How can someone charged with a felony in Tampa Bay, Florida find the best way to have that felony dismissed? A surprising number of cases can be dismissed if action is taken early to make sure that all the conditions necessary for having the case subject to dismissal are met. Your criminal defense lawyer must understand how the dismissal proceeds and be ready to implement the necessary negotiations with prosecutors to make certain that your case falls within the necessary parameters.
In Florida every county by law has some form of Pretrial Intervention which allows for certain misdemeanor and even some felony charges to be subject to a motion for dismissal. In Clearwater, Florida the Pretrial Intervention Program (also known as PTI) is administered by the State Attorney’s Office. This is one of the best way to avoid Florida’s very strict sentencing guidelines.The prosecutors at the State Attorney’s Office have set up the following conditions for acceptance into the PTI program:
- The law enforcement agency which made the initial arrest must agree that the defendant is suitable for the program.
- The victim must agree to the allow the defendant into the program.
- The State Attorney’s Office must make a determination that the public interest is best served by the charges being dismissed.
- The requirements of PTI must be completed.
- Typically the defendant must serve a probationary period of at least six months for a misdemeanor and a year for a felony. During that time other requirements such as counseling, therapy or educational programs must be met. Further, there can be no other arrests nor trouble with the law during that period.
- The charged misconduct usually must be nonviolent though there are exceptions for particular cases such as battery or domestic violence where the need for counseling that could avert future violence may outweigh the need for punishment.
- For a felony the charge must be filed as a third degree felony rather than a first or second degree felony.
Domestic Violence cases and drug cases may be tracked within the domestic violence court and the drug court, otherwise the set conditions and restrictions for PTI remain similar no matter the underlying charged misconduct. After the period of probation is successfully completed the presiding judge will grant a motion from the State Attorney’s Office to dismiss the misdemeanor or felony case.
Dismissal of the case is often the best possible outcome that one can hope for in any type of criminal case. Yet the price for that dismissal is that you admit that you committed the underlying offense, you are punished with probation and during the year or six months of probation your life is in limbo. These are not always easy things to square with the notion of justice and fairness if in fact you did not commit the charged misconduct. Clearly it’s important for your Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to undertake a complete review of the facts and circumstances of your case to determine not only if you broke the law but if there are other less painful remedies available even if your case could be suitable for the Pretrial Intervention Program.
What happens if someone is arrested for a felony battery on a law enforcement officer after being accused of a simple misdemeanor battery? Despite the fact that one charge is a felony punishable under Florida law for up to five years, sometimes it’s just the simple battery that could ruin one’s life. Incident to an instant investigation of a very recent simple battery an officer claims that he was struck by the Defendant.
Ali Batters the Beatles
So how could anything be worse than the underlying felony of battery on a law enforcement officer in cases in Clearwater, Florida? Well, if the defendant was accused by the original victim of inappropriately touching her crotch area as she walked along a sidewalk – which is bad enough. But the victim claims the defendant after leaving her alone for a minute or two then continued following her until touching her a second time in the crotch area thru her clothes. In this case if the facts are believed by prosecutors to be provable at trial they could file two criminal counts for each of the inappropriate touchings. In fact the crimes prosecutors would look at based on the totality of the victim’s allegations include aggravated stalking, false imprisonment, sexual assault as well as lewd and lascivious conduct. Any of which would be much more difficult to successfully defend than the allegation of any simple battery on which the defendant was arrested. In fact the allegations alone could ruin the defendant’s life no matter how the case would be resolved.
When there is any allegation of a crime of a sexual nature, prosecutors may elect to increase their leverage in the case by filing additional felony counts. There’s little to stop them from merely limiting themselves to the charges officer’s initially filed when making the arrest. In fact there’s ample opportunity, motive and incentives for prosecutors to leverage the initial simple battery charge by filing additional charges. Here the charges they would likely consider include but are not limited to stalking, false imprisonment, sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct.
Although facts may be found and summoned to dispute the victim’s testimony, the later battery on a law enforcement charge from the officer’s case makes disproving the earlier simple battery much more difficult. This is true because successful prosecutors will file the case on one charging document, known in Florida as an information, so that at trial the entire story from both events could be tied together as one narrative for the jury.
If alcohol consumption was a contributing factor, it’s important to note that alcohol is not an effective defense to a criminal Battery charge. And even if the defendant would have been a candidate to have the charges dismissed based on pretrial intervention, the sexual nature of the original simple battery arrest would force the State Attorney’s Office to decline the PTI application. In fact even achieving a withholding of adjudication would be unlikely.
