The United States has more people in prison per capita than any other country in the world. It costs taxpayers billions of dollars to keep these facilities and the judicial system running.
Reducing these expenses is one reason why Florida and other states consider alternatives to jail time in certain criminal cases. This is not always possible – for instance, if a person is convicted of a felony with a mandatory prison sentence – but a comprehensive defense strategy may be the difference between going to prison and facing a less severe penalty.
Depending on the facts of a particular case, there may be several ways to convince the prosecuting authority to reduce the charges or the penalties, or to drop the case altogether. According to Florida Statute, negotiating a plea deal is one potential way to mitigate a sentence, but if the prosecution’s case is weak, then your attorney may recommend fighting the charges in court.
If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, then one of your first calls should be to a criminal attorney in Fort Lauderdale. The lawyers at Leader & Leader, P.A. can evaluate your situation, explain your options and fight for a positive outcome to your case. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 954-523-2020.
In the meantime, read on to learn of four possible alternatives to spending time behind bars:
- Suspended Sentence or Probation
Probation and suspended sentences involve postponing prison time while you comply with specific conditions or obligations in your probation terms. If you do not comply, then you will go to prison. Probation terms often include meeting behavioral standards or specific curfews, as well as successfully completing alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs.
The court and/or the prosecutor will decide on the terms of your probation and/or suspended sentence, but it is likely that you will have to report to a designated probation officer. He or she will require personal updates about your lifestyle and will check if you adhere to the “rules.” You can often avoid prison if you abide by the terms of your probation. However, some clients know and understand that probation is not appropriate for them and their lifestyle. Knowing whether you can comply with probation is important; if you have reason to believe you cannot and will be “violated”, you may be merely giving the State or Court the rope to hang you with (figuratively not literally of course).
If the court allows you to pay restitution, then you will pay money to the victim or a state-controlled restitution fund. If you can gather the necessary monies, then you may not have to go to jail. One basis for a Court to depart from the sentencing guidelines is the need for restitution outweighing the need for incarceration.
However, restitution is seldom going to be the sole basis to avoid mandatory prison time on serious violent crimes.
Fines are common in Florida. Certain offenses have statutory required fines that must be imposed such as in DUI offenses and Drug Trafficking cases.
- Community Service
Community service is a common penalty for less serious offenses, often monitored by probation. To punish serious offenders, the courts may sentence defendants to community service along with other penalties. Community service involves spending a specific number of hours performing a duty to society, such as street cleaning and helping the elderly or sick. It generally can be done with any not for profit charity.
- Addiction/Mental Health
In many cases, where the accused suffers from serious addiction or mental health problems, a skilled attorney that knows how to work within the system can help develop a resolution that focuses on treatment and help over incarceration or a shorter sentence coupled with such treatment.
The bottom line is, the best way to avoid prison or jail, even when there are statutory minimum mandatory sentences is a good lawyer that can prepare a good defense.
If you would like to discuss potential defense strategies with a Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, call Leader & Leader, P.A. at 954-523-2020.