What Happens When I Go To Court For The First Time?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Let’s say that someone is a tourist and they are arrested on the beach. If it’s Pensacola beach they’ll be going downtown in Escambia County to the courthouse in Pensacola, if it’s Destin or Okaloosa Island they’ll be going to the courthouse and they’ll be going to the big courtroom on the right in Fort Walton Beach. If it’s Santa Rosa County, say your arrest was on Lamar beach then you’ll go to courtroom 216 on the second floor at Milton, if it’s on or along 38 or on the beaches of South Walton county then it will be up Highway 331 in DeFuniak springs and it will probably be the big courtroom upstairs. In each of these courtrooms, that first court appearance is what’s known as arraignment.

Arraignment simply means formal charging. In each one of these counties and along with the rest of them in the state of Florida, the judge will begin the court proceedings by stating a few things and explaining what arraignment is, then from there people will have their name called out one by one and depending on the county they will stand in a designated place. For example, in Pensacola, they will go to courtroom 301 and they will stand in between the defense table and the prosecution table at a podium located there. In Santa Rosa County, they don’t go up to the podium.

They go up to the rail that separates the audience from where trials and lawyers and juries sit and they don’t make it to the podium, but either way what’s going to happen is the prosecutor will then read out the charge and the judge will ask how do you plead? The answers are guilty, not guilty and no contest. If the case is a felony case, the judge will not be able to accept a plea of guilty or no contest. If it is a misdemeanor case then the judge can accept a plea of guilty or no contest. However I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in on an arraignment court proceeding and someone was perfectly convinced that they were going to get probation or a fine and nothing more only to find out that they had 30, 60 or 90 days in jail time tacked on.

In one case that really jumps out at me, I saw a woman who looked to be a business professional get sentenced to the maximum penalty for no valid driver’s license right on the spot and by the look on her face, the explosion of tears, she had no idea this was possible and she found out the hard way. That’s what happens when someone gets arrested and they go to court for the first time. Now there is another first time court appearance they don’t talk about as often that I need to mention. This court appearance is not even held at the courthouse. In most Florida counties, it’s held with the inmate being at jail because bond has not been set and this is known as first appearance.

It normally happens within 24 hours of arrest and depending upon the county, it’s a little bit different in each county but basically there is a television screen where the person in custody will see the judge’s face and what they will not see is that there is a video courtroom and there are people all around in the courtroom that they can’t necessarily see. in some counties, for example Charlotte County, it’s a little bit better than most simply because you are able to see the other participants in the courtroom and the same is true with Jackson County but in most counties in Florida you cannot see the other people who are around the judge on a first appearance.

The judge will then decide 3 things, is there probable cause? Have the time limits been met? Is the person entitled to bond and if so, then at what amount? This is actually the first court appearance that most people have however most people don’t think of it as a court appearance because they are in jail while the judge is in a courthouse on a video screen. So then it’s two versions of a first court appearance that someone can have.

I think the question was more about arraignment but if you would like to learn more on all the different types of appearances that someone can have as a legal case progresses in the criminal justice system, simply go to the landing page of where I have a very short video that diagrams each phase of the criminal justice system, explains it and does it all in under one minute.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on First Court Appearance In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 669-5882 today.

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