Adversarial Preliminary Hearings

   

Navigating through Florida’s confusing maze of criminal law is a task best left to trained professionals like Mary Elizabeth Fletcher – someone that speaks the language and has the experience needed to help you make the rights decisions for the best possible outcome in your case. In the area of criminal law, knowing the rules regarding what is supposed to happen and when it is supposed to happen is an invaluable tool to possess. A Fort Myers criminal defense attorney that is knowledgeable of the rules will prove to be your greatest ally in the unfortunate event that you are arrested.

Florida law, under Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.133, requires a nonadversary preliminary hearing within 48 hours of a person being arrested; this is commonly referred to as “first appearance”, since it is typically the first time that a person appears before a judge after being arrested. At this hearing, the presiding judge will determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is the person that committed the crime.

The amount of a bond required is usually set during the first appearance. It is important to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf to help ensure that a reasonable (and appropriate) bond amount is set. In addition, if it can be demonstrated that no probable cause exists, a defendant can be released without a requirement to post a bond at all. Another situation that could lead to release without a bond requirement is where the hearing is not held within the time frame that is required by Florida law, which is 48 hours; however, in special circumstances two separate 24-hour extensions may be applied.

For anyone that is arrested for a felony criminal offense in Florida, a second preliminary hearing may become available in some instances. In the case of a defendant arrested for a felony offense, if the State of Florida has not filed charges within 21 days, an adversary preliminary hearing entitlement arises. The adversary preliminary hearing differs from the nonadversary preliminary hearing in that at the adversary preliminary hearing, witnesses will testify on behalf of the State and on behalf of the defendant; all witnesses will be cross-examined — even the defendant, if he or she decides to testify. In this regard, the adversary preliminary hearing functions a lot like a mini-trial that gives the defendant a sneak peek into the State’s case in a trial-like setting.

The adversary preliminary hearing is a tool of great importance to a defendant that is being held in custody. A determination that there is no probable cause means that a defendant is entitled to be released. This doesn’t mean that the State will cease moving forward with the case, but it is definitely more convenient to fight a criminal case when the defendant is outside of jail. In fact, being held in custody takes the fight out of most defendants, and he or she is more likely to enter a plea of guilty — especially when doing so will bring the defendant home sooner rather than later.

At the Law Offices of Mary Elizabeth Fletcher, we understand the importance of each small victory in a criminal case and how these smaller victories string together to build a better foundation from which to launch a successful defense. We are available for free initial consultations. If you would like to speak with an experienced Fort Myers criminal defense attorney about a preliminary hearing or other criminal defense matter, schedule a free consultation by calling us at (239) 677-7685.