In Miami-Dade County, a sounding is a hearing that occurs primarily in felony cases. The sounding occurs 10 days prior to trial. At this sounding, both the State, represented by an Assistant State Attorney (prosecutor), and the accused, represented by a South Florida criminal defense attorney, tell the judge whether each side is ready for trial.
A sounding is more or less a status report on a case. Either side may inform the court about witnesses failing to appear for depositions. The defense may use this as an opportunity to inform the court as to whether all discovery (documents, police reports, witness statements, etc...) have been properly turned over by the State.
Either side may ask for a continuance if more time is needed.
If a plea agreement has been reached, then the plea may be accepted at the sounding.
Nearly all felony divisions in Miami-Dade County have soundings, with the exception fo a few. In the divisions that do not have soundings, the cases are just set for trial.
The most frequent request at a sounding is for a defense continuance. Bottom line - felony (and some DUI) cases need a lot of time to prepare. Judges, however, have an interest in keeping things moving along in their courtrooms. For that reason, third-degree felonies, such as aggravated assault, grand theft, and burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, are typically given only a few continuances, whereas serious felonies, such as attempted murder, robbery, and armed burglary, may be given multiple continuances.
The number of continuances granted in a case is due to the degree of the charge, the complexity of the charge, and the amount of preparation needed to defend against the charge.
In a case where there are two witnesses, a judge is not likely to grant a year's worth of continuances. In a case where there are twenty witnesses, it is not uncommon for the case to remain open for years.
In Broward County, soundings are called "calendar calls." These hearings are basically the same as soundings. Each side informs the court as to whether or not they are ready for trial.
Soundings and calendar calls are merely a part of the court process. It is the job of a criminal lawyer to attend these hearings, and be prepared to address all issues with a case that may arise.
I am a former Miami-Dade prosecutor and present criminal defense attorney who handles felony, misdemeanor, criminal traffic, and DUI cases in Miami-Dade County and Broward County. I attend soundings and calendar calls on a regular basis as part of my representation.
If you have a criminal matter that you would like to discuss, please call me. My consultations may be conducted in-person or over the phone. They are always free-of-charge and confidential.