JUDICIAL PRACTICE PREFERENCES CRIMINAL TRAFFIC SECTION

Honorable Steve D. Berlin


CASES HEARD IN THE CRIMINAL TRAFFIC DIVISION

Pursuant to Administrative Order, any criminal traffic case may be heard in the Traffic Division, unless the case is associated with a non-traffic related criminal offense. If the case is a companion to a non-traffic related offense, the case will be heard in the division the non-traffic related offense is assigned to. Defendants seeking to transfer cases back to the Traffic Division must submit a written motion to the Traffic Division Judge. By remaining in the Traffic Division, defendants waive their right to a jury trial.

DISCOVERY ISSUES

Opposing counsel must confer and make a good faith attempt to resolve discovery matters without a hearing. If a hearing is necessary, it should be scheduled either in open court, with opposing counsel present, or with the Judicial Assistant and prior agreement of opposing counsel.

PRETRIAL CONFERENCE

Sign-Up List: As a courtesy to attorneys who appear in multiple divisions, attorneys may sign up in court, prior to the start of the court session. E-mailed or telephonic submissions asking to be placed on a sign-up list will not be accepted. If an attorney is not present when their case is called, the Court will continue down the sign-up list and call that attorney’s case when the attorney returns to the courtroom.

Defendant’s Presence: The defendant’s presence at a pretrial conference may be waived pursuant to Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.180. The defendant must be present if required by the Court, regardless of any previous waiver. The defendant’s presence should not be waived if counsel has not had an opportunity to discuss the case with them. The defendant’s presence is required in any case that speedy trial will not be waived, as those cases will be set for a trial or transferred to another division.

Plea Negotiations: Plea negotiations may be made between the defendant and the State in advance of or at the pretrial conference. A defendant may make offers to the Court but the Court will not engage in plea negotiations unless specifically invited to do so by the defendant. Any plea offers should be placed on the record.

Continuances: Attorneys may file a written motion and order to continue a pretrial conference no later than noon on the Friday of the week prior to any pretrial conference. Motions must fully set forth the grounds necessitating the continuance, contain a waiver of speedy trial, and must be with the consent of opposing counsel. Absent unforeseen circumstances, motions submitted after noon on the Friday before the pretrial conference, or those submitted timely but without orders, will be considered on the record in open court on the day of the pretrial conference. Oral motions to continue made during the pretrial conference are acceptable and the Court will consider those motions on the record in open court. Attorneys may appear telephonically at the discretion of the Court and on a case-by-case basis.

Off-Calendar Matters: Due to the amount of cases assigned to the Traffic Division, off-calendar matters, including off-calendar motions to continue, will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the size of the court calendar and the availability of the parties.

Coverage Attorneys: If an attorney is unable to attend a pretrial conference, the attorney may enlist the assistance of a coverage attorney. It is the primary attorney’s responsibility to find coverage for their cases. DO NOT contact the Judge’s office to find attorneys who are scheduled to appear before the Court. All coverage attorneys should be prepared to discuss the reason for the primary attorney’s unavailability, the primary attorney’s need for a continuance, the primary attorney’s availability for rescheduling, and/or resolve the case.

Miscellaneous Issues: The Court will not discuss any aspect of a case, except scheduling matters, unless counsel for both the State and defendant are present.

PRETRIAL MOTIONS

Filing of Motions: Attorneys must provide the Court with a courtesy copy of any motion filed through the E-Portal. Courtesy copies may be provided by fax, e-mail, or in open court. Absent good cause, all pretrial motions (motions to dismiss, motions to suppress, motions in limine, pretrial evidentiary matters, etc.) must be filed at least fifteen days before the trial. Absent good cause, motions filed on the day trial will not be considered timely.  Parties should also provide the court with case law to consider.  The parties may mark the case law if the same is provided to opposing counsel.

Scheduling of Hearings: Ore tenus motions will be considered, when appropriate, with consent of opposing counsel. Hearings for substantive motions will not be scheduled without a written motion being filed and copies provided to the Court and the State. Absent good cause, no substantive motions will be heard on the day of trial.

Continuances: Motions to continue a motion hearing must be made as soon as practicable after an attorney becomes aware of the need for a continuance.

Defendant’s Presence: Absent prior Court approval and good cause, the defendant must be present for all substantive motion hearings. If the Court makes a ruling at the time of the motion hearing, attorneys should be prepared to discuss the case and the defendant should be prepared to resolve the case or set it for trial, if appropriate.

IN-CUSTODY DEFENDANTS

Due to the amount of cases assigned to the Traffic Division, in-custody defendants will have their cases transferred to another division.

TRIAL

Amendments Prior to Trial: Any amended charging document, witness list, or evidence list filed within fifteen (15) days of the date of trial shall require prior authorization of the Court.

