The first 48 hours after being arrested for a crime are stressful. For a lot of people this is their first time ever being arrested and having their liberty taken. It’s the fear of not knowing what to expect that plagues their minds those first 48 hours. They don’t know what to expect from the police, the inmates, the judge, the prosecutor or their own life if they hire one. All are worried about their short and long-term future. Most of what they know about the process they learned on television, which is not what really happens.
Men and women arrested in Broward County are taken to the Main Jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale for processing. After going through several hours of the booking process (mostly waiting), a representative from the Public Defender’s Office will likely speak with you at the jail before you appear in front of the Magistrate Judge (usually via television). The Public Defender representative will ask whether you want to hire the services of the Public Defender and if you answer yes they will argue on your behalf for you to get ROR’d, pre-trial release or an affordable bond/bail conditions.
With certain exceptions, bail is commonly set through the use of a bail schedule. A bail schedule is something the jail or court uses in setting a standard bond. For example a low level misdemeanor maybe $1,000 while a felony may be $5,000. If you make bail by posting the full amount at the jail in cash or through a cashier’s check, or most commonly through the use of a bail bond company, you should be released from custody within a few hours. Once you’re release you’re advised to be on the lookout for a court date in the mail.
If you are not able to bond/bail out, you will remain in jail at least up to 33 days from your initial arrest. Assuming no charges are filed against you in court, you will be released from custody without having to post any bail after the filing of a motion for release. It will be your obligation to monitor the status of the matter in the event charges are filed at a later date.
The prosecutor will likely have at least 90 days from the arrest to file misdemeanor charges and at least 180 days to file felony charges.
If charges are filed against you then you will be mailed a court date where you have to appear in court for your arraignment. At the arraignment you will be informed of the charges filed against you, and be given the opportunity to enter a plea (guilty or not guilty) to those charges. If you are still in custody this will be another opportunity to address your current bail status.
If not guilty pleas are entered at the arraignment, future court dates will be set, and your attorney will have the opportunity to argue for more favorable release conditions (i.e. a lower bail, supervised release, or release on your own recognizance).
Houson R. Lafrance