Articles Posted in Pretrial Release

Florida lawmakers recently passed into law a measure that will allow judges to keep criminal suspects in custody up to 10 days prior to them making a first appearance if they have a prior felony conviction, The News-Press reports.

This is another measure by lawmakers to try to gain support from the voters and show they are “tough on crime.” What this law does is punishes people who haven’t been convicted of the crime for which they were arrested. If you or a loved one faces a probation violation charge in Fort Lauderdale, trust a law firm of former prosecutors who know the criminal justice system well.

The Officer Andrew Widman Act was signed into law recently by Gov. Rick Scott. The legislation is named after a Fort Myers police officer who was fatally shot while trying to break up a domestic disturbance.

The suspect, who was fatally shot by responding officers, was a convicted felon who had been arrested weeks earlier on drug charges, a violation of his probation. When the man appeared in a Lee County courtroom weeks earlier, authorities hadn’t checked to see if he had out-of-county warrants, which he did, out of Collier County, to the south.

Starting on July 1, judges will now be able to hold in custody for 10 days suspects who have a prior felony conviction if the new charge violates a term of probation. They can be held until a judge issues an expedited violation of probation order prior to the suspect making a first appearance on the violation of probation charge. Judges can now also issue an arrest warrant if a felon violates probation, the newspaper reports.

Seventeen law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty in Florida since 2008, including six this year. All six were slain by convicted felons, the newspaper says.

While many will cheer this new law as a victory for keeping the community safe, it may allow judges to make unfair assumptions about suspects who have not yet been convicted of additional crimes. West Palm Beach probation violation laws have already established the process for people arrested on a subsequent violation.

What this new law does is makes a person, including non-violent offenders, eligible to stay in a county jail for up to 10 days where normally they likely would have been able to remain out of custody on bail.

A violation of probation can sometimes be punishable by as many years as the original conviction, so hiring an attorney early in the process is critical. Being represented during a first appearance and not saying anything in public that could be used against you can help assure that a defendant has a beneficial resolution to the case.
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Florida_inmate.jpgAccording to a new audit prompted by county commissioners, Broward County defendants are getting released from prison more quickly thanks to increased funds allotted to the county’s pretrial services program. However, they are also spending more time under out-of-jail supervision awaiting resolution of their cases, which could potentially strain the county’s resources and limit space for new defendants.

In recent years, the average amount of time that defendants spend in the program has been increasing steadily. In fact, in the first six months of this fiscal year, the length of stay increased 37% compared to last year.

About 8% of Florida inmates are getting released from jail and into the pretrial services program, which uses less expensive methods to supervise defendants instead of housing them in jail as they await trial, which costs upwards of $100 per day. However, supervision costs are 150% higher in Broward County as opposed to Palm Beach due to higher salaries and a higher level of supervision.

Broward pretrial release program gets mixed reviews, Miami Herald, June 4, 2009 Continue reading

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