Stages of Criminal Prosecution in Florida: Pretrial, Trial, & Post Trial
If you or a family member is facing criminal charges, you’re undoubtedly anxious about what lies ahead. Of course, most of that anxiety stems from uncertainty about the legal process, questions about the strengths of a given case, as well as the potential exposure that you or a loved one might face.
Even when the charges are relatively minor, uncertainty about what to expect can be stressful. The best source of information about how any particular case is likely to proceed is an experienced local criminal defense lawyer. The criminal defense law firm of Lufrano Legal, P.A. has the knowledge and experience to address these anxiety-provoking questions and others including:
- How long might a particular case take to reach a resolution?
- What kind of sentence is common for this type of crime in this county?
- How likely is the prosecutor to offer a favorable plea agreement?
Until you have an opportunity to consult with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, this overview will give you a high-level view of the steps in a criminal case, including the stages of a criminal trial.
Overview of a Florida Criminal Case
A criminal prosecution generally breaks out into three stages: pretrial, trial, and post-trial. Each stage may include multiple steps. On the other hand, some criminal prosecutions are much more streamlined. For example, if the prosecution and defendant reach a plea agreement and the court approves, there is no trial phase.
Pretrial Stages of Criminal Prosecution
Depending on the case, the pretrial phase of criminal prosecution will begin with an arrest or the issuance of a citation or summons. Either scenario will result in the initiation of a criminal proceeding. Furthermore, the pretrial stage of any criminal case refers to everything that occurs from the time that an arrest, citation, or summons is issued until the selection of a jury, which initiates a trial. As such, the pretrial stage of any criminal prosecution consists of the bulk of any case. Additionally, there are many significant events that can occur during the pretrial stage of a criminal case including:
- First appearance
- Determination of probable cause
- Bond hearing
- Pretrial conferences
- Motion hearings
- Discovery and investigation
- Plea negotiation
- Trial preparations
In some cases, two or more steps may be combined. For instance, a request for a reduction in bond may be addressed at one of the early pretrial conferences. Your attorney can tell you what to expect at each court appearance.
During the pretrial phase, should you wish it, has the ability to negotiate on your behalf or prepare to proceed to trial. That process may involve:
- Independent investigation
- Review of the prosecution’s case for flaws and weaknesses
- Preparation of witnesses
- Consultation with experts
Steps in a Criminal Trial
Typically the first step in any jury trial is the jury selection. During jury selection, the prosecution and your attorney receive information about the prospective jurors.
The prospective jurors are questioned to determine whether they are capable of serving as jurors and whether they can arrive at an unbiased verdict. This process is called “voir dire.” IN State Court these questions are posed directly by the attorneys, but in Federal Court such questions are typically asked by the Judges.
Further, once the jury has been sworn in, the trial has officially begun and typically after receiving some preliminary instructions the jurors will begin their service by hearing opening statements from the prosecution and defense.
The opening statement is not an argument, but rather it is an opportunity for each side to explain to the jury what they anticipate the evidence in the trial is likely to show. It should also be noted that when it comes to the giving of an opening statement the prosecution will go first and then the defense will follow.
After opening statements, the prosecution presents its case. Their case will typically involve some witness testimony, though those witnesses may also be used to introduce evidence. After the prosecutor finishes questioning each witness, the defense attorney gets a chance to ask additional questions through a process known as cross examination.
Once the prosecution has presented all of its witnesses and other evidence, the state will “rest,” which means that the part of the trial where the prosecution presents its case ends. Then, the defense then has an opportunity to present any and all witnesses and evidence they wish to put forward.
After all, evidence has been presented, each attorney makes a closing statement. Then, the judge provides detailed instructions to the jury before the jury is sent to the jury room to deliberate and reach a verdict.
After the jury delivers its verdict, the judge will typically enter a judgment of conviction or a not guilty verdict.
If the defendant is convicted at trial, a sentencing hearing will generally be scheduled. At the sentencing hearing, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments to the judge.
If the defendant wants to continue to fight the charges and has grounds to do so, there are two possibilities: to file a motion for a new trial within 10 days or to file an appeal within 30 days after sentencing.
Talk to a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you can’t afford to wait and hope for the best. You’ll want to talk with an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Lufrano Legal, P.A., we know how important it is for you to have accurate information and knowledgeable guidance from the beginning. That’s why we offer free consultations to people facing criminal charges in and around Jacksonville.