Florida Criminal Process

When people come to us for criminal defense, it is usually during the worst time in their lives; they are worried, confused and stressed.

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara

Content last updated on: March 22, 2024

When clients come to us for help with criminal charges, it is often one of the most stressful and worst time of their lives. The attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group clear up the confusion surrounding the criminal process, explaining the charges filed, the next steps of the process, and the probable outcomes of the case. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Florida, our Orlando criminal defense lawyers are here to help.

Arrest or Notice to Appear

The first step in the Florida criminal process is the arrest of service of Notice to Appear in court for the charges. If you are arrested, the criminal process moves forward rather quickly. If you are served a Notice to Appear, this requires that you appear in court at a specific date and time to face charges. From the moment of arrest or service of a Notice to Appear, you need a criminal defense attorney by your side. You are legally entitled to an attorney upon arrest and do not have to make any statements to police until your attorney arrives.

First Appearance

Within 24 hours of the arrest and booking in a Florida jail, you will be taken to court and go in front of a judge for your first appearance. The purpose of the first appearance is to ensure that you have legal counsel, determine bail, and set any other conditions for pretrial release. You are not required to speak during your first appearance, and your attorney can handle all communication with the judge during this time in addition to presenting the best arguments for your bail.

Preliminary Hearing

The next step in the criminal process is the preliminary hearing. This hearing is where the court determines what evidence will be allowed and what will be thrown out. Depending on the outcome of this hearing, your charges may be dismissed altogether. Having a criminal defense attorney represent you during the preliminary hearing can be critical to the future of your criminal case.


If the case continues to move forward after the preliminary hearing, the next step is arraignment. The arraignment is where the formal charges are read against you and a plea is entered. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, the next step in the process is sentencing. If you plead not guilty, the next step in the criminal process is the trial.

Trial & Sentencing

Trial for criminal charges in Florida can be decided by judge or jury. Trial consists of opening statements, the prosecution’s case and cross examination, the defense’s case and cross examination, and closing arguments. A verdict is then rendered by the judge or jury. If the verdict is not guilty, you are free to go, and if the verdict is guilty the final step is sentencing.

Sentencing typically occurs within ninety days of the verdict. The judge will hear arguments from both sides about aggravating and mitigating factors before determining the final sentence, which can include a prison sentence, fines, community service, probation, and other conditions.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Ready To Help You

If you have been arrested or served with a notice to appear for criminal charges in Florida, you need an Orlando criminal lawyer representing your interests and protecting your rights. Call the office or contact us today at the O’Mara Law Group to hire a top tier criminal defense attorney to zealously advocate on your behalf throughout the criminal process.

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