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First Appearance or Magistrate Hearings

Criminal Defense Lawyer Serving Miami Area Residents

A first appearance or magistrate hearing in Florida establishes what charges are being brought against you. At the first appearance, the judge may also let you know what your bond is. It’s a brief experience, but it can have some important consequences. A seasoned Miami criminal defense attorney at the Hoffman Firm may be able to represent you in a first appearance, as well as subsequent proceedings in your case.

First Appearance or Magistrate Hearings

You are entitled to a prompt first appearance once you are arrested for substantive charges or for violating probation. Under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.130, every arrested person should be taken before a judicial officer within 24 hours of being arrested. At your first appearance, a magistrate should immediately let you know of the charges against you and give you a copy of the complaint.

Additionally, under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.111(a), you are entitled to appointment of counsel once you are formally charged, either as soon as possible after you have been detained or at the first appearance, whichever happens first. When a magistrate decides you are entitled to court appointed counsel, counsel is appointed. However, it can be helpful to retain your own attorney even before you attend the first appearance. If you have an attorney at the first appearance, it can stop the police and prosecutor from taking more unilateral actions that could shore up their case against you. For example, the state won’t be able to make you appear in a lineup if you have counsel unless it gets a court order and provides the appropriate notice to your attorney.

If you’re entitled to bond, the magistrate presiding over your first appearance can set it in an amount and with whatever conditions are appropriate. Factors to be considered are the nature of the alleged crime, your ties with the community and evidence about your past. The magistrate is expected to be careful in setting the amount since once it’s set, it should only be increased if there’s a change in information or circumstances not made known to the judge presiding over the first appearance. Setting bond too high is considered to be tantamount to not granting bond.

Conditions of Pretrial Release

Once you’re told of what the charges against you are and the amount of bond you are subject to, the court can set up conditions for pretrial release as appropriate. Generally, these conditions are established when someone has been arrested for charges other than capital or life offenses in which proof of guilt is clear or the presumption is great, or where the state is seeking a pretrial detention order.

Defendants may come into first appearance court with a bond set either from a standard bond schedule or by a judge who has signed a warrant for that person’s arrest. Usually, a magistrate can consider appropriate conditions for release of a defendant arrested on a warrant that another judge signed, and should do so, unless the first judge precluded her from doing so.

Additionally, a first appearance magistrate can accept your plea of guilty to a misdemeanor charge and sentence you. An example of a misdemeanor charge where a guilty plea might be taken is a disorderly persons offense. Another example would be driving while your license is suspended. However, you should be aware that if you are convicted of a first misdemeanor offense, you could face harsher treatment and sentencing on a subsequent offense.

Consult a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in Miami

It is wise to retain a lawyer at the earliest possible opportunity during the criminal justice process, ideally before your first appearance or magistrate hearing. Experienced defense attorney Evan Hoffman may be able to determine an effective strategy to defend you. Our firm represents those charged with crimes in Miami, as well as North Miami, Miami Beach, Aventura, and Key Biscayne. Contact us at (305) 249-0090 or via our online form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Client Reviews
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