Gainesville Personal Injury, Divorce and Alimony Attorney

Just arrested, accused of a crime, now what? First Appearance and Arraignment

Arrests and the resulting criminal accusations happen every day. Common questions are how can they arrest when there are conflicting stories or can they arrest for whatever just happened. Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. If someone was just arrested, then the answer is yes the cops can and in fact they did just make that arrest. Now the accused has to defend themselves but the only place that happens is at a trial and that will not be for several months. 

The confusing thing for people not accustomed to dealing with the system is what to do immediately after an arrest. Many times the quicker your defense team starts working on investigating and preserving evidence the better the case will turn out for the defendant. A person accused of a crime should hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Immediately after an arrest issues of pretrial release and bond are determined. There may be a bond schedule.  Otherwise the person just arrested has to have a hearing prior to being release and that hearing is called “First Appearance”.   In Florida, First Appearance is the morning or afternoon on the day after arrest and the only thing determined is whether there is a bond, how much and any pretrial release conditions that are to be imposed. Things considered by the court at First Appearance are ties to the community, criminal history and the accused’s prior record of appearing in court. First appearance is not where you fight the case, it is only to determine pretrial release or bond.  First Appearance is within twenty four (24) hours of the arrest.

The next court date is the “Arraignment”. The Arraignment is to formally advise a person as to the charges filed so that the accused can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. This is also not where you fight the case. The only thing the judge wants to hear is guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A lawyer can have the Defendant’s presence waived or excused meaning a person represented by a lawyer may not have to waste a day in court. A person who pleads guilty or no contest may be sentenced immediately or on another day. A person who pleads not guilty will have a chance to review the evidence against them and to have a trial at a later date. Only after the entry of a not guilty plea will the court actually set the case for trial. Trial is where defenses can be presented and the case is fought.

The arrest of a loved one creates a lot of questions. The best way to have questions answered is to hire an experienced criminal attorney. The judge cannot give legal advice, the prosecutors represent the State not the accused, and a public defender may not be assigned until after arraignment which can be several weeks after an arrest and after evidence is already lost. Please click, text or call to hire a criminal defense lawyer. 

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

Options after receiving a traffic ticket

Often times, people will call the office immediately after having received a traffic ticket and ask “what are my options?” The answer like everything else in the law is that “it depends”. Traffic citations can be criminal or civil infractions. People accused of some civil traffic infractions are required to have a hearing. We refer to these as mandatory citations or appearance required citations and the citaiton should have a box checked next to “Infraction court appearance required”. 

In most moving violation cases that are not criminal and there is no appearance required, the driver has three (3) choices: (1) Pay it, (2) elect school (3) elect a hearing. However, drivers with a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, cannot elect school to avoid points.  Just paying the ticket will be deemed an admission, points will be added to the license and the insurance premiums could be raised; therefore, points can effect employability. The choice to elect school to avoid points can only be made once every twelve (12) months and five (5) times in a lifetime.  To elect school, the school has to be paid, the citation has to be paid and the driver spends half a day either online or in a classroom. The first two options leave the ticket on the driving record.  Hiring a lawyer normally means electing a hearing. A driver with a CDL cannot elect school but, can elect a hearing where the Judge can remove points.

In criminal or ‘appearance required’ citations, there are no options. The accused should have been given a date to appear in court. If the accused fails to appear in a criminal traffic citation, then a warrant will be issued for arrest. If the accused fails to appear at a required traffic hearing, the Court could issue points on the license, issue fines, suspend the license and technically, could issue a warrant, though I have never seen it happen (Attorney since 2003).

In a criminal traffic case, hiring a lawyer can minimize court appearances for the accused or, sometimes, the lawyer can appear on behalf of the client meaning the accused never has to appear in court.  The only choice in criminal traffic cases, is to go to court, until a Judge orders otherwise, usually upon an agreement by the State of Florida.

In all civil traffic tickets whether appearance required or not, the attorney can appear for the driver. The driver does NOT have to appear; rather the driver appears via the traffic lawyer. It is the hearing not the appearance of the driver that is required. Therefore, the only choice is whether to go to court alone or with a lawyer. There are no public lawyers available for civil traffic ticket cases, an accused has to hire thier own lawyer. Considering the tuition of the school and the half a day in class or in court, the legal fees in a traffic ticket are very reasonable.

To avoid facing the government alone, to avoid court appearances or to avoid burning traffic school elections, please fill out the form, call or click to hire the firm.  You have rights, you should know them and use them!

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

More on whether the accused should go to court

Passenger in a vehicle can be seized

Recently the 5th District Court of Appeal held that a passenger of a vehicle is lawfully seized and not free to leave a traffic stop. Therefore, if evidence of a crime is found, it can be used against the passenger.  A large amount of drug possession cases and other criminal cases start with a traffic stop and subsequent search of passengers. 

Several appellate courts in Florida have held that a passenger of a lawfully stopped vehicle is free to go about their business or stay with the vehicle. In other words the passenger could walk away; the cops could not stop them and if law enforcement did stop the passenger from leaving that seizure was unconstitutional. Evidence gained from an unlawful seizure and following search is typically thrown out of court by a motion to suppress.

However, more recent United States Supreme Court opinions caused the 5th District to hold that an officer has the right to detain everybody in a stopped car. The 5th District relied on language from the US Supreme Court that a passenger is seized, that a passenger may challenge the constitutionality of the stop and that any reasonable passenger would understand that no one in the car is free to depart without permission from the police. Therefore, the 5th announced that the situation is best addressed by a blanket rule that allows the officer to always exercise command of the scene during a traffic stop including contorl of the passengers.

Now there is a conflict in Florida, we can assume that the Florida Supreme Court will resolve the conflict sooner rather than later given the tremendous volume of traffic stops. If you live in the counties covered by the 5th District, then a passenger can be lawfully detained by an officer at a traffic stop.  Presumably, prosecutors in the other circuits and counties will be using this new law to try and overturn the law in their districts.

The circuits and counties covered by the 5th District are the Fifth Circuit: Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter; the Seventh Circuit: Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia Counties; the Ninth Circuit: Orange and Osceola; and the Eighteenth Circuit: Brevard and Seminole.

Knowing that the law causes confusion like this should motivate you to click, call or fill out the form for a consultation in any criminal case in any county mentioned here or any other county in Florida.

Gainesville (352) 371-9141

Ocala (352) 694-4529

5th District case