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In the state of Florida misdemeanors are typically classified as crimes in which the maximum penalties are a year or less in jail and or punishable by $1000 fine or less. Misdemeanors in the state of Florida are broken down into two degrees. First degree misdemeanors and second-degree misdemeanors. Typically, first degree misdemeanors are those crimes punishable up to a year in the county jail and a $1000 fine. First degree misdemeanors include but are not limited to crimes such as possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana under 20 grams, battery, and DUIs, second degree misdemeanors are typically punishable by 60 days in a county jail and or a $500 fine.
Misdemeanors are typically initiated by the issuing of a notice to appear and or a criminal arrest. Both occasions can lead to the State Attorney filing an information in the case formally charging you with a misdemeanor crime. If a person is arrested, likely they will see a Judge within 24 hours of arrest for a First Appearance Hearing. At first appearance, a presiding judge will make initial determinations of the case. The Judge will likely determine if there was probable cause for the arrest and charges alleged. The Judge will often determine a bond amount if any to be set. Note that if the person is held with “no bond” this likely means they will remain in-custody until they see the trial Judge in their case (could take up to 2-3 weeks). If the person is granted a bond or is released on recognizance and or to pretrial release, this means the person can leave the jail and await the pendency of the case out of custody. Release on recognizance typically means the person does not have to pay any money and will be released immediately. If the person is placed on pretrial release this means that in addition to any other conditions, the person must report to pretrial release when ordered to and likely submit to any drug testing and questioning that may be mandated upon visiting.
After First appearance for those persons arrested and after a notice to appear issued to a person not arrested but still having a complaint alleged an arraignment is likely the next court date. At arraignment the State can either no information the matter which means that the State will not be prosecuting the case and the person is free to leave the courthouse. Or the State will file an information and formally charge the crimes alleged. At this point, the person will either enter a plea of not guilty or if available the person may enter a no-contest plea and resolve the case by accepting the state’s offer at arraignment. This can typically be done with minor crimes such as public intoxication, trespass, disorderly conduct to name a few. Typically, in these instances the State’s offer to resolve the matter could be an adjudication of guilt and 1-10 days in the county jail. Depending on when the person was arrested this sentence may have been served and the person after accepting the offer may be released from the jail that same day. Others who do not have the requisite days served will be required to remail in bondage until they have served the total days sentenced and then they may be released.
For persons who do not resolve their misdemeanor cases at arraignment the next court date will likely be a pretrial conference. Pretrial conference is a monthly status conference in which the lawyers, Judge and all interested parties come to court and give a brief explanation on what is going on in the case as it moves toward trial. Some things to discuss at a pretrial could be the current offer in the case, how the negotiations are going between the lawyers, is the case anticipated to go to trial and or resolve in a plea are but some of the items discussed at pretrial conference. If more time shall be needed for preparing the case for trial a continuance may be motioned for and if good cause is shown the Judge will typically grant a continuance.
Eventually, the misdemeanor case will come to a point where decisions will have to be made on how the case will end. A plea is typically how these cases will end with the defense agreeing to a certain resolution usually offered and or approved by the State. The resolution could be for jail time, probation, a fine, and or any other terms the parties agree to. If a plea is reached the parties will ask the court to accept the plea at a plea hearing and if the court does accept the plea agreement the case is, then resolved. If the State and defense are unable to come to an agreement, then the defense may plea open to the bench. This simply means that the person will enter a plea to the charges filed and ask that the Judge make the sentence instead of the State. Often time, defense will do this when they are not able to accept the State’s offer and want to see if the Judge would be inclined to maybe fashion a more manageable sentence.
If the person chooses not to plea to the charges, then likely they will set the case ready for trial. This happens when all evidence has been received by defense, all negotiations of a plea have come and gone, and a discussion of the risk and reward of trial have been completed. At this time, the defense will announce ready for trial to the court and the Judge will look to see if the State will be ready for trial during the scheduled trial period. Once a trial period is set some courts suspend plea negotiations while others encourage the parties to continue trying to resolve the case. The case, if selected for trial during the trial period will be set for a jury selection and ultimately a trial date certain. If the case makes it to the jury, then the jury deliberates and tries to reach a verdict either guilty or not guilty. Not guilty means the person has been acquitted on some or all the charges and may be free to go depending on if they have been acquitted on all charges. If the person was found guilty a sentencing will need to happen where the Judge will pronounce a sentence based on the facts established at trial and the verdict rendered.
Note also that not all cases that go to trial make it to a jury deliberating. Many things can happen at a trial that cut this process short and can alleviate the need to have the jury deliberate. The case can also resolve in this manner as well depending on what happened at the trial that put a stop to the proceedings for example a mistrial, absent key witness, and more.
For More information on the misdemeanor process please call us at 407-717-8557. Note that the above information is not a guarantee of how your case will proceed nor is this page legal advice under an established client-attorney representation. This page is but a basic general overview of the misdemeanor judicial process in Florida and is intended for educational purposes only.