What To Expect In A St. Lucie County Criminal Case
Agreed plea bargains resolve over 90 percent of the criminal cases in Florida. That proportion has increased considerably since the 1980s. Most cases end the same way, and most criminal cases also follow the same basic procedure.
Many cases, such as DUI matters, involve other proceedings as well. For example, most DUIs also involve Administrative License Revocation hearings. And, assault cases, especially domestic assault cases, may also involve protective order proceedings. There are other examples as well.
Especially if you have never been charged with a crime before, the criminal law process is very unsettling, to say the least. Knowing what to expect makes things a little more bearable.
Bail and Pretrial Release
Most jails have a significant number of unsentenced inmates. These individuals were unable to make bail and are incarcerated as they await their trial dates. Pretrial incarceration is not just bad on a personal level. It’s bad for criminal defense purposes as well. For example, people who are in jail often feel pressure to accept less-than-favorable plea agreements just to “get it over with.”
So, if the defendant is unable to make bail or obtain pretrial release, an attorney can request a bail reduction hearing. At this hearing, the judge will consider a number of bail factors, including:
- Amount of bail the defendant can afford,
- Defendant’s risk of flight,
- Severity of the offense,
- Amount of evidence against the defendant, and
- Defendant’s threat to the community.
After hearing evidence, the judge usually either reduces the defendant’s bail outright or reduces it if the defendant follows certain additional conditions, such as GPS monitoring.
In civil cases, discovery is often a protracted and expensive process. But in many criminal cases, discovery is a lot different. Many times, the police report summarizes all the prosecutor’s evidence. If a defense attorney examines the report, the attorney should know what to expect in the case. At the same time, defense attorneys only have limited obligations to turn over materials to the prosecutor. The tradeoff is that the prosecutor has a small army of investigators and paralegals, as well as unlimited access to police resources.
Defenses and Mitigating Circumstances
Once an attorney collects and reviews evidence in the case, an attorney begins fleshing out a defensive strategy. This process usually begins much earlier, but it accelerates at this point. Sometimes, the defendant has an affirmative defense, such as insanity or self-defense. Generally, the defendant has the burden of proof with regard to affirmative defenses. Other times, there was a procedural error, such as an illegal search or arrest. Finally, the prosecutor simply may not have enough evidence to prove every element of the crime. For example, in a DUI collision case, there may be no evidence to prove that the defendant was driving the car at the time of the crash. Mitigating circumstances usually man something like level of participation in a conspiracy crime or lack of a criminal history.
Wrapping Things Up
As mentioned, defense attorneys and prosecutors usually agree on a plea deal. However, in other cases, a defense attorney may approach the judge directly. If there is a trial, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In Florida, “reasonable doubt” basically means an abiding and firm conviction that the defendant is guilty and there is no other reasonable way to look at the evidence.
Rely on Aggressive Lawyers
A little knowledge makes a scary event a little less frightening. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A.