Experience, compassion, and patience in Family Law and Criminal Law matters

What happens at a Florida criminal trial?

If no disposition is reached on your case, it will be set for trial. The typical stages of a trial include selecting a jury, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and making closing statements. After all of this, the jury will deliberate and return a verdict.

What is a pretrial conference?

Your next date in court will be the pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference, your lawyer will argue pretrial motions , such as motions to suppress or exclude evidence from trial and motions to dismiss the case for insufficient evidence.

Your attorney can also discuss a plea bargain with the State Attorney. A plea bargain may result in you pleading guilty to a lesser charge in order to obtain a lighter sentence or reducing a charge from a serious offense to a misdemeanor.

What happens at an arraignment?

Your initial arraignment will be your first appearance in court whether or not you're in custody. At the arraignment, your attorney will receive the complaint stating the charges that have been filed against you and any police reports on your case. If you're in custody, your attorney will have the opportunity to argue bail or set a bond hearing.

Can police arrest me without evidence of my guilt?

Only if they have probable cause to believe you've committed the crime. Once they have probable cause, they can arrest you in a number of ways:

  • They can make a lawful arrest. If you're arrested and are in custody, your arraignment generally must occur within 24 hours;
  • If they believe you're not a risk to flee the area, they may send you a letter in the mail asking you to appear for an arraignment; or they may ask you to voluntarily surrender yourself at the police station.

Should I talk to the police?

It's often in your best interests to avoid making a statement or signing anything. If the police are investigating you, you may or may not be aware of it. At some point, they may ask you to come into the station and give a statement. Instead of talking to the police, hire a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can intercede on your behalf, talk to detectives, and get valuable information which may result in charges not being filed. Most importantly, hiring an attorney will keep you from giving a statement that the District Attorney may ultimately use against you at trial.

If I am questioned by a police officer after being stopped on the street, do I have to respond to the questions?

The general rule is that you don't have to answer any questions that the police ask you. This rule comes from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects you against self-incrimination. As with all rules, however, there is an exception. Many local and state governments have anti-loitering laws that require people to account for their presence if the police have a reasonable suspicion that they are loitering. Once the police have asked all of their questions about loitering, however, you don't have to answer any others — such as questions about a crime in the neighborhood.

Do I have to let a Florida officer search me or my car if he merely asks my permission?

No. An individual has a right NOT to consent to a search if the officer merely asks them if he or she would allow the officer to search their person or their car. A large number of drug related arrests occur after someone has given voluntary permission to officers to search them or their vehicle.

Can a frisk turn into a full-blown search?

When frisking a person for weapons, the police are attuned not only to the feel of possible weapons under clothing, but also to the feel of packaged drugs. Although a frisk may not turn up a weapon, it may turn up a suspicious package which the officer knows is commonly used to carry illegal drugs or some other illegal substance. This suspicion may turn into sufficient cause for a more intensive search of the person's clothing. The lesson here is that a frisk often leads to a legal search. And if a search produces an illegal substance, it may result in an arrest.

If I am legally stopped by a police officer on the street, can he search me?

Yes and no. A police officer is permitted to briefly frisk your outer clothing for weapons if the officer reasonably fears for his safety. An example might be if the officer sees a bulge in your jacket pocket that appears to be the outline of a gun or knife. If a frisk is later challenged in court as being unreasonable, a judge will usually uphold it.

A frisk is different than a search in that a search may be conducted for evidence of a crime or contraband (an illegal item), and may be much more intrusive than a frisk. An officer who frisks you may not search you unless he has good cause to believe that you committed a crime or that you're hiding an illegal item.

If a police officer wants to stop me while I'm walking on the street and I know I've done nothing wrong, should I comply?

In Florida, a police officer may interfere with your freedom of movement only if he has observed unusual activity suggesting that criminal activity is afoot and that you are involved. In other words, if he has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed and you may have been involved. Even if the officer is mistaken, however, you do not have the right to keep walking. As long as the officer has a good faith belief in your connection to criminal activity, he is allowed to detain you. Stopping you is one thing, however. It doesn't mean that you must answer all of his questions. See If I am not under arrest, do I have to answer a police officer's questions?

For More Information

Fill out our online form