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What Happens After You File a Criminal Complaint

When a person becomes a victim of a crime in Florida, it’s important for them to understand the legal process that follows. This blog post aims to provide an overview of what happens after a victim files a criminal complaint in Florida. From the initial filing of the complaint to the trial and potential sentencing, victims have certain rights and opportunities to participate in the proceedings. Understanding these rights and the steps involved can empower victims to navigate the criminal justice system more effectively.

Filing a Criminal Complaint

The process begins with the victim or someone with knowledge of the crime filing a sworn statement known as a complaint with the appropriate authority. This complaint serves as a formal notification of the alleged crime and initiates the legal process.

Investigation and Charges

After receiving the complaint, authorities will conduct an investigation to determine if there is probable cause to proceed with the charges. If probable cause is established, the crime can be charged either by information or indictment.

  • Information: This is a sworn document signed by the prosecuting authority that charges a person with a violation of the law. It can be used to charge any crime except those punishable by death.
  • Indictment: An indictment is a charging document filed by a grand jury. The grand jury, consisting of 18 citizens, hears allegations and evidence presented by the prosecuting authority and decides who should be charged with what crime(s). An indictment can be issued for any crime.

Defendant’s First Appearance and Bond Hearing

Within 24 hours of the defendant’s arrest, they are brought before a judge for their first appearance. The judge informs the defendant of the charges, advises them of their right to counsel, and sets the amount of the bond.

If the defendant cannot post the initial bond, they have the right to request a bond hearing at any time. During the bond hearing, the judge considers various factors to determine whether a lower bond amount will ensure the defendant’s appearance at further court proceedings and protect the community from danger.

Adversary Preliminary Hearing (Optional)

If the defendant is held on a complaint and no information or indictment is filed within 21 days, they may request an adversary preliminary hearing. At this hearing, evidence is presented, witnesses are questioned, and the judge determines whether there is probable cause to further detain the defendant.

Arraignment

After the filing of an information or indictment, the defendant is entitled to an arraignment. At this stage, the defendant is informed of the charges and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. While defendants rarely plead guilty at arraignment, many cases are resolved through guilty or no-contest pleas before trial.

Notifying and Consulting with the Prosecutor

As a victim, you have the right to be notified about critical proceedings in the case, such as the arrest of the defendant, release of the defendant from incarceration, and prosecution updates. It’s important to keep the prosecutor’s office informed of your current address, phone number, and other contact information to ensure proper notice. You can also request a consultation with the prosecutor to discuss various aspects of the case, including the accused’s release, plea agreements, pre-trial diversion programs, and sentencing.

Subpoena, Deposition, and Trial

If the case proceeds to trial, you can expect to receive a subpoena, which is a written court order requiring your appearance at a specific time and place. Depositions may also be conducted, allowing witnesses to provide sworn statements and assist the attorneys in understanding the case. During the trial, evidence is presented, witnesses are questioned, and the State attempts to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentencing and Victim Impact Statement

If the defendant is found guilty, the judge may sentence them immediately or set a separate sentencing date. Before pronouncing the sentence, the judge allows the defense and prosecution to present their recommendations. As a victim, you have the right to submit an impact statement to the court, either orally or in writing. This statement gives you an opportunity to explain how the defendant’s crime has physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially affected you. Your testimony can assist the court in determining an appropriate sentence.

Rights and Support for Victims

If you are a victim of a crime in Florida, you have several rights and access to support services throughout the criminal justice process. These include:

  • Access to the Crimes Compensation Fund: This fund provides financial assistance to victims of violent crimes who have experienced serious financial hardship.
  • Crisis intervention services and treatment programs: You have the right to be informed about available counseling, therapy, and community-based victim treatment programs to support your emotional recovery.
  • Information and notification: You have the right to be informed about the crucial stages of the judicial system and any changes in scheduling or proceedings. Advance notice of the arrest, release, and other significant developments should be provided to you.
  • Protection and assistance: You have the right to be free from intimidation and harassment. Law enforcement and prosecutors can take steps to protect you, and you may also benefit from programs like the address confidentiality program in domestic violence cases. General assistance, such as transportation, separate waiting rooms, and translators, should be provided if available.
  • Restitution: You have the right to request and receive restitution from the defendant, and information about enforcing restitution judgments should be made available to you.
  • Victim advocate support: You may have the option to have a victim advocate present during depositions or other critical proceedings to provide support and guidance.

Knowledge is Power for Victims of Crime

When a victim files a criminal complaint in Florida, they become an important participant in the legal process. Understanding the steps that follow the filing of the criminal complaint empowers victims to assert their rights and play an active role in seeking justice. By staying informed, engaging with the prosecutor’s office, and utilizing available support services, victims can navigate the system with greater confidence and have their voices heard throughout the proceedings.

At Accurate Serve® of Daytona Beach, we believe it is important for victims to feel educated, empowered, and safe throughout the criminal justice process. For more information on how we handle criminal subpoenas and other types of process, call us at (386) 569-8475 or email josh@accurateservedaytonabeach.com.

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