Few things can put a damper on a spring break trip to Pensacola Beach, Navarre, Ft. Walton Beach or Destin like getting arrested.
As disheartening as that can be, the right attorney may be able to help you avoid a mandatory court appearance or, possibly, even having a blemish on your record. Here are some common reasons – and remedies – for spring break arrests:
Minor in possession of alcohol or marijuana: Although those arrested for being a minor in possession are not usually taken to jail, they are issued what’s called a “Notice to Appear.” That is a legal requirement to appear in court on a particular date, usually a few weeks later. In Florida, it has the same effect as an arrest, unfortunately. The defendant must appear at that court date unless he or she hires an attorney who can waive the requirement to appear. Sometimes an agreement can be reached with the prosecutor eliminating the need to appear or even come back to Pensacola.
Many times, the right attorney can persuade the prosecutor to refer the accused person to what’s called the “Pre-trial Diversion” program or enter into a “deferred prosecution agreement.” These agreements may allow the individual to complete the requirements of the programs where they live or go to school. The program, which is generally three months long on average, will result in the charges being dismissed. Conditions of the program may include the individual performing community service, having a substance abuse evaluation and other court-ordered duties in their hometown rather than in Pensacola or wherever the incident occurred. Once the program is completed and the prosecutor formally dismisses the charge, the offender may be allowed, through an entirely separate process, to apply for a sealing or expungement of the arrest. The terms sealing and/or expungement, and what that means in Florida, will be the subject of another blog post. Or give me a call and I’ll be glad to explain.
Driving under the influence: unfortunately, currently in Escambia County a DUI cannot be dealt with through pre-trial diversion. However, once it’s determined that the prosecutor can prove the DUI, a defense attorney may be able to enter a “plea in absentia” allowing a defendant to serve out a probationary sentence in their hometown or where they are going to school, if that is too far from Pensacola to be feasible to come to court and to report into probation on a regular basis. The defendant will sometimes be allowed to mail in monthly reports.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: Oftentimes, these charges result when someone who is of legal age to drink provides alcohol to someone who is under age. The age difference can be just a few years, for example a 21-year-old boyfriend who buys alcohol for his 19-year-old girlfriend and/or her friends.
In this case, the younger subject may be given Pre-Trial Diversion, but not necessarily so for the of-age defendant. A good attorney might use the defendant’s good school records or civic involvement to successfully argue that he should be allowed into Pre-Trial Diversion for a first offense. Again, in these cases, the individual may be able to petition the court for an expungement or sealing of the record through a second process once the probation is over.
So, as unfortunate as a spring break arrest might be, it need not be a long-term, life-altering event. Through the last three decades Jim Jenkins has helped many people on spring break who unfortunately wind up on the wrong side of the law avoid having a permanent record or from having to travel back to Pensacola. Give us a call, we’d be glad to see if we can help you.