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Felony or Misdemeanor Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions (Click to sort)
What is Arraignment?

This is the first court hearing. An Arraignment is a hearing where the Defendant is advised of
the formal charges filed by the State and allowed to enter a plea of not guilty, nolo contendere
or guilty. At the Arraignment, a trial date and possibly a status conference date will be set.

If you have an attorney, they may enter a written plea in your behalf and waive your appearance
at the Arraignment. If not, you must appear. Be sure to check with your attorney as to whether
you must appear.

If you want a Public Defender to represent you and you qualify, one will be appointed at this

What is a Misdemeanor charge?

A Misdemeanor is any offense that is punishable under Florida laws, or that would be punishable
if committed in Florida, by imprisonment in the local county jail.

Misdemeanor charges include, but are not limited to: simple/domestic battery, criminal mischief,
resisting arrest without violence, possession of marijuana, prostitution, passing worthless bank
checks, petit theft and possession of alcohol by a minor.

What is a Felony charge?

A Felony is any criminal offense that is punishable under Florida laws, or that would be
punishable if committed in Florida, by death or imprisonment in a State correctional facility.

Felony charges include, but are not limited to: murder, manslaughter, robbery, aggravated
battery, aggravated child abuse, sexual battery, kidnapping, burglary, grand theft, battery on
a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, willful or aggravated fleeing and
eluding a police officer, possession and/or sale of drugs, communication fraud, forgery, and
passing worthless bank checks.

Felonies are classified into five categories, based on severity of the crime:

  • Capital Felonies - punishable by death or life in prison
  • Life Felonies - punishable by life in prison
  • First Degree Felonies - punishable by up to 30 years in prison
  • Second Degree Felonies - punishable by up to 15 years in prison
  • Third Degree Felonies - punishable by up to 5 years in prison

How can I find out about a case?

  • To obtain information on Felony or Misdemeanor cases you may search
    our online files. Click on Online Inquiry System at the top of the navigation
    bar to your left.
  • To review the information in person you may visit the Criminal Division
    between the hours of 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM.
  • To review Felony files for years 2006 and older you must first order the
    files by calling the Criminal Division. They will instruct you as to when and
    where to review the cases. Misdemeanor cases are destroyed 5 years
    after the final action. Certain parts of the file may be available for viewing.

How will I know when to come to Court?

If it is a Criminal Traffic case you may be given a court date at the time your citation is issued.

If you have bonded out of jail or have been released by a Judge, you will be sent a notice for
court by mail. All notices will be sent to the address that you provided when you were arrested.

How can I change my Court Date?

If you are scheduled for Arraignment on a Misdemeanor or Traffic charge and you have not
previously received a continuance, the Clerk's Office may be able to grant you a continuance
of your court date. A court date may only be changed for certain reasons set by the court,
such as a death in family or if you are in the hospital.

You must contact the Criminal Division to receive the continuance prior to the date and time
of your scheduled court appearance. You must provide proof of your circumstances, sign
documentation reflecting the continuance, and return it to our office. By accepting the
continuance you are waiving your right to a speedy trial. You will be given the next available
court date and you must attend court on that date or a bench warrant will be issued for your

How do I have a Public Defender appointed to my case?

At your Arraignment, you will be asked if you can afford the services of an attorney and have
an opportunity to complete an Affidavit of Indigent Status form. The judge will review your
financial situation and then decide whether to appoint a Public Defender as your attorney or
instruct you to seek private counsel.

During the final disposition of your case, the judge will determine whether or not you are
required to pay a fixed amount for utilizing the services of the Public Defender. The judge may
order that a lien be entered against you to help pay the operating cost incurred by the Public
Defender in preparing your defense. You must pay this lien and the application fee through the
Clerk's Office.

What are Bonds?

A bond is a document which assures to the court that a person charged with an offense
will, if released from jail, appear for future court dates and remain in the jurisdiction of the

There are two main types of bonds: Surety Bonds and Cash Bonds.

What is a Cash Bond?

If a bond is ordered by the Judge, the total amount of the bond will have to be posted
with the jail before the Defendant will be released. If for any reason the Defendant fails to
appear for court, the Judge presiding over the case may forfeit the bond. The money will then
be held in a special forfeiture fund pending any orders issued by the Judge.

What is a Surety Bond?

If you cannot afford to post the entire bond in cash, you can get a surety bond. A surety bond
is a written guarantee by a bonding company ensuring the appearance of a Defendant for
all future court dates.

The bond is an independent agreement between the Defendant and the bonding company,
requiring the Defendant to deposit with them a nonrefundable percentage (usually 10%) of
the overall bond amount. The bonding company is essentially providing the court with an
insurance policy that the Defendant will appear in court and is then liable for the full amount
of the bond if the Defendant does not appear.

After the case has been disposed by the Court the surety bond will be released and a
certificate of discharge will be sent to the bonding company by the Clerk's Office.

What determines the amount of a Bond?

If a person is charged with violating the law and is taken into custody by law enforcement, that
person will typically be held in jail until they can see a Judge. The Judge will decide the amount
of the bond based on the severity of the charges and/or the prior record of the Defendant. It is
also possible that the Judge may order the Defendant released without requiring a bond.

There are very specific charges that may enable a Defendant to bond out without seeing a Judge.
One example of this is an arrest as the result of a bench warrant. The amount of the bond may
have been set at the time the bench warrant was signed by the Judge. Another example is those
charges that have a bond schedule established.

What fees may be deducted from a Cash Bond when it is refunded?

After the case has been disposed by the Court, the cash bond will be returned to the party
who posted the bond, less any fine amounts. Once the Judge releases the bond, the Clerk's
Office will prepare a check for the remainder and mail it to the appropriate party within 2 weeks.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 903.286, any cash bond posted on or after 07/01/2005 will be
applied to any unpaid court fees, court costs, and criminal penalties. If does not matter who
posted the bond for the Defendant. Any funds remaining after all of the above noted fees are
paid will be refunded to the depositor.

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