Clearly, the best course of action would be to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation of the sexual assault as well as the battery on a law enforcement officer to determine if the witnesses are reliable, persuasive and honest. The investigation would include finding other witnesses or video evidence that undermines the simple battery charge as well as any of the felony charges the state of Florida could use as leverage to force a change of plea to guilty.
The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office in Florida is establishing a diversion program for military veterans. The goal is for veterans suffering from post dramatic stress syndrome or those having difficulty reclaiming their civilian roles after military service will be helped rather than punished which should cheer the heart of every Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.
|World War One Veteran
The program will give veterans who have been accused of minor nonviolent drug crimes, misdemeanors or third degree felonies the opportunity to have the charges dismissed thru Pretrial Intervention or to have a reduction in sentence to a period of probation rather than jail.
Further, the program will help match mentors for each veteran for support and help. The Veterans Pretrial Intervention Program is set will begin September 1, 2013.
Overall this is an excellent idea which could help many veterans who live or vacation in Florida only to find themselves accused of crime. However, one significant problem is that the program is run by the Pinellas State Attorney’s Office, so all of the discretion as to which Defendants qualify for the program will be made solely by prosecutors rather than by impartial judges. Why not have a Florida Pretrial Intervention system which has input from Judges, social workers and even may I say, defense lawyers?
Why not expand the program to include others? Shouldn’t the criminal justice system be finding more ways to help those charged with crime so that the underlying reasons for the criminal conduct never recurs? Though this Veterans Intervention Program is excellent news for every veteran one wonders how long it will take for inclusive beneficial programs for those accused of crimes who may have suffered Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome from being the victim of a crime such as rape or other violent crime.
Meanwhile as all Florida counties have some form of Pretrial Intervention, some counties in Florida are experimenting with civil citation programs for nonviolent offenders, but Federal courts are woefully behind and should embrace a Federal Pretrial Intervention Program for nonviolent, first time offenders.
Clearwater criminal attorneys who practice in the Federal criminal justice system court system are often dumfounded by the senseless Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Congress continues to create new Federal offenses for a wide range of criminal conduct that was once the purview of state courts. And counterintuitively as more petty misconduct becomes federal, that same misconduct draws ever harsher punishment merely because it is federal.
Some members of Congress are considering expanding the safety valve provision to apply to cases other than those involving drugs. The idea is that most Federal sentencing is far too harsh especially when minimum mandatory sentences are triggered.
Even when a Federal drug defendant avoids a minimum mandatory sentence and gains a two level downward departure for safety valve, the harsh prescribed sentence rarely seems to be based on a fair consideration of the actual facts and circumstances of the case. Instead the sentence will be based on the arcane dictates of the Sentencing Guidelines, which is based on severe punishment rather than deterrence.
In the Middle District of Florida the better Federal Judges are embracing the recent Supreme Court rulings permanently establishing, one presumes, that the Federal Guidelines are meant to be merely advisory. Yet even when these Judges would want to grant lighter sentences based on the personal characteristics of a Defendant, the Federal Guidelines make the process much more difficult because so much Federal charged misconduct calls for significant prison time.
Although what may be needed in Federal sentencing is a system that allows for greater discretion for Federal Judges while reducing the power of Federal prosecutors, the goal of fair sentencing could also be accomplished by diverting nonviolent and less significant cases from the Federal sentencing structure.
The best way to accomplish this goal would be to establish an effective Federal Pretrial Intervention Program. Those with minimal prior records, who are accused of nonviolent acts such as drug possession or sale would be given an opportunity to have their indictments dismissed upon completion of programs based on deterrence rather than punishment.
In the Tampa Bay, the Florida state court system, allows first time offenders charged in misdemeanors or third degree felonies to avoid a conviction. The reduction of cases allows prosecutors and judges to concentrate their time and resources on the most important cases. Yet Florida is going a step further by experimenting with a civil citation program for nonviolent criminal offenses.
Wouldn’t the Federal criminal system also benefit by eliminating the clutter thru a Pretrial Intervention Program for nonviolent, first time offenders while giving these defendants the benefit of a second chance without ruining their lives? In the mean time Clearwater criminal defense lawyers will do everything possible to find the best possible solution for first time, non violent offenders in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.