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Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequent questions that I've answered regarding how a criminal case progresses in Volusia County:
 
What is a first appearance hearing?
The first appearance is a court hearing where a judge reviews the probable cause affidavit that was submitted by the police to determine if there was probable cause for the arrest. First appearance is only conducted on persons that are in custody. So, if you bonded out before first appearance then no first appearance hearing is necessary. If probable cause is found, then the judge sets bond (and the conditions of bond).
 
Can I be represented at first appearance?
Yes. I appear regularly at first appearance hearings to argue for a bond, or a lower bond, or to argue probable cause issues.
 
Where and when is first appearance held in Volusia County? 
All first appearance hearings are held at the Volusia County Branch Jail located at 1300 Red John Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32120
On weekdays first appearance hearings are held at 1:30 p.m.
On weekends first appearance hearings are held at 8:30 a.m.

 
Are first appearance hearings open to the public?
Yes.
 
What is bond?
Bond or bail is a monetary assurance that you will appear in court. The amount of bond that is set is based on the severity of the crime that you are charged with. In Volusia County there is a that Judges use as a guide. Oftentimes, the police set the bond in accordance with the bond schedule and other times the Judge sets the bond amount at first appearance. More information on bond can be found on our bond page here.
 
How does bond work?
Once your bond amount is set then there is two option to post bond. You may post the cash bond or use a bonding service. If you choose to post a cash bond, the Volusia County Branch Jail accepts the bond and turns it over to the clerk of court. The clerk of court will hold this bond until the case is concluded. When the case is over the cash bond is returned to the depositor. If you choose to use a bonding company (bondsman) then the bondsman posts a surety bond on your behalf. Typically, a bonding service will charge a 10% fee for this service. Volusia County has many fine bonding companies so if you don't already have a bondsman, call us and we will be happy to refer you to one.
 
I've been arrested or charged with a crime. What happens to my criminal case next?
The first court date after the first appearance is your arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to notify a person in a formal way that they have been charged with a crime. At the arraignment hearing the issues of the case are not discussed, rather the goal for the Judge to notify you that you have been charged with a crime, tell you what the crime is and ask you if you intend to hire a private attorney or use the services of the public defender. If you engage the services of our firm, we will handle the arraignment and your presence can be waived. 

Why is the time between arrest and arraignment so important?
There will be roughly 3 weeks between your arrest and the arraignment hearing. During this time a prosecutor is reviewing your case to decide if they intend to prosecute and what charges will be pursued. This time period is the best opportunity that you have to get information about you and the circumstances of your case to the prosecutor. All stories have two sides and prosecutors are typically presented with one side only. Your attorney should use this time to meet with the prosecutor to advocate for you.
 
What is a pretrial and when is it?
A pretrial hearing in Volusia County is held roughly every month. The purpose of a pretrial hearing is for scheduling. Each judge holds a pretrial hearing so that he or she can manage their docket. Typically, at a pretrial there is no substantive discussion of your case. Rather, the judge is looking to determine which cases are going to plea, which are going to be set for trial and which cases need more time and have to be continued. Your presence is not required at a pretrial hearing if you are represented by an attorney and he or she has filed the appropriate paperwork to excuse you. 
 
What is a felony?
Felony offenses can only be handled by circuit court judges and are punishable by the possibility of more than one-year in prison.

There are several levels of felony charges.
Capital Felony
A capital felony is punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Examples: First degree homicide, capital sexual battery
 
Life Felony
A life felony is punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole, or probation for the remainder of your life, and a $15,000 fine.
Examples: Second degree homicide, life sexual battery, life kidnapping, lewd and lascivious molestation of child under 12 years of age.
 
First Degree Felony
A first-degree felony is punishable by up to thirty years in prison, thirty years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Examples: Arson, robbery, trafficking in controlled substances.
 
Second Degree Felony
A second-degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Examples: Dealing in stolen property, Sale of controlled substance, Possession of controlled substance with intent to sell, Burglary of a dwelling.
 
Third Degree Felony
A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Examples: grand theft, Felony DUI, Possession of controlled substance, domestic battery by strangulation, carrying a concealed firearm, burglary of a structure or conveyance.
 
What is a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanor offenses are handled at the County Court level and are considered less serious crimes than felony offenses. A misdemeanor is any criminal offense that is punishable by less than one year in jail.

There are two levels of misdemeanor offenses
First degree
First degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000.00 fine.
Examples: Simple battery, DUI, Boating under the Influence, Criminal Mischief, Disorderly Conduct, Domestic violence battery
 
Second degree
Seconddegree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.
Examples: simple Assault, criminal Mischief (where damage is $200 or less), petit theft (first offense, simple trespass, driving on a suspended license with knowledge (first offense).
 
What is discovery?
Discovery in a criminal case is governed by the Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220. In short, the rule in Florida requires that the prosecutor turn all the evidence in the case over to your attorney. This must occur within 15 after discovery is demanded by your attorney. In Volusia County typically all the discovery is turned over prior to the first pretrial hearing.

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