TAMPA CRIMINAL ATTORNEY FIGHTING FOR ALTERNATIVE SENTENCING FOR HIS CLIENTS
Florida’s justice system is overwhelmed. Prisons are overcrowded, but even more offenders live in their communities – under the supervision of a probation officer – than in state prisons. If you’re convicted of a crime in Florida, you’ll be sentenced – but probably not sent to prison.
When prisons are overcrowded, access to counseling and educational programs is limited. Prisoners don’t receive the skills and tools they need. Keeping prisons safe becomes difficult for prison authorities.
Moreover, the expense of keeping someone incarcerated can be staggering. As of 2018, Florida was housing more than 96,000 inmates in 144 facilities. Almost all of that expense is paid for by the taxpayers. Establishing and using alternatives to incarceration is a priority for state officials.
PROBATION IS A PRIVILEGE
Probation lets a convicted offender return to his or her community under a strict set of rules and strict supervision. Probationers must hold a job, pay their fines, avoid known criminal acquaintances, and meet regularly with a probation officer.
Most probationers are also required to submit to random drug and alcohol testing and attend drug and alcohol treatment or counseling. Failure to adhere to the terms and conditions of probation can send the probationer to jail, prison, or community control (which is discussed below).
Probation is a privilege, not a right. When probation is ordered, the court is saying that it trusts the probationer to stay out of legal trouble and to move forward in life constructively and positively. If you’re sentenced to probation for any reason, take advantage of the opportunity.
Community control – or “house arrest” – is another alternative to prison offered by the Florida justice system, but it’s significantly stricter than probation.
Probation is usually for first-time offenders and those convicted of misdemeanors. Community control is generally a sentence imposed on repeat offenders and those convicted of felonies.
An offender in community control must have permission to leave his or her residence. A community control officer may set a schedule that allows the offender to leave home for work and other necessities.
It is rare, but some offenders, including sex offenders, are required to wear a monitoring bracelet (or “ankle bracelet”) in community control 2. This electronic monitoring device keeps authorities apprised of the offender’s whereabouts at all times. If the offender leaves his or her home without permission, the offender can be arrested and will probably be incarcerated for the remainder of his or her sentence.
Like probation, community control is a privilege. Community control for some offenders is followed by a period of conventional probation. Conversely, probationers who are found guilty of violating probation may be moved into community control.
PROGRAMS – EDUCATION, COUNSELING, AND TREATMENT
Most convicted offenders will eventually complete their sentences, so it’s important that they’re prepared to return to their communities. Florida conducts or sponsors a number of programs for convicted offenders, including:
- drug and alcohol rehabilitation, treatment, and counseling
- mental health treatment and counseling
- anger management and behavioral classes
- parenting classes
- vocational rehabilitation and training
Most Florida counties also provide some type of “drug court” program that allows first offenders to avoid a conviction if they successfully complete a drug treatment and counseling program.
Finally, when it’s appropriate, fines and restitution are imposed as penalties by Florida courts, whether an offender has been sentenced to probation, community control, jail, or prison.
THE ROLE OF A DEFENSE LAWYER
If you are charged with a crime in the Tampa Bay area, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor, a Tampa criminal defense attorney can fight for justice on your behalf. In most cases, your attorney will seek to have the charge against you reduced or dismissed.
If that’s not possible, your attorney will probably recommend taking your case to trial and asking the jurors to return a not guilty verdict. However, if the evidence against you is overwhelming, and if a conviction is certain, your attorney may negotiate a plea agreement or “plea deal.”
You may be offered, for example, probation or community control – rather than prison – in return for a guilty plea. However, you shouldn’t accept any plea deal or sign any agreement unless your attorney recommends it as the best option available to you.
HOW TO LEARN MORE
Tampa criminal defense attorney Patrick B. Courtney has been a lawyer for more than 24 years. He protects his clients’ rights and brings each case to its best possible conclusion. He’s been a prosecutor, so he knows what it takes to get on – or off – community control or probation.
Pat Courtney defends clients in Polk, Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Sarasota counties. Learn more by calling his law offices at (813) 967-2000 or by completing the online contact form here on this website.