Court Procedures in Fort Lauderdale
Criminal Defense Attorneys in Fort Lauderdale understand that many people, especially those arrested for the first time, are completely unfamiliar with the court system. Arraignments, calendar calls, court status hearings, when and where to be, can all be very confusing for an individual who rightfully fears missing a court date which can result in a warrant for their arrest. The following list of court procedures may help explain some of the questions you may have. Should you be uncertain as to when your next court date is or its location, contact your defense attorney.
Defending Driving Under the Influence in Broward County Begins Immediately After the Client's Arrest and Detention
Broward County Drunk Driving Lawyers outline procedure following an arrest, a defendant is released from the Department of Corrections (jail) in one of three ways:
(1) Pretrial release program - the magistrate judge who you appeared before within 24 hours of your arrest may choose to monitor your release by way of a pretrial release program. This will require you to report to a type of probation officer who works for the Department of Corrections. Restrictions often include confining the defendant to the county in which he or she was arrested and/or surrounding counties. Other restrictions may include the disallowing of any alcohol or narcotics. More restrictive pretrial release can require that a defendant wear an electronic monitor. Violating the terms of your release can result in your being incarcerated until such time as your case is disposed.
(2) ROR or Release on own Recognizance - Should a judge find at your magistrate hearing that you are not a flight risk nor a threat to the community, the judge may choose to release you outright without the requirement of posting a bond or the restrictions of adhering to a pretrial release program.
(3) Posting bond - The posting of a cash bond is the most common method whereby a defendant can be released from custody pending the resolution of his or her criminal case. Should you personally post the full amount of a bond imposed, this sum of money will be returned to you at the resolution of your case provided that court costs and fines are not deducted from it. Individuals that cannot afford the full amount of a stated bond can either use the services of a recommended bondsman or petition the court via motion to have the imposed bond reduced to one that the defendant can afford. The posting of a bond will allow an individual to travel with unbridled discretion unless a judge has imposed additional restrictions that accompany the posting of a bond.
DUI MAGISTRATE COURT
Individuals who have been arrested for a criminal offense are entitled to see a magistrate judge within 24 hours of being taken into custody. It is often at this hearing that a judge will impose either the standard bond associated with the alleged crime, place the individual on pretrial release, or impose a specific bond. It is always advisable to have an attorney present at this hearing who will seek the least restrictive method of release.
If you are released from jail in one of the above mentioned three ways, your next court hearing will be that of the Arraignment. The hiring of our law firm will obviate the need for you to attend this hearing, as we will file all necessary paperwork with the court that would otherwise be covered by your attendance. Should a person attend an Arraignment unrepresented, the court will inform the defendant of the charges pending and will give that individual an opportunity to enter a plea. The three potential pleas that can be entered at Arraignment are (a) Not Guilty; (b) No Contest; or (c) Guilty. Note that a defendant should never plea his case at Arraignment. Doing so prior to receiving the States "discovery" or evidence mounted against the defendant, he or she would be completely unaware of any potential defenses available to them. The pleading of no contest or guilty at arraignment will result in a sentence for the crime charged. It would only be a very rare circumstance where a defendant could come back to petition the court to withdraw a plea entered into at arraignment. Should a defendant enter a plea of not guilty their case will be set for a future hearing, allowing time for your attorney to prepare any defenses available. Alternatively, this time may be used to negotiate a reduction of the charges against you with the prosecuting attorney.
THE DISCOVERY PROCESS
Upon hiring an attorney to represent the defense of your case, he or she will demand that the State reveal all evidence mounted against you in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the State's case. This includes witness statements, police reports, video surveillance, confessions, and any other tangible form of evidence known to the State. The disclosure of this evidence gives a skilled defense attorney the information that he or she needs to determine if this evidence was obtained legally and lawfully. Evidence obtained outside of procedure laid out by Florida law will be inadmissible and otherwise not available to the prosecutor seeking a conviction against a defendant. The disclosure of all evidence also allows an attorney to take depositions, have experts review equipment used by law enforcement while obtaining evidence, such as Intoxilyzers or video surveillance equipment, which can then be utilized in formulating a defense. The developing of a strong defense is an invaluable tool in negotiating the breaking down or dismissal of charges with the prosecutor assigned to your case. Always be mindful that an assistant state attorney will never disclose the weaknesses of a case to a defendant and will seek a conviction if evidence or witnesses are otherwise unavailable to them, or if evidence was obtained illegally and unusable. Only a competent defense attorney will know when to challenge the State's evidence and/or witnesses.
STATUS HEARINGS AND CALENDAR CALLS
Approximately once a month, the judge assigned to your criminal case will set a status hearing or a calendar call. These hearings are designed to allow the court to monitor the case against you to ensure that it is moving towards either resolution or trial. Status hearings allow both the prosecution and the defense to inform the court as to where they are in the criminal litigation.
One of the most powerful tools that a criminal defense attorney has in preparing their client's defense is that of the law itself. The Constitution of the United States protects us from illegal searches and seizures, preventing the government from intruding on our privacy. Evidence obtained outside of the strict guidelines laid out under Florida case law and statutes will render it inadmissible and otherwise unusable to the prosecution. Evidence that cannot be admitted at trial might as well have never existed in the eyes of the law. When a criminal defense attorney believes, based on their training and experience, that evidence was either illegally obtained or inadmissible under Florida law, they will file a motion to suppress with the court. The court will then set a hearing to hear all of the evidence and arguments by both sides to the criminal litigation. Successfully suppressing the state attorney's evidence mounted against you often results in a dismissal of the charges.
Should the prosecution be unwilling to break down or dismiss the charges against you, you may decide to proceed to trial on the merits of your case in that the state attorney's burden in obtaining a conviction is one of the highest in the land. Should your attorney advise you that he feels the State will be unable to prove their case beyond and to the exclusion of any and all reasonable doubt, then the case should always proceed to trial if the state attorney's office is unreasonable. During trial the State will present all evidence available to them, which can be excluded by a qualified defense attorney.
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