What is the Legal Process Involved in a Criminal Case?
Generally the criminal process will begin when either somebody is given notice to appear which is the is the equivalent of an arrest.
Depending on the type of crime, the police officer can:
- Take you into custody and then require that you go in front of a judge
- If somebody is alleged to have committed an offense, whatever that offense may be, that person will be taken into custody
- Pursuant to Florida law, that person has the right to have what’s called a first appearance in front of a judge
- If it is a more minor crime of petty theft, stealing something at Wal-Mart
- If you don’t have a prior record, they may write you something which looks like a ticket, but it really isn’t
- It’s the notice to appear which is the equivalent of being taken into custody and then released at the scene
Generally, if somebody is taken into custody within 24 hours they’ll have the right to go in front of a judge. The judge then will review the preliminary police report to make a finding whether at least initially finds that there are facts that substantiate, that in fact a crime has occurred and it appears that this is the individual that may have committed that offense.
Based on the type of offense, and also looking at somebody’s prior record if they have one, what the judge will do is usually set a bond.
The bond will equate to the severity of the offense.
- For misdemeanor offenses: it may be $1000, $500, $2000
- For felonies: the bond will be higher, and as you get into a higher degree felony the bond will go up even more and that is to try and make sure that the person will come back to court if he’s released from jail
Plea & Arraignment
The next step will be where the person actually will enter an official plea:
- Whether they want to plead guilty or not guilty and resolve the case
At the arraignment, you do not know what the total evidence is against you. In my opinion it is clear, everybody has a right at that point to enter a plea of not guilty and at least have the right to look at what the evidence is presented against them to see whether or not the state actually has viable evidence to move forward against them.
Usually at arraignment some people are represented others are not. The judge will make an inquiry as to your financial situation.
- If you are employed, you’ll be required to retain your own private attorney
- If you can get the public defender, it usually means that you have no income or maybe that you have a disability
He may at that point ask you to do an application for the public defender and then once that is reviewed, if he feels that you cannot afford your own attorney, he will appoint the public defender for you.
Discovery Process & Attorney
The attorney will get involved and the discovery process begins.
- Attorney would be retained
- File the notice of appearance
- Demand for discovery, which means the attorney has the right to obtain all evidence:
- Audio statements
- Police report
- Anything the state planned on using against their client to review to see the viability of their claim and the evidence that they have to substantiate their allegations
Why Choose Keith Bregoff for a Criminal Offense
When people are deciding whether to retain an attorney for a criminal charge, it’s important to consider what is on the line. I also have an extensive background in Civil litigation and large entry-type cases, this is a whole different level because this is your freedom. This will affect somebody’s life possibly to be able to vote in the future, to be on a jury, to carry a firearm.
What happens in a criminal case, can impact your life. Those are substantial decisions moving forward. Who you are going to have to represent you in dealing with the state attorney’s office and negotiating with the judge?
Because of my background starting in 1991, I was a prosecutor and rose quite high in the 17th judicial circuit, prosecutors office up to the lead felony attorney, handling cases for both two different divisions.
I handled cases which included:
- Prosecuting murders
- All types of drugs
That gave me the experience and knowledge from the prosecutorial side as to how to put a case together — how to prosecute a case.
Most of the prosecutors that I deal with — especially in the treasure coast area — know my background, know that I was a lead felony prosecutor and know that I have the experience and knowledge from their point of view as well as from my point of view at this time as a criminal defense attorney.
So when am dealing with them in review of evidence because of doing it from a prosecutorial side, I can see if they have issues with that case. I can tell the way a police report may have been worded, if this was fudging using a generalized word to try and substantiate that there may have been intent on behalf of somebody but maybe they really know that there appears no evidence that somebody intended to do something.
In criminal offenses, usually:
- You have to have knowledge that you are doing something wrong
- Or have intended to do something wrong
- If you inadvertently do something wrong, then usually that falls under just general negligence and is not considered a crime
By having this background experience, it helps me in negotiating with the state. Because of my stance, I still think like a prosecutor, so my concentration and what I do in all the areas of criminal law are based really on trying to help people.
I concentrate on working with first-time offenders and also non-violent crime cases.
Still thinking like a prosecutor, I am not, for any amount of money or fee going to represent or defend somebody who, in my heart, I feel may have committed an offence. And not only committed an offense, but committed an offense that injured others.
- I stay away from any violent-crime type cases, rape cases, child-molestation cases
- Except in very few instances where I have represented some individuals that, after speaking with them and looking at the substantiated evidence, I feel outright they did not commit that crime
- I really try to work with first-time offenders or someone who may have made a bad choice
Over the years being here in the treasure coast area, I’ve seen too many times where there are people that may have made a bad decision:
- Had an addiction to a drug
- Stole from a store because they needed something for their child
It’s not an excuse but I can understand how people get into that situation. And somehow what happens is from somebody making one mistake in their life, if it is not handled correctly, that one mistake will follow them for the rest of their life to affect:
- Their ability to get an apartment
- Their ability to get a job
The way I feel is everyone makes mistakes. Prosecutors make mistakes; AP’s makes mistakes; judges make mistakes. Anyone who makes a mistake — which is not catastrophic — should not have to bear a penalty for the rest of their life and impede their ability to move forward, be employable, get a house…
The way that is handled by their attorneys (especially first-time offenders or people that are very limited) prior history is very important. Most of the time with those cases, you can handle them in a way that they can be resolved and later on that record is sealed or expunged so that it never comes up to where somebody running a general criminal background check is going to find that somebody ten years ago made a stupid mistake and yet now it’s being used against them where they are trying to get a job with a Fortune 500 firm that is concerned because they ended up stealing from a Wal-Mart trying to take a TV ten years ago.
So to me, those are the most important things. In my experience, the prosecutors are trying to do what’s right. And if you deal with them with respect and not threaten them or tell them they don’t have a case and explain your client’s side and where they come from, and the human side of them and that they have not been in trouble or they have a very limited history and how this could affect them, very often, something can be reached which will protect your client.