Arreaza Law Firm, LLC.
320 West Oakland Park Blvd.
Wilton Manors, Fl 33311

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The solution to your criminal case begins here

The anatomy of a criminal case

If you are visiting this website chances are that you or someone close to you has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense. This is a very nerve shattering experience. The most important thing to remember is not to panic. The decisions thatwith will be made during this period could affect the outcome of the case. The information on this webpage is going to take you through the criminal justice system in the state of Florida. It will walk you through every stage from arrest to trial. Our website is prepared in a manner that I believe will help you with answers to your questions. It will also give you ideas on how to handle decision making along the way. The criminal justice system is very complex. This website was constructed to address those complexicities in an effort to simplify themit. I want to make it clear in no way do I believe an individual should be there own attorney.As you read the information in this website and you have a question I ask you to write them down, email them to us and we will be happy to respond.

Our goal is to make this website something that you will be able to use in looking for answers to your questions. Look through and give us a call. Let our experience and knowledge work for you.


When the person is first arrested they must going before a magistrate. This individual will read the charges against the person. At this point the arrested will more then likely be very confused and wanting out of jail at any price. The magistrate or the state attorney may make what is call a "plea offer" this is an offer made to end the case. The person that they are making the offer to should not make a decision until they speak to a qualified attorney. This is one of the reasons that once an individual finds themselves in this situation they should immediately seek legal help. At the Arreaza Law Firm you will receive the advise of an attorney with more then 17 years of experience as a trial attorney in criminal law. You will be walked through every scenerio so you could make an informed decision. Let the firms experience work for you.


When dealing with a situation like the one just described it is important that you try and make bail and not accept any offer just for the sake of getting out of jail.When a person is arrested they are charged with a criminal offense. After the arrest the person is either granted bail or held held without bond. Under most circumstances a person is granted bond. This is because a person is entitle to bond under our constitution except in certain case. The amount of bond set will be determined by the serioousness of the crime and whether the person is found to be a flight risk.


It is important to understand that just because a person has been arrested for a crime does not mean that the state will bring those charges against the person. This sounds a little confusing, but it is important that the person being charged understands this because accepting a deal relating to the charges for which a person was arrested but not yet charged. In some cases the state either choose to file less serious charge or even chooses to not go forward with the charges choosing to let the person go. If a person chooses a deal when they for go before the judge or magistrate they may be accepting responsibility for something the state can't prove.


This is because a person is entitle to bond under our constitution except in certain case. Once the person bons out of jail the first thing they should do is get a copy of the police report and anything else in the court file. Doing this will help you to make informed decisions about you case. Remember no matter how good the lawyer is the individual being charged has the most to lose so they should KNOW everything about their case. Once you get the police report look at the section that states what the police charged you with. This is important so write it down on a separate piece of paper. Once you do this go on the internet and find the florida statutes and make a copy the statutes that you are being charged with. Once you do this print it out and put it in your file.

It's important you keep this file organized because you will be taking it to the lawyers that you will be hiring on your case. The file will help you educate yourself and show the lawyer you are interviewing that you will be keeping yourself informed and that you are on top of your case. This will help keep your lawyer on there toes and stop any thought of giving you anything less then a candid honest answer to your questions. The most important thing it will do is to give you the security that you know everything about your case. With this file you will begin to search for the lawyer that you will choose to represent you. Remember you are the one doing the choosing not the other way around. I will tell right away don't represent yourself. The is an old say which states that "a person that represents himself has a fool for a client". The reason for this is "perspective". It is very important to have perspective.


At this point all the information gathered by the police will be sent to the state attorney's office of the county where the arrest occurred. The information will be sent to the department in charge of filing. It is in this department where the state attorney will decide whether they have enough evidence to bring those charges forward or to file. If the state attorney decides to go forward with the charges they will file what is called an "information". This document is the charging instrument. It outlines the charges that are being brought against the individual. In many situations the charges the state brings forward are different then what the person was arrested for. The reason for this is that the state attorney making the decision on whether to go forward on a case has had the time to review if the state actually has enough evidence to prove the case. If the state decides that there is not enough evidence to file charges then they will file a "no information" which states they decided not to file an information on those charges. If you ever need a copy of this document it will be in the court file. If the state does decide to file an information but later decides to drop the drop the charges it will be called a "nolle pros".


For the purpose of this explanation lets assume that the state filed an "information" and are going forward on the charges. The court will set a date for what is referred to as an "arraignment" At the arraignment the court will read the charges brought against the person. The person will be asked what the plea. The person in almost all cases will answer guilty, not guilty, or no contest. He or she will then get a court date to see how case is coming along. If the person hires an attorney the attorney could waive the arraignment by filing a notice of appearence and a written plea of not guilty. At this point the person or their attorney should also file a document that is referred to as a "notice of intent to participate in discovery". This document is a formal request that triggers the states obligation to turn over all the discoverable evidence that the state intends to use against the person/defendant. If they refuse to comply with order and do not produce all the evidence they have then they will have comitted what is commonly referred to as a "brady violation". It was establish in a case titled " Brady v. Maryland".The ruling in the case requires that the state turn over all evidence to the defendant. Once receiving the information present in the discovery the defense can get to work.


