In some nonviolent misdemeanor criminal cases Florida law enforcement officers may give what is known as a Notice to Appear to a defendant rather than making a formal arrest. Although there's no arrest in the case Florida's archaic and chaotic criminal justice system treats every criminal charge as significant. It's important to understand that even in a criminal case that did not initially result in an arrest may be punished with jail time, probation or hefty fines. For example, lately the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Largo Police Department and the Clearwater Police Department are apt to give a Notice to Appear rather than making an arrest in possession of small amounts marijuana cases yet it's still important to make a priority of avoiding harsh punishments in drug cases as they can result in jail, probation and fines not to mention the loss of employment opportunities.
In Pinellas County your Notice to Appear will give a date and time to appear for a hearing on the matter at a Courtroom at the Criminal Court Complex located on 49th Street in Clearwater, Florida. Failing to appear at that place and time will not only result in an arrest warrant being issued for you but will result in a new charge being filed, known as Failure to Appear, thus complicating any future efforts to reduce, dismiss or negotiate the original criminal charge.
The first hearing date given in the Notice to Appear is called an arraignment. At the arraignment the judge will make sure that the defendant understands the nature of the charged offense, make a finding for the record of how the defendant intends to plead and will ascertain whether the defendant has hired a defense lawyer. If defense counsel is retained before the arraignment the lawyer can file a notice of appearance with the Court so that the defendant need not attend the arraignment.
It's always important to hire your criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible even when there has not been an arrest. That way your lawyer will have time to investigate the facts of your case and find the best possible outcomes leveraging your judge's discretion to resolve your case so that it won't unduly affect your job status, your family life or your future.