An Overview of How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Florida

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Navigating the legal system when facing a felony charge in Florida can be a daunting experience. Understanding the process, time limits, and the rights of the accused is crucial to achieving the best possible outcome. This blog post will provide insights into the felony charge process and how various factors can impact the duration of a case, as well as the importance of hiring a criminal defense attorney and strategies for addressing pending charges. One common question that arises is, “how long can a felony charge be pending in Florida?” We will explore this topic in detail to help you better understand the legal landscape.

Key Takeaways

  • The felony charge process in Florida includes an arrest, initial appearance and filing of formal charges.
  • A criminal defense attorney can help defendants employ strategies to address pending felony charges, while prolonged pending cases may have serious consequences for the defendant.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays and backlogs in Florida’s pending felony cases.

Understanding Florida’s Felony Charge Process

In Florida, the degree felony charge process, including degree felony sexual battery and felony battery offense, involves an arrest, initial appearance, and the filing of formal charges. The outcome of a felony conviction is influenced by various factors, including the defendant’s score under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code and the specific details of the case.

We will now examine the process and its components in more detail.

Arrest and Initial Appearance

Following a crime, law enforcement agencies conduct an investigation, which leads to charging or arresting a suspect for criminal offenses. After an arrest, the defendant is brought to an initial appearance where the court determines the appropriate amount of bail and other conditions of release, such as travel restrictions or drug testing. This process applies to all types of felonies, including a first degree felony, and ranging from:

  • First-degree felonies
  • Second-degree felonies
  • Third-degree felony
  • Fourth-degree felonies
  • Lesser degree offenses

During the initial appearance, the court takes into consideration various factors, such as the defendant’s criminal history and the nature of the crime. It is at this stage that the importance of having a criminal defense attorney becomes evident, as they can advocate for their client and ensure that the bail conditions are fair and reasonable when the conduct plainly appears in the case.

Filing Formal Charges

Formal charges in Florida are filed by the state, which must do so within 30 days for defendants who remain in custody after an arrest. The specific charges filed are determined by the nature of the crime and other factors, such as the defendant’s criminal history. Keep in mind, the statute of limitations, or the time limit for the state to file charges, varies with the nature of the crime.

If a statute of limitations claim is not raised at the trial court level, the accused may file a post-conviction motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. This highlights the importance of having a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can recognize and address any statute of limitations issues that may arise during the case.

Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Felonies

The statute of limitations for felonies in Florida varies depending on the specific crime, with some having no time limit and others having limits ranging from one to four years. This time limit is stipulated by the Florida criminal statute, Section 775.15, which outlines when the statute of limitations acts as a bar to prosecution, as per the Florida Statute. In order to better understand these limitations, it is essential to consult the Florida Statutes.

Certain offenses may be prosecuted at any time after the offender’s identity is ascertained through due diligence or DNA analysis. Both the prosecution and the defense must grasp the time limits for filing charges and their exceptions, underlining the significant role of a criminal defense attorney in criminal cases, particularly in a Florida criminal case.

Factors Affecting the Pending Period of Felony Charges

Several factors can influence the duration of pending felony charges, including the intricacy of the case, the accessibility of evidence, and the defendant’s criminal record. A complex case may require more time for evaluating evidence and preparing for trial, whereas the availability of evidence can directly impact the time needed for review and analysis in a criminal prosecution.

The defendant’s criminal history can also affect the pending period by impacting the court’s determination of the severity of the sentence. Defendants should collaborate closely with their criminal defense attorney to manage and mitigate any elements that could extend the pending period of their felony charges.

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations

Tolling of the applicable statute, the statute of limitations, occurs in certain circumstances, such as when the defendant is absent from the state, extending the period for filing charges. In Florida, the statute of limitations does not commence if the defendant is continuously absent from the state or has no reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within the state.

This means that if a defendant is absent from Florida while a potential charge is pending, the statute of limitations may be paused, allowing the state more time to file charges. A well-informed criminal defense attorney plays a crucial role in comprehending how tolling affects a defendant’s case and in safeguarding their rights.

Speedy Trial Rights in Florida

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of defendants to a speedy trial in Florida. According to the Florida speedy trial rule, a defendant charged with a felony must be brought to trial within 175 days of their arrest, or within 90 days if charged with a misdemeanor.

