A Nonviolent First-Time Felony Offense, Florida’s Pretrial Intervention Program, and… a Bucket List

While the news is full of stories of violent and/or repeat offenders, the reality is that a lot of people who get arrested are nonviolent first-time offenders. For people falling into this latter category, the law in Florida has options, including one that may allow you to walk away with the charge(s) against you dismissed. This is called the “diversion program,” and the earlier steps are taken on your behalf, the better your chances of successfully getting placed in the diversion program will be. An experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer can offer essential assistance in getting that diversion assignment.

People often have lots of items on their “bucket lists.” Sometimes, some of those items are unusual. Rarely, though, does one’s bucket list say anywhere on it “get arrested.”

But that’s exactly what one Florida Keys woman facing felony charges told a Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy. She allegedly divulged that information right after he pulled her over in Key Largo after she avoided stopping for nearly five miles.

Initially, the sergeant spotted her allegedly doing in excess of 50 mph in a 35 mph zone, so he turned on his lights and siren. According to the arrest report, the woman didn’t stop, leading the officer on a not-exactly-high-speed chase at speeds ranging from 43 to 54 mph. After 4-5 miles of this, the woman pulled over. Allegedly, she divulged not once but twice that being “arrested for something simple” had been on her bucket list since high school. The officer told the woman — in not so many words — “mission accomplished.”

This all sounds funny when you’re reading about it in The Smoking Gun but, in real life, these are serious crimes with potentially serious consequences. The woman in this case faced a charge of “fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer” in violation of Florida Statutes Section 316.1935. That’s a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years behind bars and a $5,000 fine.

Fortunately for this bucket list item fulfiller, the State Attorney’s Office arrived at a less draconian outcome. In part based upon the woman’s lack of any previous criminal history, the State Attorney offered pretrial intervention (PTI), to which the woman agreed. Her PTI program called for her to complete 96 hours of community service and write an apology letter to the deputy who arrested her.

In Florida, the state Department of Corrections runs the felony PTI diversion program. To be eligible to seek PTI, you must have been charged with a qualifying third-degree felony. If the State Attorney grants your request and you successfully complete your program, then the state will dismiss the charge(s) against you.

Swift Action is Vital

Bear in mind that you only have a limited period of time in which to seek PTI — 45 days from the date of the arraignment. An application submitted after those 45 days must also include a waiver letter from the State Attorney’s Office. Generally, obtaining this waiver involves providing “good cause” for the delay.

Typically, you’ll only receive one opportunity (ever) to complete a PTI program and to get your felony charges dismissed in this manner. That means that it’s critical to take the process seriously and faithfully complete all of the mandatory requirements, right down to the community service hours you’re told to complete and writing the apology letters you’re told to write.

The knowledgeable Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. know the most effective ways to go about seeking PTI for our clients. Often, if we’re retained early enough, we can meet with (or speak to) the State Attorney’s Office before formal charges are even filed. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.

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