First appearance court provides most individuals with their first ever experience in a criminal courtroom. Tampa criminal defense attorneys are often ask what happens at the court date after an individual is arrested. The first court date goes by a ton of names, including but not limited to first appearance, PP court, advisory court, etc. Regardless of the name, criminal defendants in Florida are generally required to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.130(a). Florida criminal courts, like the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, literally have court 365 days a year to ensure everyone’s Constitutional rights are being met.
Generally, the first thing the Court will do is advise everyone as a group of several critical rights – their right to remain silent, their right to counsel, including a public defender if they cannot afford an attorney, and their right to communicate with their Tampa criminal defense attorney. Next, the Court will very, very quickly determine whether the defendant has qualified for a public defender or not. This determination takes place very quickly and is often again reviewed by some public defender’s offices. It is important that individuals not lie on the financial affidavit as it could potentially be considered perjury, a third degree felony in Florida, since it is a sworn statement before a tribunal. The Court’s next task to determine whether there is probable cause for the arrest. This analysis happens very quickly, literally a matter of seconds. In the over two (2) thousand cases, I have personally been involved at during first appearance court, I can literally only remember one (1) case, where the court did not find a probable cause. It is not really worth going into the facts, but there almost absolutely no basis for the arrest, so the young lady was ROR’d by the court immediately. ROR meaning released on own recognizance.
Arguably the next issue is the most critical; the court will next determine the conditions of pretrial release. Retaining a Tampa criminal defense attorney prior to first appearance will greatly assist you in your chances of getting favorable pretrial release conditions since they will have time to do a quick assessment of your background information for bond purposes. Unfortunately, public defenders simply have too many cases to do any sort of background investigation for bond purposes prior to first appearance court. This stage is critical as the initial bond determination can be difficult to later change or it may take weeks to get a bond reduction hearing set. A Tampa criminal defense attorney can assist you in quickly getting a lower bond than the standard bond set by the jail during your initial booking.
If you have any questions regarding first appearance court, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation. We have represented thousands of folks in your situation through the entire criminal process. We appreciate you taking the time to check out our Tampa criminal defense attorney blog. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office using the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand of the website for a free case review.