Florida residents who have been arrested may face quite a few uncertainties right from the start, particularly if they have never been arrested before. The whole situation can be disconcerting, to say the least, but more knowledge about the process may help arrestees understand their rights and obligations in a criminal case. So, what are the stages of a criminal case?
Arrest and charges
Well, for starters, obviously there is usually an arrest. The arrestee will likely be “booked” in a local jail, where pertinent information about the arrestee and the crime charged will be logged for future reference. From there, an arrestee may be able to post bail, meaning that the arrestee can pay a certain sum of money in order to remain free while the criminal case is pending. This practice, appropriately, corresponds with the notion of “innocent until proven guilty,” while also providing some assurance to the court that the defendant will not flee from the jurisdiction.
From the arrest, any given criminal case can take many twists and turns. Motions may be filed; hearings may be delayed. However, the prosecution must turn over all evidence they have in the case, and a criminal defendant must usually determine if the best option is to attempt to reach a “plea bargain” in the case or, perhaps, take the case all the way to trial.
Taking the case to trial
If a defendant decides to take a case to trial, it may be a “bench” trial – meaning only the judge hears and decides the case – or it may be a “jury” trial, which means that a jury of the defendant’s peers in the community will hear the case and decide the outcome. If a defendant is found guilty at trial, or pleads guilty, then the case moves to the sentencing phase, wherein the judge will determine what sentence is appropriate for the defendant based on the crime and the sentencing options.