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There are two times when a plea is entered in a misdemeanor criminal case:

  • Upon Arraignment, or;
  • At a designated time to enter a change of plea

Unlike Florida felony cases, a criminal defendant can enter a plea at either times. Either way, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney before doing so. Here is why:

If you have potential legal defenses, it is important to weigh the impact of Florida’s criminal case discovery rules. These rules require the government to provide certain information to anyone charged with a crime, and this information may:

  • uncover defenses that are complete defenses to any and all charges,
  • uncover partial defenses to some, but not all charges, or;
  • uncover partial defenses that justify a reduction or substitution of lesser charges for more serious ones.

There is a big difference between pre-trial defenses and trial defenses, and only an experienced attorney can explain the difference – and the magnitude of the potential danger – of exercising certain defenses. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where reckless defenses actually hurt your case and increase both the likelihood and severity of criminal punishment.

Sometimes, it is to your advantage to enter a quick plea upon formal charging – at Arraignment Court. However, most of the time is more advantageous to enter a formal Change of Plea at a later date, after discovery has been reviewed by a highly skilled lawyer.

Final thought: Most lay people are totally incapable of interpreting Florida criminal statutes, rules, local rules (often unwritten), procedural issues and case law. When lay people attempt to represent themselves, this is like trying to give yourself heart surgery – extremely dangerous.