A Survivors Guide 

to Navigating the Criminal Justice System

Pinellas County’s Criminal Justice Process:

1. ARREST

In DV cases the suspect will be arrested if there is probable cause, whether or not the victim wants the suspect to be arrested. Suspect will have no bond until advisory.

2. FIRST APPEARANCE/ADVISORY

Within 24 hours of arrest. At this time the perpetrator will have opportunity for bond to be assigned or to be released on own recognizance.

3. INVESTIGATION

For felony cases a state attorney meets with the victim to talk about the case. The arresting officer will inform the victim of the date, time, and location.

4. FILING DECISION MADE

Filed charges: The state attorney’s office has reviewed the case and is going forward on formal charges also called “information”

Not Filed: If the state does not file charges the case is closed.

5. ARRAIGNMENT: The defendant is brought before the judge to be informed that the state attorney’s office filed charges and is informed of their rights. The defendant pleads guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

6. PRETRIAL HEARING: At the pretrial hearing, the prosecutor and state attorney quickly discuss the case. Plea offers may be discussed, accepted or refused.

Possible Outcome:

PRETRIAL INTERVENTION: Sometimes referred to as PTI, DVI, or DV Diversion Program. Many people that are first offenders, non-violent offenders, and have drug-related charges become eligible for PTI.

Possible Outcome:

PLEA DEAL: The majority of cases are resolved by plea deal rather than trials. A plea deal can be struck at any time during the case but is most often done during a pretrial hearing.

Possible Outcome:

*PRETRIAL CONTINUANCE: If not settled with plea deal or pretrial intervention the case will continue with depositions.

*There may be multiple Pretrial Continuance Hearings before depositions.

With Pretrial Continuance:

DEPOSITIONS: Victims, witnesses, and testifying experts can be questioned during a deposition. There is no judge, no bailiff, and no jury. Present during the deposition: the state attorney, defense attorney, victim or witness, court reporter. An advocate can be present with the victim.

TRIAL: Trials are held before a judge (bench trial) or judge and jury, depending on the seriousness of the crime & other factors. The prosecutor & defense attorney present evidence & question witnesses. The judge or jury finds the defendant guilty, not guilty or hung jury on the original charges or lesser charges.

SENTENCING: Victims are allowed to prepare for the judge a victim impact statement that explains how the crime affected them. In deciding on a sentence, the judge has a range of choices, depending on the crime. In some cases, the defendant appeals the case, seeking either a new trial or to overturn or change the sentence.

The timeframe for court proceedings is unpredictable and navigating the justice system alone is incredibly difficult. Please Contact a CASA Criminal Justice Advocate for support today: 727.895.4912 | TTY: 727.828.1269

Injunction & No Contact Orders

Injunction

An injunction (restraining order) is a protective order from civil court that makes it illegal for the abuser to contact you.  You can visit the county clerks office to file the free injunction paperwork. When applying bring: ID, dates of abuse, evidence of abuse (photos, texts, emails, etc.) contact information and location of the abuser. (There is a form to complete if you want to keep your address confidential)

No Contact Orders

In addition to an injunction, a judge can put in place a “no contact order” during criminal court proceeds preventing the defendant to have contact and communication of any kind with  the person under the protection of the no contact order.*

 

*This includes contact through a third party.

Violation of an injunction or a domestic violence no contact order is a crime.  If this happens you can call the police.

VINE (VICTIM INFORMATION NOTIFICATION EVERY DAY)

Free and confidential system that notifies victims of: custody changes, releases and escapes

Provides notifications via phone email, TTY and text message

Can enroll at: www.vinelink.com  or 877-846-3435

 

*Victim may be automatically be registered, If so the PIN is usually the last 4 digits of their phone number. Please keep in mind that there could be a delay in the system.

VICTIMS RIGHTS

As a victim of domestic violence, you have specific rights in a court of law. A CASA advocate can help you understand the following Victims Rights Statute:

Victim impact statement §960.001(1)(k)

Right to be present and heard §960.001(1)(e)

Right to be accompanied by a victim advocate

Right to request restitution §960.001(1)(j)

Right to apply for victim compensation §960.001(1)(a)

In addition to providing advocacy in the civil and criminal court system, CASA advocates can assist with the following:

  • Crisis Counseling
  • Safety Planning
  • Assistance with goal setting & case management
  • Lethality Assessment
  • Support Groups
  • Support Navigating the Criminal Justice System
    • Accompaniment to Court
    • Assistance filling out Injunctions
    • Victims Rights Information and Advocacy
  • Safety Cell Phone Program
  • Teen Dating Violence Assistance (with parent or guardian consent)
  • Referrals to Mental Health Resources for children & families who have been exposed to domestic violence
  • Victim Compensation Application Assistance
  • Rapid Rehousing Program Referral
  • Domestic Violence Relocation Assistance*
  • Address Confidentiality Assistance*

*Only certified Domestic Violence Center Advocates can assist with a Domestic Violence Relocation Application and the Address Confidentiality Program