Your Guide to Understanding the Stages in a Criminal Case



If you or someone you know is expected to participate in a criminal case, you may feel confused about the timeline or how it’s supposed to proceed. What are the main stages of a criminal case? Are there specific steps and preparations you should take to get the best possible outcome for the case?

If you have any of these questions, we may be able to share some helpful information with you. At Fighter Law, we have extensive experience in law, including criminal defense cases and trials. If you would like to better understand the stages of a criminal case and how to navigate yours, please continue reading for a few valuable insights from our team.

What Are the Stages of a Criminal Case in Florida?

Every criminal case will look somewhat different from each other, due to evidence, representation, and the actual crime committed, but this outline explains the general timeline and stages of a criminal case.

Stage 1: Arrest or Notice to Appear

A criminal case will generally begin with an arrest, specifically if a law enforcement officer suspects you have committed a crime. However, there are some cases where an incident report is made but an arrest is not. In these circumstances, the prosecutor may decide to pursue charges later.

Stage 2: First Appearance

The first appearance may vary slightly, depending on whether a person has been bonded out of jail or released. If the person in question is still in jail, they are expected to make a first appearance before a judge within 24 to 48 hours of arrest. At a first appearance, a judge will disclose charges and a few other details.

Stage 3: Arraignment

Those bonded or released from jail will have their first appearance during the arraignment. Those still in jail have been arraigned a few weeks after their arrest. A judge will generally advise the defendant’s right to an attorney at this stage. Most will make a not-guilty plea, ensuring there is time to review and collect evidence and start working with an attorney.

Stage 4: Discovery and Conferencing

After a defendant has hired an attorney, discovery and collection of evidence will generally begin. This allows legal representation to start building a defense. Depending on the case’s complexity, this stage may take several months to a year. Every few weeks, conferences are generally scheduled to provide status updates for the court.

Stage 5: Plea Negotiations

Many cases involve plea negotiations, as both sides often want to compromise and avoid trial. However, this may begin before first appearances and continue after trials. A lawyer is a strong advocate for defendants during this stage, so we highly encourage you to speak with one at your earliest convenience.

Stage 6: Trial and Sentencing

Most criminal cases will not go to trial, but some do. During this stage, evidence is reviewed, and it is determined whether a defendant is guilty of the alleged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. From here, sentencing takes place unless a defendant is found not guilty. Appeals may begin after sentencing.

How Can a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Help You?

If you are involved in a criminal case as the defendant, consider hiring a lawyer. A qualified and board-certified criminal defense attorney, like those at Fighter Law, has a great deal of experience representing those charged with crimes. Your lawyer may also be able to help in other ways, including the following:

  • Legal knowledge
  • Negotiation skills
  • Decreasing punishment
  • Getting privileges reinstated
  • Strategizing a strong defense
  • Handling other legal representation
  • Collecting and analyzing evidence
  • Joining or leading investigations
  • Providing you with helpful resources
  • Connecting you with other knowledgeable professionals
  • Reducing stress

If you are part of a criminal case, we strongly encourage you to refrain from representing yourself. Your qualified lawyer is far more likely to fight for you effectively and favorably, allowing you to return to a sense of normalcy quickly and smoothly.

Get Great Results With Fighter Law’s Criminal Defense Attorneys in Florida

If you are part of a criminal case and need representation, our team at Fighter Law may be able to help. We pride ourselves in supporting our clients through every step of the legal process. Our team comprises talented and board-certified attorneys, including the knowledgeable and compassionate Thomas Feiter. This means that we know how to fight for our clients and get them better results than they might be able to get on their own.

If you think we would be a good fit for your legal representation and would like to receive more helpful information, please don’t hesitate to call us. You can get in touch with us by calling (407) 344-4837 or completing our online contact form at your earliest convenience. We look forward to hearing from you and fighting for you.

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