What Happens During a Criminal Case?

BE PREPARED

If you or a loved one are facing investigation or have been arrested, be prepared with the knowledge of what to expect in a criminal case.

The following slides show the timeline of an average criminal case, from investigation to potential trial.

WAS A CRIME REALLY COMMITED?

When police become aware of a suspected crime, it is up to them to determine whether the crime occurred and whether anyone should be arrested.

Stage One

Investigation

The investigation begins when police are informed of suspected criminal activity.

POLICE SEEK EVIDENCE

Police collect physical evidence, interview witnesses, conduct searches and identify suspects.

DID YOU KNOW?

The police do not have to tell you that you are a suspect. If you are approached or stopped by police, or asked to speak with them, you have a right to refuse to talk, and you also have the right to withhold consent to any search of your person or property.

Stage Two

Arrest

You may be arrested if police uncover evidence that provides probable cause for an arrest.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

During an arrest, you will either be taken into custody or directed in writing to appear in court on a specific date. The manner of arrest depends on the severity of the charge.

DID YOU KNOW?

Florida prosecutes felonies, misdemeanors and noncriminal violations. Noncriminal violations are the least serious, and are often penalized with a fine. A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony but can still result in up to one year of jail time. A felony is the most serious charge and can result in more than one year of jail time.

IF YOU ARE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY

If you are taken to jail, you may be: released with no charges filed, released on bail or held without bail awaiting arraignment. If you are arrested, talk to an attorney before saying anything to the police.

YOU ARE IN CONTROL

You can stop an interrogation at any time, even if you have already waived your right to remain silent. You do not have to agree to anything during interrogation, like taking lesser charges in exchange for talking.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many interrogations rely on your stress to get you to confess. Between 42 and 55 percent of suspects confess during an interrogation — some falsely just to stop the procedure. Don’t give in. Know your rights and always have an attorney present to protect you.

Stage Three

Interrogation

When police interview you, they are trying to to get you to confess. And they can lie to get you to do so. Your lawyer can help beat their tricks.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

At the arraignment you are formally told of charges, informed of your rights and given a chance to respond to charges by entering a plea of Not Guilty, Guilty or No Contest. With few exceptions, you should plead Not Guilty, demand any discovery in the prosecutor’s possession, and request a trial by jury. This will reset the case and give your attorney time to prepare a defense.

YOUR OPTIONS FOR DEFENSE

A plea of not guilty means you claim you did not commit the crime. A plea of guilty means you admit to committing the crime, and a conviction is entered into the record at the arraignment. A plea of no contest means you do not plead guilty but do not disagree with the charge.

DID YOU KNOW?

A plea of No Contest (nolo contendere) results in a criminal conviction. By pleading No Contest, you waive your right to a trial. However, a plea of No Contest is not an admission of guilt. This can be beneficial in any civil proceeding that arises from the the same criminal charge.

Stage Four

Arraignment

The arraignment is the first time you will be asked to appear in court. It is procedural, not a trial.

Stage Five

Bail/Bond

Bail, or pre-trial release, is usually determined within 48 hours of your arrest; at your first appearance before a judge. Your attorney can help argue for the lowest possible bail and help you decided the best time to post bail.

WHAT DOES THE JUDGE CONSIDER?

The purpose of this hearing is limited; guilt or innocence is not at issue. The judge can consider your past criminal record, the nature of the allegations, the strength of evidence, potential danger to the community, and risk of flight versus your constitutional presumption or entitlement to a reasonable bail. You might be held with no bond, granted a monetary bond, pre-trial release program, or released on your own recognizance (ROR’d).

DISCOVERY IS CRITICAL

For the defense, discovery can involve acquiring police reports, taking depositions, receiving documents from opposing counsel, including evidence the prosecution plans to introduce at trial, and receiving drug or alcohol test results.

Stage Six

Discovery

Discovery is the pre-trial period when a case is investigated and the parties involved trade information. This is your attorney’s chance to find out about the prosecution’s case.

Stage Seven

Pre-Trial

A pre-trial period occurs after an arraignment but before the start of a criminal trial.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

In pre-trial, your attorney will prepare for trial, attempt to prevent a trial, or attempt to secure certain advantages at trial. This can include filing motions to cancel or dismiss charges, filing motions to prevent evidence from being used at trial, challenging the admissibility of evidence and legal research.

