Within 24 hours of the defendant's arrest, a first appearance is held. The judge decides whether a bond should be set and, if so, how much. If the defendant is able to post bond, he or she will be released pending trial. The judge may include a special condition ordering the defendant not to have contact with the victim.
If you are contacted or harassed by the defendant, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency and the State Attorney's Office.
An assistant state attorney will review the case and when necessary, interview the victims and witnesses. If there is sufficient evidence, criminal charges will be filed. The formal charging document is called an Information.
If it is determined that the case cannot be prosecuted, the Assistant State Attorney will attempt to notify the victim before filing a No Action document with the court.
At this court hearing, the assistant state attorney files the Information (formal criminal charges) with the court. The defendant will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. While some defendants do plead guilty at the arraignment, most will enter a not-guilty plea and a trial date will be set.
A subpoena is a court order requiring a victim or witness to appear and give testimony. You must contact the office that has subpoenaed you to confirm the date and time. Please be sure to call one business day before your scheduled appearance in order to avoid unnecessary travel.
Florida law allows the defense attorney to interview victims and witnesses, under oath, prior to trial. This interview is called a deposition. You may receive a subpoena from the defendant's attorney requiring you to appear to have your deposition taken.
Although you are not required to talk to the defendant's attorney without having been served a subpoena, you may do so. If you are unsure of your obligation, you are entitled to discuss this matter with the assistant state attorney assigned to your case prior to making this decision.
There are times when it may be necessary for the assistant state attorney to drop the charges prior to the defendant pleading guilty or the case coming to trial. This is called a Nolle Prosequi. There are a number of reasons why this may happen, including a lack of evidence or the defendant's plea of guilty in another case.
The victim will be informed as soon as possible by the assistant state attorney to explain the reason(s) and/or to answer any questions.
In many cases, the defendant will plead guilty to all or some of the charges prior to the trial date. The plea may be the result of discussions, or negotiations, between the assistant state attorney and the defense attorney.
Prior to agreeing to any plea, the assistant state attorney will attempt to contact the victim to discuss the plea and answer any questions. It is important to remember that this contact can only be made if the State Attorney's Office is kept advised of your current address and phone number (home and work).
You, as the victim, may offer your opinion as to the plea or sentence you feel should be imposed. You may convey your thoughts by filing a victim impact statement or business impact statement with our office or by talking to the assistant state attorney assigned to your case. Please advise us of your thoughts as early in the case as possible.
The pre-trial hearing is held prior to trial week. At the hearing, the defense is required to appear in court to advise the judge whether or not it is ready for trial. The defendant may also enter a plea at this time or request a continuance if he or she is not ready for trial.
Continuances & Postponements
It is not unusual for a case to be continued (postponed) one or more times before it goes to trial. While every attempt is made to bring a case to trial as quickly as possible, there are circumstances that we cannot control that may make it necessary to continue a case from one trial date to another.