WHAT ARE THE RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Florida has a strong policy of adjudicating on the merits. As a result the rules of procedure were designed to achieve fairness in reaching the merits of the case. The rules of criminal procedure are set out in chapter 3 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rules of procedure is the process set out in the legal system that were designed to reach the merits of the case.
Unlike statutes most rules of procedure (with a few exceptions) are not passed by the legislature. The Florida Bar puts forth a proposed rules of procedure, and those rules go to the Florida Supreme Court where they will decide whether or not they wanted to adopt the proposed rules. Therefore most the rules of procedure made with the purpose of achieving fairness, without politics interfering.
CONCEPTUALIZING THE RULES OF PROCEDURE
I have found that by applying some general concepts it is fairly easy to understand the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. The first concept is that if there is a violation of the rules of procedure the other side should be given a chance to cure the defect. The second concept is that if it is not possible to cure the violation of the rules, it should not be held against the party that violated the rules if the other side is not prejudiced by the violation.
APPLYING THESE PRINCIPLES
An example of the first concept that the other side should be given a chance to cure any violation can be seen in the defendant’s right to a speedy trial under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.191. A lot of people believe it would be unfair to dismiss a case just because it wasn’t brought to trial within the prescribed time. Therefore if a person is not brought to trial within the prescribed time, if the defendant wants a speedy trial he has to file a notice of expiration of speedy trial. If the defendant files a notice of expiration of speedy trial the state will have to try the case within 15 days, or the defendant can have the charges discharged. However its important to note that if the State is entitled to try and cure the fact that the defendant wasn’t timely tried before discharging the charges.
Sometimes it is not possible to give the other side the opportunity to cure the violation of the rules of criminal procedure. This is often seen in discovery violations. Instead of automatically excluding the undisclosed evidence the rules allow sanctions short of that like granting the defendant a continuance and charging it to the State. However sometimes that is not an option like if the discovery violation happens at trial. In this situation the court will have to hold a hearing to determine if there is any prejudice from failing to disclose evidence in discovery.
In conclusion the rules of procedure were made to achieve a fair process in reaching the merits of the case. Since most the rules of procedure were not passed by the legislature they do not have the political influence of statutes, and therefore seem to be more fair. The rules tend to give the party who violates the rules a chance to cure the violation. If there is no opportunity to cure the violation, the court will generally see if a party is prejudiced from the violation of the rule.