Just Arrested in West Palm Beach?

Call Our West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyers for Immediate Help

The first 24 hours after you've been arrested in West Palm Beach are extremely important. If you are unfamiliar the criminal justice system, it is not uncommon to become overwhelmed. First, after you are arrested, you are taken to the Palm Beach County Jail, where you are "booked in" or "processed." The jail is located in a compound that consists of the jail, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, and a wing that contains two courtrooms.

The booking process can take several hours. Once you are booked in, you will remain in custody until the following morning, at which time you will be taken from the jail to one of the courtrooms for your "First Appearance" hearing. However, be aware that some crimes are immediately assigned a bond upon booking, which do not require that you remain in custody until the following morning. These are discussed below.

Where Do I Get Information About the Arrestee?

Under Florida law, an arrestee must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of his or her arrest. In Palm Beach County State Court, a new arrestee will always be brought before the judge located at the Gun Club compound. The first hearing before the Gun Club Judge is called "First Appearance." This is a very important hearing for a number of reasons. Family members and friends of the arrestee may attend this hearing, and it is open to the public.

What Happens to You After an Arrest in West Palm Beach, Florida?

"First Appearance" is held at the Gun Club compound 7 days per week, 365 days per year and includes holidays. So, even if you are arrested on a Friday, you will see the Judge on Saturday. Likewise, if you are arrested on a Saturday, you will see the Judge on Sunday. First Appearance Hearings are held in the morning. However, call the Clerk's office to confirm the time of the hearing, as the time for weekend hearings often differ from the time this hearing takes place during the regular work week.

The purpose of having a First Appearance Hearing is two-fold:

  1. It is the time at which the Judge will briefly review the police reports to make sure there is Probable Cause for the arrest. (Probable Cause is the standard of proof required for an individual's arrest. This standard of proof is very low.)
  2. If the Judge finds there was Probable Cause for the arrest, he or she will then determine if the arrestee is eligible for release.

Will the Arrestee Get Released?

In Florida, there are a number of ways an individual can be released, including:

  • "OR"- own recognizance,
  • "SOR"- supervised form of release
  • A monetary bond
  • House Arrest

Sometimes, the Judge may feel it necessary to order some form of supervised release, along with a monetary bond.

The most common form of release is a monetary bond. In the State of Florida, almost all crimes are "bondable." In other words, the arrestee is entitled to a bond, absent a very few exceptions.

Should I Hire a Lawyer Prior to the First Appearance?

Yes. You should hire a West Palm Beach criminal attorney before your First Appearance. It is important to start your defense preparations before the First Appearance hearing.

Frequently, a monetary bond can be negotiated between the defense lawyer and the prosecutor prior to the Judge taking the bench. If this occurs, the parties advise the Judge that they have reached an agreed bond. Although the Judge has the final say, the Judge usually accepts the arrangement between the parties.

In the event your lawyer and the prosecutor cannot reach an agreement, it is important to have an attorney present so he or she can:

  • Present evidence to the court
  • Have family members heard (if appropriate)
  • Present argument for a low monetary bond or an "OR" release

Your attorney will be able to present evidence to the court that may not otherwise have been known.

Additionally, having a lawyer will also speed the process. The Judge will always take the cases first where a private attorney has been hired. Once you are given a bond, the arrestee is taken back to the holding cell and returned to the jail where he or she will wait until they are bonded out.

How Do You Bond Someone Out of Jail?

There are two ways to get someone out of jail once the bond has been set by the Judge.

  1. A friend or family member can pay the bond directly at the Jail with either cash or a certified check. So, if the Bond is set at $10,000.00, the person posting the bond must bring $10,000.00 in cash or a certified check to the Jail before the arrestee can be processed for release. This money is returned in full once the criminal case has been completely resolved. Depending on the type of charge, a criminal case can take anywhere from 45 days to a year or more to be completed. The average time frame for a misdemeanor case is 4 months. The average time for a felony is 6 months to one year.
  2. Post a bond by hiring a Bail Bonds person. Once you meet with the bonds person, he or she will go to the jail and post the bond on your behalf. Under Florida law, in State Court cases, the Bail Bonds person is entitled to 10% of the total bond as his or her non-refundable fee. A bonds person may also require collateral, typically, a house, before they will post the bond. This is to ensure that the arrestee attends all of his or her court hearings and does not flee.

How Do I Find a Reputable Bail Bonds Person?

