pre-filing package should always be your first line of defense.

Arraignment

An arraignment is the proceeding when you are officially called before a court, informed of the offense charged and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. After your arraignment, you can file a “notice of discovery”, which is part of the pre-trial litigation process where each party requests relevant information and documents from the other side in an attempt to “discover” pertinent facts.

Next, your attorney can file pretrial motions for a variety of legal issues. Your attorney will 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 motions for dismissal. The results depend upon a number of factors, like the nature of the charges, the strength of the state’s case, your prior arrests, the strength of the defense’s case, the Assistant State Attorney assigned to your case, and even the judge. Being fully prepared is the key to a strong defense.

Plea Bargaining

At some point, you will have to decide whether you want to resolve your case by agreement with the state – to “plead open” to the mercy of the court, or go to trial. If you “plead open” the court can accept or reject the terms of the agreement. If you go to trial, you and your attorney need to be fully prepared. The fact that the state’s case against you may be weak is a defense in itself. But there is nothing worse than going to trial unprepared.

Florida Point System

The Criminal Punishment Code Score Sheet is a point system that a judge reviews at the time of sentencing. Each current offense is scored as well as any additional offenses. Then the court also scores your prior record for prior offenses. For example, grand theft – greater than $300 but less than $5000 – is a level 2 and scores 10 points. However, DUI causing serious bodily injury is a level 7 and will get you 56 points.

If your total combined score is less than or equal to 44 points, the judge can impose a non-state prison sanction, which can mean county jail of a year or less, house arrest, probation, a fine – or even no punishment at all. If the total points are greater than 44 points, the court will impose mandatory state prison time. Your attorney will help you decide what course of action is best, depending on your charges and other factors unique to your case. No two cases are the same.

Do you see how complicated the system is? Attempting to take on the state by yourself can be intimidating and overwhelming. This is why you need to have an experienced Palm Beach County defense attorney by your side as soon as you get arrested.

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