What is the misdemeanor case process in Florida?

The typical misdemeanor case process in Florida consists of four to five steps. Unless your charges include a felony, you will go to the county court for your case.

First appearance or notice

Your case technically starts at your first appearance in front of the judge after your arrest. During this stage, the judge informs you of your charges. Upon analysis of the severity of your charges, how likely you are to flee, and how dangerous you are to society, the judge determines whether to release you until your trial date.

In instances where law enforcement didn’t arrest you, you’ll receive a Notice to Appear. This notice informs you of the time and date you need to appear in court. A law enforcement officer delivers these notices.


At your hearing, a state attorney announces the formal charges against you, and you must plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. This hearing is also known as the arraignment. In some situations, a defendant’s counsel successfully requests waiving of the arraignment. If you plead not guilty, the judge will give you sufficient time to prepare your defense.

Docket sounding

Most jurisdictions in Florida conduct docket soundings. This is a type of hearing in which the judge can check on the status of the case and set a trial date. You could request a postponement, also known as a continuance if you need more time to prepare your theft or general criminal defense.

In situations in which you choose to take a plea offer, at the docket sounding, the judge may move forward with the plea hearing. He or she could also choose to schedule another date for your plea hearing.


Whether your charges are for theft or any other type of crime, Florida grants you the right to a trial by jury if incarceration is a possible punishment. The jury must come to a unanimous decision. If it doesn’t, then the judge may deem it a mistrial and set a new date.


Sentencing doesn’t always occur at the trial in Florida. During sentencing, the possible punishments for a misdemeanor are jail time, probation, and fines.

You should read the documents associated with your case to know for certain what process your misdemeanor calls for. It could vary depending on the situation. Your attorney could also answer questions you have about the process.

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