My Community Control Officer Knocked at My Door in Florida and I Slept Through It. What Happens Now?

798531-violation-of-probationIt can be easy to confuse probation and community control in Florida, but they are actually quite different. A person under community control can only leave his/her residence to go to work, to attend class (if he/she is a student), to perform public service, to attend medical treatment appointments or other activities (such as church attendance or completion of errands that the officer approves in advance.) In other words, one can think of community control somewhat like “house arrest.”

Probation and community control do have some things in common, however. One that the two are similar is that a violation can have extremely severe negative impacts, including having to go back to jail/prison for a period of many years. If you find yourself having been accused of a probation violation or a community control violation, make sure you act promptly to retain an experienced Pinellas County criminal defense attorney.

C.B. was an example of someone facing that type of major setback. He was out of prison on community control. However, the state charged with violating his community control by “failing to remain confined to his approved residence except as approved by his community control officer.”

What did he do to trigger this accusation? Allegedly, at 10 minutes before 7 a.m. on a September morning in 2017, C.B.’s community control officer went to C.B.’s home and called his cell phone, which he did not answer. According to the officer, she also knocked on the apartment door very hard several times but got no answer. She allegedly left her card in the apartment door’s jamb with instructions for C.B. to call her immediately, but she never got a callback. Based on this evidence, the state asserted that C.B. wasn’t home.

C.B. testified that he was home when the officer came by. He allegedly was asleep and, therefore, heard neither the phone nor the knock at the door. He also stated that he never saw nor found the officer’s card in the door.

The trial judge was not persuaded and revoked C.B.’s community control. That meant that C.B. went back to jail for five years.

No answer doesn’t automatically mean the occupant wasn’t home

However, the appeals court reinstated the man’s community control after an appeal. The man’s legal team wisely pointed out that the appeals court had already ruled in a case that was almost identical to C.B.’s. In that earlier case, a violation was asserted based upon a community control officer’s testimony that she knocked on a door and that no one answered. That was all the state had in support of its case.

The appeals court ruled, in that previous case, that the state’s proof was insufficient. More evidence was required to demonstrate the required “willful and substantial violation.” As that court explained, simply providing evidence that no one answered the door at 2:00 a.m. was not adequate proof that the person under community control was not home at the time.

The appeals court hearing C.B.’s appeal came to a similar conclusion. Certainly, one possible deduction that could be reached from an absence of a response to a door knock was that no one was home. However, it was equally plausible that the occupant was asleep, was in the shower, or was otherwise occupied doing some other activity that would prevent him from answering the door. As the inferences that would lead to the conclusion that C.B. was home were as plausible as the one that had him not at home, the state’s proof was inadequate, and C.B. was entitled to resume his community control.

A charge of violation of community control or violation of probation can carry some very seriously damaging consequences. Being found in violation may mean going back to jail for a period of many years. To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, reach out to the skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. Our attorneys have many years of working in the criminal court system and know how to get results for our clients. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.

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