Motion to Continue: Absent good cause, motions to continue a trial must be filed in writing, at least two weeks prior to the trial date. A motion to continue a trial will be heard as soon as practicable.

CIVIL INFRACTIONS

Transfer to County Court Judge: Motions to transfer civil traffic infractions from a traffic hearing officer to a County Court Judge must be filed at least fourteen (14) days prior to any infraction hearing that is scheduled.

Motions for Dispositional Offer: If a defendant wishes to seek a dispositional offer from the Court, they may submit a written motion at least fifteen (15) days prior to any scheduled infraction hearing. The motion should set forth the disposition the defendant seeks as well as any factors that may be relevant to the Court in making a sentence determination. The Court will review the motion, the citation, the worksheet, and the defendant’s Florida driver record to determine if an offer is appropriate and, if so, what offer to extend. Dispositional offers made by the Court will expire fourteen (14) days after issuance of the offer and the Court is not bound by any dispositional offer after the expiration date.



SOUTH COUNTY TRAFFIC COURT INSTRUCTIONS

Judge Steve D. Berlin


PRETRIAL CALENDARS (Tue. & Thurs. @ 9:30 and Fri. @ 9:00)

  ·                  Attorneys may start a sign-up sheet prior to the start of the calendar.
   

o      Attorneys may leave the sign-up sheet on the lectern.
o      Deputies should give the sign-up sheet to the Judge when he takes the bench.

 

·                  Attorneys may sit in the jury box while waiting for their cases to be called.
·                  Pro-se defendants appearing for pretrials should be given their plea form.
·                  Deputies will collect all plea forms after they are signed by the Defendants and give them to the clerk.  The Judge will collect the signed plea forms at the conclusion of the calendar.
·                  Defendants may sit anywhere in the gallery, but should make room for other defendants.
·                  If there is no room for defendants, they must wait outside and should be instructed not to leave.
·                  Court is open to the public.  If there is room, friends/family can wait in the courtroom.  If there is no room in the courtroom, friends/family should wait outside.
·                  Please let the Judge know if there are any victims in attendance so they can be present when their case is called.
·                  Children are allowed in the courtroom as long as they are not disruptive.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

 

·                  Due to the volume of cases and the reliance on law enforcement and the clerk’s office, many defendants appear for their arraignment at the wrong time or on the wrong day.  Do not turn people away.  The judge will attempt to hear their cases, regardless of the court calendar.

 

ARRAIGNMENT CALENDARS (Mon – Thurs. @ 1:30)

 

·                  Defendants appearing for court should sit on the left side (closest to the holding cells) of the courtroom.
·                  Defendants should sit as close to the front as possible, filling the rows from front to rear.
·                  If the left side fills up, begin in the second row on the right side.
·                  The front row on the right side of the courtroom is for defendants who require a translator.

   

o      Deputies should notify the clerk to call for a translator.
o      Interpreter cases will be handled at the end of the calendar.

  ·                  Deputies should ensure that all defendants have their plea form prior to the Judge taking the bench and instruct them to read the plea form while waiting.
    o      When speaking with defendants, confirm that they speak English.  If necessary, obtain a Spanish plea form.
  ·                  Court is open to the public.  If there is open space at the rear of the courtroom, friends/family may sit in the back rows on the right side of the courtroom.
    o      If there is no room, friends/family must wait outside (not in the waiting rooms).  Friends/family may come in when their defendant’s case is called.
 

·                  Parents of minor defendants may wait in the courtroom unless there is no room, in which case they should wait in the waiting room and be called in when the juvenile’s case is called.
·                  Children are allowed in the courtroom as long as they are not disruptive.
·                  The Judge will take the bench on time and have the clerk swear in the defendants.
·                  The Judge will introduce himself and give all defendants an advisory colloquy.
·                  The Judge will call the calendar in alphabetical order.
·                  Defendants who arrive after the Judge takes the bench/defendants are sworn/colloquy given, will be allowed in the courtroom if there is room.

   

o      If there is room, late defendants should be seated on the right side behind any defendants that are already seated on that side.
o      If there is no room in the courtroom, late defendants must wait outside of the courtroom until the Judge is ready for them.  They should not leave.

 

·                  Late defendants should not sit in a row with any other defendant so the Judge knows who has been sworn in and advised.
·                  If necessary, friends/family should be asked to leave to make room for defendants.
·                  Late defendants should be given their plea form and asked to read it while waiting.
·                  In most cases, late defendants will be called after the on-time defendants.

·                  Attorneys may sit in the jury box.
·                  There is no cellphone usage in court, by either defendants or friends/family members.
·                  Unless the Judge agrees prior to the session, there will be no off-calendar matters heard during the Arraignment calendar.
·                  There will be a motion calendar along with the arraignment calendar for defendants who fail to appear at the Arraignment stage and are seeking to have their warrant withdrawn.