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Court Hearings in State of Florida

What are the different court hearings in Florida

Different counties have different practices when it comes to the names of their court dates. Throughout the state of Florida, one of the first court hearings you will attend is the first appearance. The United States Supreme Court decided in a case called Gerstein v. Pugh that an individual arrested without a warrant must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest for a determination of probable cause. In Florida, our legislature has limited the time to 24 hours from the time of arrest.

At the first appearance, two things typically occur. First, the judge reviews the probable cause affidavit (written by the police officer who made the arrest) to determine whether there was probable cause that a crime was committed and the defendant was the one who committed the crime. Second, the judge will set conditions of release (often a bond) so that you have the opportunity to be released while you fight your case.

What is an arraignment, case disposition, and calendar call?

The second court hearing you will likely attend will be your arraignment. Typically, within 30 days of your arrest, the prosecutor will review documents submitted by the police and decide whether to file formal charges and, if so, what charges to file. Your arraignment is the day you officially find out what those charges are.

At the arraignment, you, or your criminal defense lawyer, will enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty on your behalf. While you are entitled to have the formal charges read aloud in court, most attorneys will waive that right, as the charges are filed in writing and can be reviewed outside of the courtroom.

Unless your attorney has been able to work out a deal in advance of the arraignment, he or she will enter a plea of not guilty and request another court hearing. In fact, if no deal has been reached, many attorneys will actually file a written waiver of arraignment before the hearing so that neither the lawyer nor the client has to appear for this hearing at all.

Following the arraignment, there are a variety of hearings that can be scheduled. The names of the hearings provide some insight into the purpose of the hearing. For example, a calendar call is a hearing at which both the defense and the state are expected to announce they are ready for trial and the judge will then provide a trial date.

A plea conference is a hearing at which the attorneys expect the case will be resolved by a guilty plea. Often, the resolution at a plea conference will be by agreement with the prosecutor, but it could also be the result of an open plea to the court.

A case disposition hearing is effectively a status check so the lawyers can inform the judge which direction the case is likely to be headed (i.e. toward a calendar call or a plea conference). At any of these hearings, the parties may decide to resolve the case, and most judges will accept a plea agreement at any time.

If the case is not resolved, the judge will eventually schedule the case for a trial. A trial is the court hearing at which the government will have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. If you lose the trial, the case will be scheduled for a sentencing hearing at which the judge will decide your punishment.

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