If you face criminal charges, you should take the time to learn all you can about the legal system that will handle your case. Your Miami criminal defense attorney will be working within the framework of the Florida court system, so understanding how that entity works can help give you a basic idea of what to expect during the trial process.
The court system in Florida consists of four tiers.
- The Supreme Court: As the name implies, this is the highest court in the state. It hears all appeals cases from district court, any case involving the death penalty, and cases that involve amending the state constitution, as well as other important matters.
- District Court: Most appeals cases are heard here. If someone is dissatisfied the decision of the District Court, he or she can attempt to take the case to the Supreme Court, but in most cases, it will be rejected.
- Circuit Courts: Also known as courts of general jurisdiction, these courts are where most criminal and civil trials originate.
- County Courts: The county courts are set up to serve the needs of citizens at the local level. Each of Florida’s 67 counties has its own court. The number of judges in each county depends on the population size and caseload.
Jurisdiction of the County Courts
County courts are sometimes referred to as the “people’s courts” in the Florida courts system because they hear cases involving everyday issues like traffic tickets, disputes between friends and neighbors, and monetary disputes that are less than $15,000.
When it comes to criminal cases, county courts do handle them, but only those that involve misdemeanors:
- drunk and disorderly conduct;
- driving with a suspended license;
- petit theft (shoplifting);
- marijuana possession; and
- some types of domestic violence.
If you’re arrested for one of these criminal acts, you will have to go through the process that the justice system has laid out. This can be a stressful time for anyone, especially if it’s your first time being arrested and facing trial. It’s very important to have a Miami criminal defense attorney during this time.
Even though a misdemeanor carries lighter penalties than a felony, it’s still vital to have legal representation to ensure that your rights are recognized and to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
The process begins with you being accused of the crime or found committing the crime. Depending on what type of crime it is, you may be taken to jail on the spot or issued a Promise to Appear (PTA).
If issued a PTA, you’ll be given a court date by a police officer or by mail. Even if you are issued a promise to appear, legally, you have still been arrested and have to appear in court on the day ordered, preferably with your Miami criminal defense attorney, or you will face jail time.
When you appear in court on the date ordered, you will be arraigned. At the arraignment you can either plead guilty, no contest or not guilty. If you choose either of the first two, you will sentenced immediately. If you choose the latter, the case will go to trial. Trial is where the state needs to prove its case against you and where having an attorney on your side can really make a difference.
In county court, cases generally move fairly quickly. There are usually less than 30 days between your arrest and the day you need to appear in court to be arraigned. If the case goes to trial, you may find things slow down a bit, depending on where you are on the docket. Because county court is busy and hears so many cases every day, you will have to wait your turn in line.
Contacting a Miami Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing criminal charges, you have options. A Miami criminal defense attorney can help you understand the legal process and will represent your best interests to be sure you’re well-informed and treated fairly. Call the law firm of Falk and Ross for a consultation today at 1-305-741-6997.