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Have You Been Arrested In Florida? Here’s What You Need To Know.

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. However, it is important to keep in mind that 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 Florida criminal attorney. This is such a universally recognized need that arrest laws around the country grant you one free phone call.

What is the difference between having a criminal history record sealed vs. expunged?
When a criminal history record is sealed, the public will not have access to it. Certain government or related entities, primarily those listed in s.943.059(4)(a), Florida statutes, have access to sealed record information in its entirety. When a record has been expunged, those entities that would have access to a sealed record will be informed that the subject of the record has had a record expunged, but would not have access to the record itself without a court order. All they would receive is a caveat statement indicating that “criminal information has been expunged from this record.”
Legal terms
Adjudication A judgment rendered by the court after a finding of guilt.
Arraignment Appearance of the defendant in court to enter his/her plea to charges.
Capias A writ to the sheriff to arrest an accused person.
Citation The summons handed to defendant indicating the offense committed.
Contempt of Court Act of disrespect to the court; willful disregard of court’s authority.
Defendant Person accused of a crime.
Dismissed Dismissed by a judge.
Dispositions The final action of a case.
Discharge of Bond A court order to release bond, usually once the case is disposed.
Expungement Destroy, obliterate and wholly strike out the criminal history record of a person’s case.
Extradition Surrender by one state to another of a person accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory and within territorial jurisdiction of the other, with the other state that is competent to try him/her demanding his/her surrender.
Felony Crime carrying a penalty of possible incarceration in state prison.
First Appearance Accused’s right to see a judge within 24 hours of arrest.
Infraction A noncriminal traffic/marine offense.
Judgment/Sentence The official document of a judge’s disposition (decision) of a case and sentence of a defendant.
Jury Trial A trial in which a jury decides the facts at issue.
Misdemeanor An offense punishable by not more than one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Motion A document filed with the court requesting an order or ruling in favor of the applicant.
Motion to Mitigate Sentence A motion to reduce sentence.
No Contest/Nolo Contendere A defendant neither admits nor denies the charges, letting them stand as is.
No File/Unfiled Disposed State attorney’s office does not file on a case.
Nolle Prosequi (Nol-Pros) A declaration that the plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case will drop prosecution of all or part of a suit or indictment.
Non-Jury Trial A case tried by a judge.
Order A document signed by the judge making an award or ruling.
Plea Defendant’s answer to the charge.
Plea Negotiations Negotiations between the state and the defense for a fair disposition of the case, and requiring approval of the court.
Probable Cause Reasonable belief that a crime was committed and that the named person committed the crime.
Probation Suspension of a sentence, with or without adjudication of guilt, and placing the defendant under supervision of the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Services for a specified period of time, and with conditions of behavior.
Scoresheet A form used for sentencing utilizing the points system mandated by the legislature.
Sealing a criminal record To close a criminal record, make unavailable, confidential or exempt from public record.
Sentence/Judgment The official document of a judge’s disposition (decision) of a case and sentence of a defendant.
Summons A document signed by a deputy clerk ordering a person to appear before the court.
Time Served Actual number of days served in jail.
Verdict The findings of a judge or jury at the end of a trial.
Waiver of Extradition A form signed before a judge in which the defendant voluntarily submits to be picked up by a foreign jurisdiction waiving his rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Warrant A writ issued by a judge authorizing an officer to make an arrest, a seizure, or a search, or to do other acts incident to the administration of justice.
Withhold of Adjudication The judge withholds the judgment of guilt/conviction on an offense.
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 crimes in our justice system.

Felonies include charges such as first-degree murder, armed robbery, embezzlement and possession of any amount of a schedule substance (such as cocaine, Xanax, Ecstasy or oxycodone, for example).

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. Felons may have more restrictions on their rights in comparison to people convicted of lesser crimes.

Upon a felony conviction, your right to vote is taken away and you may be prevented from practicing within certain professions such as health care, law or education. 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, and 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 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 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 ask 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 for their own benefit.

First appearance hearings: What are they?
Under Florida law, if you are unable to post a schedule bond within 24 hours of your arrest, you are entitled to be brought before a judge for a first appearance hearing.

At this hearing, the judge will determine if probable cause existed for your arrest. If so, you will then learn the amount of your bail and what, if any, further conditions the court may order as a condition of your pretrial release. Afterward, 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 on 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.

Contact The Rudman Law Group at 561-815-8751 or 888-497-1668 toll-free for a free initial consultation. In all cases, we strive for the best possible outcome that helps our clients move forward permanently and confidently in their lives.

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