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Rights of the Victim

We realize that for many persons, being a victim or witness to a crime is their first experience with the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

As a victim or witness, you have certain rights within the system. The following information is being provided to you to assist you with questions you may have regarding those rights.

For further information regarding these rights, please contact the State Attorney's Office (SAO) and/or the appropriate law enforcement agency (LEA) handling your case.

Criminal Justice Process

The stages of the criminal justice system are as follows:

  • Crime Committed - After a crime is reported to law enforcement an investigation will be conducted. If law enforcement is able to collect enough evidence, they may make an arrest.
  • Arrest - Suspect(s) taken to jail, fingerprinted and photographed. Some are immediately released or have to post a bond to ensure they will show up in court.
  • Intake - Victim reports a crime to the local State Attorney's Office. If probable cause is found, the State Attorney’s Office may choose to file charges and summons the suspect into court.
  • First Appearance - Occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. Each suspect kept in jail must appear before a Judge who establishes whether charges are reasonable. The Judge will also consider whether a bond should be set and if so how much. The Judge will also consider conditions of release and appoint a defense attorney if the suspect cannot afford one.
  • Filing of Formal Charges - The State Attorney's Office may file formal charges after reviewing law enforcement arrest reports, and within 21 days in certain circumstances.
  • Arraignment - The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Trial Preparations - The prosecutor and defense attorney interview witnesses and exchange evidence in preparation for trial.
  • Trial - The prosecutor presents evidence to either the judge or a jury about the case. The defendant may be found guilty or not guilty. The process ends if the defendant is found not guilty.
  • Plea - Defendant pleads guilty or no contest without a trial.
  • Sentencing - If the defendant is found guilty, the Judge reviews sentencing guidelines, plea agreements, etc., and determines what type of sentence the defendant should receive.

Juvenile Justice Process

  • Intake - The process of determining where a child under the age of 18 will be placed until the case is resolved. There are three forms of detention status: home, non-secure or secure.
  • Diversion Programs - An alternative to trial where the juvenile is placed in a community based program such as juvenile arbitration, juvenile alternative services program (JASP), or a treatment plan (Walker plan). If a juvenile successfully completes the diversion program, then the charges are generally dismissed.
  • Formal Charges - The filing of a petition in court by the State Attorney's Office. The charge may be filed in either juvenile court or adult court, depending upon the crime and age of the offender.
  • Arraignment - The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Adjudicatory Hearing - The trial of the juvenile, conducted in front of a judge. The judge will decide whether the juvenile committed the charged offense(s).
  • Dispositional Hearing (Sentencing) - When a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act the court will hold a dispositional hearing to determine which sanctions to impose on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from community-based sanctions like probation and community services up to residential commitment.
  • Juveniles Tried as Adults - Juveniles who commit very serious crimes may be tried as adults. Juveniles who are prosecuted as adults may be sentenced to adult or juvenile sanctions.

You may contact your State Attorney or law enforcement agency for more information regarding the stages of the criminal and juvenile justice process.

Read about your rights in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Juan J. Perez

Fred Taylor Miami-Dade Police Headquarters
9105 NW 25th Street, Doral, FL 33172

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