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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. The rules for first appearance court in Hillsborough County, FL, is controlled by Administrative Order S-2012-063 which supersedes Administrative Order S-2010-042.

For an arrest made in Hillsborough County, any individual who does not immediately bond out of jail will be brought to first appearance court. Many individuals retain a criminal defense attorney to represent them prior to the first appearance.

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 at each jail facility and a second public defender is typically in the main courtroom with the judge and prosecutor. Private attorneys typically appear at the main courtroom even though their clients are at the jail facility. 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.

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 proceedings;
  • 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:

  • a driving histories;
  • 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.

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.

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 if that individual is determined to be on felony probation or felony community control. At first appearance, the judge can determine if any bond will be set depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case. The offense subject to this rule 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.
  • Capital Felony;
  • Life Felony;
  • 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. 


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 Friday, May 26, 2017.