TRIAL MAY BE IN YOUR BEST INTEREST

Much of the work of a case occurs during the pre-trial period. Some cases are resolved during this period, although this should only occur if not going to trial is in the best interest of the defendant.

WHAT IS A PLEA BARGAIN?

A plea bargain is an agreement in which the prosecutor agrees to drop a charge (or charges), reduce a charge or recommend a lesser sentence in exchange for a plea of Guilty or No Contest (nolo contendere).

Stage Eight

Plea Bargain

More than 90 percent of convictions are the result of a plea bargain, but a plea bargain is not always in the defendant’s best interest.

ONLY ACT IN YOUR BEST INTEREST

Your attorney will try to get the best offer and will recommend whether you should accept it. The answer is not always yes.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

A trial proceeds through the following steps:

  • Voir Dire, or jury selection.
  • Opening statements. The prosecution must make an opening statement. The defense may choose to make an opening statement but does not have to.
  • Presentation of evidence. The prosecution will present its case first. The defense then has the option to offer evidence or witnesses. The prosecution has the option to offer a rebuttal, in the form of evidence, to any part of the defense's case.
  • Closing arguments by both sides.
  • Deliberation and verdict.

Stage Nine

Trial

You may choose to go to trial to defend yourself against all charges. You have the right to a trial by jury, or you may opt to have your trial heard by a judge.

Stage Ten

Appeals

Ideally, you will be successful at trial. However, should you be convicted, you have the right to appeal a guilty verdict.

WHAT IS AN APPEAL?

An appeal is a review of the evidence already admitted at trial; it is not a new trial. You must file a notice of appeal within 30 days, and appellate courts strictly enforce this 30-day deadline.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can appeal a verdict if you believe the evidence presented at trial did not support a guilty verdict, or if you believe an error was made by the prosecution, your attorney or law enforcement that was harmful to your case.

Know What to Expect During a DUI Stop

BE PREPARED

Imagine if you could know exactly what questions a teacher will ask and the correct answers before you take a test? You can with field sobriety exercises.

While some things in a DUI investigation can’t be prepared for, most aspects can. These slides will show you how.

01

Traffic Stop

To lawfully initiate a DUI investigation in Florida, a police officer only needs to have reasonable suspicion of DUI, a relatively low legal standard.

THE TRILOGY

The trilogy is often used as a foundation for reasonable suspicion, in addition to a traffic infraction, like speeding. The trilogy consists of: slurred speech, an odor of alcohol, and red, watery, bloodshot eyes.

DID YOU KNOW?

Once police have stopped you, there are other signals that officers can use to find reasonable suspicion of DUI. These include having trouble rolling down the window, fumbling with or forgetting to provide documents upon request, difficulty exiting the vehicle, leaning on the vehicle for support and general confusion.

REASONS FOR A TRAFFIC STOP

Police are looking for a reason to stop you. Some of these reasons include weaving in or across lanes, failure to stay in your lane, braking erratically and driving to fast or too slow.

tip

TAKE YOUR TIME!

Listen carefully to all instructions; do not start until told to.

02

Field Sobriety Exercises

After a traffic stop and during most DUI investigations, you will be asked to perform one or more approved field sobriety exercises, or FSEs.

What Are The Exercises?

Police are trained on five exercises: the walk-and-turn, horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), one-leg stand, Rhomberg balance and finger-to-nose.

tip

Arms at side.

Heel and toe touching.

03

FSE: The Walk-and-Turn

During the walk-and-turn, you must walk on a straight line always touching heel-to-toe for nine steps, turn in a specific manner and walk nine steps back to where you started.

What Do I Need to Know?

Never allow more than a six inch gap between your heel and toe or between your arms and side. If you falter, correct yourself and keep going; do not ask to start over.

tip

RELAX!

Nystagmus is supposed to be involuntary, so just stay calm and focus.

04

FSE: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Police will ask you to follow an object with your eyes only; don’t move your head and neck. They are looking for nystagmus, an involuntary jerking of the eye.

What Do I Need to Know?

Police will ask you a series of questions first. Answer them calmly. HGN results can be challenged and possibly excluded from trial.

tip

Do not raise your leg too high, stick to 6 inches.