All Bail Bonds persons are required to follow the strict requirements of Florida Law in State Court cases. Such a person is legally allotted a fee in the amount of 10% of the total bond. There are many from which to choose, so be certain that you find an ethical and experienced individual. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! We can provide you with assistance in making this important decision.

Why May I Not be Eligible for a Bond?

There are a very few offenses that are not bondable. These generally include very serious crimes, like Murder and Capital Sexual Battery. However, be aware, unbeknownst to most people, some crimes are not automatically bondable, such as:

  • Domestic violence charges
  • Domestic assault and or battery charges
  • Drug trafficking charges
  • Crimes involving a violent act upon a person

If arrested for one of these offenses, you must be detained until you see a Judge the following morning for First Appearance.

Is There a Way to Post a Bond Without Having to See a Judge at First Appearance?

Yes. As mentioned briefly above, there are many crimes which automatically get assigned a bond amount, and do not require that you see the Judge in the morning. Either you or your attorney can contact the Booking Department at the Jail, or you can check the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office website at: http://www.pbso.org/ and check the "Booking Blotter."

Be aware that the booking process takes many hours. As such, you may be unable to obtain any information for several hours after the arrest. Once the booking process is complete, the arrestee will be officially booked in and you will be able to obtain information regarding the bond as outlined above.

Just Arrested in Federal Court?

The arrest process differs substantially when arrested in Federal Court. Once arrested, you will be brought before a Federal Magistrate to determine if pre-trial release is appropriate. The Federal Probation Officer will meet with you and conduct a thorough background check on the accused. This interview will include prior arrest history, employment, family, financial and assets. It is important to have an experienced lawyer with the accused throughout all stages of a Federal prosecution.

The first hearing is a Detention Hearing. At this hearing the Federal Magistrate will consider the strength of the government's case, the accused's background and the Government's recommendation. At the Detention Hearing, the accused's lawyer will be able to object to certain types of evidence and present legal argument as to why the accused deserves to be released while the case is pending.

Many Federal offenses, including all drug charges, come with the presumption that the accused be detained and not be released.

If the accused is granted pre-trial release, it can be in the form of a bond. One type is a Surety Bond. A Surety Bond carries a 15% premium, or fee, to the Bail Bonds person. An accused can also sign a Personal Surety promising to attend all court proceedings. An accused may be required to post property or money directly with the Clerk of Court or a combination of both. The Federal Magistrate can also impose restrictions on the arrestee. Some of these may include travel restrictions, house arrest, surrendering passport, drug testing, and freezing of assets, such as bank accounts.

Will I Be Charged with the Same Crime I Was Arrested For?

In State Court, the first 30 days following the First Appearance Hearing are critical. You will have an "Arraignment" hearing approximately 30-45 days after your arrest. Law enforcement officers make arrests for the crime they believe the evidence supports. However, it is the State Attorney in State Court, or the U.S. District Attorney in Federal Court, both referred to as the "Prosecutor," who make the final determination of what exact crime(s) to charge the accused with.

Under Florida law, one person, an Assistant State Attorney, decides what Felony an individual should be charged with. All Felony charges are determined by this one prosecutor. The only exception is First Degree Murder, which is brought before a Grand Jury.

Remember, unless you hire an attorney prior to the Arraignment, the only evidence that the prosecutor, who is reviewing your case will have before he or she charges you with a crime(s) is the negative, incriminating, or one-sided version of events given to him or her by police officers. There is always two sides to every story. Unless you immediately hire a well-respected, trusted lawyer who can present the other side of the story to the prosecutor, your side will NOT be heard until AFTER you are charged with a crime; or, in other words, when it is too late to prevent you from being charged with a crime.

Remember, a prosecutor has the power to drop or "No File" a charge. A prosecutor also has the power to lower criminal charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. Again, this is why it is so important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how both sides of the system work, who knows what the prosecutor is looking for, and who knows what to present in order to get you the best result possible.

Unfortunately, some police officers are trained salespeople. They hide evidence that will exonerate or lessen the severity of the offense. Unless you have an aggressive, well-trained criminal defense attorney who knows how to attack and challenge the presentation of evidence as put forth by law enforcement, you may be charged with a crime that is unwarranted, or of which you are completely innocent. Unless you have a respected criminal defense attorney aggressively advocating for you, the chances of you having your charges "No Filed" or lowered are very slim.

Why is It Important to Retain a Lawyer?

What is more important than your life? Call us now. We understand the enormous strain you are undergoing. We understand the urgency of your situation. Our guarantee is to provide you with 100% commitment and excellence. We would expect no less for our loved ones, and we provide no less for yours. Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. represents clients throughout all of Florida.