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First Appearance Court in Tampa

Immediately after being arrested on charges in Hillsborough County, FL, a person is entitled to see a judge at first appearance court, typically within 24 hours of the arrest. If a person is booked into the jail before midnight, then they are typically on the court’s calendar the next morning for first appearance.

The rules for first appearance court in Hillsborough County, FL, are controlled by Administrative Order S-2012-063.

For an arrest made in Hillsborough County, any individual who does not immediately bond out of jail will be brought to first appearance court. For some types of charges, such as domestic violence, the person is not given any opportunity to post bond prior to first appearance.

Many individuals retain a criminal defense attorney to represent them prior to the first appearance hearing.

A special courtroom is set up at the Orient Road Jail and another special courtroom is set up at the Faulkenburg Road Jail. The judge that oversees the proceedings is located at the main courthouse in Tampa. Video and audio equipment is then used to connect the three courtrooms.

An assistant public defender is typically present at each jail facility and a third public defender is typically in the main courtroom with the judge and prosecutor. Private attorneys typically appear at the main courtroom even when their clients are at the Orient Road Jail or the Faulkenburg Road ail. The public can also attend first appearance court by going to the main courtroom.

Attorney for First Appearance Court in Tampa, FL

The summary provided here is presented only for informational purposes. New administrative orders or procedures may apply. No one should rely on this information without talking to a Tampa criminal defense attorney experienced in handling emergency bond hearings in Hillsborough County, FL.

Contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss the particular facts and circumstances of your case. Retaining an attorney prior to the bond hearing is often the best way to make sure a reasonable bond is set or that an individual is released ROR (or on a signature bond without posting any money) when appropriate.

Additionally, an attorney can present favorable evidence to the prosecutor to request or demand that no charges are formally filed, or that only reduced charges are filed. Often the 21 days after the arrest are the most important part of the case.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are also experienced in helping the defendant bring a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to a higher court to test the legality of the circuit court’s order setting bond and imposing other conditions of pre-trial release. The appellate court can grant the writ and vacate the erroneously imposed bond requirement.

Call (813) 250-0500 to speak with an attorney immediately about your case.

What is First Appearance Court?

For the proper and efficient administration of justice, the judges in Hillsborough County have found it necessary to operate a special division to handle first appearances, arraignments, bond matters, adversary hearings, and certain miscellaneous criminal matters that are not assigned to a division.

First appearance court also handles certain emergencies in criminal cases, misdemeanor violations of probation, and other matters that the chief judge may designate.

For more than 22 years, the Thirteenth Circuit Court has operated the First Appearance and Emergency Criminal Division. This division is called Division “O.” Today, division “0” uses audio and video devices to conduct certain court proceedings for individuals that are incarcerated at the Orient Road Jail or the Faulkenburg Road Jail.

In an administrative order that became effective on January 1, 2013, many of the procedures for First Appearance / Emergency Division “O” updated. The chief judge signed the order under the power granted by Article V, section 2(d) of the Florida Constitution; Section 43.26, Florida Statutes; and Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215(b)(2).

Is Bond Set at First Appearance?

ADM ORD 5-2008-160 – The Tampa, Hillsborough County, Administrative Order for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit provides that “no bond” will be allowed prior to first appearance in certain cases, including when a new crime is committed while on felony probation, certain failure to appear warrants, certain violation of probation cases, and cases involving certain felony crimes.

Additionally, crimes charged under the gang enforcement provisions or subject to enhanced penalties under Florida’s Gang Enforcement and Prevention statutes in Chapter 874 are also ineligible for bond prior to first appearance pursuant to Florida Statute Section 903.046(2)(1).