05

FSE: The One-Leg-Stand

You will be asked stand on one leg while raising the other leg in the air at least six inches off the ground.

What Do I Need to Know?

Listen carefully! You will be asked to keep your hands at your side and look down at your raised foot’s toes.

tip

LISTEN!

The officer will call out alternating hands and may not call them out evenly.

06

FSE: Finger-to-nose

You will be asked to close your eyes, with your hands out, and when prompted, use the the tip of the appropriate hand’s index finger to touch the tip of your nose.

What Do I Need to Know?

Only touch the tip of your finger, not the pad, to the tip of your nose. Keep your eyes closed, and don’t try to guess which hand the officer will call out.

tip

Have a system for counting and stick to it.

07

FSE: Rhomberg Balance

You will be told to tilt your head back, close your eyes, and estimate 30 seconds passing. After 30 seconds, bring your head up, open your eyes and say “stop.”

What Do I Need to Know?

The officer will be looking for swaying, hopping and lost balance, but also things like forgetting to keep your eyes closed, counting out loud instead of in your head, or counting for way too long.

Should I refuse a Breath Test?

If you provide a sample that registers above the limit, you will lose your license, and your DUI case will be more difficult to defend. Refusal to give a sample still results in an administrative suspension of your license but often makes your criminal case that follows easier to explain.

What Happens If I Refuse?

A first refusal comes with a mandatory one year license suspension. Second and subsequent refusals come with an 18-month suspension and a misdemea nor charge of “second or subsequent refusal.”

DID YOU KNOW?

In Florida, a police officer or breath test operator (BTO) must read you Florida’s implied consent law and inform you of the penalties refusing to take the test will incur. If you fail to receive this information, your case may be easier to defend. They also must wait 20 minutes (an “observation period”) before taking any samples. This is to ensure you have not thrown up or put anything in your mouth that could jeopardize their results.

08

Intoxilyzer 8000

By driving on Florida’s roads, you’ve implicitly consented to give a breath sample if arrested. The machine used to take this sample is the Intoxilyzer 8000.

A blood test requires a warrant

The Supreme Court has ruled that, almost always, a warrantless blood test is an unconstitutional search. Even if you have been arrested, police must produce a warrant before compelling a blood test unless very specific circumstances arise.

DID YOU KNOW?

It is no longer constitutional to impose separate criminal penalties when a suspect refuses to give blood without a warrant. In Florida, your license will be suspended for one year on the first refusal and 18 months for subsequent refusals to provide a blood sample. Additionally, if you provide a breath sample that shows a BAC that is under Florida’s legal limit, almost always this will prompt the police to ask for a urine sample.

09

Blood and Urine

If police are unable to attain a breath sample, Florida’s laws authorize them to collect a blood or urine sample after a DUI arrest arrest ‐ under certain circumstances.

Implied Consent & Urine Tests

The Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of compelling a urine test. You have the option to refuse, but you may face criminal penalties.

10

Will I Go to Jail?

If police arrest you for DUI, you will have to stay in jail for some period of time your arrest. Say nothing to the police without a lawyer present.

HOW LONG?

You are usually held for at least 8 hours. Criteria for your release are that you are no longer under the influence or impaired and that your blood alcohol level is below .05, or eight hours have passed.

DID YOU KNOW?

Once you have been arrested, you will likely be held in jail, even if you consented to a breath test and blew under the legal limit. Police will proceed with the booking and hold you until they believe you are able to drive home.

Know What to Expect During a Personal Injury Lawsuit

BE PREPARED

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries and are considering a personal injury lawsuit, you are probably wondering what comes next.

The following presentation outlines the steps in a personal injury lawsuit, from start to finish.

01

Treatment

Not all injuries resulting from an accident are immediately apparent. Always visit a medical professional to make sure any injuries are being properly treated.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

Keep a record of all doctor’s visits, medical treatments and insurance claims, and take pictures of any visible injuries. Save all accident-related documents in a safe place.

02

Florida Injury Law

Florida personal injury law contains some provisions that need to be considered if you are planning on filing an injury lawsuit.

