An Overview Of Criminal Law Cases In The State Of Florida

Interviewer: What are some of the most common types of crimes that you represent people for?

Michael Golub: Mostly, either domestic violence or drug crimes. I do mostly family law, so a lot of times, I deal with the domestic violence as part of that. And then, obviously there's a lot of people that have the drug issues as well.

A Step by Step Breakdown of a Typical Criminal Process Following an Arrest in the State of Florida

Interviewer: What is the process that an Individual goes through once he or she have been arrested for a crime?

Michael Golub: Yes. I mean what happens is a person can be arrested or for some lesser crimes, typically a person is arrested and they're brought to jail. Sometimes if it's a very minor crime, they're just given a notice to appear in court although they're still charge criminally but typically, what happens is law enforcement would do the initial arrest. At that point in time when the person is in custody, that's when their rights are attached to them. They've got a right to remain silence and the officers have to read those rights to them, which is called what we typically refer to as the "Miranda Rights". You've right to remain silent, you've right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, the one will be provided to you and so on. So, you know, those rights are read at that point.

If a Person is Arrested , they're Brought to Jail and Processed and a Bond is Set

Typically what happens if a person is arrested, they are brought to jail and within 24 hours - well pretty much after a few hours, they're processed and they - a bond is usually set and a person can go abruptly go to their bondsmen or post the bond themselves and bond out of jail if they have the money. Typically what happens is a person, if it's not too serious of a crime, they can be released on their own recognizance or usually what will happen is there'll be a bond set on the case. And you can post the bond yourself if it's $1,000, you know, what you do is you have somebody bring $1,000 down at the jail give it to them and then you get out and they hold the money and tell you to make sure you show at the court, or you go to your bondsman and the bondsman puts up - you pay the bondsman 10 per cent and the bondsman puts up the bonds for you and ensure that you make it to court.

Within 24 Hours of Being Incarcerated a Person is Called Before a Judge for the Initial Appearance

If you're not out of jail, you'll see a judge usually within 24 hours for what's called an initial appearance if you're still in jail. If you are released to bond it out, then you're going to be - the first court date that you're going to have is called the arraignment and that's usually a couple of weeks after the initial arrest. The purpose of the arraignment is so you - basically the state attorney, after somebody's arrested, the police will arrest you for a certain crime and that's what you'll be held on and that will be written on the police report. What happens after that is all of the police reports and information then go to the state attorney's office and then, that's where an attorney, a prosecutor is going to review that information and they're going to make a charging decision as to what they feel the crime actually is from the circumstances and what they think they can actually prove against the person.

Typically a Defendant Has to Enter a Plea of Guilty or Not Guilty on the Charges Brought at the Arraignment

In other words, what happens is a lot of times you'll find a situation where the police will arrest somebody and charge them and then, they get to arraignment. And when they're at arraignment, they may be actually formally charged with either a different crime or a greater crime or a lesser crime or there's a lot of times that you will see a difference in it when it gets to that point because the police officers are not attorneys, it's the attorneys that are going to be trying the case that know what they can prove when they go to court. So, the arraignment is when the state attorney is going to file the formal charging document, which is called "An Information", and that's going to basically layout exactly what they're going to charge you with. Typically at an arraignment, then a person has to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on the charge.

Judges Do Not Normally Accept Pleas for Felonies at the Arraignment

Now, if I am representing a person, normally what I'm going to do is I'm going to automatically enter a not guilty plea for them prior to the arraignment and they will not actually go to the arraignment, I'll enter written pleas for them of not guilty. The judge will accept that plea and then, there'll be some court dates that will be set further into the future. On the arraignments, judges do not normally accept pleas in felony cases. Sometimes in the misdemeanor cases, the misdemeanor judges will accept pleas and people come in but typically when I represent somebody I, don't ever go to an arraignment. Normally we are going to enter a plea of not guilty prior to that, which will then allow us to then figure out a little bit more about the case, give us more time, so we can figure out what's the best course of action for the person.

Defense Attorneys Often File a Notice of Intent to Participate in Discovery

Normally, at that time, the first thing that I file in the case is what's called a Notice of Appearance, a waiver of arraignment and plea of not guilty. Then, with that, I'm going to file a notice of intent to participate in discovery. And basically what that means is that the state attorney, if they charge somebody, they're going to have to provide copies of what we call a discovery which is basically any evidence that they have that they intend to bring forth at trial. They have to list the names of any witnesses. If there are documents, witness statements, photographs, lab records anything that can be construed, you know, as evidence that can be used against the person at trial has to be produced and we have a right to see it.

