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Miami-Dade County Criminal Case Process

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If you, or someone you know, has been charged with a crime in Miami, FL, you might be curious about the process of a criminal case.  It is important to understand the process of a criminal case so that you can make informed decisions in the future about the case. 

Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer

Any criminal charge, both felony and misdemeanor, is a serious matter. It is important to consult an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney as soon as an allegation of criminal conduct occurs.

A seasoned criminal defense attorney can help you navigate through each step of the criminal defense process from arrest to trial and obtain the best possible result based on your unique circumstances.

E.J. Hubbs of Hubbs Law represents individuals facing any criminal charge, including DUI, domestic violence, drug offenses, property crimes, and traffic offenses 

Contact Hubbs Law at (305) 615-5945 or submit an online form to schedule a confidential consultation. Hubbs Law serves clients throughout Miami, North Miami, Miami Beach, and surrounding areas within Miami-Dade County.

Florida Criminal Case Information Center


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Arrest

If you, or someone you know, was detained for a misdemeanor offense or a traffic infraction, then he or she might be eligible to receive a citation or a notice to appear.

 If you receive a criminal citation or a notice to appear, the paperwork should give you a court date and time to appear for arraignment.  However, that date and time is subject to change by the clerk, so you should always check clerk’s records.

If you have been charged with a criminal traffic case, you can search for your records here:   https://www2.miami-dadeclerk.com/trafficapp/  If you have been charged with a misdemeanor criminal case, you can search for your records here:  https://www2.miami-dadeclerk.com/cjis/casesearch.aspx

If the police officer uses his discretion to place you, or your loved one, under arrest, then he is unfortunately going to take the arrestee to jail.  Most defendants are taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center (TGK).Once a defendant is brought to TGK, he or she will need to make bond to be released.


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Bond

All Defendants are entitled to reasonable bond unless charged with a capital offense or a crime punishable by life in prison where the proof is evident or presumption great.  If you are given a bond, you have the option of paying the bond in full or paying through a bondsman.

If you pay in full by yourself, the money will be returned to you upon the completion of the case so long as you appear at all court appearances.  If you pay through a bondsman, you will be required to pay a fee to the bondsman, generally 10%, and the fee is non-refundable.

If you are not given a bond, you are entitled to be brought to first appearance court where bond can possibly be granted.  If you are still not given a bond after first appearance court, you may be entitled to an Arthur Hearing.  If you are given a bond, but believe the bond amount is unreasonable, you can file a motion to reduce bond. 

At the bond hearing the judge will consider several factors listed under Florida Statute 903.046including, but not limited to: 

        1. the nature and circumstances of the offense charged,
        2. the weight of the evidence against the defendant,
        3. the defendant’s family ties,
        4. length of the residence in the community,
        5. employment history, financial resources,
        6. mental condition,
        7. the defendant’s prior criminal record,
        8. the defendant’s history of failing to appear to court,
        9. the danger the defendant’s release imposes on the community, and
        10. any other factors the court considers relevant.

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Formal Charges

If you are charged with a minor traffic offense or a misdemeanor, the officer can formally charge you with the crime.  Under the Florida Rules of Traffic Court, a Defendant is formally charged by the filing of a citation.  Under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.140, a Defendant can be charged for a misdemeanor by the issuance of a notice to appear.

If you are charged with a felony, the State Attorney’s Office must formally charge you with a crime by information or indictment.  This is a very important step in the process.  Officers often overcharge defendants.  A reasonable prosecutor could “no-action” or reduce the officer’s charges.  An experienced criminal defense attorney could have great influence over this decision. 


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Arraignment

The first court date is generally arraignment.  On this court date, the Defendant normally enters a formal plea of guilty or not guilty.  If you are out of custody, an attorney can waive arraignment so you do not need to appear.  If you are in custody, an attorney can possibly make a motion to reduce bond.  In addition, if you have not been formally charged within 21 days of your arrest, your attorney can request an adversary preliminary hearing. 


