Deferred Prosecution Pilot Program for Certain DUI’s in Gainesville and Alachua County Explained. Part I
The State Attorney’s Office for the Eight Judicial Circuit of Florida, which includes Gainesville and Alachua County has a new pilot program for some DUI offenders. This article is part one of a two part series; Part I will focus on explaining what Deferred Prosecution is and Part II will discuss the criteria for being considered for this pilot program.
Deferred prosecution in general is a diversion program that consists of a contract between the defendant and the State Attorney’s Office on terms that are favorable to the defendant. It is almost exclusively used in lower (first and second degree) misdemeanor charges, such as open container, possession of alcohol by a minor, disorderly conduct, or trespassing. Under this program, a defendant with no priors agrees to a six month period during which prosecution of the case will be deferred by the State Attorney in return for the defendants promise to not commit any new criminal violations and to either complete a specified number of community service hours or make a charitable contribution to an organization designated by the State Attorney. If the defendant is not arrested during the probationary period and completes the other terms of the agreement, then the underlying misdemeanor charge is dismissed and the matter is considered resolved. Not surprisingly, deferred prosecution is often referred to as a one-time get out of jail free card.
In a typical DUI case, the defendant, through his/her counsel (lawyer) attempts to get the State to let the defendant plea to a reckless driving charge (a lower charge). Of course, the state attorney’s office must agree to the defendant pleading to reckless driving; more times than not, the State Attorney does not agree and the two sides are at loggerheads.
DUI is a “specified criminal traffic offense” and as such, falls outside of the deferred prosecution umbrella as defined above.
Mr. Cervone has incorporated the spirit of the deferred prosecution program to certain DUI cases; cases that cry out for special consideration. Under Mr. Cervone’s charter program, deferred prosecution is a viable option, but it has been altered to better benefit a DUI charge. This modified form of deferred prosecution extends the deferral period from six to 18 months, during which time the defendant must avoid any further criminal violations and complete the requisite DUI classes and other special conditions within said period.
If the defendant successfully adheres to all terms within the deferred period, the DUI charge will not be dismissed but will instead be amended to a reckless driving charge with a recommended disposition that includes the completed special terms of the deferral agreement and a “withhold of adjudication” of guilt.
If a defendant who is offered deferred prosecution fails to meet the agreed upon requirements, then the state rescinds the agreement and the defendant is back at square one, facing a renewed prosecution for the DUI charge.
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