Court Event Definitions

 Arraignment If the decision to file charges is made, the defendant appears at a hearing before a judge, who advises him/her of his rights and the charges against them. If the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney; the judge may appoint an attorney to represent him. The defendant, at this stage, may plead “guilty” or ‘no contest.” If s/he pleads “not guilty,” the case will proceed to the next stage. Unless otherwise informed, victims are not required to attend this hearing.
 Arrest Suspect(s) taken to jail, fingerprinted and photographed. The decision to arrest a defendant is up to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. After our office receives a report from law enforcement, an Assistant State Attorney will review all evidence and determine if criminal charges can be filed in the case. Such charges will be filed in the form of a legal document called an “information.”
 Continuance A continuance is a request to the judge to postpone or continue the case for a variety of different reasons.
 Deposition At this proceeding, a defendant’s attorney takes sworn testimony from witnesses. Everything said during a deposition is recorded. Testimony from the deposition can be compared to the testimony given at the trial. The attorney for the defendant and the Assistant State Attorney will be present at the deposition. The victim is entitled to have a Victim Advocate be present at the deposition. Please bring a photo ID to the deposition.
 First Appearance Occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. Each suspect kept in jail must appear before a Judge who establishes whether charges are reasonable. The Judge will also consider whether a bond should be set and if so, the amount. The Judge will also consider conditions of release and appoint a defense attorney if the suspect cannot afford one. You may attend this hearing but your presence is not required.
 Plea Negotiation Many cases can be settled without trial, through negotiations between the Assistant State Attorney and the defense attorney. The victim will be consulted and his/her views considered during this process. Once the attorneys have agreed to settle the case, it is subject to acceptance by the judge. Plea negotiation is an accepted procedure that eliminates the need for a trial.
 Pre-trial Conference In Felony cases, pretrial conference occurs after case management. In misdemeanor cases, pre-trial conference follows arraignment. The purpose of pretrial conference is to report to the Court whether or not the case is ready for trial. Normally, the parties will tell the Court if discovery is complete, whether witnesses are available for trial, if there are motions that need to be heard, and when each party believes the case should be tried. An attorney may request trial, a change of plea date, another pre-trial conference date. The Court will then announce the next date and type of court event.
 Sentencing If the defendant is found guilty or a plea is negotiated, the judge decides what sentence should be imposed. While the judge has some discretion in the sentencing, s/he must still follow the sentencing guidelines. Depending on the type of crime and prior convictions, the guidelines provide a range of possible penalties. The victim has the right to make an impact statement to the judge, at the sentencing.
 Subpoena This is a court-ordered legal document requiring a person to appear and testify about the facts of a case. If you fail to appear in court in response to the subpoena, you risk being held in contempt of court. If you have a scheduling conflict contact the attorney and request to reschedule the day or time, if possible.
 Trial At this proceeding, witnesses testify under oath before a judge and, usually, a jury. It is the judge or jury that determines if the case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Juvenile cases are heard by judges only and not juries.
 Trial Status Trial Status conference is the last court event prior to jury selection. The State and Defense are asked to confirm that each is ready for trial, and that each parties’ witnesses are under subpoena and available.

Office of the State Attorney | Eighth Judicial Circuit | 120 W. University Ave | Gainesville | FL | 32601