For most crimes in Florida, an arrest is the start of the legal process. When a person is arrested, the police will usually fill out an arrest report indicating what laws where broken and the facts they believe will support that charge. In many cases, however, the police make an incorrect application of law. The arrest report from the police then gets forwarded to the case filing attorneys at the State’s Attorney’s Office. They will review all of the evidence and reports and speak to the police officers and witnesses. Eventually the State Attorney’s Office will decide whether or not enough evidence exists to file a formal charge. If there is not enough evidence to proceed, then the State Attorney’s Office will not pursue the charge by filing what is called a “no information”. It has been the the experience of the lawyers at Berman & Tsombanakis LLC, that this occurs more often at the State Attorneys Office’s in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties then in Broward County.
If you have retained a lawyer at this stage, which we at the South Florida Criminal Defense Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC strongly recommend, the lawyer can intervene on your behalf while the charge is still in the investigatory process. The lawyer can provide the prosecutor with statements from witnesses and any other evidence in an attempt to convince the prosecutor to either dismiss the case or file lesser charges. However, if the State Attorney’s Office believes they have enough evidence to pursue a specific charge, they will file formal charges, generally by way of the filing of “an information”
An information is merely a charging document that informs you what the charge is, what specific statute you are being charged under, and when and where it occurred. For Capital Crimes such as First Degree Murder, the charge will be brought via an indictment from a grand jury. It is important to understand that the charge formally brought by the State Attorney via an information or indictment does not have to be, and often is not, he exact charge that the person was originally arrested for by the police. The police will arrest and book you for the charge or charges that they feel are most appropriate, but after reviewing all the evidence, the lawyers at the State Attorney’s Office may believe that a different crime, either more, equally, or less severe, may be more appropriate. The crime that is named on the information or indictment is what really matters, not the original charge.
It is important to hire an experienced attorney, such as the ones at Berman & Tsombanakis, immediately upon your arrest. Generally it will take between 30-45 days after arrest for the state to make a formal filing decision. That time period is critical to attempting an early resolution or dismissal of your charges. Pre-filing is often the best chance to get your case dismissed, not filed, or have the charges reduced. Once a case is formally filed, it is generally much more difficult to get the charge dismissed or reduced. Thus, the earlier you can get a lawyer on your case, the better your chances of a favorable outcome.