    NO-FAULT CAR INSURANCE

    In Florida, your insurance pays all claims regardless of fault. You can only hold the other driver liable in cases of “serious injury,” which includes permanent injury, significant and permanent scarring, or disfigurement.

    STRICT LIABILITY FOR DOG BITES

    Unlike many states, a Florida dog owner is responsible for injuries caused his or her dog from the “first bite,” even if the dog has never before been aggressive.

    02

    Florida Injury Law

    In Florida, you have four years from the date of your injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you wait too long, the judge will likely refuse to hear the case.

      COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE

      Florida uses a “pure comparative negligence rule” for injury cases, which means that your compensation may be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault it is determined you carry for an accident.

      03

      Hiring an Attorney

      A personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case at no cost to you to determine whether you should move forward.

        THE INITIAL MEETING

        Bring all notes, photos and medical records to your initial consultation. Be wary of attorneys who charge just to meet with you. The best lawyers offer a free consultation.

        03

        Hiring an Attorney

        Pay close attention when meeting with an attorney. Ask questions and choose carefully; your attorney can make the difference in winning your case.

          ASK AND ANSWER

          Your attorney will ask a lot of questions about the incident, any injuries, medical records and insurance. Answer honestly. Remember to ask questions yourself. You should know the attorney’s history with your type of case.

          03

          Hiring an Attorney

          Before you officially hire an attorney, you will be asked to sign a client contract. Make sure all your questions are answered first.

            CONTRACT AND FEE

            Before signing a contract, be sure you have asked detailed questions and that you agree on the lawyer’s fee. Most personal injury attorneys receive a percentage of any recovery — and only if you win.

            04

            Investigation

            Your attorney will begin by researching your case thoroughly. It is critical to uncover the extent of damages and injury involved.

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              STAY INFORMED

              Your attorney will keep you informed of any developments, negotiations and progress as the investigation moves forward. During this time, focus on your health and recovery.

              05

              Should You Settle?

              A lot of personal injury claims are resolved without a lawsuit, through a settlement. Your attorney should advise you honestly about whether settling is in your best interest.

                NEGOTIATIONS AND SETTLEMENTS

                Your attorney will negotiate with the other party’s insurance company, and they may present an offer to settle. Your attorney will advise you, but it is ultimately your decision whether to settle or go to trial.

                06

                Filing a Lawsuit

                A personal injury lawsuit involves three initial stages: complaint, discovery and motions. The complaint is the first official document filed in your case.

                  FILING A LAWSUIT: THE COMPLAINT

                  Your attorney files the Complaint, which details allegations about your injury and damages. The defendant will “answer” the Complaint in a separate document. The Answer must come within a set period of time, usually 30 days.

                  06

                  Filing a Lawsuit

                  A personal injury lawsuit involves three initial stages: complaint, discovery and motions. Discovery allows both parties to gather information from each other about the case.

                    FILING A LAWSUIT: DISCOVERY

                    During discovery, your attorney will request documents and interview witnesses and experts. These sworn interviews are called depositions. Your involvement is critical, and you should work with your attorney closely.

                    06

                    Filing a Lawsuit

                    A personal injury lawsuit involves three initial stages: complaint, discovery and motions. The defense has the right to submit motions asking for dismissal of any part of the case.

                      FILING A LAWSUIT: MOTIONS

                      The defendant can file a motions asking the judge to take specific actions. Your attorney will file responses, and a hearing may be scheduled to consider the motion and your response.

                      07

                      Going to Trial

                      There are six phases to a trial: jury selection; opening statements; testimony, witnesses and evidence; closing arguments; jury instruction; deliberation and verdict.

                        TRIAL AND AWARD DISTRIBUTION

                        Each side will have the opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses and rebut evidence. After each side presents, a judge or jury determines liability and what damages the defendant must pay if found guilty.

                        08

                        Post-Trial

                        Even if a jury has decided in your favor, your case may not yet be over. The defense can appeal the decision to a higher court.

                          APPEALS AND AWARD DISTRIBUTION

                          You may have to wait to receive your award until all appeals have been exhausted. Your lawyer will then pay any outside parties owed and write you a check. Your personal injury lawsuit will be concluded.

                          For help right away, or a free initial consultation, email any time of the day or night, or call 305-938-9939. I answer calls and email 24/7.