If you have been charged with a crime, you need to know what to expect. This can be a very stressful time for you and your loved ones and having an understanding of the process will help to reduce the stress.
Depending on the circumstances and the type of crime charged there will either be an arrest or a Notice to Appear will be issued. If there is an arrest, you will go through the booking process at the jail and then be seen by a judge within 24 hours for a First Appearance Hearing. At this hearing the Judge will advise you of the charges against you, your rights and potentially set a bond. The next time you go before the judge will be for your Arraignment. If a Notice to Appear is issued, your first court date will be the Arraignment. At an Arraignment, the judge will again advise you of the charges against you and will ask you how you plead. You can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. You should never enter a plea without first consulting with an attorney. In Florida, a no contest plea is treated in the very same way a guilty plea is and you will either be sentenced immediately (in county/misdemeanor court) or (in circuit/felony court) you will be given a return to court date for sentencing.
If you enter a not guilty plea you will be given a return to court date for a Pretrial Conference. This will allow you time to hire an attorney, if you have not already done so or if the judge has not appointed one for you and to obtain and review discovery. Discovery includes all pretrial devices that are used to obtain facts and information about your case to assist with trial preparation. Discovery can include depositions, affidavits, police reports, pictures and witness information just to name a few. At the Pretrial Conference you will either enter a change of plea and be sentenced or you will advise the Judge that you are preparing your case for trial.
You can either assert your right to a jury trial, where a jury of your peers will be the trier of fact, or you can waive that right and elect to have a bench trial, where the Judge is the trier of fact. At the time of trial, you or your attorney will present evidence, witnesses and testimony and you may either choose to take the stand in your own defense or remain silent if you so wish. Such silence cannot be used against you by the prosecution. The judge or jury, depending on the type of trial you choose, will then reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty, you will be free to go and released from the burden of the charges that had been pending against you. If you are found guilty the judge will either sentence you at the time the verdict is reached or he/she will set a return to the court date for such sentencing to take place.
Navigating this process is complex and it is highly advised not to navigate this process on your own without the assistance of counsel. The attorneys at Schwam-Wilcox & Associates can assist you through your criminal case and ensure your constitutional rights are protected and you will benefit by having a former prosecutor assist you with your case.
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If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney (lawyer) in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake or other counties throughout Florida call Schwam-Wilcox & Associates at 407-245-7700, or Contact Us by completing the form below to schedule a consultation. Schwam-Wilcox & Associates is a firm you can trust, and our attorneys are ready to help you with your legs with appointments also available needs. The main office is conveniently located near Winter Park in Orlando, with satellite offices in The Villages.