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Three Basic Steps in Your Criminal Case

Three Basic Steps

Three Basic Steps in Florida Criminal Court

When the DUI attorneys of Private Counsel, LLC defend you after you have been charged with a DUI offense, you will not be alone. We will be your strong advocates and give you accurate, timely legal advice every step of the way. We can skillfully challenge the breath testing or other blood alcohol tests that you experienced if that is appropriate for your case. There will be no surprises, as we will keep you well prepared and informed, as you face the court system. Following is a description of what might happen in the course of your defense. Contact us for more information and an evaluation of your case.

Arraignment
This is the first court appearance after getting a bond or bail.

The Arraignment is the formal charging of the crime: At this stage in the process, you may not present or dispute evidence. You will be informed of what you are being charged with and you must do one of three things: enter a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No Contest (i.e. nolo contendere) as to each of the charges against you.

An experienced Private Counsel, LLC attorney will attend this part of the process for you and file the appropriate legal paperwork so that you will not have attend and miss work or suffer the inconvenience of waiting at the courthouse all morning or afternoon.

A plea of Guilty means just that, you are Guilty. A plea of No Contest (i.e. nolo contendere) means that you are not necessarily admitting that you are guilty or arguing that you are not guilty of the crime, rather you are saying that you do not want to contest (or argue) the evidence against you further and you will accept whatever sentence the judge gives you; regardless of what that will be. Doing so at this stage in the process is generally never a good idea. It is wise to enter a plea of Not Guilty; which can be withdrawn later. A repeated plea of Not Guilty at each step in the court process will ultimately land you and your lawyer in a trial by judge and jury, so please let Private Counsel, LLC handle these critical stages in the process.

No matter how hopeless you think your case may be, it is rarely, if ever, in your best interest to plead guilty or no contest (i.e. nolo contendere) until you have consulted with a competent and experienced DUI attorney at Private Counsel, LLC. Allow us to evaluate your unique case and assess the strengths and weaknesses of it before you make a legal move that could be detrimental.

Pre-trial
This is the process at which evidence is collected, exchanged, and disputed prior to any trial. A Private Counsel, LLC attorney will also attend all of the Pre-trial conferences, evidentiary hearings, motion hearings for you and file the appropriate legal paperwork to improve your legal position. In most cases, A Private Counsel, LLC attorney will waive your attendance at any pre-trial conference; provided it is permissible by the judge. After each court appearance, you will be advised by phone or by letter about what happened and its impact on your case and our legal position.

Things that generally happen at the pre-trial conference:

  1. The defense presents a legal case on behalf of the defendant.
  2. Further discovery (or exchange) of the evidence takes place.
  3. There may be a debate over sufficiency of the evidence.
  4. The strengths and weaknesses of witnesses may be debated and examined.
  5. Issues with the evidence are submitted to the court in the form of motions.

For example, at the pre-trial conference, Private Counsel, LLC may bring one or more of the following motions on your behalf to help improve your case:

  1. Motion to Suppress Evidence
  2. Motion to Dismiss one or more of the charges
  3. Motion to Compel Discovery
  4. Motion to sever counts and have separate trials on each count
  5. Notice that Speedy trial has expired and the Defendant must be tried or forever released as to the charges
  6. Motion to modify or reduce bail
  7. Motion to Reduce the charges
  8. Motion to Change of venue (or location of the trial proceedings)
  9. Motion to Strike a prior conviction
  10. Motion to Preserve evidence
  11. Motion to Examine the police's file and evidence

Trial
In Florida DUI, Reckless Driving, Improper Tag, Driving while License Suspended, Racing, Possession of Cannabis, and other criminal cases, you have the right to a jury of at least six people. These six people will listen to all the evidence against you and arguments of counsel before they will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the crime. The vote must be unanimous either way. If it is not, it is a "hung jury" and the trial must be repeated with a new set of jurors. If the jury were to find you guilty, the Judge will give you the appropriate sentence. Private Counsel, LLC has specially designed questions used for selecting a jury that will be best suited so that your case will be judged fairly and properly. Mr. Douctre, Private Counsel, LLC's managing member is a certified breath test operator and breath test maintenance technician. His experience with the machine that is used to convict people is very beneficial. He is able to expose the machines defects in use and maintenance. Having detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the breathalyzer is one of the keys to any defense of a breath type case.

The general steps of a DUI or other criminal trial:

  1. Jury selection
  2. Opening statements are presented by both the prosecution and the defense
  3. The prosecution presents their case
  4. The defendant's attorney cross examines State witnesses
  5. The defense presents their case, if they decide to put one on
  6. The prosecution cross examines the Defense witness(es)
  7. Closing arguments are usually presented by both the prosecution and the defense
  8. The prosecution, defense attorney and judge decide on specific instructions to the jury
  9. The judge instructs the jury on rules or jury instructions
  10. The jury deliberates
  11. The jury submits their verdict
  12. If found Not guilty, the Defendant is forever released as to that charge, if found Guilty, the Judge will usually impose an appropriate sentence based on legal minimums and maximums.