A first appearance in court following a Miami domestic violence arrest can be nerve-wracking. It’s important to keep a cool head and educate yourself on what to expect – and what will be expected of you.
While many of the procedural aspects of a first appearance on a Florida domestic violence charge are similar to what one would expect in any other criminal matter of a similar severity, there are a few differences about which you’ll want to be aware.
Our Miami domestic violence defense lawyers will start though by outlining the purpose and basics of any first appearance in a Florida criminal court.
Purpose & Expectations of First Appearance
The main point of a first appearance – in Florida and most other states – is to:
- Formally serve the defendant with the charges they are facing.
- Inform the defendant of their right to an attorney. If you’re financially unable to afford a lawyer, the court can appoint one to you. (This only applies in cases where you’re potentially facing jail time – which is most domestic violence charges.)
- Inform the defendant that they are not required to say anything, and that anything they do say can be used against them.
- Inform the defendant of their right to communicate with counsel, friends, or family, and if needed, provide the reasonable means to do so.
- Inform those facing felony charges of their right to a preliminary hearing.
- Sets the defendant’s bond (if applicable) and pretrial release conditions.
Typically, it’s over in a space of about 15 minutes. It can go faster if the judge has determined prior to the first appearance whether the defendant can afford a lawyer and if not, whether one should be appointed by the court.
As outlined in Florida Rule 3.130, every person who is arrested and not released soon thereafter is entitled to a prompt first appearance – usually within the first 24 hours after arrest. An appearance can be in person at the court, though increasingly, courts opt to hold this via electronic audiovisual device. Both the state attorney and the public defender or assistant public defender should be present for the first appearance. If you’ve hired a private attorney, they can be present at this appearance as well – which may be to your benefit if you’re trying to argue for bond/release.
If you have hired a defense lawyer, you are allowed a reasonable amount of time to send for that lawyer to be at the first appearance; courts can postpone first appearances to allow for this.
You should will be given a chance to confer/talk with your attorney. (You can waive your right to an attorney with a written waiver, but this is generally not a good idea.)
If your first appearance is in response to an arrest on a probation violation, you may be remanded to custody and/or ordered to appear before the judicial officer in charge of community control.
Will I Get Bail?
One key difference for domestic violence arrests compared to some other crimes is that you will not be able to immediately post bail right after you’re booked. You must wait at least until your first appearance.
As our Miami domestic violence defense lawyers have mentioned before, there are some offenses for which you can be arrested, booked, post bail, and walk out of jail in a few hours’ time. Domestic violence is not one of those offenses. You will be required to have that first appearance before a judge – who is responsible for reviewing the basic facts of the case and any prior arrests or injunctions – before determining whether to grant you bail.
It’s not unusual for a court to put you on a “temporary hold,” which is basically a cooling off period or an opportunity for alleged victims sharing the same living spaces to gather their belongings and get somewhere safe. (Some states have this written into their statute, though Florida isn’t one of them.)
If you are granted bail, the judge will decide how high to set it based on your apparent risk to the community. You will also be given pretrial release conditions, which will likely include some combination of:
- A no contact order. This means you will not be allowed to call, write, text, send messages to the alleged victim (and possibly others) or come within a certain physical distance of their home, school, workplaces, etc.
- Restriction from returning to shared residence or place of employment. This goes hand-in-hand with the no-contact order, though you may ask the court for a police escort to at least go to the residence to gather your things.
- Enrollment in counseling or substance abuse treatment. This is sometimes required as part of a sentence in a conviction, but it can also be ordered as a condition of pre-trial release.
If you have been arrested for domestic violence in Miami-Dade County, our experienced criminal defense lawyers can help – from your first appearance through the entire court process.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Pretrial Release in Domestic Violence Cases: How States Handle the Notoriously Private Crime, Spring 2022, St. Louis University Law Journal