Okaloosa County Clerk of Circuit Court

Court Information

 

THE FLORIDA COURT SYSTEM CONSISTS OF:

  • Two levels of trial courts - County and Circuit Courts, District Courts of Appeal and the State Supreme Court.
  • Circuit and county judges are elected without party affiliation in the primaries.
  • Appeal Court judges and Supreme Court justices are selected on merit and retained by a vote of the people in the primaries, also without party identification.
  • The state of Florida pays the salaries of all judges. The state and county share remaining costs.

WHO CAN BE JUDGE?

  • New county judges must be lawyers except in counties with a population of 40,000 or less.
  • Circuit judges must be lawyers for at least five years.
  • Appeal Court judges and Supreme Court justices must be lawyers for at least ten years.
  • All judges must work full-time and may not have a private practice or hold office in a political party.

WHICH COURT WOULD HEAR MY CASE?

        OKALOOSA COUNTY COURT

  • Handles violations of county and city ordinances.
  • Misdemeanors, or minor offenses that could lead to a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail.
  • Civil cases involving amounts of $15,000 or less, such as landlord-tenant or small-claims disputes. Equitable defenses may be tried in the same proceeding.
  • All traffic violations.
  • County court sessions take place in Shalimar and Crestview.
          OKALOOSA CIRCUIT COURT
(1ST JUDICIAL DISTRICT)

 

  • Hears family cases, such as dissolution of marriage, guardianship and juvenile delinquency.
  • Felonies (major offenses) which could lead to imprisonment in a state institution.
  • Probate matters such as processing the wills and settling the estates of those who have died.
  • Civil cases involving an amount more than $15,000.00.
  • Appeals from County Court except those which go directly to the Florida Supreme Court.
  • The Chief Judge of the Circuit Court has the power to decide when and where Circuit and County Courts meet.
  • Circuit Court sessions are held in Shalimar and Crestview.

THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL

  • A panel of at least three judges, it decides appeals from the Circuit Court in most civil and criminal cases.
  • There are five District Courts of Appeal: Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach.
  • District Court of Appeal for Okaloosa County is in the First District Court Appeal in Tallahassee.

THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

 

Sits in Tallahassee with at least five judges participating.
The Court:
  • Hears appeals from trial courts imposing the death penalty.
  • Hears appeals from decisions of the district courts involving federal and state constitutional questions and the validity of state laws.
  • May review decisions certified by district courts or trial courts of great public importance.
  • When provided by general law, hears appeals on bond validation and reviews actions of statewide agencies relating to rates of utility companies.

WHAT IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD A LAWYER?

  • Judge appoints a public defender or private lawyer in all criminal cases.
  • In civil cases (suits for injuries to body, property or reputation), you can find legal help through the county bar association or lawyer referral.

WHAT IS AN INDICTMENT?

  • Document (affidavit) filed by grand jury or prosecutor charging a person with a crime.

WHAT IS A MISDEMEANOR?

  • Minor offense (90 days to trial).
  • Trial in County Court.
  • Could lead to fine; one year in county jail.

WHAT IS A FELONY?

  • Major offense (180 days to trial).
  • Trial in Circuit Court.
  • Could lead to fine; imprisonment in state institution.

WHAT IS A CAPITAL CRIME?

  • Indictment by a grand jury.
  • Twelve-member jury at trial.
  • Could lead to life imprisonment or death sentence.

WHAT IS BAIL?

  • Security given to assure that a prisoner will appear and answer in court.
  • Required for release until trial.
  • Can be obtained from bail bondsman, currently at a ten percent fee.
  • Collateral used as security will be returned at close of case.

WHAT IS BOND?

  • Document proving bail is paid.
  • Your signed promise to appear in court.

WHAT IS A SPEEDY TRIAL?

  • Limits the time between arrest and trial; for misdemeanors, 90 days or less; for felonies, six months or less.

WHAT IS JURY DUTY?

  • Legal obligation to serve in the capacity of a juror.
  • Juries are randomly selected from a list that is provided by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

WHAT IS A PETIT OR TRIAL JURY?

  • Usually six jurors, although twelve are required in cases of capital crime and eminent domain. (Right of government to take private property for public use.)

WHAT IS A GRAND JURY?

  • Fifteen to eighteen members randomly selected from a list that is provided by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
  • Term of service about six months.
  • Investigate, inquire, and/or bring indictment.

SENTENCING

Judge determines sentence in accordance with guidelines adopted by the State of Florida. The Criminal Code recommends:
  • Capital felony: Death or life imprisonment for crimes such as murder or rape of a person 11 years of age or younger.
  • Life felony: Life imprisonment of not less than 30 years and/or $15,000 fine for crimes such as rape of person over 11 using deadly force.
  • First-degree felony: Imprisonment up to 30 years and/or $10,000 fine for crimes such as armed robbery.
  • Second-degree felony: Imprisonment up to 15 years and/or $10,000 fine for crimes such as unarmed burglary.
  • Third-degree felony: Imprisonment up to five years and/or $5,000 fine for crimes such as possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana. Any felony committed with a firearm could result in a minimum three-year prison sentence.
  • First-degree misdemeanor: Imprisonment up to one year and/or $1000 fine for crimes such as battery.
  • Second-degree misdemeanor: Imprisonment up to 60 days and $500 fine for crimes such as assault and disorderly conduct.