Pre-Filing Stage for Felonies
The Pre-filing stage for felony offenses is a critical time. In Jacksonville, police officers have about five days to file the case with the State Attorney's Office. The Assistant State Attorney (Prosecutor), will then make a filing decision, typically within 21 days. The Prosecutor can file the charges that the person was arrested for, file higher or lower charges, file more or fewer charges, or drop any or all charges. The Prosecutor can make this decision based on the evidence, a lack of evidence, a conflict in the evidence, mitigation, or any other information that they wish to use in arriving at their decision.
A defense attorney's role in the prefiling stage is absolutely critical. An attorney can contact the prosecutor and give their client's side of the story before the prosecutor sticks his or her heals in the sand. The defense attorney can inform the prosecutor on evidence that the officer didn't submit, explain lack of evidence, inform them of conflicts in witness statements, provide them with defense witnesses or statements of those witnesses, provide them with photographs, text messages, voicemails, emails and other evidence that could factor into the prosecutor's filing decision, and can provide a clear picture of the client as a person, rather than just a name in a police report.
Once the prosecutor makes the filing decision, it is difficult to change his or her mind about the case. It is extremely important to get information beneficial to you to the prosecutor as quickly as possible.
Another critical process of the prefiling stage is negotiations. Many times, a defense attorney is able to negotiate a pretrial diversion program, a lesser included offense, probation, or some other beneficial outcome at the prefiling stage. Some of these options may no longer be available after the Information is filed.
Once an Information is filed, an arraignment will be held.