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Florida Criminal Process

It is extremely common for people facing criminal charges to have very little idea of what they should expect when preparing to navigate their ways through the justice system. One of the best ways to ensure that your rights are protected from start to finish is to immediately work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Adkinson Law Firm, LLC works closely with clients from South Walton, Pensacola, Panama City, Navarre, Milton, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, DeFuniak Springs, and Crestview. Clay B. Adkinson and Clayton J. M. Adkinson have more than 30 years of combined experience, and they can review your case when you call to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Overview of Criminal Process in Florida

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Criminal Charges in DeFuniak Springs

A criminal case in Florida typically begins some violation of local, state, or federal law. Depending on the specific offense, the amount of time it takes for law enforcement to conduct an investigation can vary. If a police officer personally witnesses a crime being committed or pulls over a motorist for driving under the influence (DUI), the investigation time is minimal. With white collar crime, drug trafficking, or other more complex cases, the investigation can require several months or even years.

During the investigation or after it is concluded, a court may issue the following types of warrants:

  • Search Warrants — Florida Statute § 933.01 authorizes judges with proper jurisdiction to issue authorized search warrants when property has been stolen or embezzled in violation of law, has been used to commit a crime, constitutes evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed, is being held or possessed in violation of certain laws, or when the laws in relation to cruelty to animals have been or are being violated in any particular building or place.
  • Arrest Warrants — There are multiple kinds of arrest warrants in Florida, including arrest warrants taken out by officers who investigated charges, bench warrants for failure to appear in court or pay fines, direct file arrest warrants issued by the State Attorney's Office, probation violation warrants, out of county warrants, and out of state warrants or fugitive from justice warrants.

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South Walton Arrests

Police will place an alleged offender under arrest when they believe they have enough evidence to prove that person committed a crime. Following an arrest, there will be a number of important hearings:

  • Initial Hearing — Usually within 24 to 48 hours of a person’s arrest, he or she is taken before a judge for his or her first appearance. The judge informs the alleged offender of the charges against him or her, determines whether he or she has legal representation, and determines the terms of his or her pretrial release. This will usually involve:
    • Bail / Bonds — In certain cases, a judge may release an alleged offender on personal recognizance, meaning that he or she only has to agree to show up for all court appearances. In other cases, the alleged offender or a family member may be able to pay the entire amount of bail needed for release, and the amount is refunded so long as the alleged offender shows up for all court appearances. In cases in which the bail is set higher, the alleged offender may have to turn to a bonding company that charges a fee (usually a non-refundable fraction of the entire bail amount) in order to ensure future court appearances and earn release.
  • Preliminary Hearing — These hearings can be adversarial or nonadversarial. This depends on whether an alleged offender has filed certain motions has not been charged with an indictment within three weeks of being arrested for an alleged offense. The most important aspect of a preliminary hearing involves the following:
    • Probable Cause — The prosecution needs to demonstrate at this time that it has reasonable ground to believe the alleged offender committed the crime in question. Evidence is presented at this time to demonstrate that probable cause exists.
  • Asset Forfeiture — In certain cases (usually ones involving drug crimes), the state of Florida or the federal government may seize an alleged offender’s vehicles, homes, or other property under forfeiture laws. Alleged offenders only have 15 days in state actions and 10 days in federal actions to file a request for an adverse preliminary hearing that allows them to fight for the return of any property or assets.

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Florida Arraignments

This is when an alleged offender is formally presented with the charges against him or her. The alleged offender then enters a formal plea. If the alleged offender pleads guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), then the case proceeds to sentencing.

In many cases, an alleged offender will plead not guilty and the case moves toward trial. This is usually the stage at which a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor will begin the process of plea bargaining, in which the two sides attempt to negotiate a deal to avoid going to trial.

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Trial Process in Destin

After an arraignment there, will be two possibly lengthy processes before a case is resolved:

  • Pretrial Motions — Some of the motions that may be filed before a case goes to trial can include challenges to evidence, challenges to expert testimony, change of venue requests, discovery motions, gag order requests, motions to strike prior convictions, motions to suppress, as well as many others.
  • Trial / Sentencing — If a case eventually does go to trial, it will either be a trial by judge or a trial by jury. In a trial by judge, the judge will make decide an alleged offender’s guilt or innocence after the prosecution and defense present their arguments. A trial by jury involves jury selection, the prosecution and defense presenting their main cases, closing arguments, jury instructions and deliberations, a verdict, and then sentencing if the alleged offender is found guilty.

An alleged offender can appeal a guilty verdict to a higher court. Appeals of rulings in district courts for Florida's First (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton County) and Fourteenth (Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington County) Judicial Districts go to the First District Court of Appeal. The next level of appeal is the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee and the final appeal is the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer in South Walton

Adkinson Law Firm, LLC defends clients from Washington County, Walton County, Santa Rosa County, Okaloosa County, Holmes County, Escambia County, and Bay County against criminal charges. Clay Adkinson and Clayton Adkinson are DeFuniak Springs criminal defense attorneys who are committed to obtaining the most favorable outcome to every case they handle.

Let our firm develop a formidable legal defense for you. Call or submit an online form today to schedule a free consultation that will let our criminal defense attorneys review your case.