Avoiding the Stigma of a Misdemeanor Conviction

Like other states, Florida’s state-level crimes are divided into misdemeanors and felonies with felonies being the more serious of the two categories. Even though misdemeanors are “minor” compared to felonies, they cannot and should not be underestimated. If you’re facing misdemeanor charges in Tampa or Hillsborough County, please understand that nothing good comes out of a misdemeanor conviction and there are long-term consequences. There’s no way around it.

In the face of misdemeanor charges, here are some important things to consider:

  • With each subsequent offense, the penalties typically get harsher. For example, if a driver is convicted of their first DUI and they are convicted of DUI in the future, the penalties for the second DUI will be harsher than they were for the first.
  • A criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor conviction, will affect housing and employment opportunities.
  • A misdemeanor conviction for child abuse, spousal abuse or a drug-related offense can lead to removal proceedings for Green Card holders.
  • Criminal records last indefinitely; therefore, a misdemeanor conviction can still be haunting you twenty years from now.
  • A misdemeanor conviction can lead to the cancellation, denial or revocation of a professional license, such as a real estate or notary license.
  • A misdemeanor conviction can hurt a young person’s future. It can cause them to lose their college scholarship. It can get them kicked out of college and it can get them kicked off a college sport team. A DUI can bar a young person from being admitted to the college or university of their dreams.
  • A misdemeanor can lead to the cancellation or denial of a security clearance.
  • A misdemeanor conviction can affect a military career, leading to a reduction in rank and pay grade.

Do I Have Any Options to Avoid a Conviction?

Criminal convictions are bad news. They affect housing, employment and educational opportunities. A conviction for domestic violence can even force you to hand over your guns, ammunition and rifles. So, what can someone do if they’re facing misdemeanor charges for the first time in their life? They may be eligible for Florida’s Misdemeanor Pretrial Diversion Program (PDP).

Let’s face it; the United States has an exploding prison population which is resulting in overcrowded prisons and a heavy burden on taxpayers. The Florida Legislature if well-aware of the problem. Florida judges and prosecutors know all about it too. In an effort to help first-time offenders identify the root cause of their criminal episode and reduce recidivism, the State of Florida created the Misdemeanor Pretrial Diversion Program to help first-time misdemeanor offenders get back in good standing with the law.

How the Misdemeanor Pretrial Diversion Program Works

If an offender qualifies for the Misdemeanor Pretrial Program, he or she must sign a contract with the state saying that he or she is waiving their right to a speedy trial. The offender agrees to follow the program closely and perform whatever sanctions are required of him or her. Depending on the offense in question, defendants are supervised anywhere from six to twelve months while on the program.

Upon successful completion of the program, the State of Florida drops the defendant’s criminal charges in the case. What are the benefits of successfully completing the Misdemeanor Pretrial Program? The benefits include:

  • The defendant avoids a criminal prosecution.
  • The state drops the criminal charges.
  • The defendant avoids a criminal conviction.
  • The defendant avoids a criminal record.
  • The defendant avoids the stigma of a criminal record.

Note: In order for someone to qualify for the Misdemeanor PDP, his or her case must be recommended by the Office of the State Attorney.

To learn more about the program and to find out if you qualify, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. to schedule a free consultation with a former Hillsborough County prosecutor.