Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Tallahassee adult citation program has Tampa Bay officials intrigued

Years ago, Florida lawmakers decided that if you're under the age of 18 and you get arrested for the first time for a minor crime, you deserve a second chance.

A one-time mistake shouldn't send you to jail with more serious criminals or make it difficult for you to get a job, they said.

So, the Juvenile Civil Citation program was born. It allowed juveniles who get charged with certain misdemeanors to avoid arrest by completing community service, paying restitution, attending counseling and abiding by any number of other sanctions prescribed by a judge.

Since then, most seem to agree that the program works, reducing recidivism among juveniles while also saving tax money, allowing prosecutors to focus on more serious crimes.

Now, one group wants to take the program a step further.

The Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a new group that promotes changes in the criminal justice system, is promoting the concept of adult civil citations. Last month, it announced an agreement with law enforcement in Tallahassee and surrounding Leon County that would allow law enforcement officers there to issue citations to first-time adult offenders.

"We had enough of a track record with the juvenile program that we knew that it was saving the state a lot of money," said Mark Flynn, president of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance.

Some Tampa Bay authorities, who have taken note of the effort and will keep an eye on the results in Tallahassee, expressed cautious consideration of whether the program would work locally.

"I think it's an idea that probably has some merit," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "It keeps it out of the criminal system and could save a tremendous amount of money."

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee also expressed interest in the effort, but he questions whether individual deputies or officers should have discretion over who gets cited, as the Leon County program allows.

"I kind of like the idea," Gee said. "But somebody has to oversee it. I don't think we want a police officer to make that determination."

Proponents of the effort point out several things:

• The offenses must be nonviolent.

• The offenders will pay all costs associated with the sanctions, including the cost of treatment for any substance abuse or mental health condition that contributed to the offense.

• And, a failure to meet all of the requirements of the program would result in arrest and regular criminal court proceedings.

In Hillsborough County, the State Attorney's Office already practices a similar concept with its misdemeanor intervention program. The program prescribes community service and other sanctions for a variety of crimes. In return, the State Attorney's Office drops the charges.

"The fact that it's (not prosecuted) allows them to get the record sealed or expunged," said Douglas Covington, the assistant state attorney who manages the program and likens it to the adult civil citation program.

"It's essentially almost the same thing," he said.

Almost. There is one key difference, which the Smart Justice folks point out. Under the adult civil citation program, the offense will not show up as an arrest, Flynn said. People who receive citations don't even have a mug shot photo taken.

But local authorities are far from sold on the idea.

"I think you'd have to be pretty discriminating in what cases you used it for," said Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, who said he was unfamiliar with the adult civil citation effort. "Just because something is a misdemeanor doesn't mean there isn't a victim."

State law is also an issue. The juvenile civil citation program is written into state statute. The adult program is not.

And there are questions about what changes local law enforcement officials would need to make in order to institute the program.

"There is likely going to be a little difference between county to county," Flynn said. "Personally, how I feel is that local officials should be encouraged to design a program that works for them."

Comments

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Published: 12/16/17
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning while battling a fire at a strip mall on W Waters Avenue, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the blaze started around 2:45 p.m. in the attic of L.A. Nail Supply, located at ...
Published: 12/16/17
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Published: 12/15/17
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Published: 12/15/17

Tampa bicyclist, 52, dies after being rear-ended by vehicle; no charges

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, according to Tampa police.The incident took place at about 12:15 a.m. Wayne Kersh, 52, was riding his bicycle in the eastb...
Published: 12/15/17
After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

TAMPA — A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday and accused of setting fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by arson at least two other times earlier this year.Two Tampa police officers spotted smoke from the vacant building at 1512 E Eighth Ave. a...
Published: 12/15/17

FHP: Overturned pick-up slowed traffic on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — A pick-up truck towing a car onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge overturned and crashed on the shoulder, causing back-ups for motorists trying to get to Tampa, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident was reported...
Published: 12/15/17
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Published: 12/15/17

Missing Child Alert canceled for Port St. Lucie girl, 17

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 17-year-old Port St. Lucie girl who was last seen on Thursday.The case involving Heaven Flores has been resolved, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Published: 12/15/17

Hudson pedestrian killed while crossing U.S. 19

HUDSON — A Hudson man was killed Thursday night while crossing U.S. 19.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 59-year-old Gerald Berube was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 north of Stahl Drive around 6:40 p.m. when he walked into the path ...
Published: 12/15/17