Ita M. Neymotin, Regional Counsel

Felony Case Process


In Florida a felony is defined as any criminal offense that is punishable by imprisonment in a state penitentiary. A person shall be imprisoned in the state penitentiary for each sentence, which, except an extended term, exceeds 1 year.

A. Jurisdiction

Felonies are handled exclusively in the circuit courts.


B. Types

Felonies are broken down into the following categories:

Third Degree: These crimes are punishable by a max of 5 years in state prison.

Second Degree: These crimes are punishable by a max of 15 years in state prison

First Degree: These crimes are punishable by a maximum of 30 years in state prison.

Life Felony: These are crimes punishable by life in prison.

Capital Felony: These are crimes punishable by the death penalty.



D. Court

Here is a general overview of the court process. Note different hearings and scenarios may occur, please consult your attorney.

1. First Appearance

When a defendant is arrested and brought into custody, they must appear before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest. This is known as a first appearance. At first appearance, a Judge will inform the accused of the charges, read their rights determine probable cause, and set bond. For example, the accused is entitled to counsel and may consult them. A Judge will determine if the accused is released from custody. Three outcomes may happen. The accused may be released on their own recognizance (ROR), in which the court releases the accused based on their promise to appear at the next court hearing. The second outcome is the Judge sets an bond" in which they order the accused to post a monetary bond in exchange for their release. Finally, a Judge may order that the accused may not be released before trial and held in custody (in certain circumstances). In Florida there is a presumption of pretrial release, except with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great.

2. Arraignment

A defendant appears before a judge, where they are read formal charges by a state attorney (prosecutor). At this point a defendant may enter a plea of either not guilty, nolo contendere (not contesting the charges), or guilty. In some instances, counsel may have the arraignment waived in writing to the court. If the accused enters a plea of not guilty, they are given adequate time to prepare for trial.

3. Docket Sounding (Case Management or Pre-Trial in some jurisdictions)

Most jurisdictions will hold a pre-trial proceeding (often known as a docket sounding, Case Management, or Pre-Trial) to determine the status of a case, take a plea, or set a case for trial. In some instances, a continuance, or another proceeding is allowed so that either side may further prepare or investigate the case.

4. Trial

In Florida, the accused is granted the right to a trial by jury if a potential punishment is incarceration. During a trial, the state attorney and the accused present evidence to the jury for each criminal charge. The Judge will decide issues of law that may or may not be presented to the jury. The jury is then charged with deliberating (discussing among themselves) which set of facts the jury more likely believes. They must be unanimous in their decision (all agree to the same result). If a jury does not believe the State Attorney has proved a case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the jury must return a verdict of not guilty. If the juror believes the State Attorney has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the jury must return a verdict of guilty. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision after considerable deliberation, the judge may grant a mistrial, and new trial date set.

5. Sentencing

Sentencing may occur after trial or on a separate date depending if specific circumstances warrant it. The accused may either have:

A fine imposed


County Jail

State Prison

A sentence may be a combination of the above, for example, 2 years prison, followed by 1 year of probation. Sentencing may include other criteria, which the court finds necessary. For example, a drug treatment facility for drug offenses.


Disclaimer: None of the above constitutes legal advice. Please consult your attorney to discuss your case.