What to Expect in a Florida Criminal Preliminary Hearing

Navigating through Florida’s complicated labyrinth of criminal law is a task best left to the trained professional– someone that speaks the language and can even walk the walk when it comes down to it. In the area of criminal law, knowing the rules regarding what is supposed to happen and when it is supposed to happen is a very valuable tool to possess. A criminal defense attorney that is knowledgeable of the rules will prove to be your greatest ally in the unfortunate event that you are arrested.

gavel-2-1409592-m.jpgFlorida law, under Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.133, requires a nonadversary preliminary hearing within 48 hours of a person being arrested; this is commonly referred to as “first appearance”, since it is typically the first time that a person appears before a judge after being arrested. At this hearing, the presiding judge will determine whether there is probable cause to believe (1) that a crime has been committed and (2) that the defendant is the person that committed the crime.

The amount of a bond required is usually set during the first appearance. It is important to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf to help ensure that a reasonable and appropriate bond amount is set. Moreover, if it can be demonstrated that no probable cause exists, a defendant can be released without a requirement to post a bond. Another situation that could lead to release without a bond requirement is where the hearing is not held within the time frame that is required by Florida law, which is 48 hours; however, in extraordinary circumstances two separate 24-hour extensions may be applied.

For anyone that is arrested for a felony criminal offense in Florida, a second preliminary hearing may become available in some instances. In the case of a defendant arrested for a felony offense, if the State of Florida has not filed charges within 21 days, an adversary preliminary hearing entitlement arises. The adversary preliminary hearing differs from the nonadversary preliminary hearing in that at the adversary preliminary hearing, witnesses will testify on behalf of the State and on behalf of the defendant; all witnesses will be cross-examined, even the defendant, if he or she decides to testify. In this regard, the adversary preliminary hearing functions a lot like a small trial that gives the defendant a sneak peek into the State’s case in a trial-like setting.

The adversary preliminary hearing is a tool of great importance to a defendant that is being held in custody. A determination that there is no probable cause means that a defendant is entitled to release. This doesn’t mean that the State will be stopped from moving forward with the case, but it is sure more convenient to fight a criminal case when the defendant is outside of jail. Frankly, being held in custody takes the fight out of most defendants, and he or she is more likely to enter a plea of guilty, especially when doing so will bring the defendant home sooner rather than later.

At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, we understand the importance of each small victory in a criminal case and how these smaller victories build a better foundation from which to launch a successful defense, and our criminal defense attorneys are available for free initial consultations. If you would like to speak with an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney about a preliminary hearing or other criminal defense matter, schedule a free consultation by calling us at (904) 685-1200.

Contact Information