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Felony Filing Process Explained

In Florida, the police cannot formally charge you with a felony offense. They may only place you under arrest. It is up to the prosecutor in each county - known as the State Attorney - to decide which charges, if any, should be filed.

You are arrested for a felony and you go to jail - there are no criminal citations or promises to appear (PTAs) issued for felonies. All felonies require an officer to take you into custody. It is there where you may receive a bond, depending on the offense.

Once the arrest paperwork is submitted to the State Attorney, an intake attorney or paralegal will review the evidence and schedule pre-file conferences of witnesses where they will take sworn testimony. Based upon the testimony of the witnesses and the quantum of proof provided by the evidence, the prosecutor will make a filing decision.

At the arraignment - normally 21-30 days after a felony arrest - a filing decision should be made. Prosecutors may request more time for their pre-file process, they may file the charges for which your were arrest, they may add or remove certain felony charges, or they may file misdemeanor charges (known as a bind-down).

As I have said time and time again, the most critical time in the life of a felony case is the pre-file stage. It is here where a criminal defense attorney has a unique opportunity to potentially influence the decision an intake prosecutor may make. Believe me, as a former Assistant State Attorney I know firsthand that it is far easier to get charges dismissed or reduced during the pre-file stage than it is after a felony filing decision has been made.

If you are arrested for a felony in Miami-Dade County or Broward County, don't wait until after your arraignment to hire a criminal attorney. Make sure you contact an attorney within 48 hours of your arrest. If a loved one gets arrested for a felony, call a criminal defense attorney immediately so that you may receive assistance in getting your loved one a bond.