Under Florida law, when someone is arrested or picked up on a warrant, they must be seen by a Judge within 24 hours. This hearing is called First Appearance.
What happens at First Appearance in Okaloosa County?
Basically, at First Appearance, the Judge will decide whether to release someone on bond or hold them in jail until they appear before the Judge assigned to their case.
How does the Judge make the bond decision at First Appearance?
The Judge will consult with someone from the Pretrial Services office. Pretrial Services is the agency that compiles a person’s background, prior criminal history, etc. They submit a written report to the Judge with all of this information, along with a recommended bond (or a recommendation of no bond).
The Judge gives a lot of weight to Pretrial Services’ recommendation, but he or she is not required to follow it. It is still up to the Judge to make the final decision.
Does everyone get a bond at First Appearance?
No. In a lot of cases, the arrest warrant will contain language that directs the first appearance Judge to “hold” the client for the Judge who will preside over the case.
If the charge is Violation of Probation, in most cases, the First Appearance Judge will order the person to be held without bond.
If the charge is a felony and the Judge covering First Appearance is a misdemeanor Judge, sometimes they will order no bond and let the felony Judge make the decision at a later date.
What can an attorney do for me at First Appearance?
First, unlike a lot of attorneys, I personally attend First Appearance for my clients. I will prepare my own detailed background on my client and be ready to present a compelling argument for releasing my client from jail.
One quick example:
Recently, I had a client charged with felony Violation of Community Control. The warrant requested “no bond.” The Judge handling First Appearance was a misdemeanor Judge. In other words, our chances of getting our client out of jail at First Appearance were not looking good.
I was able to get this client a reasonable bond at First Appearance after presenting mitigating evidence and background information about my client.
I will also contact a bail bondsman before the First Appearance and have them on standby so that once a bond is set, they can meet you at the jail and get you out as soon as possible.
I don’t want any of my clients to spend one second more in jail than they have to, so I will work to get you released from jail as quickly as possible.
If you or a loved one has a warrant in Okaloosa County, and you don’t want to face the Judge alone at First Appearance, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097. I am available 24 hours a day, so if an arrest happens late at night, call me and I’ll be there when you need me.