Court Date FAQs
As a defendant, navigating the criminal justice system can be a daunting task, with multiple court dates, referred to by many different names, all accomplishing different goals. The following are frequently asked questions about court dates to help walk you through the process of your court case.
What Is First Appearance?
The first appearance is the hearing commonly held within 24 hours of your arrest. The purpose of this hearing is to determine if probable cause exists for the charge(s) for which you were arrested and to set your bond – typically based on the severity of the charge(s). In determining if there is sufficient probable cause for your arrest, the judge will review the filed probable cause affidavit from the arresting officer. If a judge does not find probable cause, you may be released on your own recognizance (ROR). The state may also ask for a 24-hour continuance to add additional information to support a probable cause finding. If probable cause is found, the judge will set a bond. Depending on the charge, the judge may set a monetary bond or ROR. The judge may also set pretrial release conditions like no-contact orders or prohibiting alcohol possession or consumption.
What Is an Arraignment?
Most people do not realize that although the law enforcement officer charged you with a certain crime, it is typically the prosecutor who has the final word on the specific charge(s) ultimately filed against you. Arraignment occurs when you are brought physically in front of a judge to learn the prosecutor’s charges. Once the charges are read, the judge will ask you if you want to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest – these are your only options at that time. If you say anything other than “Guilty, “Not Guilty,” or “No contest,” the judge will likely advise you that the court only addresses one issue, and that is your plea that answers the prosecutor’s charges. In other words, arraignment is extremely limited in its scope and is not the place or time to argue your case.
If you hire a private attorney for a criminal charge in Florida, your arraignment will likely be waived, as private counsel may file a not guilty pleading on your behalf in written form so long as it’s filed with the clerk prior to arraignment. If you do not hire a private attorney to waive your arraignment, you must personally show up to your arraignment date. If you fail to appear, the court can issue an arrest warrant.
What Is a Pre-Trial Conference?
This court date can have many names, including case management, status conference or motion and docket day, but the general purpose is similar. This court date serves as a chance to appear before the court and inform the judge of the case’s stage. Are there discovery issues? Are depositions being set? This can also be an opportunity to move the case to a specific court date for a hearing, such as a motion to suppress or dismiss. A pre-trial conference (PTC) is typically a hearing that is held once a month and depending on your charge(s), you may have a few of these as the discovery process plays out.
What Is a Change of Plea Hearing?
A change of plea hearing occurs when an attorney generally sets a specific date on a judge’s calendar for the defendant to come into court and withdraw their plea of not guilty and enter a plea of either guilty or no contest. At this hearing, the judge will ensure that the defendant understands the rights they waive and that their plea is freely made. After the judge accepts the plea, they will impose the sentence.
What Is Jury Selection?
A trial is a process of selecting a jury of persons from a pool of people within the community you reside in to listen to the evidence presented and decide the case’s facts. During this process, the attorneys for both the state and defense are permitted to question the jury pool to discover if anyone in the jury pool may have a bias or opinions that would affect their ability to be a fair and impartial juror. After the attorneys finish asking these questions, they can make cause challenges to the judge to have a juror removed from the jury pool. Additionally, attorneys can make strikes called peremptory challenges, which allow for either side to strike a potential juror for any reason. However, each side only has a limited amount of these strikes, depending on the charge. Finally, based on the charge(s), the defendant may be entitled to a six (6) or (12) person jury.
Meldon Law Is Here for You
When you have been arrested, it is essential to know relevant court hearings and dates as well as the potential defenses you may have. At Meldon Law, we have the expertise and experience to assist you in every aspect of your case. Our attorneys know your rights and are dedicated to defending them – and defending you.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, call us at 352-373-8000 or fill out our contact form for a prompt response to schedule your free consultation. We want to help you get started on the path to getting your life back today.