Why would anyone get arrested and then handle their criminal case the hardest way possible, dong the things most likely to cause increased suffering? They wouldn’t.
Unless they did not know any better.
Mistake #1: Ignorance of basic and local criminal procedure
After release, the Notice to Appear for Plea Day requires the defendant to return to DeFuniak Springs in north Walton County. Do it yourselfers hit the Internet, read as many blogs and articles and statutes as they possibly can as they prepare for their upcoming trial. They budget time and expense money for travel and head to DeFuniak Springs depending on travel time. Court is usually at 8-8:30 a.m. Central Time.
The travel time, early start and the hours spent waiting means most tourists budget two or more days. Several hours will pass as Judge David Green calls the docket and handles each case, one by one. The break is usually from noon to 1:30 p.m., but varies due to everything from the time of year to whatever else is going on within the county court system.
This is entirely avoidable.
Worse, the time and money spent is wasted because the purpose of Plea Day is arraignment – formal charging and the formal entry of a plea. There is no trial. If a not guilty plea is not orally entered correctly, a jury is waived. Virtually every pro se Minor in Possession of Alcohol do it yourselfer loses their jury trial right and weakens their case at this juncture.
Results from Mistake:
- Time taken away from work or education is wasted
- Money is wasted
- Loss of jury weakens the case
Mistake #2: Ignorance of risk
Many victims of over aggressive MIP enforcement by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office are so upset over how they were treated that they forget that possession of alcohol is a criminal offense that a judge will put you into jail for committing. Saying or doing the wrong thing in front of Judge Green while presenting your case can result in a painful reminder that judges can and will send people to jail. It may not be for the maximum, but most students I’ve met after a ten day lockdown have lost a semester or quarter at their university, face readmission problems, scholarship issues, student disciplinary investigations, substance abuse evaluations and mandatory treatment if readmitted, and if they had a job, it’s in the past tense.
Believe it or not, some parents actually increase the risk of courthouse surprise. Are your parents helicopter parents? The answer to that question will determine if they are an added risk factor in and out of the courtroom when self-representing in a MIP case.
Results from Mistake:
- you are in jail
- loss of income and employment
- loss of scholarship, grant or student loans
- loss of tuition
- look like an over confident idiot
Mistake #3: The “bargain” that’s too good to be true
This comes in so many different variants from county to county, that I could do a day long seminar on the subject and not even come close to all of the different ways young adults have been victimized by the system. The results section at the bottom is not needed: you get played and suffer in some way.
The police are not only allowed to lie to you, they are trained to lie to suspects and witnesses. This surprises some, while others expect it. Sometimes the comforting words they tell your parents if you have to make “that call” is sincere and accurate. Sometimes it is insincere and inaccurate or sincere and inaccurate: without actual criminal defense training and courtroom experience, you don’t know which it is.
Whatever the scenario, their “bargain” is framed by training to minimize the risks, consequences, defenses to the charge while obtaining and maintaining your submission to authority:
- “Sign here” – when they run out of space jail and/or officers, they begin to issue criminal summons, a Notice to Appear in criminal court. However, if you just “sign here in front of a notary, you won’t have to come to court.” What they don’t tell you about is potentially permanent criminal history that prospective employers tend to look at as a job applicant with a “criminal record for substance abuse.”
- “Adjudication withheld” – this is the sneaky one that burns more people than all of the “surprises” in this series: a young adult is told that when they “sign here” on the criminal summons, that there will be no conviction because adjudication is withheld. Since adjudication was withheld – instead of a negotiated dismissal – the criminal record cannot be expunged until it has been sealed for at least ten (10) years. Worse, ask yourself a question: do you trust the government now? Do you think Florida’s politicians are adding to the list of crimes that can be erased or reducing it? What do you think they will do over the next ten years that would affect you? Answer: we don’t know. I recommend a negotiated dismissal instead of a withhold so that we can get your record expunged without hoping the law doesn’t change in ten years.
- “Just call the State Attorney” – they are ready for your call and they really hope it is your parents instead. This way, they can sell that “diversion program” with probation like restrictions, months of expensive substance abuse evaluations, classes, meetings and other conditions. Negotiated dismissals are far better outcomes and routinely have few or no conditions. But the divisional assistant state attorney will never offer the best deals to a pro se They represent the government, not you. And you can’t fight your way out of a paper bad in Florida criminal court, and they know it.
- “Good cop, bad cop” – this is where the “mean” officer doesn’t talk to your parents or friends, the “nice” one does. Enough said.
If you or someone you love is charged with Minor in Possession of Alcohol in Walton County, solve the legal problem the smart way with a specialist in criminal law
Any lawyer admitted to the Bar can practice criminal law. Florida criminal law is the only law I practice, I’m certified as a specialist in criminal law, and I remember when Judge Green was simply David or Mr. Green.
Call (850) 669-5882 today and schedule your consultation with a certified Florida 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.
Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm
1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 101-B
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547