A criminal charge is a formal allegation that you have committed one or more criminal offenses. These can be misdemeanor or felony violations.
Once you are formally charged, you are subject to being arrested on a warrant if you have not been arrested already. If you were arrested before a warrant was issued, the State’s Attorney’s Office decides whether to charge you based on the evidence presented to him or her in a charging affidavit from the police officer.
If you are arrested on a warrant, the police must give you a copy of the warrant that states the charge or charges for which you are being arrested within a reasonable time after the arrest. Criminal charges can be changed later by the prosecutor or by a grand jury in some cases.
Once you are arrested on a misdemeanor offense, the prosecutor must charge you within 90 days of your arrest. If a felony, he or she has 175 days to formally file charges against you. In the event charges are not filed timely, the prosecutor will not be able to file charges.
When you are arrested, you are advised of your right to remain silent, to contact an attorney and have one present at any questioning, and to have an attorney appointed for you if you are indigent. You do have the right to have your attorney present at all critical stages of your case including your participation in a lineup after being charged.
After the arrest, you will be booked at the police station, which includes having your photograph and fingerprints taken along with other procedures and you will be held in custody pending a court hearing that will be held within 24 hours of your arrest.
If your crime is not serious, you could be released without bail and on your own recognizance or ROR. If you are in jail and cannot afford bail, the prosecutor has 30 days from your arrest date to file formal charges against you, although on the 33rd day and after notice to the state, you must be released on your own recognizance. The state can request an extension to file charges on a showing of good cause though the extension cannot be more than 40 days after your arrest. Additionally, if you are in jail and your charge is the type that entitles you to a bond, a bond amount will be set by the judge. Once a bond is set you have the option of paying the bond or using a bail bondsman to post the bond. If you choose a bail bondsman you will usually only need to pay the bondsman 10% of the bond, however, you will need to provide proof of collateral. Once you have posted the bond you will then be released and you should find yourself an attorney to aggressively defend your case.
Once charged, you will be arraigned at a court hearing or your attorney may file a written plea on your behalf in some cases. If you plead not guilty, another court date will be set and your case will proceed forwards towards trial. Ensure you have an aggressive criminal defense attorney defending your case at every step.
Indictments in Florida are generally obtained for felony cases. It requires the prosecutor going before a grand jury and presenting evidence of the crime that you allegedly committed and asking the grand jurors to bring criminal charges against you. All capital crimes or those subject to the death penalty must be brought by indictment.
The grand jurors can question witnesses brought before them or request additional witnesses or evidence. After the evidence is presented, the grand jury will decide whether there is probable cause to indict you, the accused.
At a grand jury, you can be summoned to testify though you can invoke your Fifth Amendment right to not make any statements. You are not given the opportunity to present evidence on your behalf at the grand jury hearing or cross-examine witnesses. Also, grand jury hearings are held in secret and deliberations and voting are closed to the public.
You can also waive your right to have a criminal case brought before a grand jury and your case will begin with an information, which is another, more common way, you can be charged with a crime.
An indictment contains your personal statistics, allegations of the facts constituting the offense for which you are being charged, and the time and place of the offense(s) charged.
If an indictment is issued, the judge will issue an arrest warrant. You may be able to surrender to police and post bail (if there is a bond set) if you have notice of the warrant and before you are arrested by police, however, that is rare. Once you are arrested and brought to court to hear the charges against you, you can also request that bond be set so you can be released pending your trial. You need an aggressive and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney at every step of the indictment process.