Arraignment in Tampa, Florida

When people are arrested in Tampa, or anywhere else in Hillsborough County, they will naturally have a lot of questions, especially if they have never been arrested before. If someone is arrested, how soon to they have to be brought to court? If they are in custody, when will they be able to go home?

In Florida, when law enforcement arrests a person and they decide to hold him or her in custody, they have to bring the suspect to court within 24 hours of their arrest. The authorities can’t simply hold someone in custody indefinitely. If someone you love was just arrested, the authorities must bring them before a judicial officer by the next day.

Attending the ‘First Appearance’

When someone is arrested in Florida, they will appear before a judge or magistrate in person, or via a live video feed within 24 hours. The defendant’s criminal defense attorney will be present and so will the prosecutor. This is referred to as the “first appearance,” which is separate from the probable cause hearing and the arraignment.

These are the reasons for the first appearance:

  • Inform the defendant of what the state is charging them with
  • Give the defendant a copy of the complaint
  • Inform the defendant of their right to legal counsel
  • Where applicable, set the conditions of release

The consequences of misdemeanor or felony conviction in Florida can be severe, for example, the penalties can involve thousands in fines and imprisonment. Whenever someone is facing misdemeanor or felony charges, they should have a defense lawyer at the first appearance.

If a defendant decides that he or she wants to hire a private defense attorney for their first appearance, the judge must give him or her sufficient time to retain a lawyer. In some cases, a judge finds it necessary to postpone the first appearance so the defendant can find an attorney to represent them.

Since a defendant is supposed to have their first appearance within 24 hours, it is best that they secure a private attorney immediately. It’s an urgent matter.

What is the probable cause hearing?

When a defendant is in jail, the court has 48 hours to hold a probable cause hearing, providing the arrest did not involve an arrest warrant. Under extraordinary circumstances, the judge can decide to continue the proceeding, but no more than twice. Each time the judge does this, he or she can extend it for 24 hours.

A few important things happen during the probable cause hearing: the judge examines the sworn statement from the arresting officer, and the judge looks at the evidence to see if there’s enough to believe a crime was likely committed.

At this stage in the game, the court usually does find probable cause, but if it doesn’t for some reason, or if the court finds that specific deadlines were violated, the defendant will be released from custody. On the other hand, if the state filed an indictment or an information, the court will release the defendant on their own recognizance.

About the Arraignment

The arraignment is separate from the defendant’s first appearance and the probable cause hearing. During the arraignment, the judge or magistrate informs the defendant of what he or she is being charged with. From there, the judicial officer asks the defendant how they want to plea.

Whether a criminal defendant has an attorney or not, he or she is supposed to receive enough time to consider how to plead. If you are facing criminal charges, you should contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney from Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for advice. You don’t want to plead blindly.

As former Hillsborough County prosecutors who specialize in criminal defense, we can advise you on the criminal process, plea bargains, as well as possible defense strategies. ​Call today for the aggressive defense representation you need and deserve! We gladly offer free case evaluations to all prospective clients.

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