Your Day In Court - Part 1
Your Day in Court
If you are expected to appear for your day in court, it can be a very daunting endeavor indeed. In this two-part blog, we will try to help you understand the process involved in your day in court. You likely want to know: What is expected of you? What is the order of things? When do you speak? What is the role of all these people around you? We will provide a general outline of the steps that must occur prior to your day in court in part one and in part two, continue to answer the most pressing questions detailing your trial.
Before Your Day in Court – Even Before the Arrest
Before you are ever asked to appear in court, a great deal must occur. Obviously, an alleged crime must have been committed. Then the crime must be investigated by law enforcement, and only after the investigation, can an arrest be made or a suspect charged.
If You’ve Been Arrested – First Appearance
Once arrested, he or she is entitled to appear before a judge within 24 hours, according to Rule 3.130 – First Appearance. This meeting will include the suspect (called the defendant), a judge, state attorney or assistant state attorney, and a public defender or assistant public defender. If the suspect has the means and desires to hire counsel however, the public defender or assistant public defender need not be present. Should that be the case, hired counsel will appear at first appearance alongside the defendant.
During the first appearance, the judge will explain the charges to the defendant. The defendant will again be reminded of his or her Miranda rights. (Refer back to our previous article: The Right to Remain Silent.) Additionally, he or she will have the opportunity to confer with appointed or hired counsel or choose to waive the right to counsel.
It is also during first appearance that pretrial release conditions are set. These conditions include bail, contact limitations with the victim, travel restrictions and release into custody of another.
If You’ve Been Charged
There is a possibility that rather than being arrested, a suspect would be issued a summons to appear in court to defend against a crime, or a warrant may be issued for the arrest of a suspect. In these instances, the suspect skips the first appearance process and instead attends his or her arraignment.
This is potentially your second day in court. During an arraignment, a suspect is advised of the right to counsel and charges will be read. During an arraignment, the defendant will have the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
This does not mean that during an arraignment, a plea agreement is required. The defendant may choose to proceed to defend the charges rather than entering a plea of guilty or no contest with the judge.
After an arraignment, and before actually appearing in court for a trial, any and all witnesses and victims may be interviewed under oath by the defendant’s attorney. Their testimonies are recorded and available during trial proceedings. The defendant is not present for these depositions.
There are more steps that happen in the legal system before a trial that also do not require the presence of the defendant, but the steps are important to know nonetheless. The terms “pretrial hearings” and “docket soundings” are steps that refer to the court appearances in which the judge and attorneys work to set a schedule for moving the case forward.
If you’re looking for more information about your day in court or the stages of the justice system, you may find what you need on the website of the state attorney’s office. Additionally, come back next month to read “Your Day in Court – Part 2,” in which we detail the ins and outs of trial day.
Your Best Defense is to Have Defense
Bartlett Law Offices offers your best defense. We will help you to feel as prepared and as comfortable as possible for your day in court. Visit our webpage and fill out our simple form. We can even text you back. Or, if you’re just looking to speak to someone, call us. We’re available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m at 727-712-7502.
We believe that before you are in need of a second chance, you need the best defense for your first chance! Bartlett Law Offices has the experience you need to handle any criminal charges against you. You can trust that we will provide you with a professional, ethical, and knowledgeable defense.
NOTE: This information is specific to Florida. Laws in other states vary, and you should seek counsel in your own state. None of these statements is intended to replace professional counsel regarding to your specific issue as the nuances of the law are vast and complex.