If you suddenly find yourself charged with a criminal offense for the first time in Florida, you will likely have a number of questions regarding the criminal prosecution process. Most defendants want to know what penalties they are facing, for instance, as well as how long the case will take to complete its way through the judicial system. While it is important to remember that each criminal prosecution presents a unique set of facts and circumstances that make it impossible to tell you how long your specific case will take to complete, there are some common factors that will impact the amount of time it takes. Understanding the basic steps of a criminal prosecution as well as what factors tend to delay a prosecution may help answer the question. 

One of the most important factors in determining how long your criminal case will take to finish is how it is ultimately disposed of — through a plea agreement reached with the state of Florida or through a trial. Typically, a case that goes to trial will take longer to complete than a case that is settled through a plea agreement. In addition, what type of trial you elect will also affect the time it takes to complete. If you assert your right to trial by jury, that may take longer than if you waive that right and let the judge decide your case.

Another important variable is the level of severity of the crime with which you are charged. For example, a misdemeanor case usually takes less time to resolve than a felony and a less serious felony, by the same token, usually takes less time to resolve than a murder case.  Not only is there more at stake in a felony case in terms of potential penalties if you are convicted, but there also tends to be more evidence that must be reviewed and analyzed which takes time.

As a defendant in a criminal prosecution you do have a right to a speedy trial. In addition, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure set time limits within which a trial must commence. A felony trial must commence within 175 days of the date the defendant was taken into custody and a misdemeanor trial within 90 days. You may also request a speedy trial which requires the trial to start even faster. These time limits, however, can be waived and/or extended for a variety of reasons.

If you have specific questions regarding how long your case is likely to take, consult with your Florida criminal law attorney.