In this article, we will take a brief look at the procedure that a variety of different courts throughout the state of Florida follow. Because it is fundamentally important to the American justice system that every citizen be given a fair, timely, and equal trial, the justice system has established a set of guidelines that dictate how law enforcement officials and the courts themselves must work. However, because of the extraordinarily complex nature of Florida criminal procedure, we will be providing only an overview, although links to the official rules of procedure will be provided below.
The first step that must be taken to bring an individual to trial in Florida is the filing of a crime and trial in a court. Which court that a trial takes place in depends on the nature of the situation. Criminal trials, for example, take place in different courts and follow different guidelines than do family court proceedings.
For criminal courts, once a case has been filed, it can then be determined which of the two courts the trial will take place in. For minor offenses, particularly those with very little or no jail time such as misdemeanors, proceedings will take place in a municipal court. For higher, criminal offenses, such as the breaking of state or federal laws, then a district court will be utilized.
After filing has taken place, the suspect must be processed. This typically involves assigning an attorney to the defendant, and, depending on decisions made by the prosecution and the defense attorney, a series of court hearings will be scheduled. The first of these is an arraignment hearing, in which both sides present their evidence, and a formal trial will be scheduled. It is also at this stage of Florida criminal procedure that the defendant will determine whether or not to waive his right to a trial by jury. Once these steps have been completed, a formal trial can begin. At the conclusion of this trial, the innocence or guilt of the suspect will have been established. If determined to be guilty, then the defendant will move on to sentencing, in which it is determined what will be done with the individual.
The Florida Bar provides all of the statutes used in these proceedings. You can find the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, used for criminal courts, at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0901/0901ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2015&Title=-%3E2015-%3EChapter%20901. The rules that govern family courts can be located at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0901/0901ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2015&Title=-%3E2015-%3EChapter%20901. For all other rules of procedure, please consult the corresponding Florida Bar page at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Index&Title_Request=XLVII.