Being Arrested in Florida
If you are arrested on criminal charges, an officer transports you to the police station for “booking" or issues you a Notice to Appear. Booking usually involves taking your fingerprints, pictures, and performing other procedural requirements. If you do not post a bond you are held until your first appearance where your bond is reviewed. You are soon provided a court date and that court date is the arraignment. You are held in police custody pending your arraignment with a judge. It is in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent except for requesting a DUI defense attorney who understands Florida law related to drunk driving charges. Anything you say to an officer or a prosecutor can be used against you during the trial.
The Arraignment Process in Florida
The arraignment hearing is a formal court hearing where the charges filed against the defendant, by the prosecutor, are read aloud and the defendant is required to enter a formal response. If an attorney represents you, the arraignment may be rescheduled or eliminated. If you do not have an attorney, you must appear at the arraignment to hear the charges against you and enter a plea. At this time, the judge asks if you have an attorney. If you want an attorney but you cannot afford an attorney, the judge will order the appointment of an attorney to represent you in the case. The appointed attorney will be an assistant public defender or court-appointed conflict counsel, or court-appointed private attorney that has signed a contract with the court system to work at reduced pricing.
You have the right to be represented by an attorney at the arraignment hearing to advise you of your legal rights and provide legal advice. Representing yourself at the arraignment hearing can have serious negative consequences for your case and your future.
The Three Possible Formal Responses at The Arraignment Hearing:
After informing you of the criminal charges, the judge will ask for your plea. There are three possible formal responses you can give to the charges pending against you. Those responses are:
- Not Guilty — If you enter a plea of not guilty, you are telling the judge you deny committing the crimes alleged by the prosecution. At this time, you also enter your request for the type of trial you desire, either a trial by jury or a trial by a judge.
- Guilty — When you plead guilty, you are admitting that you committed the crimes you are charged with and you are willing to accept the penalties imposed by the judge as punishment for those crimes.
- Nolo Contedere or No Contest — A nolo contedere plea means that you are not admitting nor denying you committed the crime. Even though a no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt, the effect is the same as a guilty plea because you are requesting the court resolve the matter. No-contest pleas are typically used when you have a plea bargain in place.
Each case is different; therefore, the arraignment process might be slightly different depending on the charges and other factors. However, the right to hear the charges against you in a court setting and enter a plea does not change regardless of the charges or circumstances.
Arguments for Bail
If you plead not guilty, and you are still in custody you have the opportunity to argue why you should be released on your own recognizance (ROR) instead of being required to post bail. You can also argue that any bail amount should be reasonable considering the charges and the circumstances. The prosecutor handling your case may or may not oppose bail. The worst-case scenario is that the judge will deny bail and remand you back into the custody of the police until your trial.
Call Our Office to Consult with An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Contact us by calling our Lake City office and Live Oak office at 386-269-9802 or our Gainesville office at 352-519-4357 to schedule a consultation. You may also contact our office by using the contact form on our website. We represent clients throughout Lake City, Live Oak, Gainesville, and the surrounding areas. We can discuss the specifics of your individual case and the possibilities of a defense and whether we can eliminate the need for you to appear at an arraignment.