Police in Florida who are convinced that a crime has been committed are recently being given more discretion to not always make an arrest by either issuing a notice to appear or by forwarding the case to the State Attorney's Office where prosecutors conduct further investigation before either declining to file the case or issuing an arrest warrant. A notice to appear could typically be given in a nonviolent misdemeanor case such as the minor drug offense of Possession of Marijuana or Possession of drug Paraphernalia as long as the marijuana amount was small. Forwarding the case to prosecutors often involves nonviolent felonies or cases where either the applicable law is in some doubt or the facts and circumstances of the case are not clear with further investigation needed. For example, in scheme to defraud, fraud, and many grand theft cases the sheer complexity of the facts in question may delay an arrest as an investigation by prosecutors and detectives moves forward.
But in most Florida criminal cases police take immediate action after an initial investigation by making an arrest. In these cases it's important for the person arrested or those who care about that person to take immediate action. Here are the five most important things to do:
1. Hire a defense lawyer. The lawyer will demand discovery such as police reports and state witness names and addresses and conduct a thorough investigation of the facts by interviewing possible defense witnesses, subpoenaing possible video or audio of the incident, researching applicable law, finding flaws in the police investigation, writing prosecutors to reduce or dismiss criminal charges and asking the judge to reduce any applicable bond with as few restriction while free as possible.
2. Bond out of jail. Our system of justice is not always fair because even innocent people who have been arrested but not convicted for felonies or misdemeanors may be forced to wait months in jail while their cases proceed thru the chaotic Florida criminal justice system. Loss of career and an inability to ably help with their defense is the result. Therefore, it's important to find the means to bond out of prison. Hire a bondsman if the direct bond amount can't be found.
3. Stay out of trouble and out of harm's way. Don't do anything that will land you back in jail. Stay away from the victim or any state witnesses involved with your criminal case, that means no calls, no meetings, no instant messages. Stay away from wherever the offense occurred. Stay out of trouble and keep your nose clean.
4. Focus on your case. Give your attorney all the information that you have and try to get any information that you don't have. That means that if you believe there's a witness who could help your case that you do your best to find that person's name and contact information or give the lawyer enough information that he can do it as soon as possible. The faster your attorney has the information the sooner he can use it to help your case.
5. Be strong. A successful result is much more likely if you are upbeat and helpful. If you've got a mountain to climb, then start climbing. You've been arrested, maybe you're feeling disheartened, down and out and who wouldn't feel that way, but to fight these criminal charges you've got to be stronger than you've ever been not just for yourself but for your family and for those who love you. Get some exercise, eat well, control what you can control. If you've chosen a good defense lawyer then let this sit on his shoulders not on yours.
For over thirty years I've been exclusively practicing Federal and state criminal law in Florida, with the goal of leading clients who've been arrested to the best possible results so that you can go back to living a full life as you did before that arrest.