After you are arrested for a criminal offense in Palm Beach County, you will be brought before the court for a first appearance (often called “the magistrate hearing”) within twenty-four (24) hours of the arrest.
For less serious criminal charged, the person accused can immediately bond out of jail after the arrest. If the defendant posts bond prior to the hearing, a new court date will be set and notice will be sent to the defendant.
In some types of cases, like domestic violence cases, the bond will not be set until after the first appearance. In the most serious cases, the court can hold the person accused without bond.
In Palm Beach County, the magistrate hearings are held each morning 364 days a year including weekends and holidays.
Attorney for the First Appearance in Palm Beach County, FL
If you were arrested for a criminal offense in Palm Beach County, FL, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach, FL, at Meltzer & Bell, P.A.. We can appear in court with you to argue for the lowest possible bond or a release on his or her own recognizance pending further judicial proceedings (often called the “ROR”).
By getting the bond amount lowered and addressing the conditions of pre-trial release, the criminal defense attorney can often save you money in the short term and the long term. The attorney can also save you stress and aggravation while the case is pending.
What Happens at the Magistrate Hearing in Palm Beach County, FL?
At first appearance court after an arrest in Palm Beach County, the defendant will appear before a judge for a magistrate hearing. The judge at the magistrate hearing will set the conditions if any, for the release of the defendant from jail.
The court will consider the bail or bond amount. In many cases, the court will set the bond according to a standard bond schedule based solely on the charges. The court will also consider the defendant’s particular circumstances including:
- whether the defendant has sufficient roots in a community to ensure that the person will return for trial;
- whether the defendant has ever failed to appear in court on any prior criminal charges;
- whether the defendant has any prior record; and
- the defendant’s financial situation.
In some cases at first appearance, the judge will release the accused on their own recognizance pending further judicial proceedings. This type of release is often called the “signature bond,” “ROR,” or “OR” bond. An ROR means that the defendant does not have to post a cash bond or use a bail bond company.
First Appearance for Domestic Violence Crimes
If the defendant is charged with a domestic violence crime in Palm Beach County, the court uses a “no bond” policy. The prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office also has a “no drop” policy in domestic violence cases. This means that the defendant might be prosecuted for domestic violence crimes even when the alleged victim requests that the charges are dropped.
The investigating officer, witnesses, and the alleged victim will not typically appear at first appearance, although they have a right to attend the hearing. The court might take testimony from the alleged victim if the alleged victim wishes to have contact with the accused while the case is pending. In those cases, the court might set a “no violent contact” condition on pre-trial release instead of the standard “no contact” provision.
If the court sets a “no contact” provision on the conditions for pre-trial release, then the defendant can have no contact of any kind with the alleged victim until that condition is lifted by the judge in a written order or until the charges are dropped or otherwise resolved.
Will the Alleged Victim Talk to the Judge at the Magistrate Hearing?
If the alleged victim wishes to address the court at first appearance, the alleged victim can make contact with the Court Deputy or the Victim Witness Advocate in the magistrate room.
The Court Deputy will then inform the prosecuting attorney and/or the defense attorney that you are present and wish to make a statement. In some cases, the alleged victim will ask the court to allow contact with the defendant. In other cases, the alleged victim will tell the court that the defendant has threatened to harm the alleged victim or the alleged victim’s family.
This article was last updated on Friday, October 14, 2016.