For many people charged with crimes, the most challenging part of the experience is not understanding the process. Here are the steps of what happens in a criminal case in Florida:

1. Arrest or notice: 

Florida authorizes police agents to arrest if they witness you committing a crime or if they have probable cause. Alternatively, an officer can issue a notice to appear in court. This notice indicated that you must show up at a designated time and date.

2. First appearance: 

If you are arrested and still in jail, you will get a first appearance before a judge within 24-48 hours of your arrest. The judge will let you know your charges and if you need counsel appointed. After that, the judge may decide to release you from jail on your own recognizance, set bail, or hold you in jail. Special conditions are also determined in this step. 

3. Arraignment: 

If you hired an attorney for their case, you usually do not need to appear at the arraignment. At the arraignment, the judge will read the charges and advise the defendants of their right to an attorney. This is also the first chance to enter a formal plea, whether it is not guilty, guilty or no contest. 

4. Discovery and pre-trial: 

“Discovery” means obtaining all the evidence possessed by the State and sharing any evidence that may help the defense. The case will be scheduled for a pre-trial every four to six weeks throughout this process. This gives the judge the opportunity to make sure the case is moving forward. 

5. Plea negotiation:

Attempt to find out whether the case can be resolved through negotiation and compromise. If a favorable plea offer is obtained, you may accept that offer by entering a guilty or no contest plea.

6. Trial and sentencing: 

At trial, the prosecution tries to prove that you have committed the crimes that you are charged with beyond a reasonable doubt. At this stage, both parties have the opportunity to give their version of events. Based on the evidence, the judge or jury decide. You will be released without fines, probation, or incarceration if found not guilty. If found guilty, the case moves forward to sentencing.  

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