Frequently Asked Questions
Important Things You Should Know
The prosecution of those accused of committing crimes is conducted by the Office of the State Attorney and to a small degree the Office of Statewide Prosecutor. We are responsible for representing the State in all criminal proceedings that result from the charging of a person with a crime by law enforcement and/or this office.
All criminal cases are prosecuted in local courts by the State Attorneys or by a Statewide Prosecutor, appointed by the Attorney General (AG). The AG represents the State of Florida when criminal cases are appealed to the District Courts of Appeal or to the Supreme Court. The Statewide Prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting certain criminal cases that span more than two judicial circuits.
Juvenile is a Circuit Court Division handling all felony and misdemeanor cases committed by individuals under the age of 18. Standard sentence alternatives include probation and commitment programs administered by the Department of Juvenile Justice. In addition, there are many specialized diversion programs designed to address public safety concerns as well as the needs of the Juveniles. Examples of those programs are Drug Court, Restorative Justice Program, Teen Court, Prodigy, Wake-Up, Man-Up, Stars, and Ladies First programs. We believe that early intervention is the key to redirecting a youth toward a more positive future.
The Grand Jury serves as a very special function in Florida’s criminal courts. The only charge a State Attorney cannot file based on his or her constitutional authority is first-degree murder. All first-degree murder cases must be presented to a grand jury. A Grand Jury is an investigating, reporting, and accusing agency of the circuit court (or of the Florida Supreme Court in the case of the Statewide Grand Jury). It consists of citizens who have been summoned and empaneled by a judge of the circuit court (or by a judge appointed by the Florida Supreme Court, in the case of the Statewide Grand Jury). The importance of the grand jury’s power is emphasized by the fact that it is one of the most independent bodies known to the law.
- Dress neatly and conservatively for court
- Do not memorize your testimony, but try to review the facts before the trial.
- Relax, speak loudly and clearly, directing your answers to the jury.
- Do not lose your temper when answering questions.
- Do not discuss your testimony with other witnesses.
Arrest: Law Enforcement makes an arrest based upon the witnesses information. After arrest, most assailants are entitled to a bond.
First Appearance: A hearing held within the first 24 hours of the arrest.
Filing Decision: Assistant State Attorney reviews the case after reviewing the information, held interviews, etc. and makes a charging decision. If the case is not filed, a No Information Notice is filed and the Defendant is released from custody if still in jail. All charges are dropped.
Arraignment: Within two weeks of the charging decision, the defendant goes to court and enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. Case is set for Trial at this point and subpoenas go out to all the witnesses listed. Victims have the right to be present at arraignment; however their presence is not required.
Depositions: This is when the State and Defense learn about the case. Florida law allows the defense to interview witnesses before trial. You will receive a subpoena and will be sworn in prior to the deposition before an official court reporter. The Defendant will not be present.
Plea: A plea may be offered by the state to the defendant. You will receive notification by phone or mail. Many cases are settled without witnesses having to go to trial.
Status Conference: A hearing held to advise the court if the defense is ready to go to trial.
Pre-Trial Conference: A hearing held two weeks before the trial.
Continuances: The State will try cases as quickly as possible. However, there are often circumstances that cannot be controlled which make continuance necessary.
Trial: Trial is when witnesses are needed in court. Trial is normally held within 175 days of the arrest for a felony (called Speedy Trial). Trial is normally held within 90 days for a misdemeanor or traffic case.
Sentencing: Once the defendant is found guilty or not guilty or enters a plea at trial, the Judge can set the case for sentencing. Victims will be notified by phone or mail about this date.