The stakes will never be higher for you than when you are charged with homicide in Florida. There are different degrees of murder in the Florida Penal Code, but each of them puts our life and liberty at risk. A good lawyer can help walk you through the process, ensuring that you have the best chance at a defense when you’re facing these charges. What can you expect when you find yourself in this situation? Here’s a run-down.
Arraignment comes first
After police have investigated a death and made their own determination that you are responsible, the first step in the legal process is arraignment. This is when you’re brought in front of a judge, the charges are read and you’re asked to enter a plea. It is at this point in the process that you’ll learn how the prosecution intends to charge the crime. There are many levels of crimes for homicide in Florida. At the top end, there’s first degree capital murder. Down the list, there’s criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. Depending on the strength of the State’s case and your culpability, you will be charged somewhere on this spectrum.
At your arraignment, you’ll likely enter a plea of not guilty. This gets the process started and allows your attorney to begin working the discovery in the case. Given the seriousness of homicide, you will likely be given the opportunity to consult with an attorney prior to entering your plea. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one. If you can afford your own lawyer, you’ll likely be given the chance to hire one prior to entering your plea.
A difficult bond fight
The next step in the process has to do with getting out of jail during the pre-trial process. In all but the most egregious cases, you will be given a bond by the court. In homicide cases, bond amounts tend to be quite high. You can expect your bond to be at least $50,000. In more serious cases, your bond could be as high as a million dollars. Your lawyer will argue that you are not a continuing threat to the community and that you are not a flight risk. If a bond is granted, you have the option to put up the full amount yourself or to use a bonding company, which will charge a non-refundable fee of 10 percent to post the bond on your behalf. You’ll then have a chance to get out prior to the trial, often with some restrictions imposed.
A prolonged series of court appearances
Homicide cases take quite a while to go to trial. Your lawyer will investigate the case to find out what defenses are available to you. This is often an intensive process that requires the lawyer to obtain discovery from the state and pursue his own leads. You may have to show up to court at least once per month. During this process, there may be motions and other issues to deal with. The prosecution may also offer a plea bargain at some point during this process. If you have a weak case, you may be wise to take the offer rather than risking a trial. If you feel you have a strong case, you may push through to trial.
The trial process
Many cases end up going all the way to trial. Your lawyer will work closely with you to develop a trial strategy. What that will look like depends heavily on the case itself and the relevant facts. A murder or homicide trial can take many weeks in some cases. At the end of the process, a jury will decide your guilt and, if necessary, assess a punishment.
Lawyers like William Hanlon Tampa Criminal Attorney will help you through this difficult process. Homicide cases can be tiring and taxing. The best lawyers combine hard work with strategy, giving you the best chance at every part of the case.