The defenses plan of attack could be started in many ways. The Arreaza Law Firm begin by setting up and preparing for all the depositions osually a motion to appoint f the state witnesses. This is done by going over all the discovery and reading every document before going to the deposition. There is no substitution for being prepared. Once the depositions are set a notice of hearing is sent to the person being deposed. If the person refuses to show then a "subpoena" is prepared and served on the person. This requires a person to show up to the deposition or face sanctions by the court. This process can be costly so before you begin you should consider filing a motion to declare the defendant indigent for cost. This is for individuals that could demonstrate to the court that they don't make enough money to pay the costs of participating in discovery. A person could file for this motion even if the person has hired a lawyer. Remember all this is done through motions. A motion is a tool used to request something from the court. Once depositions are done you will decide whether to order transcripts of the deposition. It is my advise not to try and save money here. I believe all transcripts should be ordered. Something that does not seem important today could be vital as time goes on.


Once the depositions are done. It is import that you go over the transcripts you ordered along with the other discovery. After your review you will decide what motions to prepare and file. The first motion that I usually file is a motion to appoint a private investigators. This is in case I missed something. No matter how good a lawyer is he or she could always benefit by having an investigator do an independent investigation. Like the old saying four eyes are better then two. If there is anything that I believe was illegally obtained then I will prepare a "motion to suppress" if the information is vague I prepare a "motion for particular". This will require that the state make the charges as clear as possible. It is important to note that this is a skeleton game plan each case has its individual characteristics that will need to be addressed.


Once all evidence is review all motions are filed and heard, the individual defendant through there lawyer or themselves will ask the state for a plea offer. No matter how good the state is this should be done. This can also be done at any point in the case but I always like having the all the information before accepting a plea. You will find some state attorneys saying that they will revoke offer in discovery is conducted. I believe this is completely unethical. In my experience it is a red flag showing that the state does not want you to see weakness in their case. I don't believe you can make an informed decision without having all the information. Depending on the answer you and your attorney will make a decision as to whether you will accept a plea or go to trial. It is important that the answer come from you because you feel it's the right thing to do and not because your lawyer thinks he could win. When I first began my practice an older lawyer told me " you are not a lawyer until you win a case you should have lost and lost a case you should have won". This demostrate that no one can guarantee what is going to happen in a trial. If a plea agreement is reached then the defendant will go before the court where the judge will ask a series of questions to determine whether the plea agreement that was entered into was done so "free and voluntary" and that the inidvidual was not forced to or lied to in order to have them enter the agreement.


If the person decides they do not want to take a plea and go to trial instead then it sets of a series of things that must be done. Once the decision to go to trial is made the first thing we do is begin to reorganize file for trial. This starts by organizing file in a three ring binder. In then get a copy of the jury instructions that are applicable to the charges being brought against the person. Being organized is extremely important. During the trial the lawyer will have to be completely on their toes. This is the only way to take advantage of any mistake that the state may make. This sounds calculating but when your are in trial it's a reality that can make the difference between the individual going home or going to prison. This can only be accomplishd if the defense is organized and ready. So now we must begin getting into the trial mind set. My staff tells me that my personality changes once im in trial. I believe this happens because I must go into a heighten awareness which doesnt leave room in your head for anything else.


Before the actual trial begin I like to ask the judge if they have any procedure in conducting trial. This is even more important if you have never tried a case before this judge. The first part of conducting a trial is picking a jury. I truly believe this is the most important part of the trial. This is done by the judge bringing a group of people to choose a jury from. This group is called a panel. You will choose your jury from this panel. The process by asking the panel questions. The order in which the parties take will be determined by the court. Make no mistake about it you are starting trial at this point. You are measuring the potential jurors and they are measuring you. The better lawyers know this and begin trying their case in the jury selections stage.

Once everyone asks their questions the lawyers will begin the process of picking a jury from the panel. The judge will more then likely begin by asking if either side has any challenges for cause. A challenge for cause is when a person has said or done something that demonstrates that they can not be a fair and impartial juror. There are no limits to how many challenges for cause a party can make. After the parties finish their challenges for cause both parties will begin to use there peremptory challenges. Depending on the nature of charges the person is facing they will have 3 to 10 peremtory challenges. Once the jury is picked the trial will begin.


