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First Appearance Court in Tampa

COVID-19 Update: I attended a PP court in Tampa for a first appearance advisory hearing on Sunday, April 12, 2020, and again on Monday, April 13, 2020. During those hearings, I saw first-hand several changes in the normal procedures because of the COVID-19 health crisis.

The employees and deputies in the courtroom were not wearing a mask, although some attempts were being made to maintain social distancing for the public. Witnesses testify from outside the room using a microphone. Families brought in for each case instead of sitting in the gallery together.

During the week from Monday through Friday, the first appearance hearings are being held at 1:00 p.m, instead of 9:00 a.m. (although you should call ahead to confirm).

On the weekend, the first appearance hearings (sometimes called the advisory or PP court) is still being held at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 17, but court might start several hours late.

On the weekend, the juvenile detention hearings are scheduled for 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., right before PP court (but might start several hours late).


What is PP Court in Tampa, FL?

In Tampa, FL, the first appearing advisory hearings are called “PP Court.” The hearings must occurred within 24 hours after an arrest or shortly thereafter.

If the person is booked into the jail before midnight, then they will appear on the court’s calendar the next morning for a first appearance advisory hearing.

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, especially during the COVID-19 health crisis.

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 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.

When appropriate, the appellate court could grant the writ and vacate the erroneously imposed bond requirement.

Contact us to speak with an attorney immediately about your case.

Call 813-250-0500.


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 the following:

  • first appearances;
  • arraignments;
  • bond matters;
  • adversary hearings;
  • some motions for return of property; 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 “O” 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).

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.

Is Bond Set at First Appearance?

The Hillsborough County Administrative Order ADM ORD 5-2008-160 for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit provides that “no bond” will be allowed prior to first appearance in certain cases.

Those cases with no bond include:

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.

“No Bond” Requirements under Florida Law

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

The administrative orders deal with all aspects of the criminal justice division procedures including how the clerk determines 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.

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 Warrants from Hillsborough County, FL

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 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.

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.

For example, Section § 903.046(2)(g), Fla. Stat. (2013), provides that when 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.”


Rule 3.133(c) Motions 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.


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.


This article was last updated on Monday, April 13, 2020.

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