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
- Appeal Court judges and Supreme Court justices are selected on merit
and retained by a vote of the people in the primaries, also without
- 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
OKALOOSA CIRCUIT 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.
- (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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
WHAT IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD A LAWYER?
- Judge appoints a public defender or private lawyer in all criminal
- 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
- Required for release until trial.
- Can be obtained from bail bondsman, currently at a ten percent
- 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
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.
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
- 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.