Updated: February 6, 2024 by Sean McQuaid
After an arrest in Florida, you don’t automatically get a court date unless it is for a traffic charge like a DUI. This gives you a chance to get the case dropped if you move quickly. Most people do not understand that you should not wait for a court date. Be proactive!
For non-traffic cases, after the arrest, there is a process. The case gets assigned to a prosecutor. The prosecutor investigates the case and decides whether to file a charge. Or, what charge to file. It is only once the charge is filed that the clerk of court will send you a court date. It is during the prosecutor’s investigation stage that your attorney can reach out and influence the case. In most cases, a criminal defense lawyer can do more during this stage than at any other point in the case. If you want to have the charge dropped or knocked down, your best chance is to hire a lawyer BEFORE you get a court date.
You Don’t Want to Get a Court Date!
You don’t want a court date because that means that a prosecutor has already reviewed the file and has decided that he/she can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor files an Information, which serves as the official charging document. The prosecutor has now put his/her name and reputation on the line. The prosecutor is now invested in the case and wants to win it. That’s not good for you. You want to avoid this from happening. The easier route is to convince them not to file the criminal charge in the first place and avoid a battle. Or, at least to convince the prosecutor that you deserve leniency once the case is ready to be resolved.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Court Date?
The prosecutor has 90 days to file a charge against you for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony. But, they usually don’t take nearly that long to make a decision. And, don’t listen to the deputies at the jail. They always tell you that you will get a court date in a couple of weeks. They don’t know what they are talking about. Do not sit back and wait for the court date. You are missing a prime chance to help yourself.
What Charges Can Be Dropped Without Getting a Court Date?
Most charges are able to be dropped before getting a court date. These include domestic battery, disorderly conduct, and all felony charges. Think of it like this. Any charge that you did not get a citation or Notice to Appear for can be dropped without getting a court date.
What Charges Cannot be Dropped Before Getting a Court Date?
Most traffic related charges cannot be dropped before getting a court date. These include DUI, racing, driving on a suspended license, and leaving the scene of an accident. The reason why these cannot be dropped before getting a court date is because the ticket serves as the charging document. Therefore, you have already been charged. It is simply up to the clerk to receive the paperwork and pick a court date.
Should You Hire a Lawyer Before You Get a Court Date?
Yes! You usually have between two weeks and a month before the prosecutor completes the investigation into your case. If you have a public defender, they will not get involved in the case until after you are formally charged with the crime. But, if you have a private defense lawyer, this is your chance to get in the ear of the prosecutor and influence them.
Maybe you have evidence that explains what happened. Maybe the charge was overcharged/exaggerated by the police and needs to be lessened. Maybe you have a great background and have never been in trouble before. Maybe your job or career is on the line. Maybe you have taken steps to fix the problem or have done something that shows that you don’t need further prosecution. Whatever the case may be, if the prosecutor does not hear your side of the story, you are not going to get any breaks.
What is Your First Court Date Called?
Your first court date after being formally charged is called an Arraignment. We always waive your appearance at the Arraignment. If you have a private defense lawyer, it is useless to attend this hearing. We wait for a notice called a pre-trial hearing, which is basically a status check set by the judge. Your bail bondsman might call you about attending the arraignment, but if your lawyer has already entered a not guilty plea, you do not have to go.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Before You Get a Court Date
We specialize in criminal cases in Tampa Bay. Most of our cases are handled in Pinellas or Hillsborough County. If you have been arrested, please do not wait for a court date. We cannot emphasize how important it is to get a criminal defense lawyer retained as early as possible. The steps that we can take can hopefully prevent you from getting charged and having to go to court.
Our consultations are always free of charge, so we encourage you to call, email or text us about your issue and let us give you some free advice.