The short answer is yes, and not just a warm body with a law degree. Given the sneaky, life altering pitfalls of this type of charge, hiring a specialist will save you upset, time and money many times over.
A criminal defense specialist can usually handle your entire case without you having to return to Florida as part of a properly litigated and negotiated dismissal
Let’s start at the beginning of a typical MIP case.
When someone is arrested for being a Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) in Walton County, one of two things usually happen. The most likely thing to happen is that you or someone you love will be taken straight to the Walton County substation and then to the jail just outside of DeFuniak Springs, FL. When the Walton County Sheriff’s Office runs out of space and human power, the person arrested for MIP is given a Notice to Appear (criminal summons) instead of being taken to the jail. The Notice directs them to appear for court at a future date for Arraignment (formal charging). Both the Walton County jail and the courthouse are in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
Walton County Bail Bonds, First Appearance and Court hearings
When you make or receive “that” phone call, there will probably be a bail bond established of about $250.00 cash or professional surety. If not, then the person arrested will have a court appearance in the jail the next day. This legal proceeding held at the jail is known as First Appearance. At First Appearance, the judge who is on “duty rotation” will usually be at the courthouse in DeFuniak Springs, and will appear on a video screen. The judge will review the arrest report for probable cause, determine if the person arrested is eligible for bond, and if so, how much and under what conditions. In rare cases, a bail bond is denied and your Walton County criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to set or reduce bond in the Walton County Court’s misdemeanor division.
This is where parents and their adult children begin making and compounding mistakes that can lead to an adverse outcome, including jail and criminal history. See my article, Common Mistakes Made by Walton County MIP First Offenders for actual case examples where people with the best of intentions made bad decisions (that looked good at the time) and paid an unexpected price.
Walton County Plea Day, Jury/Judge Pretrial, Jury Trial Review and Trial
So far, we’ve covered Arrest and Video First Appearance. Unless your case is handled by a Florida Bar certified criminal law specialist, prepare to return to DeFuniak Springs several times for court appearances. I’m not a fan of court appearances where nothing useful gets done, but this is how the system operates like it’s 1989.
Upon release, the person arrested will be given a court date for “Plea Day” (technically known as “Arraignment” according to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure). The purpose of arraignment is simple: to officially inform the defendant of the charge or charges and the formal entry of a plea of guilty, no contest or not guilty. Usually, well over a hundred people have court dates at the same time for Arraignment in DeFuniak Springs at the main courthouse. Judge Green will hear each case, one by one. Plea Day in Walton County can take an entire court day.
Avoid Walton County Criminal Court Whenever Possible
Before Plea Day, the proper method of handling a MIP case is to enter a plea of not guilty in writing pursuant to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. A waiver of arraignment and another for waiving appearance at pretrial conferences should also be filed, along with a Rule 3.220(a) Discovery Notice. Written, recorded, video, audio, witness lists – these are just some of the parts of a Discovery Exhibit a criminal defense lawyer needs to properly defend you.
Properly executed waivers allow you to legally skip what I call pointless court: court appearances where you presence is not needed, nothing useful will happen, but you end up spending time and money needlessly. Proper legal pleadings can save you time and money.
For most MIP cases, it is very common for the entire case to be handled without a court appearance, for the charges to be dismissed, and to avoid burdensome “diversion” scams. Across the circuit, “pointless court” in Escambia County has almost rendered the Pensacola courthouse unusable.
Speaking of diversion scams, these change every year and differ from county to county. In general, these overly intrusive “diversion” schemes often require multiple, burdensome alcohol counseling classes, frequent and expensive drug and alcohol testing, and sometimes require a guilty plea. These types of “too good to be true” diversion programs set people up to fail, in my view. Compliance appears to be made needlessly difficult intentionally, yet people bite at these bad deals because they don’t know any better.
Instead of a “Call to Action”, I’ve decided to use this article to make another point squarely directed at our political overlords.
The Walton County “Straight to Jail” Policy for Minors in Possession of Alcohol is an Embarrassment to Common Sense, Damaging to the Young Adults Involved and Bad for the Tourism Industry for the Entire Emerald Coast
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office “Straight to Jail” policy is a politically motivated campaign of law enforcement terrorism against young adults on spring breaker. If this sounds harsh, you should hear how I really feel. This redneck bullying seriously damages the brightest and best young people in America with criminal history, deep emotional scarring from the arrest process, damage to their grades, productivity, and future career.
Hundreds of America’s future top wage earners and business owners of tomorrow will never return to the Emerald Coast. When they have families and vacation, they are not coming here. This is an unseen cost borne by the local communities of Seaside, 30A, Sandestin, Miramar Beach, Destin, Freeport and South Walton County beaches generally. Every one of these areas are your Walton County danger zones for aggressive law enforcement, along with the Baytown Wharf. As a local who was born and raised on the Gulf Coast, I’m going to tell you like it is: do not vacation on Spring Break in Walton County.
Call (850) 423-0035 today and schedule your consultation with a certified criminal defense attorney who has handled Walton County MIP cases in DeFuniak Springs court since before the turn of the century. This may be your first offense, but it certainly isn’t my first MIP case. Most of my clients charged with MIP are able to get negotiated dismissals and expungements.
Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 101-BFort Walton Beach, FL 32547