However, a speedy trial may be waived or extended in certain situations, such as if the defendant is not prepared for trial or if the court is unable to accommodate the trial. Comprehending and invoking the right to a speedy trial is crucial for defendants, and a criminal defense attorney can help maintain these rights throughout the legal proceedings.

The Role of Criminal Defense Attorneys in Pending Felony Cases

Criminal defense attorneys play a crucial role in addressing pending felony charges, helping defendants navigate the legal process and protect their rights. They can assist in recognizing any statute of limitations issues that may influence the prosecution and management of a case, as well as determining whether any allowable mitigating factors may be applicable.

Defendants should avail the services of a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can represent them in court and negotiate with the prosecutor in their interest. The Pumphrey Law Firm, for example, offers a free consultation for individuals in need of legal representation.

Strategies for Addressing Pending Felony Charges

There are several strategies for addressing pending felony charges, such as negotiating with the prosecutor, filing motions to dismiss, and preparing for trial. Negotiating a plea deal involves engaging in dialogue with the prosecutor regarding the charges and potential sentences, ultimately arriving at a mutually agreeable plea bargain.

Challenging evidence, such as witness testimony or physical evidence, is another strategy that can be employed by a criminal defense attorney to weaken the prosecution’s case. With the help of an attorney, defendants can guarantee the highest quality representation and strategy to tackle their pending felony charges.

Potential Consequences of Prolonged Pending Felony Charges

Prolonged pending felony charges, including life felony cases, can have significant negative consequences for defendants, such as:

  • Emotional and psychological distress
  • Harm to reputation
  • Economic pressure
  • Restricted liberty and limitations

Anxiety, depression, and fear can result from enduring protracted pending charges, impacting the defendant’s mental health and well-being.

Additionally, extended pending charges may harm a defendant’s reputation, as they may be viewed as guilty until proven innocent. Financial hardships can also arise due to legal fees, court costs, and other associated expenses. Defendants need to cooperate closely with a criminal defense attorney to lessen the adverse effects of extended pending charges.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Pending Felony Cases

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on pending felony cases in Florida, causing delays in court proceedings and adding to the backlog of cases awaiting resolution. The pandemic has led to postponements and cancellations of hearings, as well as the implementation of remote technology for specific types of cases.

Furthermore, the pandemic has contributed to overcrowding in jails due to the increasing number of pending cases. While courts adjust to the challenges brought by COVID-19, defendants should maintain constant communication with their criminal defense attorney to guarantee their rights are respected during these extraordinary times.


In conclusion, understanding the Florida felony charge process, the statute of limitations, and the factors affecting the pending period of charges is vital for defendants facing criminal charges. Recognizing the importance of a skilled criminal defense attorney and employing strategies to address pending charges can greatly impact the outcome of a case. As the legal system continues to adapt to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial for defendants to stay informed and protect their rights throughout the legal process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a felony case stay open in Florida?

In Florida, a felony case can remain open for up to four years from the date of the crime for first-degree felonies and three years from the date of the crime for second and third-degree felonies.

What is the statute of limitations on a felony charge in Florida?

In Florida, a prosecution for a felony of the first degree must be commenced within four years, while a prosecution for any other felony must be commenced within three years.

Can you leave the state with a pending felony Florida?

Yes, you can leave Florida with a pending felony charge if you are out on bail. However, it is advised that you return to defend yourself against the criminal charges in order to ensure your rights are being respected. Consulting a local Florida attorney may be beneficial for understanding state law.

What are the key steps in Florida’s felony charge process?

In Florida, the felony charge process includes an arrest, initial appearance, and formal charges being filed.

What is the role of a criminal defense attorney in addressing pending felony charges?

A criminal defense attorney plays a crucial role in defending those facing felony charges, from helping to protect their rights and guiding them through the legal process, to negotiating with the prosecution or filing motions to dismiss the charges.

Legal Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The content presented is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal, tax, or financial advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. Readers are encouraged to consult with their own attorney, CPA, and tax advisors to obtain specific guidance and advice tailored to their individual circumstances. No responsibility is assumed for any inaccuracies or errors in the information contained herein, and John Montague and Montague Law expressly disclaim any liability for any actions taken or not taken based on the information provided in this article.

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