Types of Proceedings in First Appearance Court

The administrative order provides that the different types of proceedings to be handled in First Appearance / Emergency Criminal Court Division “O” include all of the following:

  • First appearance hearings on all criminal cases;
  • Traffic and misdemeanor violation of probation (“VOP”) hearings for incarcerated defendants (except in cases in which new misdemeanor or traffic charges accompany the VOP and the defendant pleads not guilty on the new charge(s) at arraignment or in instances in which a defendant is on felony probation and misdemeanor probation when a new misdemeanor charge is allegedly committed by the defendant);
  • Bond motions and release on recognizance (ROR) motions for all traffic and misdemeanor cases prior to and at arraignment;
  • Traffic and misdemeanor arraignment hearings for incarcerated defendants;
  • Bond and release on recognizance motions on felony cases not assigned to a division;
  • Petitions to seal and expunge records in cases that have no division assignment;
  • Witness extraditions;
  • Governor warrants;
  • Fugitive warrants;
  • Adversary preliminary hearings;
  • Matters relating to investigative subpoenas issued by the state attorney;
  • Motions to quash in criminal cases that have no division assignment;
  • Circuit criminal matters when the assigned judge is on leave;
  • Other circuit criminal matters relating to cases that have no division assignment;
  • Petitions seeking return of firearm seized by law enforcement under section 933.14(3), Florida Statutes, where no arrest was made and no case has been established in the court system;
  • Other circuit criminal matters upon request or approval of the assigned judge; and
  • Any emergency criminal matter that is not assigned to another division.

What Information Does the Judge Have in First Appearance Court?

The judge hearing a case in first appearance court should have certain information including:

  • the driving history;
  • the rap sheets;
  • the information or charging document;
  • the criminal report affidavits;
  • portions of files of the probation department, state attorney, and clerk of the court.

Copies of the Administrative Order S-2012-063 were filed with Pat Frank, Clerk of the Court. Copies were sent to the following individuals:

  • all Circuit and County Criminal Court Judges;
  • David Gee, Sheriff of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Jane Castor, Tampa Chief of Police;
  • Bill McDaniel, Plant City Chief of Police;
  • Kenneth Albano, Temple Terrace Chief of Police;
  • Mark A. Ober, State Attorney;
  • Julianne Holt, Public Defender;
  • Regina Ashwood-Baker, Department of Corrections Probation and Parole;
  • Michael L. Bridenback, Court Administrator; and
  • Walt Bucklin, Salvation Army Misdemeanor Probation.

“No Bond” Requirements under Florida Law in Tampa, Hillsborough County

Administrative Order 5-2008-160 takes the place of Administrative Order 5-2007-085 which provided for a uniform bail bond schedule and procedures.

Other administrative orders deal with other aspects of the criminal justice division procedures which help the clerk determine which division should be assigned in a particular case. These administrative rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Other administrative orders deal with other aspects of the criminal justice division procedures which help the clerk determine which division should be assigned in a particular case. These administrative rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The “no bond” procedures after an arrest in Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, and Hernando County may vary slightly. Additionally, different judges have different procedures for hearing emergency bond motions.

Those crimes for which a Defendant may not bond prior to First Appearance as identified in the administrative order include:

  • any capital felony;
  • any life felony;
  • any first degree felony punishable by life;
  • attempt/solicitation/conspiracy to commit first degree murder;
  • attempt/solicitation/conspiracy to commit second degree murder;
  • third degree murder;
  • vehicular homicide;
  • DUI causing death/serious bodily injury;
  • carjacking (all offenses included under section 812.133, Fla. Stat.);
  • sexual battery (all offenses included under sections 794.011 and 794.023, Fla. Stat.);
  • sexual performance of a child (all offenses included under section 827.071, Fla. Stat.);
  • computer pornography/traveling to meet minor (all offenses included under section 847.0135, Fla. Stat.);
  • escape (all offenses included under section 944.40, Fla. Stat.);
  • robbery (all offenses included under sections 812.13, 812.131, and 812.135, Fla. Stat.);
  • arson;
  • kidnapping (all offenses included under section 787.01, Fla. Stat.);
  • stalking (all offenses included under section 784.048);
  • child abuse/neglect (all offenses included under section 827.03, Fla. Stat.);
  • aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated assault/battery on a law enforcement office (all offenses under section 784.07);
  • introduction of weapon/firearm into a state correctional institution;
  • domestic violence (misdemeanor and felony);
  • violation of domestic violation injunction;
  • violation of injunction for protection against stalking or cyberstalking (all offenses included under section 784.0487);
  • violation of parole, felony probation, or community control;
  • defendant arrested on fugitive warrant;
  • tampering with a witness/victim/informant in a life felony or capital felony case; and
  • any gang-relate offenses (all offenses included under chapter 874).

