Florida Criminal Law Overview
March 30, 2015
Florida criminal law is composed of two main parts: Florida state criminal law and federal criminal law. In the state system, criminal law can be further divided into statutes, the law of the case, and the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Please bear in mind that the collateral consequences of Florida state criminal law is often covered in related civil statutes and Rules of Administrative Procedure. If it all sounds complicated, that is because it is!
When someone is charged with a crime in Florida, state law provides that certain procedures are followed. These procedures can take weeks or even months to conclude. Therefore, when someone wants to know “what’s going to happen in the case,” Florida criminal lawyers can outline the procedure to find that out, but cannot render what is called a definitive legal opinion until all of the evidence has been considered.
For example, someone may be charged with domestic violence in Florida, and ask their criminal defense attorney “What is going to happen?” The attorney can outline strategies for changing the bond conditions from no contact to no violent contact, discuss the viability of various defenses such as consent, self defense, defense of others and accident, but the criminal defense lawyer cannot guarantee a win or tell their client exactly how it will turn out. Also, criminal defense lawyers are not bookies – we cannot give you the “odds.” The only promise a Florida criminal lawyer can make is to use their best professional skill to help you or your loved one.
Florida criminal law is different than in many other states because Florida has a rare discovery procedure. This procedure was designed to eliminate trial by ambush and requires the listing of witnesses, the availability of written reports, expert witness information, exchange of electronic evidence, such as video recordings, audio recordings and photographs. Under Florida state criminal law, the State of Florida and the defense can simply list that evidence is available and then designate a time a place for each other to photocopy and examine the evidence. However, in many areas of Florida the two parties to criminal litigation actually send each other photocopies and recordings – this prevents each side from pulling nasty tricks such as listing discovery evidence and then designating Friday afternoon as the days for examining and photocopying and designating the time as between 3:30 and 5:00 p.m.