Spring is well upon us. Thus, it’s the time of year when college students and older travelers alike make their way to Florida for Spring Break and vacation. However, throughout the state of Florida, from South Beach to Daytona Beach, things seem to have gotten a little crazier and more out of control in 2016. More than 50 people have been arrested and one individual was shot dead in the festivities in South Beach on Ocean Drive. Daytona Beach reported more than 100 arrests in the first two weeks since the break officially started.
Alcohol is considered to be the common factor in most of the arrests. It’s interesting to note that most students when polled, didn’t know that alcohol is illegal in Daytona Beach. I suspect the same is true for people visiting the Florida Keys. Whether you’re a student on Spring Break or another adult on vacation, the last souvenir you want to bring back to campus or work is an arrest and its inherent consequences. This blog will identify some things for students to keep in mind to minimize any negative effects a spring break arrest may have presently and in the future.
Don’t Plea to the Charge
Upon arrest, a defendant is entitled to a “First Appearance.” Except when previously released in a lawful manner, every arrested person must be taken before a judicial officer within 24 hours of arrest. Of course, anyone arrested wants to get out of jail immediately. At this First Appearance, you may receive an offer to resolve his or her case for jail time served or a simple fine. This may sound like a reasonable solution, and a way to get out of jail as soon as possible, but it may be a costly mistake. Here’s why.
First, for all you know, the evidence may be insufficient to convict you of the criminal charge(s). The prosecutor may have no intention of even filing the case at all. A desire to quickly get out of jail shouldn’t interfere with asserting valuable rights and defenses. More importantly, the particular resolution of a case may be such that you may later be unable to seal or expunge the present charge, or even a subsequent charge. If you plea out to a DUI, for example, you must be adjudicated guilty. A DUI conviction prevents you from sealing or expunging any prior record forever. This could have an effect on scholarships and employment, both in the present and future.
Pay the Fine!
If you do plea at the First Appearance, make sure you pay your fine and/or complete the conditions of your sentence or probation. If you should fail to do so, don’t think that the fact that you have returned to your home state (perhaps several hundred miles away from Florida) that you are untouchable and this will all go away. It won’t.
Don’t Fail to Appear in Court
Students or vacationers that don’t plea and are released on bond should not ignore any notice to appear in court. Any failure to appear will result in the court issuing a warrant for your arrest. You may even have your driver’s license suspended, if the charge is a driving-related offense like DUI.
Find an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
Persons arrested for misdemeanor crimes are permitted under the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure to resolve a criminal case without having to make an actual court appearance by utilizing a Plea in Absentia. Florida Rule 3.180(c). On your behalf, an experienced criminal defense attorney may appear in court and file the Plea in Absentia, while you remain in the peace of your dorm room or house. If the charge is a felony, a criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a reduced charge, which would then allow a case to be resolved with a Plea in Absentia.
If you are a student arrested while on vacation in Key West during Spring Break, remember that a criminal charge may have a profound effect upon your life presently and in the future. If you have been arrested while vacationing, call Alan Fowler, an experienced Key West criminal defense attorney, for a consultation at 305.912.2516.