Navigating the Criminal Justice Process: From Arrest to Felony Trial in Florida

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Navigating the Criminal Justice Process: From Arrest to Felony Trial in Florida

man getting arrested

Facing a felony charge in Florida can be an overwhelming experience, marked by a complex journey through the criminal justice system. This article offers a comprehensive guide through the various stages of this process, from arrest to trial, to help individuals understand what to expect and how to navigate these challenging waters.

The Arrest

The process typically begins with an arrest, where law enforcement takes an individual into custody based on probable cause that a felony has been committed. After the arrest:

  • The suspect is read their Miranda rights.
  • They are taken to a police station for booking.

First Appearance and Bail

Within 24 hours of the arrest, the defendant will have their first appearance before a judge. During this stage:

  • The judge informs the defendant of the charges.
  • Bail is set, or the defendant is released on their own recognizance, depending on the nature of the offense and other factors.

Assignment of Legal Representation

If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, a public defender is appointed. Otherwise, they may hire a private criminal defense attorney.

The Filing of Charges

The State Attorney’s Office reviews the case and decides whether to file formal charges. This decision is typically made within 21 days of the arrest.


Once charges are filed, an arraignment is scheduled where the defendant:

  • Is formally read the charges.
  • Enters a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).

Pre-Trial Motions and Hearings

Before the trial, several pre-trial motions and hearings may occur. These can include motions to suppress evidence, change the venue, or dismiss charges.

Discovery Process

During discovery, both the defense and prosecution exchange information and evidence related to the case. This stage is crucial for the defense to build a strong case.

Plea Bargaining

In many cases, the defense and prosecution may engage in plea bargaining. This can result in a plea to a lesser charge or a recommendation for a lighter sentence.

Trial Preparation

If the case proceeds to trial, both sides prepare by:

  • Reviewing evidence.
  • Interviewing witnesses.
  • Developing legal strategies.

Jury Selection

In a felony trial, a jury is typically selected through a process called voir dire, where potential jurors are questioned to ensure they can judge the case fairly.

The Trial

During the trial:

  • Both sides present opening statements.
  • Witnesses are called and cross-examined.
  • Evidence is presented.
  • Closing arguments are made.

Verdict and Sentencing

The jury deliberates and returns a verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing hearing is scheduled where the judge determines the punishment.


Navigating the criminal justice process in Florida from arrest to felony trial involves multiple steps and legal nuances. Understanding each phase helps prepare defendants for what lies ahead. Throughout this journey, the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is invaluable, providing representation, advice, and support.


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