New Legislation for Gang Enforcement Statutes and “No Bond” Requirements

The Florida Legislature has recently enacted certain laws which limit the discretion of a judge to set bond in certain cases unless certain procedures are followed. This legislation required the Chief Judge in Hillsborough County to modify the administrative rules in order to comply with the recent legislation.

Certain procedures must be followed when a bond is set prior to first appearance because in the following types of cases no bond will be allowed prior to first appearance:

  • Any person charged with a violation of Florida’s Gang Enforcement and Prevention statutes found in Chapter 874; or
  • Any person subject to enhanced punishments under Florida’s Gang Enforcement and Prevention statutes.

General Bond Provisions in Hillsborough County, FL

The bail bond schedule allows most individuals arrested to post bond prior to first appearance. The schedule bond amounts are not supposed to bind any judge to that amount at first appearance.

In other words, the judges can either lower the bond or raise the bond at first appearance. Instead, the judges are to follow the criteria set out in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.131 and Florida Statute Section 903.046.

First Appearance Hearing Required in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL

If the individual is arrested for any offense on the list provided below, then that individual will not be eligible for bond prior to first appearance. At first appearance, the judge can determine if any bond will be set depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case. The list of offenses that are not eligible for bond prior to first appearance include:

  • Failure of Defendant on Bail to Appear under Florida Statute Section 843.15;
  • Any act of Domestic Violence under Florida statute section 741.2901(3), includes even misdemeanor offenses for domestic battery;
  • Violation of Domestic Violence Injunction under Florida statute section 741.30(9)(b);
  • Violation of Pretrial Release when original arrest was for domestic violence under Florida Statute section 741.29(6);
  • Any Violation of Repeat Violence Injunction when the alleged violation involves repeat violence under Florida Statute Section 784.046(9)(b);
  • Any Capital Felony;
  • Any Life Felony;
  • Any First Degree Felony Punishable by Life (PBL);
  • Sexual Battery;
  • Arson;
  • Car jacking;
  • Escape;
  • DUI manslaughter;
  • Retaliating against a witness under Florida Statute Section 914.23;
  • Any drug trafficking offenses such as trafficking in cocaine or trafficking in marijuana (which may also be subject to a Nebbia or Nebia hold);
  • Aggravated child abuse;
  • All gang-related offenses under Florida Statute Chapter 874;
  • Attempt to commit first-degree murder (also includes solicitation or conspiracy); and
  • Attempt to commit second-degree murder (also includes solicitation or conspiracy).

Failure to Appear and Probation Violation Warrants from Hillsborough County, in Tampa, Florida

If the individual is arrested for a failure to appear warrant or arrested on a violation of probation warrant then the bond will normally be the amount provided for in the warrant itself. If the warrant does not provide for a certain bond amount to be set, then the judge at first appearance may continue the “no bond” requirement until the case is heard before the judge that issued the warrant.

Under most circumstances, the judge at first appearance does have the discretion to set bond in accordance with the provisions of this administrative order.

Uniform Bond Schedule in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL

Any individual arrested fro a crime may be released on bond under the uniform schedule prior to the first appearance unless the “no bond” procedures set under sections 2 and 3 of this administrative order apply. The bond schedule is based on the degree of the offense or the type of charge in some cases. Therefore, the uniform bond schedule provides:

  • First Degree Felony – bond set at $15,000;
  • Second Degree Felony – bond set at $7,500;
  • Third Degree Felony – bond set at $2,000;
  • First Degree Misdemeanor including all DUI cases such as a first DUI, second DUI, third DUI (when charged as a misdemeanor) and DUI with property damage or non-serious bodily injury – bond set at $500;
  • Second Degree Misdemeanor – bond set at $250;
  • Hillsborough County Ordinance Violation or certain City Ordinance Violations (including the City of Tampa’s open container citation) – bond set at $250.