An Additional Demand for Exculpatory Evidence is Filed to Procure Evidence from the State that is Helpful in Defending the Accused

Additionally, we file a demand for exculpatory evidence. This means that basically if the state attorney has evidence which tends to help the defense, the state attorney has to produce that for us as well, so we'll get the feel of the evidence and everything that can be used and names and addresses of any of the witnesses. We then have a right to talk to witnesses, we can basically either talk to them, call them up and talk to them or normally what we will do is we will do what's called a deposition where we subpoena the witness and put them under oath with a court reporter present and then, we can ask them questions about what happened in the case. So, that's what we call the discovery process.

The Defense Attorney Has to File Special Notices Regarding Alibi Witnesses

There is a reciprocal requirement as well where if the client has defense witnesses or other types of evidence that we want to produce, we have to notify the state attorney of those witnesses. Also, if they're alibi witnesses, we have to file notices, special notices pertaining to the alibi witnesses as well. So, basically, the first stage that we really go into is the recovery stage where we're going to find out what evidence is and then, we're going to look at it and see based on the evidence; are there any dispenses that we have and what is the likelihood of, you know, prevailing a trial or not prevailing a trial. The state attorney always has the burden of proving the case against somebody and the burden is beyond the reasonable doubt and you have a right to a jury trial which is going to depend upon the amount of the jurors and upon what type of case. Typically, it's you know six jurors unless it's a capital case, then it's 12 jurors.

Motions to Suppress Evidence Obtained through Illegal Means may also be Filed by the Defense Attorney

After that, we kind of get familiar with all the evidence and look at may be some other motions that need to be filed, pre-trial motions such as one motion that may be filed would be a motion to suppress evidence. In other words, if there is a situation where the evidence that the state attorney has, has been illegally obtained such as, f the person was pulled over and they're driving the car and they didn't have probable cause to pull them over, then we can file a motion to suppress evidence that flows from that legal stop. Or if a person's arrested and they read them Miranda Rights and then, the officer starts questioning them and they say "I don't want to; they ask for an attorney and they say "I don't want to talk" and they keep talking and then, they say something, then those statements may be suppressible.

Negotiating With the State Attorney is One of the Major Duties of a Defense Attorney

There are all kinds of things that can happen on a pre-trial level. And sometimes, we can do a thing called a motion to dismiss where if we look at the evidence and if we assume all of the evidence to be true even if the evidence are true that it does not amount to the offense that the person's being charged with and sometimes, a case can be dismissed at that level. So, those things kind of pre-trial motions are filed at that point. And then, along the way also what we're going to be doing is negotiating with the state attorney. Typically, most cases are negotiated, there is a negotiated settlement entered in pretty much, in probably 90 per cent or more of criminal cases. Very rarely do you ever see a case that actually goes to a jury trial. Most of them, there is some sort of a negotiated plea or, the state attorney reduces charges and drops charges or agrees to a certain type of sentence in a case.

Sometimes Defense Attorneys Can Negotiate a Pre Trial Intervention for First Time Offenders

So, there's a lot of bargaining and wheeling and dealing that goes on there. And basically, we try to get the person the best case scenario given the facts what they have. Typically, what I do is I'm going to talk to the person about what their priorities in the case are, okay, and what their goals are. Usually, most people's no. 1 priority is to stay out of jail, so that's our first goal to keep a person out of jail. Usually, the second goal is to try and keep the person's record clean if possible. So, typically in a lot of cases in terms of negotiation, we can negotiate some sort of a probationary type of sentence you know that doesn't involve jail time, that's good in most cases. Sometimes, we can negotiate a thing called pre-trial intervention, which is what happens with 1st offenders, depending upon the crime of course but a lot of times that program will be available for them. And what they do there is it's similar to probation. But what happens is when they complete certain things and they complete the program, then the state attorney then goes in and drops all of the charges. So, then at the end of the day, there is not a finding of guilt there, everything is dropped.

In Felony Charges a Court Can Either Withhold Adjudication of Guilt or Adjudicate a Person Guilty

That person also may or may not be let able to go back in afterwards and expunge that and have that taken off the record. The other thing that can happen especially in felonies is that a court can either withhold adjudication of guilt or they can adjudicate a person guilty. The problem is if a person is adjudicated guilty, then there are certain rights that they lose. They're going to lose their civil rights, they won't be able to vote, they won't be able to carry firearms or possess firearms, and they won't be able to run for the public office. So, that's an important thing that we have to be concerned about in felony cases. Also, in those cases, if a person is adjudicated guilty of a felony, they will not be able to go back later and have that charge expunged and taken off of their records where they may be able to if there was a withhold of adjudication.