One of the first stages of a criminal case in Florida is usually a hearing referred to as a Pretrial Conference. This is an important step that will greatly influence the outcome of your case and the severity of your charges. If you have been notified of an upcoming pretrial conference and are unsure about what to expect, the criminal defense attorneys at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett provide a brief overview of what happens during a Florida pretrial conference, and what you can do to be prepared for yours.

What Is a Florida Pretrial Conference?

A pretrial conference or hearing is a joint meeting between all parties – the prosecution and the defendant as well as his or her defense attorney and a judge – before a jury trial.

It gives defense attorneys a chance to file important motions including requests to reduce charges, exclude evidence, or obtain additional time, to name a few examples. This is also when a trial date is set and important documents are exchanged.

How Can You Prepare for a Pretrial Conference?

First, it is always a good idea to get together with your attorney and review any pertinent information regarding your case. In some instances, plea offers and police reports are provided in advance of the pretrial, and it is beneficial to discuss these with your attorney ahead of time.

You may also write down a journal with details about what happened after you were accused or arrested. Recalling key facts such as when the incident occurred, which witnesses were present, statements you and/or the police officer made, and a timeline of events may be more beneficial to your case than simply relying on the version provided by law enforcement.

Likewise, if you are able to review the police report in advance, look for any incorrect information that may make a difference in your case. You may also want to look into how taking a plea deal will affect your life and your professional career in the future, and whether it is worth simply taking the plea deal or fighting back and going to trial.

Can a Case Be Dismissed at a Pretrial Conference?

One of the goals of a pretrial conference is to analyze whether the case at hand does require a jury trial or if it can be resolved without the need for one. This is also when the defense can file motions such as a Motion to Dismiss or Motion to Suppress. The first type of motion is a request to dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence or when the alleged facts do not amount to a crime.

A motion to suppress is a request to suppress (eliminate) certain pieces of evidence because they are inadmissible in court. This may happen when the defense is able to prove the evidence was obtained through illegal search or seizure.

It is up to the judge to decide whether to accept or deny these motions. It is possible that, if a judge accepts either one, the case will either be dropped or put on hold. Every case is different, but it is possible for cases to be dismissed at a pretrial conference.

Do I Need an Attorney to Represent Me During a Pretrial Conference in Florida?

Showing up at a pretrial conference without an attorney to represent you means you will be at the mercy of the prosecution and the judge, and will potentially miss out on a chance to have your charges downgraded or dropped. An attorney knows what steps to take to de-escalate your charges from a felony to a misdemeanor, for example, and can be instrumental in helping you reach a more favorable outcome. If you need an attorney to assist you at every step of your criminal case, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett.