Once arrested, many people unfamiliar with the criminal justice system will claim that they have been “charged” with a crime. Though there is some truth to the term, it is somewhat misleading to think that criminal proceedings have been initiated simply because you have been arrested. Before proceeding with criminal charges, the prosecuting agency—the Office of the State Attorney—must take formal steps to bring charges against an accused. If you have found yourself in a situation where you have been arrested, but are not sure if charges have officially been filed, you should contact a dedicated Clearwater criminal defense lawyer today.
Police are typically not lawyers, and are not responsible for ultimately prosecuting a case. While it is their job to collect evidence and build a case, it is the job of the State attorney to actually do the legal work and present evidence in court. This is why the specific charges that will be filed are not left up to the police. Once an arrest occurs, the police turn over the evidence they have collected and the reports they have prepared to the State Attorneys Office to make a filing decision.Informations
The most common form of filing formal charges against a defendant is the Information. An Information is, at its most basic form, a document putting a defendant on notice of exactly the charges he or she is facing. Typically, an Information will contain a date of offense, a basic description of the factual circumstances of the crime, and a statute number listing the specific law that the defendant allegedly violated. The Information is filed with the clerk of court and is publicly available to view, and it is provided to the defense during the discovery process.
Much work usually goes into filing an Information. Prosecutors do not always rely solely on the work of the police to determine how they will officially file charges. Often, prosecutors will reach out to witnesses and victims of crimes to determine the overall strength of the case and make a pre-filing evaluation. Prosecutors do this because the standard of proof to convict a person of a crime (beyond a reasonable doubt) is significantly higher than the standard to make an arrest (probable cause). By doing a pre-filing evaluation, prosecutors can determine whether it is even worth it to officially bring charges against a defendant.
The period between an arrest and the formal filing of an Information is an important one. Many times, those accused of a crime wait until they receive a court date to contact a lawyer. This can be a costly mistake. Prosecutors have a good deal of discretion during the pre-filing stage, and if a skilled Clearwater criminal defense lawyer intervenes on your behalf, sometimes the prosecution can be convinced to “no-file” the case, resulting in the dismissal of any criminal charges.
Getting an attorney involved at the early stages of your case, following your arrest but before charges are filed can sometimes make all the difference. Often, prosecutors are happy to work out cases and consider evidence before they make a filing decision. This is because during the filing stage, they are given more discretion to drop, modify or reduce charges. Once charges have been filed and a case initiated, prosecutors have much less discretion on how to handle the case, and are sometimes restricted to litigating the matter all the way to trial.
Before filing of charges, evidence can be presented to prosecutors that can suggest your innocence or that can show the State Attorney that the evidence in their case against you is weak. A savvy Clearwater criminal defense lawyer with relationships and respect among prosecutors can secure positive results on your case before you even end up in court.Speak to the Lawyers at Hanlon Law Today
If you have been arrested and are awaiting a court date or the official filing of charges, don’t wait to consult a lawyer. Contact the lawyers at Hanlon Law today at 727.897.5413. They have the experience, diligence and relationships necessary to make a difference prior to the formal filing of charges.