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Florida Criminal Law: The Criminal Process


1. Investigatory Process

Every criminal case, whether it be in state or federal court, begins with a criminal investigation conducted by local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. On some occasions, state and federal investigators work together in task forces to investigate crimes and make arrests. This frequently occurs in mortgage fraud, Medicare fraud and drug trafficking cases.

Investigatory process
Typically, federal enforcement officers will fully investigate a case, leaving no stone unturned, prior to bringing the case to the United States Attorney's Office for prosecution. Many times, local and state investigators do only the work necessary to make an arrest without paying attention to details. That being said, cases are simply more easily defended in state court than in federal court.

2. The Arrest

Once the criminal investigation has been concluded, the next step in the process is the arrest. Individuals represented by criminal lawyers during the investigation will be often allowed to request a time and place of surrender for their client. A criminal attorney will also be able to get a bond set to allow a defendant to post bail as soon as possible after the arrest.

Criminal Arrest
In state court, law enforcement officers in misdemeanor cases can and will often issue notices to appear. Notices to appear are mostly issued for marijuana possession and petit theft (shoplifting cases). Only uncooperative defendants are actually booked into the jail for those types of offenses. Once an arrest is made a defendant is generally brought to court the following day to appear at his or her bond hearing.

3. The Bond Hearing

In state court, the majority of charges have standard bonds that are attached to particular offenses. The more serious the offense, the higher the bond in general. As long as the case is not non-bondable, a bond can be posted as soon as the booking process has been completed. If a defendant is arrested for a non-bondable offense (capital offense, life felony or first degree felony punishable by life in prison), a criminal defense lawyer will be required to set the case for an Arthur Hearing to get a bond.

If a bond is set to high to post bail, defense counsel can file and appear in court to argue a motion for bond reduction. In federal court, defendants will be required to appear at a first appearance where a bond will be set by magistrate, unless the government is successful is convincing the magistrate that pre-trial detention is appropriate in the case.

4. The Arraignment

In both state and federal court, a defendant will have an arraignment on his or her case. Simply put, an arraignment is when the state or federal prosecutors formally charge a defendant. In state court a defendant will not be required to appear at this particular if he or she has hired a criminal defense attorney and that attorney has filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the client.

In federal court, the client in most instances be required to appear in court. In both cases, defense counsel can either request that the charging document be read into the record or can waive the formal reading of the charges. In both venues, defense counsel can and should request discovery so he or she can begin the investigation process. At the arraignment, the case will be set for calendar call, sounding or trial, depending on the procedure set forth by the judge presiding over a particular case.

5. Discovery

The discovery process is very different in state than federal court. While the prosecution is required to disclose arrest reports, police reports, laboratory reports, taped recorded conversations, video recordings, defendant and witness statements and witness lists, state court procedure also allows for the taking of depositions.
  • Depositions allow defense attorneys to take sworn testimony of witnesses prior to trial.
  • Depositions provide significant fodder for defense lawyers.
  • Depositions can be used to cross-examine witnesses at trial, form the basis for motions to dismiss and motion to suppress.
  • Well-taken depositions can also lead to charge reductions, pleas with minimal punishments or even case dismissals.
  • Depositions are not permitted in federal court, thus leaving the defense at a disadvantage.

Federal police reports are far more detailed which allow defense attorneys to still set up a solid defense. Once the discovery process is complete, the case is ready for trial.


The Miami criminal defense law firm of Donet, McMillan & Trontz, P.A. has represented hundreds of clients in both state and federal court. Although the state and the federal system are highly distinguishable from the procedure to the crimes to the sentencing procedure, an outstanding defense of criminal case is reliant upon the hard work, tenacity and creativeness of the lawyers defending the case. The defense firm of DMT has spent many years in all courtroom settings to hone the skills necessary to provide and effective and compelling defense.

If you are under investigation for, or have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, contact the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT. An experienced criminal attorney is available every day of the year, 24 hours a day to speak with you regarding your situation. Allow us the opportunity to help protect your rights and defend you case.

Call our office at (305) 444-0030 to schedule your consultation appointment, or you can reach us by completing the form on our case evaluation form.

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