Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

How State Attorneys Decide To File Formal Charges?


Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Okay. So, you’ve had first appearance, and you’ve also had arraignment court. Something very important may be needed in-between first appearance at the jail and the several weeks later when you go to court for arraignment or you have a lawyer go to court, or you have a lawyer do it properly by filing written pleadings, and this is what it is. In Florida, most offices of the state attorney have what’s known as a Policy Manual. And the policy manual gives specific directions as to how they are to charge you or someone you love with criminal charges. And they have several different rules they need to follow. One of the most common rules in the different 20 circuits across the state is something that goes basically like this. Once you file a charging document, you cannot reduce charges, you cannot substitute charges without going through the felony supervisor. Amazingly, all 20 state attorneys who run a state attorney’s office in a particular judicial circuit happened to be politicians.

Now, since they are politicians, what does that mean? That means that in that period between first appearance and arraignment court that most of the time, if a charging document has been filed and then later, the evidence indicates or something else indicates that the charge should be reduced or that it should go from felony court to county court for some reason that it cannot do that unless the assistant state attorney prosecuting you goes to the felony supervisor and their job is to tell that assistant state attorney no. Now, why would they do that? Politics, it’s very simple. I have never seen, and you’ve never seen a politician run on a platform of “You know, I think we’re going to be smart about the problem of crime”, you’ll never see that. You’ve never seen it. What do you see instead, “Lock them up and throw away the key”. And that’s real problem for you or your family member or loved one’s case. So, what we often have to do is intervene with a quick email, text message or phone call to the assistant state attorney prosecuting the case because sometimes, it’s possible to have, for example, five charges reduced to three before they are even filed. This is a critical juncture in-between first appearance and arraignment court and not every case fits this pattern but your case might. And the way to find out if it does is to discuss it with your attorney and your defense team.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

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Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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