Your Miami Criminal Case: The Basics

Miami Vice. CSI: Miami. You've seen all the crime shows. You're a regular armchair Johnnie Cochran, spouting off criminal codes at parties to impress all of your well-to-do friends from Star Island. Well, your one friend from Star Island. Maybe he was more of an acquaintance, but he does know your name! Your legal prowess is really put to the test when your best friend "Joey the Whale" is arrested for some illegal gambling scheme he was running out near South Beach.

The Miami Police got involved and shut down his operation. Now, he is turning to you for help. Your ole' pal needs you, but you don't really know as much about Miami criminal cases as you thought. That's where we come in. FindLaw has complied some general information about what to expect in most Miami criminal cases.

Miami Law Enforcement

If you've been arrested in Miami-Dade County, chances are that Don Johnson didn't roll up in his signature white Italian sport coat, T-shirt, white linen pants, and cool, but hopeless outdated shades. It was more likely a uniformed officer from the Miami Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, or the Miami-Dade sheriff. The police officer will write up a police report detailing what you did to submit it to the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney to review and decide what charges, if any, to file.

Miranda Warnings

When you were arrested, the officer (hopefully) read you your Miranda rights.

Here they are:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during the interrogation.
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you.

If the officer didn't read you these warnings, or read them at the wrong time, it could jeopardize the State's against you.

How Do I Get Out of Jail?

After getting arrested, you'll either be released on your own recognizance or have to post bond. A bond is an amount of money you, or a person bailing you out of jail, promises to pay the court in case you fail to appear on any date set by the court. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

If you have bondable charges, you can bond out at anytime, day or night. You have two options: post a cash bond or use a bondsmen.

Remember, when you post a bond, you are guaranteeing that the defendant will appear for all court appearances and abide by all non-financial conditions. Any cash or property posted is subject to forfeiture if the defendant fails to comply with all orders of the court.

If you are looking for an inmate, online resources are available.

First Appearance

Within 24 hours of getting arrested, you'll be brought to court for the first time. This is known as your arraignment. A number of things will happen at this hearing. You'll learning what formal charge(s) are being brought against you. At that point you can decide if you want to hire a private criminal defense attorney or determine whether you qualify for the services of the public defender.

How Long Does the District Attorney Have to Charge Me With a Crime?

Most states have a statute of limitations or time limit to file criminal charges. Check out the Florida law here.

For most felonies the statute of limitations is either three or four years. If you are accused of a theft-related offense, the time limit can be as long as five years from the date you allegedly committed the crime. Any crime involving abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly or disabled is also five years. For any case involving murder or life in prison, there is no time limit.

The time limit for misdemeanors is either one or two years from the date of the offense depending on the type of criminal you've allegedly committed.

Potential Felony Sentences in Miami

A felony is a very serious crime. A conviction carries huge penalties including possible years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life.

Miami felonies include murder, robbery, sexual assault, fraud, drugs sales, and some domestic violence.

Felonies are classified as third degree, second degree, first degree, life, or in the most serious situations, the death penalty. Basically, the more serious the felony, the higher the penalty. In addition to the penalties below, you may also face mandatory drug and alcohol treatment, and community service, among other things. If you want to read the Florida felony sentencing language, knock yourself out. If you want a shorter version, see below.

Capital Felony

  • Death or Life in Prison
  • Possibility of No Parole

Life Felony

  • Life in Prison
  • Possibility of No Parole
  • $1,5000 Fine

First Degree Felony

  • Up to Thirty Years Prison
  • Thirty Years Probation
  • $10,000 Fine

Second Degree Felony

  • Up to Fifteen Years Prison
  • Fifteen Years Probation
  • $10,000 Fine

Third Degree Felony

  • Up to Five Years Prison
  • Five Years Probation
  • $5,000 Fine

Possible Misdemeanor Sentences in Miami

A misdemeanor in Miami is less serious than a felony, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career and your freedom. If you are a non-citizen, a misdemeanor can impact your immigration status.

Florida misdemeanors are classified into two categories: first and second degree. Common Miami misdemeanors include DUIs, shoplifting, assault, drunk in public, or some drug possession charges. Some Florida misdemeanor crimes carry additional penalties such mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes. You can read the sentencing laws here -- or take a look below.

First Degree Misdemeanor

  • Up to One Year in Jail
  • One Year Probation
  • $1,000 Fine

Second Degree Misdemeanor

  • Up to Sixty Days in Jail
  • Six Months Probation
  • $500 Fine

The Bottom Line About Miami Criminal Cases

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal case in Miami, remember you have options and rights. You may wish to at least consider consulting a Miami criminal defense attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.