In Florida, a person may be arrested but never face criminal charges. Prosecutors may also file criminal charges against a person who has not yet been arrested.
Arrested and being charged
Preparing or seeking a criminal defense is recommended when there are serious dealings with law enforcement. But there are differences between being arrested and being charged with a criminal offense.
Law enforcement may begin a prosecution by issuing a summons requiring your appearance in court on a specified date without making an arrest. If you or your attorney do not appear on that date, the court may issue an arrest warrant.
Generally, police submit their report to state attorneys who review that report and evidence, determine whether they will file criminal charges and decide what the charges will be. The prosecutor may file charges regardless of whether the defendant is in jail or police custody.
The prosecutor, however, does not always file charges against a person who was arrested. Charges may not be filed, for example, if there were police errors during the arrest, the witnesses are not credible, or the state’s attorney determines the case may not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The state does not have unlimited time to bring a prosecution. But that time restriction depends on whether the person was arrested.
Florida’s speedy trial rule sets a deadline for the commencement of a speedy trial. A speedy trial expires in 90 days for a misdemeanor arrest and 175 days for a felony arrest.
For cases where there was no arrest, police must make an arrest in three to four years, depending on the crime’s severity. Prosecutors must file charges within four years for a first-degree felony.
An attorney can assist you during all phases of a criminal investigation and prosecution. They can help protect your rights.