Florida Public Defense

Public defense issues and developments in Florida

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Florida's Misdemeanor Courts

For 8 months NACDL studied misdemeanor cases in 21 Florida counties. The report, Three Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida’s Misdemeanor Courts, documents practices that routinely fail to protect the foundational rights of those accused. Annually nearly 500,000 people (roughly 3% of Florida's entire adult population) pass through the state's misdemeanor courts. While often viewed as minor, misdemeanor cases have significant, long-lasting consequences.


Most individuals accused of misdemeanors resolve their cases at their first court hearing, with many of those doing so without a lawyer. The overwhelming majority (94%) plead guilty. On average, these initial proceedings lasted fewer than three minutes, even when defendants were pleading guilty. Few were advised of their right to appeal or the immigration consequences of entering a plea. Some were informed of their rights by video or rights-waiver form, but in less than 50% of cases were the defendants who were pleading guilty directly advised by the trial judge of the rights they were forfeiting. 


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