Lack of Probable Cause at the First Non-Adversary Probable Cause Hearing

One thing determined at the first appearance is whether probable cause exists in the case. If at the non-adversary probable cause hearing during the first appearance, the judge finds that there was no probable cause then the court must “release the defendant” from custody as required by Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.133(a)(4) ( “If probable cause is not found … the defendant shall be released from custody….”).

This type of release (before the filing of formal charges) is a recognition that the defendant should not be in custody or on any form of pretrial release or supervision, because his arrest was made in the absence of probable cause (or at the very least, in the absence of proof by the State that it was made with probable cause). Under these circumstances, a release from custody, without conditions, places the defendant in the same position (from a custodial, liberty and supervisory standpoint) he was in prior to his arrest.

Under these circumstances, a release from custody, without conditions, places the defendant in the same position (from a custodial, liberty and supervisory standpoint) he was in prior to his arrest.

The singular exception, provided by rule, is that the defendant who has been released from custody must appear for trial. See Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.133(a)(5) (“A release required by this rule does not void further prosecution by information or indictment but does prohibit any restraint on liberty other than appearing for trial”).

This “condition” merely recognizes that a finding of no probable cause does not terminate the prosecution, and the court maintains jurisdiction over the case and the defendant. As a result, the defendant remains subject to the court’s order that he appear for trial. Even the defendant has conceded the viability of this requirement for one who has been “released from custody” without conditions.

If the court does not find probable cause at an adversary preliminary hearing, then the court can still grant release. If formal charge are filed thereafter, the defendant is “released on recognizance, subject to the condition that he or she appears at all court proceedings.” This type of “pretrial release” as that term of art is used in sections 903.047 and 903.0471.

New Charges as a Violation of Pre-Trial Release Conditions

If the defendant is no bond after a preliminary finding of probable cause and is then arrested for new charges allegedly committed while the prior case is still pending, then the court can find that the new charges are a violation of pre-trial release conditions in the first case.

Section 903.047(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2013) provides:

(1) As a condition of pretrial release, whether such release is by surety bail bond or recognizance bond or in some other form, the defendant shall:

(a) Refrain from criminal activity of any kind.

Under Section 907.041, Florida Statutes (2013), “a court may, on its own motion, revoke pretrial release and order pretrial detention if the court finds probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a new crime while on pretrial release.”

Additionally, for the new charge, the court can consider the defendant’s pending charge in determining the amount of bail or other conditions of release for the new arrest. See § 903.046(2)(g), Fla. Stat. (2013) (providing that in determining whether to release a defendant on bail or other conditions, the court shall consider “[w]hether the defendant is already on release pending resolution of another criminal proceeding.”)

Motion under 3.133(c) to Reconsider the Question of Probable Cause

The State had an available remedy if it wants the court to reconsider the question of probable cause and the defendant’s release status. The State can file a motion under rule 3.133(c), which provides:

c) Additional Nonadversary Probable Cause Determinations and Preliminary Hearings. If there has been a finding of no probable cause at a non-adversary determination or adversary preliminary hearing, or if the specified time periods for holding a non-adversary probable cause determination have not been complied with, a judge may thereafter make a determination of probable cause at a non-adversary probable cause determination, in which event the defendant shall be retained in custody or returned to custody upon appropriate process issued by the judge. A defendant who has been retained in custody or returned to custody by such a determination shall be allowed an adversary preliminary hearing in all instances in which a felony offense is charged.


After an arrest in Hillsborough County, including Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, and the surrounding areas, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the emergency issues that arise after an arrest including setting a reasonable bond amount.

Different procedures apply in Hillsborough County and understanding the local rules are critical. Contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss the particular facts of your case today by calling (813) 250-0500.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

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