The state and the defense begin the trial by doing what is referred to as opening statements. Both sides state what they believe the evidence will show. It is my advise that you do not promise anything that you are not 100 percent sure you can produce. In a trial credibility is everything. If you tell then you are producing something and you don't the jury will think you were not honest with them. In my openings I promise nothing. I point out what the state promised and that they will not be keeping their promise to you. This put the pressure on them to carry through on there promises.


Once openings are done the state will begin to put on their case. They usually begin by putting on their witnesses. The important thing that the defense must not allow is to permit the state to lead. In my opinion it sends a message of weakness to the state, to the jury and to the judge. The parties will not only think you don't know what you are doing but that you did not think enough of your client to protect them. If you make the state back peddle and respond to your case not the other way around. This can't be done if you are cobveying weakness. You will convey strength by being prepared.


After the state finishes asking questions the defense begins what is referred to as cross examination. In doing the cross the attorney on both sides will be permitted to use leading questions. This is one of the most important part of the trial. The defense will have an opportunity to challenge the states case. Again I cant stress this enough be prepared. I begin my cross examination by preparing points I want to hit. If you are not comfortable with this then write out you questions. As the client or family members you may want to right down some questions you want asked. Give you lawyer a copy of the questions and keep a copy for yourself. If the lawyer forgets then you will have your copy of the questions to remind him. Remember this is not conventional thinking. You are learning how to be a proactive part of your defense. You may run the risk of upsetting the attorney but it isnt his life on the line its yours and no lawyer no matter how good he is can change that. When you bring this up to the person representing you don't be confrontational you and your lawyer must work as a team. One of the thing I do when I'm getting ready for cross examination is to give a pad of paper to the client to take notes on anything he here that he may find helpful. The client does this while I listen to the direct examination and making objections. I have found that clients are able to pickup on this said that I did not pick up. Again two people listening can hear more then one.


Once the state is done with their case the state will rest. After the state rests their case the defense will make a motion for judgment of acquital. In doing so the defense is stating that even if all the evidence presented by state were true it would not be enough to prove the person guilty. The technical term is that the state has not been able to present enough evidence to make a prima facie showing of the charges brought. The court will look in the light most favorable to state. If motion is granted defense wins if motion is denied defense will have an opportunity to present their case.


If defense chooses to put on a case the same rules of evidence will apply to them. If the defense chooses to not put on a case they will also announce to the court that the defense rests. This is a common practice within criminal defense lawyers. In deciding to put on a case I always evaluate whether or not to put on the defendant. Even though it is their constitutional right not to testify most jurors want to hear from them and don't admit it. The defense never knows if they will hold it against the client. I believe many lawyers that choose to not put on there clients or advise there clients not to testify are doing it to play it safe. I think that a lawyer that does this is doing a disfavor to their client. I advise my clients that most jurors want to here from the accused and we will never know if they will hold it against them if they choose to invoke their constitutional right. I believe this is playing russian roulette. I tell my clients that the jurors like to hear from the defendant. In making our decision as to whether the client will testify we will do mock cross examinations to see how he stands up to cross examination. After we do this I will more then likely advise them to testify except in extreme cases. Once again I remind you this is not conventional thinking, but I'm have never been a fan of conventional thinking. I believe a lawyer has the obligation to think outside the box. I have scene conventional thinking lose cases that didn't have to be lost and defendants go to prison because their lawyer wanted to play it safe. The courtroom is a world on to itself. Always remember when making the decision to take the stand or not take the stand you must think these jurors ordinary people deciding a persons fate. Do you really want them to make that decision about a person without having all the information. I have tried cases where it was the defendants testimony that won the trial. If I would have given into conventional thinking I would have played it safe and my client would be in prison serving a life sentence. In the end it is the individuals choice to make not the lawyer to make for him.


After defense is done they will once again make the motion for judgment of aquital. If the motion is granted the defense wins if the motion is denied the parties will do their closing arguments. The lawyers will argue what the state prove or didnt prove. After that the judge will read the closing instructions to the jury and then they will go to the jury room to make their decision of wether the state met their burden of proof.


The process is a lot to digest. My advise is to read it slowly and in parts. Everyone facing charges has a right to know what is going on in every step of the process. I have dedicated my life and career to this principal. In going through this ordeal you or the individual close to you will face many difficult decisions. Make sure that the decision made are what is best for you and the accused. I have a simple philosophy. I believe that a lawyer is his clients shield. When going to war the strength of this shield will determine whether my client gets hurt or not. In trying a case a lawyer can give you a million reasons why he lost and the reasons may all be valid but while the battle is going on that person sitting next to you who is entrusting you with their freedom deserves the best possible effort that the lawyer can give. Each case has its individual problems and issues. If we can be of service to you let us know. Take a look at the different sections of this website. It has many functions tha will help you and making an informed decision. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Alex Arreaza Esq.

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