There is a big difference between standard felony probation in Florida and “Drug Offender” probation.
Drug offender probation falls under a special Florida law and has an exhaustive list of requirements that must be fulfilled while you are on probation.
But just like standard probation, if you do not fulfill all of your commitments, your felony probation officer will violate you, and the prosecutor will try to toss you in prison.
Crimes That May Result in Drug Offender Probation
Possession of certain drugs or controlled substances constitute a felony crime pursuant to Florida Statute 893.13. These drugs include: Cocaine, Marijuana (more than ___ grams), Heroin, Methamphetamine, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone and more. Please note, it is not a crime to possess a drug that is a prescription pill if you have a valid prescription.
Even first time offenders caught with a drug or controlled substance in their possession often plead to a term of Drug Offender Probation (DOP). The length of the term of probation is negotiable, but is usually for a period of 18 months to 2 years.
Most individuals who plead to DOP do not fully understand the challenges that are in store for them. Outlined below are a list of the some of the conditions of DOP that prove extremely difficult for most:
Random Testing by Color Code
You are provided a designated color at the onset of DOP. You are required to call in to probation twice a week. If your color is up, you must submit to a drug test that day. This condition often interferes with employment opportunities and can be very time consuming.
Substance Abuse Evaluation and Treatment
Another DOP condition is that you must undergo a drug evaluation. A counselor makes an assessment and determines if further treatment sessions are needed. These session usually cost $20- $30. A number of these sessions are usually ordered and again can be time consuming.
The standard curfew while on Drug Offender Probation is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. This means that you must be at your residence during these times. A probation officer will randomly check to ensure you are residing at the location that you have designated and that you are there during curfew hours. With the assistance of an attorney, your curfew can be modified for work purposes.
Restrictions on Travel
While on DOP you will have to remain in the county in which you reside. This can be extremely difficult in places such as the Tampa Bay area where travel between counties is often necessary. With the assistance of an attorney you can request travel for work or visitation of family outside the county/state.
You will be required to either maintain a job or show that you are actively seeking a job. This may seem easy, but jobs for which you are eligible for having been arrested and pled to a felony are limited. To make matters worse, your Felony Probation Officer will contact your employer(s) to confirm employment. This alerts employers that you are on felony probation and often times causes termination of employment.
Loss of Driver’s License
If you are a first time offender and are placed on DOP, your conviction is often withheld. However, if you are convicted (Adjudicated), then you will lose your driver’s license for two (2) years. You may be eligible for a hardship license after a six (6) month period. A hardship license allows you to drive to work, school and other necessary places. It does not permit you to drive for entertainment purposes. A hardship license is obtained through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In addition to the above conditions, you will have to pay cost costs, fines and probationary costs while on probation. Felony court costs and fines are generally in excess of $1000. Monthly probationary costs total approximately $50-$55 per month. Finally, you while have to report to probation at your monthly appointment times and upon demand.
DOP can prove to be quite Prior to pleading to a term of DOP, be sure to consult with an attorney to ensure there are no better options. If you are already on DOP, early termination of your probationary period is sometimes possible with the assistance of an attorney.
Alternative Options to Drug Offender Probation
Your criminal attorney can explorer a few different options that are much less restrictive than drug offender probation.
First and foremost, drug offender probation must be specifically enumerated as part of the deal in Court. If the prosecutor and Judge are convinced that drug offender probation is not appropriate in your case, then they can leave it out. If it is left out of the plea deal, then it will be not be part of your probation requirements.
Secondly, your attorney may choose to leverage Motion practice if applicable to leverage a better deal.
If you have a genuine 4th amendment (bad stop or search), 5th Amendment (Right to remain silent), or 6th Amendment (Right to confront your accuser in court) issue, the a successful motion defense can result in the court throwing out some or all of the evidence against you. This can lead to better deals if not outright dismissal.
Finally, if appropriate your case can be tried in front of a Jury. If the State cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must be exonerated. Its noteworthy to note that many cases are settled to the advantage of our clients on the “court house steps”, or prior to trial.