**Before proceeding, please keep in mind that this entire section and the paragraphs below primarily focus on some of the events that are a part of most misdemeanor cases.**
A warrant for arrest, a summons, or a notice to appear require the existence of probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a crime. A legal definition of “probable cause” is where an officer has a reasonable belief, supported by circumstances that are strong enough by themselves to warrant a cautious person to believe that the named suspect is guilty of committing a crime. In reality, it takes very little for a judge to believe that an officer had probable cause for your arrest. Its a low standard.
The first regularly scheduled court date for a defendant is called the first appearance. According to the rules governing a first appearance [see Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.130], a defendant must be brought in front of a judge a judicial officer for a first appearance within twenty-four hours of his arrest. The first appearance may be conducted by the judicial officer either in person or by an audio-visual device, in his discretion. The first appearance is a non-adversary proceeding which serves three functions: (1) to ensure that certain constitutional rights of a defendant are protected, (2) to review the legality of the defendant’s detention, and (3) to determine conditions of his release. Usually the judge, at the first appearance hearing, will not be the trial judge for the case. One of the important functions of a first appearance is to provide a defendant the opportunity to have bail set and/or conditions of release set (for example: no contact with the victim).
Getting Released From Jail
A defendant may obtain pre-trial release (getting out of jail before trial) by applying for review (filing a motion) of his pre-trial detention or any conditions of pre-trial release previously set. It is determined at a hearing before the court having jurisdiction over the matter. The motion for pre-trial release should set forth the facts and circumstances that justify bail or modification of previously set conditions of release.
What is arraignment?
Arraignment is when the accused person is officially notified of the charges against them. An accused is entitled to an arraignment in order to be notified of the charges against him and to enter a plea, and failure to provide an arraignment may be challenged by motion made before trial [see Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.160(a)]. However, if the defendant has an attorney, arraignment is usually waived by entering written pleas of not guilty.
The State (prosecutor) has the duty to disclose only that information or material that is required to be disclosed. That requirement is defined by two separate criteria: whether the information or material sought is a type that is discoverable under the rules and whether it is in the possession or control of the State. The State must provide a list of the names and addresses of all persons known to have relevant information. The State has a duty to disclose any statements made by a defendant. The State’s duty includes statements made to any person. The State must disclose even those statements that it does not intend to use at trial.
Under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.220(b)(1)(G), the State must disclose any material or information that has been provided by a confidential informant (CI). Rule 3.220(g)(2) provides that the State does not have to disclose a CI’s identity unless the informant is to be produced at a hearing or trial or a failure to disclose the informant’s identity will infringe the constitutional rights of the defendant. The State may have a duty to disclose exculpatory evidence to a defendant. This applies to three types of cases:
1)Those in which a prosecutor has used false testimony; 2)Those in which a defendant has made a pre-trial request for specific evidence; and 3)Those in which a defendant has made a general, pre-trial request for favorable evidence. These three categories may be used as a logical means of analyzing the State’s duty to disclose exculpatory evidence. As soon as practicable after the filing of the indictment or information the prosecutor shall disclose to the defense counsel any material information within the State’s possession or control which tends to negate the guilt of the defendant as to the offense charged, regardless of whether the defendant has incurred reciprocal discovery obligations.
The discovery process is initiated by a defendant, and there will be no discovery, on either side, until a defendant decides that there will be. When a defendant does decide that there will be discovery and then formally initiates it, it becomes a binding reciprocal process. This means that the State must provide discovery to the defendant, and the defendant must provide discovery to the State. Each party does so through the use of particularly described documents—a Notice of Discovery and Discovery Exhibit—and pursuant to a carefully prescribed series of actions and responses.