Due Process in Florida Criminal Cases
Due process is provided for in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment where state and local public officials are prohibited from depriving individuals of life, liberty or property without legislative authorization. Due process is a cornerstone of criminal procedure. Criminal procedure laws might vary from state to state, but all are required to comply with the 14th Amendment.
A person can be arrested if there is probable cause to believe they’ve committed a crime. A judge often issues an arrest warrant for this purpose pursuant to an officer’s sworn testimony. A warrant isn’t necessary if the officer witnesses the crime being committed, however, if the alleged crime is a felony the officer does not have to witness the alleged criminal act.
Every person arrested in Florida has the right to appear before a judge for a bail bond hearing within 48 hours of their arrest. They might also use the services of a bail bond agency to procure their release before that hearing.
An accused is formally charged by issuance of an information or indictment. Most defendants are charged by information. An arraignment hearing is then held where a judge of the charges against them tells the accused and what they’re punishable by. The accused then enters a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. A not guilty plea is almost always entered at this stage. The prosecution and defendant are ordered to exchange all evidence for review and evaluation within a certain period of time. At the arraignment, other dates like a pretrial date and a trial date are set.
The preliminary hearing is one of the most critical steps in Florida criminal procedure. In this hearing, evidence is reviewed and the judge makes a determination on whether probable cause exists. Parts or all of the case might fall at this stage. If sufficient probable cause isn’t found, the case can be dismissed. The importance of the preliminary hearing can’t be overlooked because of the impact it will have on the proceedings following it.
A defendant often enters a negotiated plea of guilty or no contest. When a plea is entered, the defendant gives up their right to a trial, to bring witnesses on their behalf and to cross examine witnesses against them. In return for that plea, they’re sentenced pursuant to an agreement with the prosecution. If the judge accepts the plea agreement, they’re then sentenced accordingly. Most criminal cases are resolved through plea negotiations.
There are jury trials and bench trials. The defendant chooses which type of trial they want. Most choose a jury trial. In a jury trial, the jury hears the evidence and makes a determination of guilty or not guilty. In a bench trial, only the judge hears the evidence, and the judge determines guilt or innocence.
After an arrest, you will most likely have questions. Criminal defendants are entitled to accurate and honest answers to those questions. They’re entitled to top quality and professional legal counsel to represent them because under the law, they’re presumed innocent. If you or somebody close to you has been arrested, call us today, or fill out our online contact form, and we will get back to you within 24 hours.