Years after being behind in recognizing that many charges brought forth by the Office of the State Attorney in Broward County were a waste of taxpayer resources, a new civil citation program will be implemented throughout the county. In this article, you can see the flawed effects of over prosecution on petty offenses.
For example, a homeless man was kept in jail for 65 days for trespassing, costing the county approximately $9,100.00, because he couldn’t afford a simple bond of $25. This is just one instance over the years of how the Office of the State Attorney has been blind in their “pursuit of justice.” This is not one of those extreme examples of why the new civil citation program should be implemented. That example is simply a routine occurrence in the courtrooms which has been well documented by the Sun Sentinel.
A cry for help has not only been coming from the tax watchdogs, but from those having to defend these types of cases. Recently on our own blog, we discussed the attitudes on marijuana that were changing.
What this means for a Defendant?
It appears, crimes that used to result in an arrest now may result in a civil citation. This would prevent someone from being booked into jail, kept overnight, and forced to see a judge in the morning. In the alternative, they would be issued a ticket (much like a traffic ticket) in lieu of an arrest. It may also prevent the need to retain an attorney for a first offense.
For Marijuana Offenses
For marijuana offenses, a ticket to go to court may divert offenders to pay for a program and perform community service hours instead of having an arrest. There could be a behavioral health course (aka treatment) for a violation. The benefit for the defendant is that they could keep their criminal record clean if they successfully complete the program.
There are certain requirements to be eligible to receive a citation. In fact, No Cannabis Citation shall be issued if the violation occurred during an incident in which the adult also was charged with:
(a) any felony
(b) driving under the influence
(c) a violent crime
(d) domestic violence
It is unclear at this stage what the net effect will be for other charges such as trespass, panhandling, disorderly conduct, or petty theft. Time will tell how these offenses will be treated in lieu of a new change.
As stated before, Broward County has been in the dark ages with regards to handling these types of charges. However, they may have just pulled ahead of Palm Beach County, by making these charges merely a civil infraction. In Palm Beach County, these offenses are usually given a criminal citation, mandating the Defendant to go to court, while at the arraignment they may have the same type of program available to get the case dismissed. Therefore, a civil citation program in Palm Beach County could also be beneficial in cutting down the waste and needless arrests for trespass and marijuana crimes.