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Report Re: Plea

If your case is set for a “Report Re: Plea”, generally you have, or could possibly have by the court date, an agreement with the State Attorney’s Office as to a plea.  However, some judges will set every case for a Report Re: Plea, even if a possible plea agreement is not pending with both parties.  In this case, the Report Re: Plea is more of a status to see if the parties can come to an agreement on that date.  If no agreement can be reached, the case will more than likely be set for sounding and a jury trial.


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Sounding

Sounding is another name for a pretrial conference.  The sounding is generally set anywhere from 7-14 days prior to the trial.  The purpose of the sounding is for each side to announce whether they are ready for trial.  If each side announces ready, the case will be left set for trial.  If either the State or defense attorney announces they are not ready, then the judge will listen to the attorney’s argument for a continuance and make a ruling.


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Pretrial Motions

Pretrial motions are commonly filed in criminal cases.  Some judges will want to hear motions well before trial.  Other judges will schedule motions on the actual day of trial.  The three most common types of pretrial motions are motions to suppress, motions to dismiss, and motions in limine.

Motions to suppress evidence are based on alleged violations committed by the government for violating a defendant’s constitutional rights.

If a defendant wins a motion to suppress hearing, it could result in certain evidence being suppressed at his or her trial.  Such evidence could include: evidence of identity, evidence of impairment , evidence of drugs, evidence of firearms, evidence of stolen property, or statements allegedly made by the defendant.

 Motions to dismiss are based on procedural or constitutional arguments by defense attorneys that merit dismissal of the charges.  If a defendant wins a motion to dismiss, the case will be dismissed.  Dismissals can be with or without prejudice.  If a case is dismissed without prejudice, then the State can potentially correct the error and refile charges. 

If the case is dismissed with prejudice, then the State is barred from refiling the charges.  Examples of motions to dismiss include:  failure to state a prima facie case, discovery violations, loss or destruction of evidence, double jeopardy, and speedy trial violations.

Motions in Limine are pretrial motions made by defense attorneys attempting to limit testimony or evidence from being admitted at trial.  For example, if your attorney anticipates that an officer might testify that he was told by a witness that he observed the defendant shoot the victim, the officer’s testimony about what the witness said would be subject to a Motion in Limine because it is hearsay. 


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Trial

Every defendant has the right to a trial by jury.  Jury trials can last for a day up to several months.  At the jury trial, your attorney would have the right to pick a jury (voir dire), give an opening statement, cross-examine state witnesses, make a motion for a judgment of acquittal, call witnesses in your defense, give a closing argument, and request special jury instructions. 

At the conclusion of trial, the jury would deliberate and find you guilty, guilty of a lesser charge, not guilty, or inform the judge that they cannot come to an agreement.

 If you want a trial in front of a judge, instead of a jury, then you must waive your right to a jury trial on the record or in writing. This type of trial is called a non-jury trial or a bench trial. This trial is conducted in almost the exact same way as a jury trial with the exception there is no jury selection, opening statements, and jury instructions.  At the end of the trial, the judge would then find you guilty, guilty of a lesser charge, or not guilty.


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Criminal Defense Attorney in Miami-Dade County

Navigating the criminal justice system in Miami-Dade County can be intimidating. It is highly recommended to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney at each phase during the criminal process. Failure to consult an experienced attorney can result in you making uninformed, permanent decisions regarding your personal and professional future.

E.J. Hubbs of Hubbs Law is a Miami-based criminal defense attorney. He has years of experience defending individual facing a variety of criminal charges, including DUI, domestic violence, drug possession, firearm charges, and more. Contact Hubbs Law at (305) 615-5945 or submit an online form to schedule a confidential consultation.

Hubbs Law diligently defends clients throughout Miami-Dade County, including Miami, North Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Aventura, and surrounding areas.

This article was last updated on Friday, March 17, 2017.

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