The Law Office of Christopher S. O'Keefe, P.A.

Florida Criminal Procedure

For the benefit of our clients we have briefly outlined the procedure used in Florida for criminal cases below. This is written in layman's terms for more detailed information contact our office today.

Arrest or Summons to Appear

Every criminal case starts either with an arrest of an individual or a summons to appear in court. If you arrested, you will be taken to jail by law enforcement. If you are given a written summons to appear by an officer, you must come to Court on a specified date or you will be arrested.

First Appearance

For someone who has been arrested and booked into jail the first appearance is usually within 24 hours of the arrest. It involves being brought before a judge and the judge makes a determination regarding probable cause and typically will set or amend the terms of pretrial release. For certain charges, an individual can bond out prior to the first appearance if a bond has been set for that offense. Other offenses, such as domestic violence require that the accused individual first see a judge at first appearance before any conditions of pretrial release have been set.


An Information is a document that list the formal criminal charges against a Defendant. The Information is filed by the State Attorney’s Office (prosecutor’s office) and is based on the arrest report and evidence obtained by Law Enforcement.


An arraignment is a court date when a judge informs the accused what the formal charges being charged against him or her are. This court date is usually about 30 days after the arrest. This is also where the accused makes his or her initial plea. If the accused has hired a criminal defense attorney prior to the arraignment the attorney will waive the appearance of his client to the arraignment and enter a plea of not guilty for the defendant.

Pretrial Motions and Hearing

Between the arraignment and the first pretrial hearing most of the defense motions need to be filed. The defense attorney can ask for additional time but that request will also be considered a waiver of speedy trial time periods. Motion hearings can be set either before or after the first pretrial hearing date. The pretrial hearing is where the court wants to know whether the case will be set for trial, continued, or set for plea.


Every defendant is given a "reasonable" time to prepare for trial. The State Attorney’s Office will provide each defendant with Discovery (police reports, witness statements, However, it is difficult to prepare when the prosecutor is obligated to give the defendant the discovery (evidence, or copies thereof) and hasn't. Discovery is an ongoing obligation by both the state and the defendant.

Criminal Plea Negotiations and Plea Offers

Plea bargains are the result of complex negotiations suffused with uncertainty and defense attorneys must make careful strategic choices in balancing opportunities and risks. The opportunities, of course, include pleading to a lesser charge and obtaining a lesser sentence, as compared with what might be the outcome not only at trial but also from a later plea offer if the case grows stronger for the prosecutor handling the case. The risks in addition to the obvious one of losing the chance for a defense verdict at trial, is that an early plea bargain might come before the prosecution finds its case is getting weaker, not stronger. The State's case can begin to fall apart as stories change, witnesses become unavailable, and new suspects are identified.

Criminal Trial

Every person charged with a crime has a right to a trial. The trial shall be conducted before a jury of the individuals peers in the community. Each trial has a Judge assigned to the case who will make rulings on evidence, objections and the law. The State Attorney will proceed first with all of his/her witnesses and evidence against the Defendant. After the State finishes with the presentation of their case, the Defendant has a right to take the stand in his/her own defense and present any evidence on his own behalf. After the conclusion of all evidence at trial, the jury will retire to the jury room to deliberate. In deliberations, the jury will determine if a Defendant is innocent or guilty of the crime charged. If the jury returns a not guilty verdict then the case is over. If the jury returns with a guilty verdict than the case will proceed to sentencing.

Criminal Sentencing

A sentence occurs either after a plea of guilty or no contest or after a jury verdict of guilty. A sentence is either a term of incarceration or a fine or both. A judge can withhold the sentence and place a defendant on probation. Probation is in lieu of a sentence but there are times when a judge can impose a split sentence (sentence followed by probation). The maximum sentences are determined by the law and are based on the level of offense and nature of the crime.

Please call our office today for a free consultation on Criminal Law.

Law Office of Christopher S. O'Keefe, P.A.
4829 Coronado Pkwy Cape Coral, FL 33904 US
Phone: 239-410-0109 Website:
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