The Criminal Process

If you are arrested in Florida...

For many people, nothing evokes more fear than the prospect of being arrested. It can be one of the most humiliating experiences a person will ever face. Yet if you are arrested, there are things you can do to improve the outcome of your situation.

The first and most important thing you need to do on being arrested in South Florida is contact an experienced and competent Palm Beach county criminal attorney. This is such a universally recognized need that arrest laws around the country grant you one free phone call.

Is it a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

There are significant differences between Misdemeanor and Felony criminal offenses. A Felony is defined as a crime punishable by more than one year in prison or at the maximum, death. Felonies are the most serious of crimes in our justice system.

Felonies range from first degree murder to Armed Robbery, Embezzlement or possession of any amount of a Schedule Substance (Cocaine, Xanax, Ecstasy, Oxycodone, etc.).

Felony criminal convictions can result in extremely harsh punishments including long periods of probation and/or incarceration. A Felony criminal conviction impacts your life to the highest possible degree. A Felon may have more restrictions on their rights in comparison to a person convicted of a lesser crime.

Upon a Felony conviction, your rights to vote are taken away and you may also be prevented from practicing within certain professions (health care, law, education, etc.). Felons are prohibited from owning guns, serving on juries and/or enlisting in the military.

By comparison, Misdemeanors are less serious crimes and include Trespassing, Simple Theft, possessing less than 20 grams of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia. Misdemeanor criminal convictions are punishable by a fine and/or incarceration in the county jail for up to, but not exceeding one year.

The legal penalties for a Misdemeanor conviction are generally less stern than for a Felony. Someone convicted of a misdemeanor may still be able to serve on a jury, practice any profession as per personal choice and retain the right to vote.

Whether your charge is a Felony or Misdemeanor, these convictions may become part of your permanent criminal record. These convictions may also count against you in any future criminal proceedings.

What can you expect if you are taken into custody?

When you arrive at the county jail you will be "booked." This involves submitting to fingerprinting, photographing, and answering basic questions about your name, address, nationality, immigration status and so forth.

The police may question you further and ask you to make a statement. Do not answer any other questions and do not give a statement!!! Even if the police seem friendly or sympathetic, or assure you that you will be better off talking, do not. Politely invoke your right to remain silent and request to contact an attorney.

If the arrest is for a minor offense, the police may give you a citation or appearance ticket, and release you instead of putting you through the full arrest and booking process. Otherwise, you will be processed into the facility. You will surrender your property, including the clothing you are wearing, and then dress in jail garb. You will be taken to a cell.

While in jail, do not discuss your case with anyone unless your lawyer is present. Do not talk to cellmates, guards, police, or even family and friends. Conversations may be recorded and other prisoners may be eager to inform on you to get a deal.

First Appearance Hearings...

Under Florida law, if you are unable to post a schedule bond within twenty-four hours of your arrest, you are entitled to be brought before a Judge for a First Appearance Hearing.

At your First Appearance Hearing, the Judge will determine if probable cause existed for your arrest. If the Judge determines that there was probable cause for your arrest, you will then learn the amount of your bail and what, if any, further conditions the court may order as a condition of your pre-trial release. Afterwards, you will be given the opportunity to post a bond. Bail takes the form of either a cash or surety bond, and requires the use of a bail bondsman.

You should have an attorney by the time you have your First Appearance Hearing. What you face from this point depends on many factors. You may have numerous other court appearances, leading to a jury trial. Or your attorney may work out a plea bargain with the State Attorney.

The two most important factors that will influence your successful defense are your own personal strength, and a good criminal attorney with plenty of courtroom experience.

Palm Beach County criminal attorney Douglas J. Rudman is a former prosecutor who has conducted hundreds of jury trials. He provides an aggressive defense of Felony and Misdemeanor offenses. If you face arrest, call Douglas J. Rudman today.